It’s hard to not notice when someone knocks off the US Champion especially in a very interesting game, and the judges took notice giving GM Lenderman his second honor in as many weeks.
In a tough position, GM Lenderman played the bold 34. g4!, eventually getting the best of the tricky complications
IM Greg Shahade (1st Place, 5 Points): Anytime you beat Kamsky you are going to get some GOTW recognition, and this time Lenderman did it while playing a very nice game. On top of this it was his birthday!
FM Elliott Liu (1st Place, 5 Points): Like any major sport, strength of the opponent is a major factor in determining the relative success of a victory. In this case, White could not do much better as Black was the one and only Gata Kamsky. Anyone who has followed chess at a high level understands that Kamsky rarely ever loses, so this result is a great achievement by Lenderman and a well-deserved one at that. Whenever you defeat a major force in a given discipline, it usually means that the winner played well, and this game is certainly no exception to that rule. After seemingly equalizing out of the opening, it appeared as if Kamsky gradually got out played by Lenderman, something that Kamsky is usually used to doing to 99% of the chess population. A long maneuvering battle ensued in the middlegame that centered around the classic relationship of strong Knight blockading an isolated center d-pawn vs. the opposing Bishop pair. Amazingly, it was White who seemed to understand the position a little better, and by move 34 as signaled by g4, Lenderman declared that he was the aggressor. Not many people can claim that they outplayed Kamsky, but here Black seemed to crack under the pressure of White’s sudden attack, which was a complete change of pace from the entire earlier phases of the game. By move 40, Black’s position was hanging on the edge, and it collapsed a move later on move 41 when Kamsky blundered with Qd8? He clearly missed Lenderman’s strong 43. Be6! shot. Instead of 41… Qd8, black should probably have tried the understandably unpleasant looking 41… Rxb1 42. Bxb1 and only then Qd8! The difference here of course is that the Queen’s connection to the f6 Bishop is not cut along the 6th rank like what happened in the game. Lenderman mopped up rather easily after winning material in the form of Black’s f-pawn. White had superior piece placement and king safety as well. Black’s final blunder was 48…Qxa3?, which allowed White to crash through decisively with 49. Qh5, but before that point the position was lost anyway. A great game by Alex.
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (1st Place, 5 Points): Maybe too easy of a choice since Kamsky is on the losing side, but I have to give Alex credit for being resilient and creative in a tough position. I really liked Black’s position in the middle game and thought this was going to be a Kamsky-esque squeeze, but just after one inaccurate move things really turned around for White. I like that Alex tried to mix things up with 34. g4, even if it was an objectively dubious decision, instead of suffering and hoping to make a draw. Once the nature of the position changed, White’s pieces were all ready to attack, and Alex never let the win slip out of his hands
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 4 Points): Solid positional win even if Black didn’t play his best.
FM Jason Doss (3rd Place, 3 Points): Another very practical game! I enjoyed how Lenderman followed a textbook type path in setting up the blockade on the isolated d-pawn and once achieved then focusing on creating weaknesses on the K-side. It wasn’t perfect, but ridiculously hard to deal with in a game-time situation. The nice shot 43. Be6! put the game away nicely while displaying the fruits of his labor creating those weaknesses prior, although it’s a real shame he missed 44. Qh5! for the added umph.
Total score of Lenderman vs Kamsky: 22 Points
Taking advantage of Black’s risky 15… f4, IM Bartell struck with the powerful 16. Bxc5!, soon resulting in a decisive victory
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 5 Points): Too interesting of a game to not rank first. Bartell knows how to make games fun.
FM Elliott Liu (2nd Place, 4 Points): A classic case of punishing ambitiousness in the opening, White played a very clean and strong game to take the full point. Black seemingly played way too aggressive early on, not completing his development and leaving his King in the center of the board that had already been somewhat ripped open. Once White found the shot 16. Bxc5!, Black was already losing. I ranked this game very highly this week due to White’s execution and accuracy after achieving a winning position. Black really never had a chance, and most every move after 16. Bxc5 was very precise from White, not allowing Black an opportunity to get back into the game. This game can be quite instructive to beginner and intermediate players regarding what often happens when a King stays in the center of the board for a little too long.
FM Jason Doss (2nd Place, 4 Points): This is a slaughter! Not sure what 15… f4 and 16… Bxc3 was all about, but man did it lead straight to the end of a double-barrel. I think Bartell has done well in paying off the debt he owed for making us have to witness the gross losses to Vigorito and Stripunsky earlier in the season. It is tough to rank this because it is so one-sided, but it’s still fun watching a GM get this badly man-handled.
IM Greg Shahade (3rd Place, 3 Points): 15… f4 was just asking for it and after 16. Bxc5 Black is close to lost. Yes its pretty, but a little too easy for someone of Bartell’s caliber
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (3rd Place, 3 Points): Black almost got away with the overly ambitious opening but 15… f4?? was a little too ambitious. White’s follow up move was quite nice, but a move like that is asking to be played when your opponent leaves his King in the center and doesn’t develop. I liked how White was ruthless in punishing his opponent’s careless opening.
Total score of Bartell vs Stukopin: 19 Points
An interesting string of sacrifices began with 26. Nf5?! which after a rich series of complications eventually resulted in a perpetual
FM Jason Doss (1st Place, 5 Points): Alot happens in this game in a very short amount of time! It features an exchange sac that leads to a double Knight sac and then a Rook sac to draw out the King. Herman really shows some fantastic practical decisions to make life hard on Barbosa. The only shame is that it ended in a draw, because I think Herman played some exciting chess.
