In another very close vote, this exciting draw between two of the top players in the League edged out a few other games, giving us one of those rare, but very exciting, draws which wind up taking the top honors in a given week.
A crazy battle began with 12. Bxg6!?, after which some exciting play eventually resulted in a stand still
WIM Yuanling Yuan (1st Place, 5 Points): I really enjoyed the tactics and sharpness of this game. While White’s attack seemed to be detrimental, Black held on well with an open King. The game was exciting throughout and kept the audience on their toes, anticipating what would happen next.
FM Jason Doss (2nd Place, 4 Points): This game showcased a neato piece-sac with nice compensation throughout. From a practical perspective I would have really liked to have seen how the game would have continued after 26. Qf4. I know my silicon-based friends say equal, but in a game situation it looks scary to me! Overall this game felt very well played from both sides. I really hope the last move listed in this game is just a relay-error!
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 4 Points): An interesting battle. Plenty of nuances to keep one entertained.
GM Cristian Chirila (3rd Place, 3 Points): A game everybody was waiting impatiently to see. Both players are extremely strong and have extraordinary opening preparation. In this encounter Black managed to out-prepare his opponent in a fairly obscure line of the Ragozin Defense. So decided to sacrifice a piece for a few Pawns and some attacking prospects, but Black was ready for it and soon neutralized White’s initiative. Lenderman nicely handles the middle game and obtains a winning advantage but agrees to a draw due to the match situation. Interesting game overall, but not perfect from any point of view.
IM Greg Shahade (3rd Place, 3 Points): In order to take down the mighty St. Louis Arch Bishops, you have to nick one of their top two boards. With the Black pieces against a star like Wesley So, it’s never easy. This game featured an enterprising sacrifice by So, and some strong defense by Black. Maybe Lenderman could have tried to push at the end, but considering his team won, it’s hard to blame him for being happy with the draw.
Overall I ranked this below the top two games because while it had some fireworks, it just seemed a little less creative from both players than the top two games, which I found to be very entertaining over a very long stretch of moves. However, somehow I suspect this game will win due to the name value of the players, but who knows.
Total score of So vs Lenderman: 19 Points
With 22. Nd5!, IM Vigorito’s plan of poking holes in Black’s defenses came to fruition, as he soon skillfully converted his edge
GM Cristian Chirila (1st Place, 5 Points): And this is my winner for this week! A very clean win by Vigorito against a very strong opponent. He is nicely transitioning from a well played opening to a complicated middle game in which he simply outplays his opponent. I liked the way White created weaknesses in Black’s position, only to maneuver his pieces towards those outposts later. Black does not stand a chance against the slow coming slaughter and ultimately blunders with 28… Nxd5, which is nicely punished by White. Overall this is the game I learned the most from, and that’s why I will choose it as game of the week.
FM Jason Doss (1st Place, 5 Points): Vigorito ate his Wheaties or something, he really showed up for this game. Other than missing 30. Bxg7 winning the house, White played a very strong game. I really liked White’s board-control from beginning to end after Black’s awkward 19… f5 plan. There is something enjoyable about how Vigorito used the light squared weaknesses to invade after 25. d5.
WIM Yuanling Yuan (3rd Place, 3 Points): Very straightforward game by White. Increased his advantage slowly until it got to a point where it was completely winning. Painless and mistake-free.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 3 Points): Ending was kind of anticlimactic. Benjamin also played some bad chess – definitely not up to par. Prizes are for games won, not lost.
IM Greg Shahade (4th Place, 2 Points): Last week I gave Benjamin the top nod for his smooth win, but this week Vigorito did the same thing to him, winning in surprisingly easy fashion. Vigorito played a really great game here, but it was a little too one sided to finish at the top of my rankings.
Total score of Vigorito vs Benjamin: 18 Points
The already crazy game saw a very interesting end with a wild Pawn race where Black managed to hold the balance after sacrificing both his Rook and Knight
IM Greg Shahade (1st Place, 5 Points): It was very hard for me to choose a first place game, as I had three serious contenders for this spot. A completely wild and interesting game in all three stages of the game. White had an attack, then started walking his King over to the Queenside, and lastly was up a Rook but was facing some fearsome Black Pawns. I would be surprised if this game wins because there are other really cool games this week, and some involving very high profile players, but this one was my favorite.
WIM Yuanling Yuan (2nd Place, 4 Points): White was fearless on the Kingside. Although Black was able to neutralize the middlegame, the Pawn race in the endgame was very thrilling to watch.
