In the first near unanimous vote of the season, this exciting draw between two of our top young GMs captured the top honor of the week in a pivotal match which clinched a playoff spot for the Destiny and gave them a hammerlock on the Western Division.
Already having sacrificed a Pawn, GM Naroditsky added more fuel to the fire with 19. Nf5!, after which a crazy game eventually liquidated into a tricky ending in one of the more interesting draws seen in the USCL
IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (1st Place, 5 Points): What is 8… c4!?!?! I play this opening with White, and I was so surprised by the way Black approached this game, Maybe another deeply analyzed variation from the theoretical databases of Holt. 13. h4 was a very nice Pawn sac, to activate the White pieces, and it was amazing to see that by move 21, White was very much down in material, but he had more than enough compensation. After looking at this game, I understand more why Dvoretsky had to write such a hefty endgame manual, as endgames are damn tricky!! This game was definitely a treat to watch and complex to analyze!
IM Greg Shahade (1st Place, 5 Points): What an incredible game. Naroditsky managed to sacrifice a lot of pieces early in the game and came out on top in a Rook ending, but it wasn’t quite enough to win easily. They then traded into a King and Pawn ending that you often see in books of endgame studies, but you almost never see in real life. Super entertaining performance.
FM Jason Doss (1st Place, 5 Points): I always thought these French games in which Black plays an early c4 were just ICC 1-min bullet openings, but this game made it look fun. Sacrifices, Queen jaunts, Pawns are flying everywhere, this game seems to have a bit of everything. If that is not enough, the endgame is not only cute, but instructional. The finish just topped off the cute-factor. Maybe White had some better chances earlier in this game, but regardless, both players showed great fighting spirit.
FM Mike Klein (1st Place, 5 Points): Check my math on this one: Naroditsky sacked a Pawn, Knight, second Pawn, Rook, and the exchange. Was the endgame technique perfect? Maybe, maybe not, but I’ll be looking for his analysis of it in his Chess Life column. For excitement and the study-like finish, this game has to be on top.
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 4 Points): This game seemed so absurd but without getting into details I believe White blew it. I am sure some computer line somewhere in the mid game would prove me right. The Pawn endgame seemed like a composition endgame … with a draw as a result. Kind of anticlimactic.
Total score of Naroditsky vs Holt: 24 Points
In the midst of a well played tactical flurry from both sides, GM Becerra played the strong 17… Qa3!
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 5 Points): Just a solid game by both sides. Lots of counter-punches thrown around this game but no clear knockout.
IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (2nd Place, 4 Points): An extremely entertaining and impressive play by both sides. Becerra had an advantage throughout the game, and it is sad that he wasn’t able to convert this advantage. A draw is a very surprising result, as for a long time, I thought Black should be winning this endgame somehow.
IM Greg Shahade (2nd Place, 4 Points): Another very exciting draw. When I saw this game I was pretty sure it would win GOTW, but then I looked at Naroditsky vs Holt and changed my mind. So many short and cute little tactics in this game.
FM Jason Doss (3rd Place, 3 Points): It’s a pretty cool game, if not a bit short. There are a lot of small tactical flurries that make the game fun. I feel like it ended too quickly though. That isn’t say I don’t think a draw is a fair result, I just think there was still some fight left.
FM Mike Klein (5th Place, 1 Point): I hope I’m not suppose to be checking these games with a computer. I get the feeling the most technically correct game I’m ranking last. How did Julio keep both minor pieces? How did Niclas not get mated? I felt let down by the ending. Not like The Sopranos, but close.
Total score of Huschenbeth vs Becerra: 17 Points
In the midst of some crazy fireworks, IM Xiong found the nice counter-blow, 23. Nxb7!, giving him a decisive advantage
FM Jason Doss (2nd Place, 4 Points): It is hard not to enjoy most of Jeffery’s games. It’s clear he is going to be a GM very soon and hopefully a real contender. This was a tactical tight-rope with lots of cool tic-tacs in every direction. Perhaps GM Bhat made a couple pretty bad mistakes, but nonetheless it exciting.
