In the first unanimous vote this season, another draw managed to take top honors in the GOTW Contest. The exciting battle which ended with a dramatic King walk had spectators on the edge of their seats as the two teams engaged in a close match.
GM Alex Yermolinsky (1st Place, 3 Points)
IM John Bartholomew (1st Place, 3 Points): Now THIS is what USCL chess is all about! This game was incredibly complicated, with admirable fighting spirit from both players. IM Sarkar had the better of the complexities beginning with 14. b4!?, but FM Rodriguez – always in with a puncher’s chance – refused to go down to the canvas, eventually securing a valuable half-point for Miami. Houdini will tell you that 30… d2! 31. hxg7+ Kh7! 32. Ngf5 Rd3!! would have sealed the deal for IM Sarkar, but we’ll give him a pass for missing that one! All in all, a real crowd-pleaser where the players performed well under sustained mutual pressure.
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): Have you seen this game?? Okay, not objectively correct, but also not as bad as you would think – only one glaring blunder, and it was far from obvious. IM Sarkar had to find 30… d2, with the idea after 31. hxg7 Kh7 32. Ngf5 he has Rd3!! Winning. Tough to see. Otherwise, pretty wild game, and we must give credit to both players for finding their way through the maze.
FM Kayden Troff (1st Place, 3 Points): Although I do have to say this game had some mistakes, I think both players found some great moves and made some great decisions in complicated positions to neutralize each other’s advantages. I felt this was a great crowd pleaser and there were some very strong moves played to make it GOTW worthy for me!
To point out some of my highlights: FM Rodriguez’s 14. b4!, sacrificing another Pawn, but letting his Pieces get active and even forcing IM Sarkar’s Queen to a passive square on h7. Black’s 17… Bd8! – this was a better decision than Bd6 because even though the Bishop is protected on d6 (because of the pin against the Knight on e4) there are lines where it can be hanging which is a potential problem for Black that he chose well to avoid. Black’s 19… Bxc7! which led Black to an interesting and good material imbalance after all the trades with 21… Nb3 and 22… a1=Q. Then when White’s position was starting to become difficult he made a good decision by playing 27. Ng3 and 29. g5 which made it complicated giving him chances to equalize with time pressure on both sides.
After that, Black’s 29… d3!, looking to trade some Pieces off and going into a winning endgame came. Here it got intense, and White continued to make it complicated for Black with 30. gxh6!? Now as the clocks were winding down Black gave White his chance to equalize with 30… dxe2, unfortunately missing the winning, but very complicated 30… d2! (very easy to miss especially in time trouble). After 30… dxe2, White began checking, and Black’s King started on a march, and the game ended in a fair draw for both sides.
FM Elliot Liu (1st Place, 3 Points)
Total score of Rodriguez vs Sarkar: 15 Points
With the play seeming to be occurring on the Queenside, IM Bregadze uncorked the surprising 29. Nf5!, beginning a quick, decisive attack on the Kingside
GM Alex Yermolinsky (2nd Place, 2 Points)
IM John Bartholomew (2nd Place, 2 Points): If you clicked away from this one in the middlegame, you completely missed all the action! Neither side had much to complain about from in this calm Dragon line, but after IM Kapengut overestimated his chances on the Queenside with 27… Nc5? (maybe ?? is more appropriate!?), IM Bregadze quickly administered the punishment: 28. g4! h4 29. Nf5!, and suddenly Black is lost! Great alertness from White, though Black’s failure to sense the danger had much do with White’s victory.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): Nice move (29. Nf5!) – lightning from a clear sky.
FM Kayden Troff (3rd Place, 1 Point): This game was clearly well played but lacked the excitement that I saw in the other two games. For the most part this was a positional battle with different maneuvers coming out from both players. For most of the game IM Bregadze was cramped working nicely with the amount of space he did have to improve his Pieces and keep his Pawn structure sound. Then he broke through (once IM Kapengut put too many of his Pieces on the Queenside) with 28. g4! And then after 28… h4 White found one of the best moves of the week with 29. Nf5!! And with all his Pieces on the other side Black couldn’t defened his now open Kingside and lost quickly.
FM Elliot Liu (3rd Place, 1 Point)
Total score of Bregadze vs Kapengut: 8 Points
An interesting position developed from GM Ivanov’s enterprising piece sacrifice 15. Bxb5+, and after a long battle with nice play from both sides, the game eventually ended in a draw
FM Kayden Troff (2nd Place, 2 Points): The best part of this game at first seemed to be GM Ivanov’s Piece for three Pawn sacrifice, and I saw some good play on both sides, but when I really looked at it I felt like IM Schroer in the long run ended up being the one who was playing for the win. White’s three connected passed Pawns seemed very dangerous, but once Black stopped them and traded Queens it seemed possible that he could get a nice setup and just slowly pick away at White’s Pawns. This chance came on move 34 where Black could have played 34… Bb6! White’s three Pawns are then not going anywhere, Black will start maneuvering his Rook to take either the g-Pawn or a-Pawn. After 34… Kc5 White played the very strong 35. Rc1! after which the Pawns started being traded, and a draw was achieved. Another good exciting game, but just not as exciting to me as FM Rodriguez vs IM Sarkar.
FM Elliot Liu (2nd Place, 2 Points):
GM Alex Yermolinsky (3rd Place, 1 Point)
IM John Bartholomew (3rd Place, 1 Point): An imbalanced game where Black’s Bishop gained the upper hand over White’s triple connected passers (something IM Schroer could have proved conclusively with 34…Bb6!). Despite relatively few errors, I felt this game didn’t have the “wow” factor one looks for in a Game of the Week.
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): IM Schroer missed at least one forced win in an exciting game. Credit to both players who were spoiling for a fight, but I just thought the other two games were a bit better.
Total score of Ivanov vs Schroer: 7 Points