In yet another very close vote, GM Benjamin won his second Game of the Week of the season along the way to helping the Knockouts score a huge victory to move up to second place in their division.
Faced with some nasty threats, GM Benjamin uncorked the strong 14… b3!!, an amazing defensive and counter attacking move in tandem
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 3 Points): Benjamin creates chaos and comes out on top this week. It is always difficult to attack while you should be defending, but this was quite a counterattack. It does feel that White probably missed a chance here or there, but human error happens.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (1st Place, 3 Points): So people still play the Philidor, and d4 can be taken with the Queen? Too much for me to process over the course of four moves! The game heated up quickly with GM Benjamin grabbing the e4 pawn whilst his King was still in the center, and White’s pieces having an interest in that matter. IM Schneider looked to retaliate with 13. Nxc7+ but followed up not with 14. Qxc5 (regaining his material and maybe looking for some pull) but with the no-nonsense 14. Rxd6!? which sets up dual threats of Qxc5 as well as a possibility to utilize the x-ray on the Queen with Rxh6. What to do, what to do… Well 14… Qb6 is a nice way to solve both problems and also forces White to justify his approach with something like 15. Nd4. In this case Schneider would retain pressure and due to all the pins and will probably win something back; but will he have more? Anyway why would Benjamin consider any of this when he can just play 14…b3!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now both threats are parried: 15. Rxh6? Rxh6 16. Bxc7 bxa2 18. Qa3 Nd3+!…oops 15. Qxc5 bxa2 16. Qa3 Qa5! So the unwelcome guest on b3 must be corralled, but how? The obvious 15. axb3 allows Black to demonstrate his other idea, namely 15… Nb4! (also 15… Nxb3+!? looks interesting, but it is probably better to ask your computer about this), and now 16. Rxh6? is again impossible due to 16… Nxb3+! If White doesn’t blunder then he can consider playing 16. Bc4 (did I mention Ne6 is also a threat?) but I do suppose Black is up a piece…
Seeing this horror 15. a3!? seems logical and here Black can consider playing 15… Qb6 analogous to 14…Qb6, but I wonder if Benjamin was evil enough to plan 15…Nb4!? aiming to meet 16. Rxh6? with 16… Ncd3+! and 16. axb3 with 16…Ne6!
Schneider’s 15. Bc4 was logical as it brought more forces into the attack. Following 16… Nb4, more fireworks erupted with 17. Bxf7+ but Benjamin was not to be outdone and played 18… Ncd3+! and emerged with an extra Rook. White tried to muddy the waters but was simply out gunned by manpower. An inspired game by both players and one that was certainly enjoyable for me to analyze.
FM Alex Barnett (1st Place, 3 Points): Wow this game is hilarious. I had to vote this game the winner even though its obviously the poorest quality out of the three but whatever I am a tactical player, and I love to play 1-minute, and this game looked like it was straight out of my ICC history. Seriously I don’t even know what on earth was going on, but it was very entertaining. Street chess >>>> boring positional chess all day.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): Nice defense by Black, but looks like White’s attack was simply unsound. 14… b3! was a nice resource by Black. It looked dangerous, but I guess not quite enough.
Chess.com (2nd Place, 2 Points): 32% of vote
Total score of Schneider vs Benjamin: 13 Points
With the strong, thematic 22… c4!, GM Kekelidze broke through on the Queenside, soon regaining his sacrificed Pawn with a big initiative
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): White looked to be doing well with his extra Pawn, but as always in the Benko, you have to watch out for the break c4. Once that came, Black had good counterplay and won a nice game after some adventures.
Chess.com (1st Place, 3 Points): 50% of vote
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 2 Points): White had a dream position in Benko. Then White got complacent because such a dream position rarely comes by. It’s tough to judge this game to be honest. Black played really well, but White unravelled pretty badly. Not sure who had a bigger impact.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2nd Place, 2 Points): I guess this is the Benko players’ dream; give up the pawn and have the initiative even on move 45. As someone who has no experience whatsoever in these positions with either color, it was fun to watch GM Kekelidze execute the typical maneuvers and resources in what seemed to be extremely thematic fashion.
Following 22…c4! Black found himself with a growing advantage but one was certainly almost wasted with 34…Ne5? Such a difference between the quality of rooks and yet Black allows them to be exchanged! No matter, Black still retained annoying pressure even after his inaccuracy! Actually I was a bit surprised not to see Kekelidze deliver a devastating strike at some point as his position seemed to be overwhelming. I can offer 31… Nxe3+ with the idea of following up with Bd4 where White is struggling to move. After 44… Bf4+, Shankland’s pieces were unfortunately positioned to allow everything for Black to work out and win a pawn. Even more unfortunately, he played 63. Qb2+?? Happens.
FM Alex Barnett (2nd Place, 2 Points): Black played stronger than White and gradually outplayed him. That’s all there is to it. Not very exciting but pretty instructive I guess. I learned a new idea in the Benko from this game too, play c4 when you can win the a4 pawn. yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
Ok but seriously besides that Black just won by force, just totally outclassed White. Kind of like a less boring version of the Catalan game. meh.
Total score of Shankland vs Kekelidze: 12 Points
With 45. Rxa3!, FM Gorman nicely took advantage of Black’s wayward Knights, liquidating into a winning endgame
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 1 Point): Worst endgame by Black ever. I don’t even know what part of “let’s trap BOTH my Knights” seemed appealing to him. I can’t look at the rest of the game with Black playing “help chess” the entire endgame.
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): Looks like Black just blundered, and White converted the endgame.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (3rd Place, 1 Point): Slav Slav Slav Slav 16. Nxe6! The players reached an unbalanced endgame where Gorman must have looked to utilize his beautiful central pawns, and Herman’s unfortunate King on e6 allowed some minor tactics for White to do just that. In the face of an impending e4, Herman felt obliged to sacrifice a pawn. Although Gorman now had a Rook and three pawns versus the minor pieces, his Pawn structure was not ideal. Nevertheless three pawns is a lot of material, and when Herman attempted to decrease his disadvantage to two pawns, he had to entomb his knights on a3 and a2. Somewhere around the time when Gorman played 37. Bd2 and 38. Ra4, Tarrasch started to cry. Black found himself in a form of zugzwang and looked to reverse his fortunes with 44… Nc3 but following 45. Rxa3 White found himself in a bishop endgame up 2 pawns which was cleanly converted.
51. h5 won the game, but 50. h5 did not look any worse to me! Black had the opportunity to kill this resource with both 49… Bxh4 as well as 50… Bxh4. Aside from being the only chance, this might have actually allowed Herman to escape with a draw! After 49…Bxh4 White has two options, 50. Bd2 or 50. Kxa3. 50. Kxa3 allows 50…Bxg5 and this looks like a draw. 50. Bd2 allows the annoying 50…Bf2 which picks up the d pawn. Then Black will place his King on b7, and his Bishop attacking the g5 pawn (either on d8/e7 or if White brings his bishop to f6 then on the g5-c1 diagonal). When White tries to bring his King to collect the g6 pawn, Black will sacrifice his Bishop on g5 and collect the B pawn. Anyway those are my thoughts! I am sure the players were in time trouble at the later stages of the game.
FM Alex Barnett (3rd Place, 1 Point): Ummmm why was this game selected? The selection this week must have been bleak. Playing through this game in the opening I was like zzzzz and then oh wow Black allowed Nxe6! Maybe the game will be fun now! Nope… just simplified down to an endgame where White barely won. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Chess.com (3rd Place, 1 Point): 18% of vote
Total score of Gorman vs Herman: 5 Points