GM Cristian Chirila (2nd Place, 4 Points): Highly entertaining game overall, with a lot of swindles and tense moments. Black handles the strategic elements of the position in a very accurate manner and times his breakthrough in the center very well. After that White’s King is caught in the center and finds it very difficult to find a safe haven. Despite his clearly inferior position, White fights well and manages to swerve the game into unclear waters, in which a wild pawn race would decide the game. He misses his winning chance (55. b4! Pawns are worth more than pieces in this atypical position!), and in the end Black manages to save the day. A very well fought game!
IM Salvijus Bercys (4th Place, 2 Points): 32…Rf7 wins? Black deserves nothing for not winning this game.
FM Jason Doss (5th Place, 1 Point): I can’t believe White held this game. I guess this is why you tell your kids to never resign. I guess I got to give White props for tenacity, but this is almost silly. The King-walk is not exactly a daily occurrence in a Caro-Kann. This game has strong humor value attached. It is entertaining to watch the Pawns vs. Pieces battle in the end. Shmelov might not see another resignation again if too many see this one.
Total score of Gorman vs Shmelov: 16 Points
The already interesting game saw another twist with White attempting to sacrifice another exchange with 48. Rxd6!
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 5 Points): Becerra’s fighting spirit has always been something to admire. This game is simply the best fight of the week.
IM Greg Shahade (2nd Place, 4 Points): Becerra gave Miami a win they desperately needed after a poor start to the season. Miami has done this many times before though, as they start with 0-2 or 0-3, and then turn it on late in the season. Despite the poor start, I’d be very surprised to see them miss out on the playoffs.
This game was great to watch because not only did it decide the match, but both sides played extremely energetic and interesting chess. I felt that Korley gave up his b5 pawn too quickly with 43. b6, as it seems clear to me that this pawn is a huge thorn in Black’s side. Once he gave that up it was still very complex, but White had less clear counterplay. A great game between two exciting players.
WIM Yuanling Yuan (4th Place, 2 Points): I am a tactician so I generally prefer sharp games over positional ones. 34. Rxd4 was a blunder by White, but the rest of the game was quite interesting.
GM Cristian Chirila (4th Place, 2 Points): Quite an interesting strategic battle in this game. White tried an offbeat line against the KID setup but ultimately ended in a position he didn’t understand to perfection. Closing the center with 14. d5 seems a bit premature, he firstly had to finish his development with b3-Bb2(a3)-Rad1 in my opinion. After that Becerra maneuvers nicely to dominate the dark squares and create a nice advantage. Korley finds some nice resources and steers the game into an unbalanced endgame in which Becerra ultimately prevails.
FM Jason Doss (4th Place, 2 Points): An off-beat opening by White led to very dry play. It feels like Black was the only one trying to play this game. A lot of White shuffling left me saying “bleh, come on man”, but I’ve been just as guilty against such a formidable opponent. Black seemed to just have his way with this game without any serious fight back.
Total score of Korley vs Becerra: 15 Points
5th Place: Shaun Smith (MAN) vs NM Gary Huang (NY) 0-1
In typical QGD style, NM Huang’s attack broke through with 24… Nxh3+! to which there was no defense
FM Jason Doss (3rd Place, 3 Points): The game is almost miniature worthy. Very-much a textbook style QGD example of Black’s intention when he plays this variation. White bungled up the opening pretty well, but you can’t fault anything Black played this game. It probably felt really good to play 24… Nxh3+, we all love making such attacks I think.
WIM Yuanling Yuan (5th Place, 1 Point): Black played well and sacrificed for the kill. However, it seemed as if White didn’t put up much of a fight. A game of top quality is one where both sides play at top strengths.
GM Cristian Chirila (5th Place, 1 Point): White played a decent game up to a point but decided to blow any trace of an opening advantage with 11. Bxf6. After that it was all Black, as he was the player that seemed to play according to a plan. White did not pose any problems, barely creating any type of counter play throughout the game. Huang skillfully ends the game with a nice tactical blow, but the position was already screaming for it.
IM Salvijus Bercys (5th Place, 1 Point): Simply no.
IM Greg Shahade (5th Place, 1 Point): A great attacking game by Huang but for the most part it seemed too thematic to me. In this type of position it’s known that Black wants to go for the attack, so Huang simply moved his pieces to the Kingside, made a really obvious sac once White’s defenses were broken down, and won a few moves later.
Like the Vigorito game, it was a nice smooth win, but nowhere near as interesting as the top three games.
Total score of Smith vs Huang: 7 Points