IM Greg Shahade (2nd Place, 4 Points): A super fun game with the type of attacking chess that Matt Herman is known for. However Barbosa’s defenses were just enough to hold the balance against Herman’s onslaught.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 3 Points): Fun draw is a rare sighting – this one sure was.
FM Elliott Liu (4th Place, 2 Points): An exciting draw, White sacrificed a pawn in the early middlegame with 16. f4!? in order to achieve the initiative. As Black was about to consolidate, White unleashed a fury of sacrifices that would put pressure on any human being, starting with the exchange sacrifice 23. Rxd7 and shortly followed by 26. Nf5! From there, Black had to defend very precisely as any false step would have almost certainly been fatal with White throwing all of his pieces at Black’s King. Black did defend well indeed, but he erred on move 28 where Kg8! instead of Nf6?! was probably critical and would have challenged White to demonstrate that he had adequate compensation for the material loss. Amazingly, when it seemed like the position had burned out to a forgone conclusion of a perpetual check, White could have had winning chances had he found 31. Rh6! This is certainly not an easy move to find, however, especially seeing as how White was currently down a full Rook in that position. Overall, I would say a draw was a fair result in what was an absolutely crazy game.
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (4th Place, 2 Points): Another game that I didn’t really understand. Maneuvering the Knight to g3 doesn’t make much sense when the Pawn is already on g6. Black’s position was nice, even after the attack White launched what seemed to be out of nowhere. I am not sure why Black didn’t take the f5 Knight, basically White’s main attacking piece and just defend that positions.
Total score of Herman vs Barbosa: 16 Points
Having built up a nice advantage, GM Benjamin struck with the strong 29. Rd7!, winning decisive material
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (2nd Place, 4 Points): Really nice and clean game on White’s part. I really liked how White just kept improving his pieces without giving his opponent much counterplay. It seems like White just made normal moves and ended up in a much better position. Really instructional game on how to build up a position with a nice final tactical blow.
FM Elliott Liu (3rd Place, 3 Points): Joel Benjamin, smooth as ever. After the opening resulted in a slight edge for White, Benjamin showcased his classic style of positionally outplaying his opponent. It was clear that by move 20, White had a concrete nagging advantage, one which Joel would not relinquish. After continuing to apply pressure, Black finally cracked with 25… c5?, and then White was winning after picking up this c-pawn for free. Although a move like 25… g4 would have put up more resistance for Black, the position was still highly unpleasant for him, and it could collapse at any moment. Black tried to set up a kind of fortress by trading his Queen for a Rook and a Knight, but unfortunately Black had too many light square holes in his position, and White nicely took advantage of that deadly positional weakness with his King, marching it down the board. This must have been especially frustrating for Black as there was absolutely no way to stop what was coming, all his pieces and weak King tied to the defense of crucial pawns. A well-played game by White.
IM Salvijus Bercys (4th Place, 2 Points): This game looked more fun than it turned out to be after the opening. Odd opening to say the least.
FM Jason Doss (4th Place, 2 Points): The game features a nice technical soiree from fan-favorite GM Benjamin. White poked a few weaknesses and basically sat on them. Black is then provoked into making even more weaknesses trying to solve the problems. This combined with a little lesson on Queen vs. Rook + Knight lesson at the end made this a very instructional game to the masses.
IM Greg Shahade (5th Place, 1 Point): Joel seems to get nominated every week, either as the winner or the loser. 29. Rd7 was definitely a nice shot but not enough to be ranked in the top of my list.
Total score of Benjamin vs Chumachenko: 12 Points
Having done its part in creating a devastating bind despite being hanging for thirteen straight moves, IM Costigan finally retreated his light squared Bishop with 23. Bc4 and won the game in short order
IM Greg Shahade (4th Place, 2 Points): It was cool to keep the Bishop on b5 for so long. A nice performance by the Philadelphia team, pulling off a big upset.
FM Elliott Liu (5th Place, 1 Point): From a classic perspective, a rather unusual game. The Trompowsky itself is very unorthodox. Black was fine out of the opening, but then all of a sudden there was a 5-6 move stretch from moves 11-16 where the wheels seemingly fell off as Black unfortunately made consecutive errors that allowed White to not only win material in the form of a Pawn but also achieve a dominant position. By move 21, all of Black’s pieces were trapped back on the 8th rank, a sight that I’m sure Black would like to forget. It was only a matter of time before White converted the full point. I ranked this game as the lowest due to the quality of play from one of the sides. It is my feeling that in order to be considered a “great game,” both sides should have to play reasonably well in order to avoid a lopsided result such as this one. Overall though, White did a good job of taking what he was given and capitalized on Black’s early mistakes.
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (5th Place, 1 Point): Really bizarre game. Somehow I think Nf3 can’t be a good move if after e4 you have no choice but go back to g1. One move later Black’s position simply collapsed because White was ahead in development and controlling the center.
IM Salvijus Bercys (5th Place, 1 Point): Black played pretty badly…easy to look great when it was that simple for White.
FM Jason Doss (5th Place, 1 Point): Another slaughter, but not nearly as fun and exciting. It’s certainly a fun game from White’s perspective. Being able to leave a Bishop en-prise on b5 for thirteen moves has humor value. Other than that I am just not sure what Black was thinking most of this game. This combined with extremely awkward opening play from both sides leaves me dangling on the wayside.
Total score of Costigan vs Nemcova: 6 Points