In the closest vote yet, GM Sadorra’s creative win edged out FM Zimmer’s dominating victory to take the Week 3 Game of the Week Prize while helping lead Dallas to the current Western Division lead.
IM John Bartholomew (1st Place, 3 Points): This game has many of the qualities I look for in a GOTW winner: a theoretically important opening discussion, a wickedly unbalanced middlegame, inspired attack and defense, and a high degree of accuracy throughout. GM Sadorra is clearly in his element as he navigates the heady complications, and I was particularly impressed by his conviction to go for the position after 22. Nd5 (not an easy move to allow!). To his credit, SM Perez often responded blow-for-blow, and only Black’s impressive concluding stroke 33… Nxf6! really put this one out of reach. Great game.
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): GM Sadorra seemed to be better prepared in the opening, maintaining a fairly large lead on the clock throughout. However, SM Perez managed to wade his way through the complications and only severely erred with 27. f5? I find it hard to explain this mistake, except for the fact that White was in time trouble, and he might have instinctively wanted to close the e-file. Otherwise, I thought that this was an interesting game, bravely played by Black.
FM Elliot Liu (1st Place, 3 Points): I would be very surprised if any of the other judges did not select this game as their first place in Game of the Week. This game was just so interesting, not to mention extremely complicated. Exciting for the viewers and probably nerve wracking for both of the respective players, the opening was a very topical variation of the King’s Indian Defense as of late. The line, which is traditionally known as being an older, classical one by way of 7… exd4, has in fact been resurrected a little bit and played at the highest level recently. While SM Perez was rapidly expanding his Pawns on the Kingside — perhaps too much so in the form of over extension — GM Sadorra’s Knight sat like an anchored rock on e5. It immediately reminded me of Kasparov’s Knight in the game Korchnoi vs Kasparov.
Anyway, starting with White’s 25. e5, things got really crazy. In the complications, Black found the excellent resourceful combination 32… Rxd5! followed by 33… Nxf6! and 34… Nxd5! I have a feeling that maybe White missed this 34…Nxd5 shot at the end of all his earlier calculations (but really I have absolutely no idea of course) because 35… Nxe3 and 36… Nxf5 would follow if he took Black’s Queen by playing 35. Rxf5. After this sequence of moves, White was just lost. He was two pawns down, any sort of attack was gone, and his own King was actually the weak one. Black cleaned up and put White away nicely. A very impressive game by both players, one which is worthy of winning first place in Game of the Week.
GM Alex Yermolinsky (2nd Place, 2 Points)
FM Kayden Troff (2nd Place, 2 Points): A good gamem and we definitely saw the battle begin with 14… Nd7 when GM Sadorra avoided the more common 14… Na6. Black quickly proved this idea by moving his Knight to e5 and pretty much leaving it there! Not caring about 18. f4 Black was unswayed and left his Knight there for five moves! Once Black played 23… Nf3 his Knight was just strong and made it very hard for SM Perez to maneuver his pieces around. Black started breaking through the center and once he got his last trick with 34… Nxd5 it was over quickly.
Total score of Perez vs Sadorra: 13 Points
With the nice exchange sac 23. Rxf6!, FM Zimmer tore open his opponent’s Kingside and then quickly capitalized upon it
GM Alex Yermolinsky (1st Place, 3 Points)
FM Kayden Troff (1st Place, 3 Points): I felt like FM Zimmer made some great decisions to win a very nice game. Early on he focused on developing his pieces while seemingly letting NM Colas get a nice Pawn structure. White focused on his Queenside Pawns in the early middlegame and crashed through with 13. b4 and then continued with 15. d5, 16. c5, and 18. c6 getting a very strong Pawn that he could support well with his pieces which paralysed Black’s pieces. White then switched to a Kingside attack by maneuvering his Knight to g5 then e4 and after 23. Rxf6 he quickly got pieces to the Kingside and soon it was all over.
