With his team on the verge of elimination, trailing 2-1 in the match and needing a win from him, GM Becerra did what he has down so many times in the past – came through with a huge win against a very strong player and propelled his team into the Semifinals and netted him his second top game honor of the season.
With 38… Rxf5!, GM Becerra’s very dangerous attempt at an exchange sacrifice compelled his opponent to decline the sacrifice and instead go into an inferior endgame which the multiple time MVP skilfully converted
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 3 Points): This game is a prime example of never ever letting any advantage get away. While White played (ANOTHER) atrocious endgame, Black’s technique and pressure were amazing. Positional endgame pleasure to watch.
FM Alex Barnett (1st Place, 3 Points): Julio Freaking Becerra FTW! This game OBV wins. I’m not going to comment on anything before move like 18ish because it’s probably theory, and I’ll look dumb. Around move 22 or so I thought Black was better but wasn’t sure if it was enough to win because the dark squared Bishop was hurt like it always is in the KID. Then around move 35 or so, the dark squared Bishop came to life, but it was the light squared Bishop that was hurt! Black’s light squared Bishop is usually the best piece in the KID, so I thought that was interesting. 38. Nf5 Rxf5 looks like GG but White said nah chill and played 39. Rxg6. Both players were obv fighting mad hard this game. Around move 40ish it looks pretty drawish opposite colored Bishops etc, but Julio needed a win for the Miami Sharks to not lose the match, and he played like a beast (per usual), and Smysloved him in the ending. How he won it, I don’t know. GM knowledge is a powerful thing. Idk if d6 was necessary by White but whatever, Black sac’d his Bishop and won. Cliffs: The circumstances surrounding this game and the beautiful final position make this game the winner in my book.
Chess.com (1st Place, 3 Points): 54% of vote
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 2 Points): White was probably okay in the endgame but seemed to misplace his pieces a bit when Becerra found the nice exchange sac Rxf5! Holt probably panicked with the return of the exchange, hoping to hold a very difficult opposite colored Bishop endgame that proved too difficult, but even if he had tried to hold on to the material he would have been under a lot of pressure.
IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (3rd Place, 1 Point): The beginning phase went very well for GM Becerra as he developed a nice initiative with his active Rooks, Bishop pair, and an excellent Pawn structure with an outside passer. Nevertheless despite the pressure, GM Holt sat tight and was defending his inferior position. Transposing into an opposite color Bishop ending, White looked to hold but played the unnecessary 48. d6? which grants Black a free pawn and a possibility of a timely d5 sacrifice, either deflecting White’s King from guarding the f4 square or creating a possibility of another passed pawn. As it was, Black “pantsed” White with 53… Kf4! The ensuing endgame witnessed the heroics of a lone Bishop fall short.
Total score of Holt vs Becerra: 12 Points
With the very strong 18. d5!, NM Amerkeshev forced Black into a concession which he eventually strongly took advantage of
IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (1st Place, 3 Points): A typical Pawn sacrifice in the Slav granted White decent compensation in the form of more space, a sounder structure and an initiative. Of course Black is still up a pawn and has good potential for his pieces if he is able to break out. Retreating with 17… Qd8, FM Liou looked to bring his Knight to the wonderful d5 outpost (g5!? at some point…maybe?) through b6, but White took his chance to play 18. d5! and obtained strong pressure all across the board. After regaining the sacrificed pawn, NM Amerkeshev enjoyed all the pluses of his position without cost, and after 29. f4! he launched a final and decisive offensive.
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 3 Points): The most interesting game to me. It was a fresh opening, where both players were probably on their own, trying to figure things out. d5 was a nice breakthrough. Black seems to have blundered late in the game, but he was under a lot of pressure from the start so it was understandable. A reasonably well played game and the freshest of the three games to me.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 1 Point): I am not sure what to think. Black collapsed after creating many weaknesses. Just didn’t impress me.
FM Alex Barnett (3rd Place, 1 Point): This game is painful to watch. Black was never in it. Just quick and dirty. Black never had enough control over the center to get anything going, while White just launched a Kingside attack that played itself and ran Black off the board. 18. d5 was pretty sweet too. It’s also cool how White took the time to just own the Queenside too before fully executing the Kingside attack…that had to be pretty soul crushing. The way White played it, Black had to know in the back of his mind for the whole game that he never would have anything to play for. Games like this are basically impossible to play well for Black. I mean White just controlled the whole board and then crashed through leaving Black helpless. GG but too one sided to be the winner imo
Chess.com (3rd Place, 1 Point): 17% of vote
Total score of Amerkeshev vs Liou: 9 Points
After nursing a total bind for many moves, GM Naroditsky broke through with 56. Rd8!, forcing liquidation into a winning ending
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 2 Points): This game is yet another supreme positional endgame example. Loved the technique since it reminded me of my early days playing the game.
IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2nd Place, 2 Points): Employing a rare idea, GM Naroditsky emerged from the opening (and went straight into an ending) with the better pieces and the better structure. The positional press that White achieved was aesthetically paralyzing as his Knight completely dominated Black’s Bishop. Slowly but surely, White methodically increased his advantage by gaining space and outposts while maintaining a vice like dark square grip on the position (25. f4! 31. a4!). Complete passivity proved too much for IM Harmon-Vellotti to handle as White instigated a brief skirmish with 56. Rd8, a temporary Pawn sacrifice that ultimately culminated in a trivial endgame. A clean and clinical game by White against a strong opponent.
FM Alex Barnett (2nd Place, 2 Points): Oh nahhhh Daniel Naroditskeet skeet skeet brought the NASTY this game! First of all, Advance Caro ftw. That’s a real man’s opening. On move like 13 White had a positional advantage already but instead of attacking, was mature enough to go into an ending. To everyone who says otherwise…this game is an example of how Knights >>>>>>>>> Bishops in endings with a lot of pawns on the board. This game is too long to go over everything but just play through it, and you’ll see that Black was basically suffering and hating his life the whole game. Knights FTW.
Chess.com (2nd Place, 2 Points): 27% of vote
IM Victor Shen (3rd Place, 1 Point): A textbook ending but not a super interesting game comparatively – White was better after the opening and then converted.
Total score of Naroditsky vs Harmon-Vellotti: 9 Points