In the closest vote we’ve had since the beginning the five judge system last year, only a gap of 1% in the chess.com poll prevented a whopping three way tie for first as multiple time MVP GM Becerra notched his first GOTW award in recent years.
In a tactical finish, GM Becerra played the nice 53… Rxh3+!, effectively ending the game
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 3 Points): At first I wasn’t impressed by this game much, but other games were so much inferior in quality that it’s the only game even worth consideration. Becerra is almost always a high quality player with few mistakes. He was one of my least favorite players to play because he always squeezed you to death like a python.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (1st Place, 3 Points): USCL legend GM Becerra fended off the 5. d3 Ruy Lopez and after the f-pawn came running down the board I thought perhaps Black even had easier play. Nevertheless the position reached a slightly unusual symmetric situation with both players enjoying a super centralized Knight. White’s Kingside was shored up and perhaps he could count on an advantage but his Queenside pressure wasn’t paying dividends either. Another thing that concerned me was the unfortunate position of the h2 knight.
Initiating a series of exchanges, Becerra reached a position with opposite color Bishops where’s his Bishop was far more pretty and mounted a decisive attack with 44… e3! This game stood out to me as being more combative than the other candidates and hence influenced me to grant the maximum three points.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): Becerra played very well throughout (it seems, without using a computer), and White put up more resistance than the victims of the other games. Exchange sac was nice too, if not pretty natural.
Chess.com (2nd Place, 2 Points): 27% of vote
FM Alex Barnett (3rd Place, 1 Point): I have the names hidden but if I had to guess I would say this game is Julio Becerra beating up on some 24xx. Nothing special, Black played well and outplayed White. Technique was a little bit sloppy. meh.
Total score of Matikozyan vs Becerra: 11 Points
Faced with the threat of Ng5, IM Esserman found the very creative 16… Ba2!, eventually scoring a nice win, leading his team to a big victory
FM Alex Barnett (1st Place, 3 Points): This game is subtle and sexy…it was cool in the middle game where Black had to avoid Ng5 so he put the Bishop on a2! Then after Re3, had the presence of mind to find Qh6, how often does a queen end up skewering two rooks on the h6-c1 diagonal in the middle game? Then after winning the exchange the technique was clean too, Bd5 inducing e4 to make the g2 Bishop bad and then rolled back to a2? This game is awesome. Best one I’ve judged so far hands down.
Chess.com (1st Place, 3 Points): 47% of vote
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2nd Place, 2 Points): A typical position for the opening (English? Reversed Dragon?) occurred where White was organizing the usual annoying pressure on the Queenside when Black decided to make that sector his battleground as well with the unorthodox maneuver (at least to me!) Qc8-e6 and then 15… Rfb8. Of course the exciting moment of the game was 16… Ba2 but to my eyes this looks like the only move. Given two more moves Black could make sense of all his pieces with 17… a4 and 18… Ra5! After White logically broke in the center with d4, the position featured everyone having weird pieces (move 20), but White definitely had the upper hand. Unfortunately for Gulko, 21. Qf5? was surely a blunder where the strong GM may have missed that pieces move backwards or perhaps that a Queen on h6 and a Bishop on a2 are so pivotal. After showing off with 27… Ba2 again, Esserman concluded nicely and probably did not experience a bad handshake as he did in his previous event.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 1 Point): 1. g4 e5 2. f4 Qh4!!!!!# BRILLIANT WIN. Gulko hung an exchange then Esserman won. Twilight books are better than that. I bet.
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): Wasn’t White doing fine until he just hung an exchange? Okay, the x-ray was kind of unusual, but no way I can reward this game when 21. Qf5 seems like a pretty poor move. Personally thought there were other games this week more worthy of nomination.
Total score of Gulko vs Esserman: 10 Points
GM Rohde continued his strong play with 17. Rxe4!, eventually sacrificing a full Rook for a devastating attack that he used to good effect
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): Have to admit I wasn’t really thrilled with any of the games nominated this week, but this is the best one. It was creative, sacrificial, and exciting. And White’s play was pretty nice. Black really didn’t have to go and play Nxe4, but he couldn’t really have anticipated the nice Rxe4! which set up so many threats that Black couldn’t handle in a practical game.
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 2 Points): A GM out ‘experienced’ a weaker player. There is nothing fascinating about a total crush when it’s clearly correlated to a bad opening and lack of understanding by Black.
FM Alex Barnett (2nd Place, 2 Points): This game was also a crush, but it doesn’t top the Gulko vs Esserman game for a couple reasons. First off I play this way as Black, and I’ve always hated getting positions like this. I’ve gotten crushed many times in similar fashion to this game so it brought back some unpleasant memories. White killed it and played well, but I have to admit I was rooting for Black while going through this one :( Oh well, still the second best game you guys have sent me AINEC imo
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (3rd Place, 1 Point): A nice game by Rohde but 14… e5??? Even 15. g5 was strong, and while Black could have tried not taking on e4 and instead giving back the Knight on f6, his position would still be looking tough. As it was, White got all his pieces in Hua’s face and finished it off with a familiar but always pleasant motif.
Chess.com (3rd Place, 1 Point): 26% of vote
Total score of Rohde vs Hua: 9 Points