In the closest overall vote, with only two points separating first and third, GM Stripunsky’s amazing endgame grind walked away with the Week 5 Prize.
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): I always get very excited when I see 2 GMs reach a “dead equal” position … and NOT shake hands! GM Romanenko probably thought that it was impossible to lose the position, so he could just shuffle around a bit with a draw always in hand. GM Stripunsky, however, saw his majority on the Kingside (due to the static White Q-side Pawns) and tried to make use of it, by giving up one of his Pawns! In return, he got an active King, and squeezed out a win. Really reminiscent of a Carlsen game. Oh, and by the way, to all USCL players: Please continue to play until checkmate! We all need lessons on how to win with extra Queens. I love the fighting spirit!
GM Alex Yermolinsky (2nd Place, 2 Points)
IM John Bartholomew (2nd Place, 2 Points): A 112-move marathon with heavy match and division implications. The queen ending appeared absolutely drawn at times, but a big mistake from GM Romanenko (71. Qf4+?; 71.Qd5=) allowed GM Stripunsky to snake his King into the Queenside. I rate this game a bit lower than Amanov vs Holt because 1) Romanenko failed to press for any advantage with White and 2) Black passed up two great chances to score earlier in the ending (54… f4! and 55… hxg5). Nonetheless, this is a game Alex should be very proud of.
FM Kayden Troff (2nd Place, 2 Points): I liked this game, but overall GM Romanenko missed a few opportunities to draw. By move 12 a few pieces had been traded, and already it was hard to say what plan either side would use to fight for the win. White was looking to extend on the Queenside with 14. a3, but GM Stripunsky used this to his benefit by playing 14… a5 and 15… a4 fixing (stopping) White’s Queenside Pawns. As all the Pieces started getting traded off Black further fixed White’s Pawns on the Queenside with 25… b5 which is what gave him the better endgame. Black finally had chances at a clear advantage after 54… g5, but after 55. hxg5 and 55… Kxg5?! (55… hxg5 was better) with Black’s King being open White seemed to have good drawing chances.
Black continued to push on and got his winning chances when White played 71. Qf4+? (71. Qd5 was better, 71… Ke3 72. Qd4+ Ke2 and 73. c4! and White will draw easily) allowing Black to bring his King over to the Queenside. White missed his last drawing chance with 88. g6? (88. Kh4 keeps the g-Pawn protected and then he can play g6) which hung the Pawn, and Black finished nicely with 91… Qf7+ ignoring Qxc3 and won soon after
FM Elliot Liu (2nd Place, 2 Points)
Total score of Romanenko vs Stripunsky: 11 Points
With the nice maneuver 28… Ne7! GM Holt prepared to attack White’s IQP which soon gave him the upper hand.
IM John Bartholomew (1st Place, 3 Points): Another remarkable display from the Destiny’s franchise player. GM Holt appears very well-versed in the subtleties of this Panov-Botvinnik line (someone should pay him for an explanation of 13… Kh8!) and shows excellent understanding of the corresponding middlegame. IM Amanov hesitated from moves 25-30, and it cost him big time: Black’s play from 30…Bxe5 onward is nearly flawless. Tremendous play from Black, and I have no qualms about awarding him a second consecutive GOTW vote.
FM Kayden Troff (1st Place, 3 Points): It seemed like IM Amanov got an advantage out of the opening and some attacking chances, but GM Holt was able to stop his attack and then turn the position around. In the opening White played a less common line with 11. Re1 instead of 11. a3; Black’s response with 11… Nf6 is fine, but it was clear very quickly that White had better placed pieces.
Black then seemed to be responding well to all of White’s threats while also slowly improving his position. After stopping the attack he played 28… Ne7! swinging the Knight to c6! This forced White to protect his d-pawn with 30. Be5 which after 30… Bxe5 31. dxe5, Black played the strong 31… Bd3! After the light-squared Bishops were traded Black quickly started invading with moves like 35… Rd3, 36… Qb5, 37… R8d5, 39… Qb3, and 41… Qc2 forcing the trade of Queens. Black then used his active Knight and Rook to win a few Pawns and eventually Queen and then finished the win with 64… Rb1! with the idea of Rh1.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): A tough struggle, where IM Amanov lost the thread a little bit in the late middlegame, moving the light squared Bishop a little too much, (although to be fair it’s unclear what he should do). White’s position looks nice, but Black is very solid and GM Holt’s nice reposition Ne7! gave him the upper hand.
GM Alex Yermolinsky (3rd Place, 1 Point)
FM Elliot Liu (3rd Place, 1 Point)
Total score of Amanov vs Holt: 10 Points
The short, but very wild, game soon came to an exciting climax after a mating attack started with 28. Ba4+!
GM Alex Yermolinsky (1st Place, 3 Points)
FM Elliot Liu (1st Place, 3 Points)
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): If this were a contest on objective moves, I wouldn’t have struggled with the decision of the 2nd and 3rd spots. This game was full of errors, but tactically exciting. Unfortunately, I think Black just overlooked too many things in this game (where she was winning out of the opening) for a higher place. White as well missed the killer Ba4 at an earlier spot, but once he found it the game was quickly over. A nice, if shocking, turnaround.
IM John Bartholomew (3rd Place, 1 Point): 2012 US Junior runner-up FM Alec Getz prevails in a turbulent French Tarrasch. This game provides a few fireworks, but it was overshadowed by serious mutual errors. There were stronger Week 5 candidates out there that didn’t make the cut.
FM Kayden Troff (3rd Place, 1 Point): This was probably the most exciting game from a spectator’s standpoint, but I felt like there were several mistakes on both sides, which is why I didn’t rank it higher. The opening was fine until FM Getz played 13. b4 and after 13… Nxd4 14. cxd4 Bxd4 15.Rb1, after which WGM Abrahamyan appeared to have a winning position. Here though I felt like Black started to overextend with 15… g3 (After the simple 15… Bd7 Black’s position just seems good, if 16. Nb3 Black has the strong reply 16… Nf3 17. Kh1 Qc7! 18. gxf3 gxf3 19. Qxf3 and after Qxc2 Black is winning). Quickly after a few moves Black seemed like she could be close to mating, but since White was able to survive this left a lot of Black’s pieces potentially hanging.
On move 19 Black should have played 19… Rxf3 sacrificing the exchange, but coordinating her pieces. 20. Bd1 I liked at first since it stops Nxh2, but I realized it was unnecessary since he can play 20.h3 threatening Nxd4 and stopping Nxh2. Then on move 22 FM Getz had 22. Ng5 thus avoiding Rxb3 with the threat of Bxh2 from Black. On move 25 WGM Abrahamyan probably should have played something like Bb6+, but instead played 25… f5? FM Getz played 26. Rxf5 (missing the opportunity of 26. Ba4+ winning immediately), and Black should have played 26… Bh2+, but after 26… Bb6+ 27. Be3 and d4 Black’s King was too open, and there was an easy mating net to win the game.
Total score of Getz vs Abrahamyan: 9 Points