In a very rare occurrence, NM Krasik has taken the top honor for the week in back to back style, certainly the first time in League history a Board Four player has ever done this and in the narrowest of ways, edging out the second place game on tiebreaks.
In another brutal game, NM Krasik played the strong 15. Rxg7+! giving him a huge attack that he converted in a dominating way
IM Teddy Coleman (1st Place, 5 Points): Krasik plays an excellent game where he secured a big center and then sacrificed an exchange for a powerful attack. This game would have had the added cherry on top had he found the beautiful 26. Bg7+ Kg8 (or Ke8) 27. Nf6 mate! Despite this, the other games weren’t enough to knock this one off the top spot for the week.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (1st Place, 5 Points): A fairly flawless game by Krasik in the ultra-sharp 5. h4 Grunfeld. I’d be very interested to know what White had in mind if Black chose 12… Nc6 or 12… Nd7, but I guess that’ll be left up to future theoretical debates. After 12… Qa5+ 13. Nc3 Nd7 14. Rxh7! is a thematic shot, but 15. Rxg7+! is the real star move, and a novelty according to my database. The exchange sacrifice is not only sound, but simply crushing as Ilya followed it up with energetic and accurate play. If you check with Stockfish, it’s clear that Black did not play best after 16. Bd2 (another fine move), but to me Black’s position seems almost impossible to hold in a practical game, as White’s attack with Ne4 and Bc3 simply plays itself. The only blemish in the whole game is that Ilya missed a mate-in-two with 26. Bg7+ and 27. Nf6#, but I’m sure he’s already heard plenty about that and seeing as he never let his advantage slip and forced mate a few moves later, it’s not such a huge deal. A great exchange sacrifice followed up with strong attacking play makes me feel like this exact game could have been played by someone like Topalov against a 2750+ GM.
IM Eli Vovsha (4th Place, 2 Points): Krasik continues his quest to teach the kids a lesson on Board Four. 12. Nxb5 is a dubious novelty (the standard Rxh7 is preferable). Black blitzed out a weak response 12… Qa5? (Nd7 / Nc6 was correct), and after the typical Rh7-g7, followed by 16. Bd2, not only is the position very difficult for Black already, but all of White’s moves are very logical as well.
Very clean game from White (except the missed mate in two on move 26), but Black was basically in trouble three moves after theory and could resign by move 21.
Total score of Krasik vs Jacobson: 12 Points
The strange looking 10… Nh5! lead to a unbalanced position where FM Liu skillfully used his strong Bishop as a bigger trump than his weakened Pawn structure
IM Eli Vovsha (1st Place, 5 Points): Black chose an interesting line (10… Nh5) and after White’s suboptimal reaction (12. Bd3 & 13. exf5) equalized immediately. White then chose a poor plan (Bf4 & Qc2), and after 20… Bxe5 Black is much better. Instead, Ra3 with Ng5 ideas or even Bd2-c3 would have kept the balance.
Later, perhaps White should have tried 25. Re5!?, and of course 36. Na3 just hastens the end. Overall, a very well played game by Black, but in another week I felt that White’s meek strategic resistance would not merit a top ranking.
IM Teddy Coleman (2nd Place, 4 Points): Liu plays the eyesore of a line with 10… Nh5 in which Black trades a bad Pawn structure for easy development … and it paid off! Tang suffered badly in the middle and endgame with am ugly Knight against a good Bishop and Liu closed the game out smoothly. This was the only positional candidate for game of the week, and I gotta love Elliott’s style.
FM Konstantin Kavustkiy (3rd Place, 3 Points): I’d like to think that Elliott was inspired by Game 3 of the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match, where Fischer shockingly put his Knight on h5 and allowed an ugly doubling of his Kingside h-pawns in exchange for active piece play. This game was another instructive example of such a tradeoff — after 10… Nh5!? none of Tang’s moves particularly stand out to me as errors, but Black quickly got a very comfortable position with nice “Benoni-like” activity. After 17… Nd7! and 19… Ne5 Black forced a series of favorable exchanges, and what follows is a really instructive example of good Bishop vs. Knight. Elliott then grew his advantage on both sides of the board, traded into a dominating endgame, and converted with solid technique. Overall a quality game by Black, with little fireworks but rather a high level of play against a strong and young opponent.
Total score of Tang vs Liu: 12 Points
In an absolutely crazy position, GM Stukopin managed to get the best of the complications aided by the strong move 36… Rxf5!
IM Eli Vovsha (2nd Place, 4 Points): This was a strategically and tactically absorbing battle badly spoiled by the blunders when White got short on time.
Black’s plan after the opening (12… cxb4, 13… Bd7) looks suspicious, and White obtained a nice advantage. 18. f4 was a natural move to play, but it allowed the resourceful 18… Nh5!? which didn’t change the evaluation but changed the character of the position. It’s hard to find a plan for Black after for example 18. Nc2, while after 23. Bg5, White is clearly better, but at least Black has some activity. 31. d4 was probably unnecessary (Qg4 right away), and White really started to drift with 35. Bh6. Both sides missed things (the inhuman 39. d6!!), and Black was rewarded for his tenacious counterplay.
