The c3 Sicillian has a reputation for being fairly tame, but FM Rodriguez had other ideas, scoring a nice attacking victory, topped off with a piece sacrifice. Doing so, he helped the Sharks, who were outrated heavily both in the match and on this board score a big win and kept them close to the division lead.
Continuing with his strong attack, FM Rodriguez boldly pressed forward with 22. Qh4!, leaving his Knight hanging, but eventually getting the best of the complications and scoring a big win for his team
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): Big upset over a strong player. I’m not sure if 22. Qh4 was completely sound, but it sure looks real dangerous and very difficult to face in a practical game. I probably would have personally been content to take with the Queen and then stick a Knight on d6, but that’s probably why I never got GOTW in 3-4 years of USCL play. It was also very creative. Add that to the fact that White’s play seemed to be really thematic throughout (develop, put pieces on Kingside, attack), and I think this should be the clear winner this week.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (1st Place, 3 Points): In the process of examining this week’s nominees for GOTW I stumbled upon this game last, and I must add that I was very fortunate to “save the best for last.” This is FM Rodriguez’s second nomination, and his attacking style is the perfect catalyst to exciting showdowns. White’s brand of the c3-Sicilian is in my view a risky opening since if Black manages to repel the offense, the first player will be subjected to plenty of suffering on the account that his opening was not wholly healthy. Nevertheless fortune favors the bold and Rodriguez played the enterprising sacrifice 22. Qh4!? I’m not sure if the investment was fully sound either, but Black was certainly feeling the pressure!
After the powerful 26. b4! White sets up some nasty threats such as Rd3-h3, Rxd5 and Nh7 or even the immediate Nh7. A great practical situation for White! After 26… Qxa3 (I am not sure if negative marks should be attached, something has to stop the myriad of threats!) White played the flashy 27. Nh7, but I’m not sure why he eschewed 27. Rxd5! with the idea of following up with 28. Nh7. My best guess is that White missed that after 28. Rxd5 Qxb4 29. Qh7+ Kf8 30. Qh8+ Ke7 31. Qf6+ Kf8 the move 32. Nxe6+ leads to mate, but I really don’t know. Whatever the case may be White still got a dominating position and although Krush blundered it’s hard to believe that the position could be saved with White retaining a monster bind. Objectively not the greatest game ever played but still a nice win, and as mentioned I was less than enamored with the other candidates.
FM Alex Barnett (1st Place, 3 Points): Wow this game was clean and one sided the whole time. Full of instructive ideas for those who play the c3 sicilian. The Qe4 lines against the e6 d6 set up can be deadly as proven here. I.E. keep the Bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal and don’t move it to d3 unless the Knight moves from d5 because if the Knight is on d5, and White goes Bd3 then f5 followed by Nxf6 after en-passant, and Black is chilling. White was on his game and knew his stuff because he didn’t allow that, and slowly smashed Black in very convincing fashion. After achieving a dominating position White sacrificed the Knight on g5 and then found some more precise moves (Rad1, b4, etc) and wiped Black off the board. This is an instructive game for anyone who plays or is considering playing the c3 sicilian as White. GG
Chess.com (1st Place, 3 Points): 55% of vote
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 2 Points): I simply refuse to believe the sac is sound. No mating threat or anything imminent, but White prevails. I gotta chalk this up to Black getting careless.
Total score of Rodriguez vs Krush: 14 Points
In a sharp opening, IM Altounian got the best of the craziness with 10… Bb7!, eventually getting the best of the complications
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 3 Points): I think I’d select this game no matter which side won. Sarkar is known for his deep prep so I don’t even know what to think. Did White prep this crazy line? Did Black counter it purely over the board? Either way – very interesting game.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): This game was pretty cool, but looks like 10…Bb7! was just winning. Preparation? Over the board inspiration? In contrast with the Getz game, Black had to find his way through a bunch of complications to emerge on top (or at least it looked like it – maybe he prepared this at home). Cool game for sure, but I liked my top pick better, as this game was sort of over by around move 10.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2nd Place, 2 Points): Playing through the game I thought I was in theory land, vaguely recalling famous Queen sacrifice checkmates by GMs Shirov and Neilsen (Shirov-Motlyev and Neilsen-Karjakin) …. when suddenly White was busted! Unfortunately for IM Sarkar the price for being unprepared in this tricky variation was quite costly. The plan with Qf3 and d6 looks a bit suspect, especially when one considers that the Rook on a8 is not even hanging! IM Altounian played the aesthetic 10… Bb7! and achieved a completely overwhelming position after following up with some forceful play. Black made good use of his opportunities, but in my experience it is a bit unusual for someone to be winning by move 10!
FM Alex Barnett (2nd Place, 2 Points): This game made my head spin. At about move 15 I was beginning to wonder if this is real life? If this is a legit opening for Black, then I think I’ve found a new weapon to try. Black played amazingly well this game. To have the presence of mind to even consider trading Queens in such a position deserves mad props. The technique was clean too, and the result was never in question. This game was creative and beautiful. A good example of what happens when you don’t get all your pieces out.
Chess.com (2nd Place, 2 Points): 32% of vote
Total score of Sarkar vs Altounian: 11 Points
Already having the initiative, FM Getz found the nice 22… Ng3!, soon converting his play into a nice material advantage
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 1 Point): White played very poorly. I’d go over it, but White just lost the game rather than Black winning it. Getz played well … but there wasn’t much effort required.
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): Nicely played by Black, but largely unimpressive and passive play by White in the opening and early middlegame that landed him a losing position by move 22. Games like this shouldn’t be nominated for GOTW in my opinion. Let’s find some games where there’s more of a fight.
FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (3rd Place, 1 Points): Tough to provide commentary for this game. Black deployed his pieces on logical squares and launched a decisive raid beginning with 22… Ng3 after which all of White’s pieces dropped like leaves. It’s hard to fault FM Getz for his opponent’s lack of resistance, but I do believe a game consists of more than one player! To end on a more positive note, it was instructive to see Black’s handling of his dark squared Bishop :).
FM Alex Barnett (3rd Place, 1 Point): This game only goes further to prove my view that the Ruy Lopez is better for Black. I mean, White just never got anything going. Black was just chilling the whole game with not a care in the world. Black’s position was always more comfortable and coordinated than White’s and eventually just consumed the whole board and ran White over. Ng3, Nc5, take on e4 … brutal. After winning the Queen for two minor pieces the Bishop maneuver to b6 crushed all of White’s dreams of counterplay and was nice icing on the cake.
Chess.com (3rd Place, 1 Point): 14% of vote
Total score of Minear vs Getz: 5 Points