In a unanimous vote, even though his team wound up losing by the narrowest of margins in a thriller of a match, GM Shankland’s creative effort was enough to snare him the top game award for the Semifinals.
Seeming to be heading towards difficulty with the loss of his dark squared Bishop, GM Shankland struck with 29. g4! followed soon by a nice exchange sacrifice, scoring a creative victory
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 2 Points): Easy choice this week. Interesting game with an actual tense middlegame. I think Black should have taken on d6 instead of Qf7. I prefer consequences after the former over the latter. Overall, nothing super crazy but a solid game.
IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (1st Place, 2 Point): The combative Dutch led to a tough struggle where both GM Shankland and GM Gelashvili seemed to have decent chances. Right as Black appeared to snare White’s dark squared Bishop, GM Shankland played the energetic 29. g4! and soon set his own problems with 33. Rxd5!, lifting the light-squared blockade and making Black’s King position relevant. With both loose pawns and a loose King, GM Gelashvili was unable to hold and GM Shankland scored a nice victory in a well played game from both sides. As wonderful as Charbonneau’s game was and as temped as I was to give it a first place nod, I am inclined to give the vote to Shankland as he had more problems to solve and ultimately this was a better “game”, although admittedly the choice was tough.
IM Victor Shen (1st Place, 2 Points): A nice exchange sac to take advantage of Black’s open King and various Pawn weaknesses. I really like the plan starting with 28. Bd6 of just dismantling Black’s Pawn structure. White probably had seen the exchange sac from Rd1 (or he’d likely not have gone in for the whole Bd6 line), so that’s impressive to me.
FM Alex Barnett (1st Place, 2 Points): Yeah I picked a d4 game as number one over a crazy attacking e4 game. This does go against everything I stand for as a chess player, but this game is simply better. I can’t really critique the play in this game like I can in the other game because I don’t know anything about the Dutch. I barely know anything about any opening for that matter, but that’s beside the point. All I can say is that Kamsky or Naka prolly would have done something different as Black but IDK at what point. I’ve tried playing this opening before and the d5 followed by Nd4 plan is what made me hate my life and quit playing it. There’s just no play. Black’s position is just hurt the whole time. Maybe he should have tried to go g5 and f4 etc to get a Kingside attack instead of playing on the Queenside because as it happened in the game Black just got nothing and got slowly grinded off the board. Maybe black played well and got outclassed. I seriously don’t know. GM knowledge goes over my head.
But ok, if Black is gunna make a committal move such as e4, isn’t the point to go Nd3, or at least do something concrete? Playing e4 seems reallll hurt to me if you don’t put something on d3 or try to attack or do something because it’s just weakening. I could be totally wrong due to my lack of chess understanding, but it looks to me like White exploited Black’s strategically inferior play very nicely and won pretty convincingly. The execution was tight too. I didn’t appreciate it the first time I went through this game. The exchange sac on d5 right when Black was starting to get something going had to be soul crushing. That g4 move was dirty too… totally wrecking Black’s structure and his hopes of counter play along with it. That was legit. GG NH WP
Chess.com (1st Place, 2 Points): 65% of vote
Total score of Shankland vs Gelashvili: 10 Points
GM Charbonneau flashily wrapped up a dominating win with 35. Qxh5+! a key win on his team’s road back to the Championship Match
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 1 Point): Bad opening for Black yielded an unrealistically easy positional win for white. Any 2500 can win this game with such an enormous positional advantage.
IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2nd Place, 1 Point): With the 3. Bc4 Anti-Sicilian, GM Charbonneau steered the game towards Ruy Lopez-esque waters where he completely outclassed his opponent. While White was thematically building up his Kingside offensive, Black never had a sniff of counterplay and could only wait for something painful. White’s position looked so ideal that it seemed almost a pity to cash in, unless of course you can cash in with 34. Ngxh5! and the flashy 35. Qxh5+! A very nice crush, certainly the sort of model game that can be displayed to show typical Spanish maneuvers.
IM Victor Shen (2nd Place, 1 Point): I’m sorry, but this game was really painful to watch. A Spanish torture arising from a Sicilian led to a controlled mating attack, capped off by a beautiful Queen sac (in a position where everything won). Great game by White, but honestly, what was Black doing? b6 and Bb7 in the opening was probably the start of a entire game of drifting for Black, culminating in the vicious ending. Not enough fight for me to rank this first unfortunately.
FM Alex Barnett (2nd Place, 1 Point): The Yudasin Sicilian! This opening is cool except for the fact that it sucks. If Black doesn’t play like a nit then White gets no attack and just gets hurt. I would say this opening is strategically hurt, if that even makes sense. But Black NEEDS to do the Rb8 b5 stuff and go nuts on the Queenside … if Black doesn’t do that then he just gets rolled up like what happened in this game. I mean, if Black is gunna play b6 instead of b5 and not do anything and just nit it up then we should always play the Yudasin Bc4 Sicilian because it will just win by force. Oh nah dude.
If Black plays actively, this opening sadly is garbage. Oh well. But yeah the way it happened in the game was extra nasty. But Black did it to himself by just letting White roll up in his grill with impunity. Black needs to either go Bg4, take f3 and play d5 (the system my boy Alex Pelekhaty used to make me quit playing this opening) or just the standard Rb8 and b5 b4 a5 a4 stuff, and Black is good to go. But good god yo…. e5 b6 bb7? oh NAHHH dude you know it’s hurt when Barns tells you your opening is hurt… The Bryer and the Sicilian don’t mix bro. WOMP WOMP. Oh yeah and the middle game attack was sexy Qh5 etc. sorry I forgot to mention that. GG by White but even worse game by Black. I usually vote exciting brute force e4 games higher than strategic d4 type of games, but this week is an exception because Black hurt it bad.
Chess.com (2nd Place, 1 Point): 35% of vote
Total score of Charbonneau vs Winer: 5 Points