Last season saw a great deal more draws taking top honors in the GOTW contest, and if this week is any indication, this season may do so as well as this super exciting draw between GM Gareyev of the expansion team Desert Rats, and GM Barcenilla of the other desert based team, the Scorpions, garnered top honors for the first week.
The already crazy game took another twist with 38. Bxf4!?, after which a good deal of back and forth play resulted in one of the more exciting draws seen in recent memory
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 5 Points): Definitely a fight where I am surprised Timur did not get a win – this is Timur’s bread and butter type of game. However, after looking at it again – was 24. Nc7 too aggressive? After the forced line of 25… Nxg2, White should be winning, but it’s much tougher to break through than it seemed initially. Logically speaking, I think 28. Qd1?! was not the best choice. Maybe 28. Qb1 with Bd3 and Rc1 to follow, but I cannot be sure that line guarantees a win either. The more I looked at it, the more convinced I became that Timur played his best chance to win the game and almost got it. Good fight by both players.
FM Varun Krishnan (1st Place, 5 Points): After a crazy game between Anand and Topalov in 2005, Kramnik famously called it “23rd century chess”. This insane game between GMs Gareev and Barcenilla also fits that description very well – it saw everything, from a Black attack, to a positional struggle, to a White attack, and finally an ending where White was one move short of victory. Sure, there were many inaccuracies – Gareev would likely have been winning if it weren’t for his attacking plan with 34. h4 followed by 38. Bxf4 – which was crazy but unsound, and in the ending if he had found 59. f4. But for the sheer fighting quality displayed by both players, this game is my pick for game of the week.
IM Yian Liou (3rd Place, 3 Points): A high quality game played by top players in the USCL. Gareev may have missed some chances to convert his two pieces vs Rook advantage, nevertheless the players displayed exemplary fighting spirit. Ultimately, I felt the Korley game was smoother in terms of technique.
Total score of Gareyev vs Barcenilla: 13 Points
Having skillfully capitalized on his two Bishop advantage, IM Korley converted it into something tangible with 31. Bxg6!, leading to a crushing endgame for him
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 4 Points): How bad was 29… Kg7? Scale of 1 to “soooo bad”, it was the latter. This game would not normally be second, but the quality of games picked for the judging was pretty atrocious.
IM Yian Liou (2nd Place, 4 Points): This game involved a steady positional buildup with a nice tactical cleanup (31. Bxg6!) at the end of the game to convert White’s positional advantages of space and the two Bishops. The game was a smooth effort on White’s part and deserves recognition, but I did not think it was as exciting as the Gurevich game.
FM Varun Krishnan (3rd Place, 3 Points): A fine positional effort by Korley, and it featured some very high quality chess. Korley’s plan with 23. h4 followed by 25. g5 was very nice, as was his piece sac (though, objectively it was not the quickest way to win). A very nice game, though the excitement probably wasn’t on par with the top two.
Total score of Korley vs Shmelov: 11 Points
Already having sacced an exchange, GM Rohde threw more wood on the fire with 25. Rd5!?, leading to a very interesting game which FM Gurevich nicely navigated towards a big win
IM Yian Liou (1st Place, 5 Points): Highly interesting game! A positionally complex opening that can be evaluated as approximately equal was thrown into disarray by 19. Rxd6, which is objectively questionable. Nevertheless, both players played well until signs of time trouble started to show, when the game began to swing in terms of evaluation. Coupled with the exciting tactics towards the end of the game, this game is a worthy game of the week, regardless of the mistakes that were made by both players in time pressure.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 3 Points): While White made it a fight, White was positionally lost as soon as the Bishop got locked into g3 after the opening. Good fight by White and resourcefulness by Black, but the conflict was too one sided from the start.
FM Varun Krishnan (4th Place, 2 Points): This was a crazy roller coaster which I wanted to rank higher, but I felt that White made some surprising decisions which backfired (for instance, instead of 31. Bxc4, 31. Nxe6 would have been better). Still, it was a good effort by Gurevich, braving what seemed to be a very scary attack.
Total score of Rohde vs Gurevich: 10 Points
After a long stretch of being under extreme pressure, SM Balakrishnan began his own decisive attack with 44… Qh1!
FM Varun Krishnan (2nd Place, 4 Points): Another great fighting game, featuring great resilience by Balakrishnan, who played very accurately to stay in the game and seized his moment to take the driver’s seat. Krush missed various wins – the simplest of which being 26. Rb1 – but Balakrishnan struck back with the Re8-e6 maneuver, making for overall an exciting game.
IM Salvijus Bercys (5th Place, 1 Point): I generally deduct points for games that were won almost by accident. Krush pushed the game and made an error down the line, but Black wasn’t in position to win.
IM Yian Liou (5th Place, 1 Point): Although this game is a significant upset in favor of the Black pieces, I can not rank this game very highly when White had several winning and drawing chances throughout most of the game. Seems to me that White had the initiative for most of the game, and only when White slipped did Black manage to obtain a winning position.
Total score of Krush vs Balakrishnan: 6 Points
In a sharp opening, NM Vaidya struck a fatal blow with 23. Ra4!, with a crushing mating attack
IM Salvijus Bercys (4th Place, 2 Points): Home analysis is nice … but GOTW deserves more than just home analysis where Black wasn’t ready to play the opening properly. There are two ways to play an opening – you play the book because you know it, or you avoid the book because you don’t. A won game because your opponent wasn’t ready for the opening he picked is nice and all … but not GOTW material.
IM Yian Liou (4th Place, 2 Points): This game included a nice tactical flurry towards the end , but I think Black’s resistance could have been better, considering that the major blunders were made a few moves out of theory.
FM Varun Krishnan (5th Place, 1 Point): This was a very well played game by Vaidya who used a tactical sequence to gain a decisive material advantage and quickly converted it to a victory. Unfortunately, because much of the game was theory and after that the conversion seemed relatively simple, I didn’t think the game involved enough excitement to be ranked higher.
Total score of Vaidya vs Golub: 5 Points