IM John Bartholomew (2nd Place, 2 Points): Profound play from FM Zimmer, who never really looked back after getting in the thematic 13. b4!. This game has a strong claim for the top spot, but compared to Perez vs Sadorra I find the victor’s play here to be more natural, and, therefore (in hyper-competitive GOTW judging, bear in mind) less exceptional. A good example is 23. Rxf6: a pretty exchange sacrifice to be sure, but also essentially forced (and, as it turned out, totally decisive). This is hardly Zimmer’s fault of course, but it highlights the fact that this game was more one-way traffic than my chosen winner.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): Black seemed to underestimate White’s flexible opening set up. 10… Qc7 seems innocent enough, but it’s purpose is unclear and seems to give White just enough time to start opening the center. 16… exd4 seemed to be another mistake in principle, as it opened the position with all of White’s pieces poised for an attack with Black severely behind in development. Soon, White was all over the position – nice game by him.
FM Elliot Liu (2nd Place, 2 Points): In a quiet opening that looked like it was heading for a Catalan-type of position, things suddenly became more double-edged once the Pawn structure changed and FM Zimmer played the creative Pawn sacrifice 13. b4!? Seizing control of the center, White gained the initiative and launched a powerful attack. 23. Rxf6 was a nice exchange sacrifice but was also the most logical move at the time too. With his powerful double fianchettoed Bishops, White crashed through, and when the smoke cleared, he was left with a winning material advantage and position after 27. dxc6. He then finished off NM Colas efficiently thereafter. A well-played, straightforward game by White that was the result of some nice opening and early middlegame play.
Total score of Zimmer vs Colas: 12 Points
Smith finished off a strong positional effort with the nice tactic 42. Ng3! forcing capitulation
GM Alex Yermolinsky (3rd Place, 1 Point)
IM John Bartholomew (3rd Place, 1 Point): Working out of a supposedly innocuous line in the QGD, Smith executes a textbook minority attack and wins in fine positional style. Of note is the classic maneuver 23. Nb1! and 24. Nbd2, ensuring a well-protected King that eventually led to victory. I only ranked this game last because I feel it suffers the same problem as Wang vs Vigorito last week: great technical play from White but a lack of defensive tenacity from Black.
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): I felt bad ranking this game last, as White played a model game, creating a weak backward c-Pawn, stopping counterplay, and winning smoothly. However, I just felt that Black’s handling of the position made the job too easy. He did nothing to stop the weakening of his Queenside, and at the same time never got any Kingside play. If one wants to see a better handlings of the Queen’s Gambit from the Black side, check out Schroer vs Hess from Week 2.
FM Kayden Troff (3rd Place, 1 Point): A relatively simple game. Smith was able to get good play against on the Pawn on c6 with a4 and b4 ending with bxc6. White had some chances against this Pawn, but it probably should have been a drawn endgame. However, NM Goldberg started trying to drum up a Kingside Attack, but White shut it down, and Black played the price by losing c6. Unfortunately for Black he missed his last drawing chance by not playing 35… Bxe5 36. dxe5 Nf3+ 37. Kh1 Qxc8 38. Rxc8 Nxe5 and with the Knight on f1 hanging after 39. fxe5, Black is equal and will hold a draw. After Goldberg missed that chance Smith used his extra Pawn to win nicely.
FM Elliot Liu (3rd Place, 1 Point): The opening was a little weird, but I like the way Smith handled himself in the middlegame — slowly and methodically outplaying his opponent. He demonstrated two fundamental strategic principles: 1) how to execute a minority attack and 2) how to play Knight vs Bishop. He put his Pawns on the same color as NM Goldberg’s dark-squared Bishop, thereby limiting its scope and effectiveness. White then created a Pawn weakness on the c6 square thanks to his successful minority attack. Once that Pawn fell, White consolidated his position, calmly defended his King from an ominous-looking attack, and traded Queens. Once the Queens were gone, any potential checkmate threats were quelled, and White was able to easily mop up the resulting endgame, which was lost for Black to begin with. A strong positional effort by White.
Total score of Smith vs Goldberg: 5 Points