I would have ranked this game first if White had managed to get at least a draw.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (2nd Place, 4 Points): When a GM vs. GM game is this unusual and complicated it usually gets the nod for GOTW, but at first I humbly just wasn’t all that impressed by any of it (with respect to both players). To me it seemed like Stukopin played far too provocatively and forced Barcenilla to sacrifice an exchange under very favorable circumstances. With Stockfish running at full speed I could see that White should have been able to win without much trouble, but judging the game from a human perspective fills me with a lot of respect for Stukopin’s play, who took a “clearly lost” position and fought back like a lion, making it very difficult for his strong opponent to actually convert the advantage. Yes, eventually White made a series of mistakes, but I wouldn’t classify them as unforced errors, rather Stukopin posed some concrete problems that in the end Barcenilla wasn’t able to solve.
IM Teddy Coleman (4th Place, 2 Points): Barcenilla played a great sacrifice in the opening and achieved an edge for White, however, lost his way midway through the game. Stukopin responded with a counter attack on the second rank and overwhelmed White’s King. Despite the flaws, this one was amazing to watch.
Total score of Barcenilla vs Stukopin: 10 Points
FM Li went for the throat with 15. Nxh7!?, creating some very interesting play
IM Teddy Coleman (3rd Place, 3 Points): In a week where there was a lot of attacking, this stands out as one of the most ambitious. Li goes all out with 15. Nxh7, which proves to be dubious under the microscope but difficult to handle in practice. Pruess missed some potentially stronger moves like 18… cxd4, and Li kept up the initiative to earn a draw by perpetual. I love the fight in this game, but the flaws hold it back from being ranked higher.
IM Eli Vovsha (3rd Place, 3 Points): Black chose a rare line (Be7 followed by b6) and then played a very risky move 11… c5.
For some reason White didn’t take the pawn with 12. dxc5 when Black should probably continue with 11… Nd5!? (11… Qc7 12. Ne5 bxc5 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. Nd7!), although White is calling the shots here after 13. h4.
After 12. h4 Qc7, the position is close to equality. The ensuing piece sac is not forced and objectively insufficient as White just doesn’t have enough pieces to attack with. White didn’t proceed accurately (18. Qg4?!, 24. Bf5?!) and Black defended quite well with 17… Rh8 & 18… Rag8, but then threw away most of his advantage with 25… Qb4, when Ke7 was logical and good.
A game high on entertainment value, but a bit short on quality at the critical moments.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (5th Place, 1 Point): An uncompromising struggle if I’ve ever seen one! Ruifeng set his sights on 15. Nxh7 and simply went for it. And I don’t think this bothered David all too much, as this line is known to have the character of “if White doesn’t sacrifice something on the Kingside, Black’s positional trumps will soon tell.” Objectively it looks like Black should have refuted the sacrifice and won the game, but it was certainly not easy, and I commend Ruifeng for his principled decision. In fact it was on White to keep the initiative going, and 20. Qg3! was a nice shot, as otherwise White is simply losing. I think the position around move 24-25 could be considered a technical win, but David slipped with 25… Qb4, allowing the nice saving resource of 26. Be4!, forcing a perpetual check simply out of nowhere. An exciting game, but the action was a bit short-lived for my taste.
Total score of Li vs Pruess: 7 Points
In a tough ending, IM Panjwani found the clever 39… Ne2! forcing a favorable exchange of pieces and eventually scoring a close win
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (4th Place, 2 Points): A Benoni turned King’s Indian, where White was doing fine until he played the thematic 13.exf5 gxf5 14.f4, which turned out to be a serious mistake. But Panjwani misplayed his newly found space advantage, and allowed White to get a lot of activity with the break 24. g4. Then followed 29. Rg1, which I guess I would say is brilliant if it had worked out, but concretely wasn’t a very good sacrifice as White’s attack very quickly fizzled out, and Schroer was stuck defending an endgame down an exchange. Given the complexity of the endgame and the situational pressure, both players played reasonably well, but the game should have been drawn once it reached the simplified Rook endgame. For instance 56. Ke3 seems like a normal move where Black cannot make any progress after 56… c3 57. Kd3 Rh3+ 58. Kc2 h4 59. Kb3, for example. But what can you do, chess is hard! Raja ended up having just a bit more energy towards the end and pulled out the win. Overall a very interesting game throughout, but not as high quality as the others in my opinion.
IM Teddy Coleman (5th Place, 1 Point): After playing into a relatively balanced position, Schroer opted for the questionable 29. Rg1, and it backfired miserably. Panjwani gladly took the exchange and the endgame potentially could have ended in a draw but Schroer misfired repeatedly. The game deserves last place for the sloppy play on Schroer’s end.
IM Eli Vovsha (5th Place, 1 Point): Interesting game with both players contributing their share. However, there were far too many inaccuracies, mistakes, and blunders from both sides to rank it higher.
I didn’t like White’s plan after the opening (Bd2, Nh2). If you are going to play f4, then the Bishop looks better on e3, but ok, I’m no expert here. Black obtained a comfortable position, but proceeded too slowly (22… Rb7 is strange, surely White won’t trade his Bishop on c3 for the a6 pawn), and White suddenly had the initiative after 24. g4 (which he could have played earlier). For some reason White sacked an exchange (29. Bxd4 is just good for White), and just barely obtained compensation (31… Ne6! was hard to find). Later Black found the pretty 39… Ne2! to force a difficult Rook endgame for White, where both sides made further errors highlighted by the agonizing 58. Kh4??.
Total score of Schroer vs Panjwani: 4 Points