FM Mike Klein (2nd Place, 4 Points): Who sacked more Knights in this game? I lost count. Xiong’s creative defense impressed me, or maybe just the bravery of youth. Good thing kids can now be on their parents medical plan until they’re 26 – he’s going to break some bones playing this way.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 3 Points): Crazy game, but Black did not look convincing at all. The two GM draws were just better games.
IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (4th Place, 2 Points): This game was pretty wild! I don’t know how much was Xiong preparation, but it looks like this variation does lead to a healthy and solid advantage for White in this French defense. Grabbing the free pawn on a6 was definitely risky – I think he should have tried to preserve the positional edge with 18. Qb3, as all the Black pieces look so passive in that position. There seemed to be a lot of tactics and piece sacrifices in the middle game, but upon deeper introspection, I find that they were not really that charming, as White was a piece up, and he found a way to exchange the Queens and increase his advantage. A treat to watch this game live, but definitely not that much fun during analysis.
IM Greg Shahade (5th Place, 1 Point): Xiong is a beast on Board Two, as he showed last season and showed again this week as he takes out another GM. A complex game where just one or two mistakes were enough to do in Bhat. In this type of concrete position Xiong plays quite well. Why am I ranking it last? It’s hard to say, as I think third, fourth, and fifth were all pretty even. I guess it was just a bit too short and brutal as Black is just lost by move 23, although you have to be impressed with what Xiong did in the opening to get to this type of position.
Total score of Xiong vs Bhat: 14 Points
After a daring King walk by FM Shi, NM Mo saved the game with 32. Rxe6+!, with an interesting perpetual
IM Greg Shahade (3rd Place, 3 Points): Maybe I’m overrating this game, but I wasn’t in love with the fourth and fifth place finishers, and at least this one has a player needing to spend twenty five moves to prove a perpetual check, something you don’t see every day with this type of material remaining on the board.
FM Mike Klein (3rd Place, 3 Points): You know in kids chess, when you ask how to stop a mate on h7, they always move the Rook on f8 instead of blocking the diagonal? Well this game proves that either kids are right, or that you dear reader have never taught five year olds. Nice bailout by Mo to hold the draw and keep Carolina’s slim playoff hopes alive.
IM Salvijus Bercys (4th Place, 2 Points): Too many draws this week. This is the least interesting of all.
IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (5th Place, 1 Point): The opening was very pleasant for White, and Black missing 17… b5 to equalize was not a good thing to watch, as his previous move of 16… Ba6 doesn’t make sense without b5. When I looked at this game, I somehow felt like most of the moves were pretty forced. It needed some precise calculation, but nothing was really amazing that would place this game ahead of the other games this week.
FM Jason Doss (5th Place, 1 Point): I remember playing nearly this exact same opening from the White side as a college student and the esteemed chess coach FM Aviv Friedman asking me “why are you playing like an 80 year old Russian man?”. Not a whole lot happens, other than the kind of cool idea that it’s a perpetual at the end.
Total score of Mo vs Shi: 10 Points
In a nice endgame grind, GM Hungaski played the unusual 42… Na1!, eventually scoring a big win for his team
IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (3rd Place, 3 Points): I love positional squeezes as those games are more intricate and very easy for me to relate with, but somehow this game didn’t make a great impression on me, as White’s play didn’t look really strong and convincing. Black’s play was not great until move 15, and then White started messing up rbadly. Full credit to Hungaski for his elaborate positional outplaying of Gorman.
IM Greg Shahade (4th Place, 2 Points): Hopefully Hungaski analyzes this game on his new YouTube channel! I actually think it was quite a heroic effort to win this endgame, with cool maneuvers such as Na1-c2 with the idea of Ne1-f3, but I can’t rank this particular type of endgame grind too highly.
FM Jason Doss (4th Place, 2 Points): This felt like a very clean win for Hungaski. It’s not very exciting, but still very smooth and straight forward chess. Not every game can be a slug-fest.
FM Mike Klein (4th Place, 2 Points): If we were a panel of GMs, then maybe this one would win. Hard to rank a mostly positional effort higher, though the late placement of the Knight on a1 and possible mating nets with the Knight relocating to f3 deserve praise. Still, it feels White should have held the endgame somehow.
IM Salvijus Bercys (5th Place, 1 Point): This is a nice positional win I agree. But White played an atrocious positional game.
Total score of Gorman vs Hungaski: 10 Points