GM Stripunsky has somewhat quietly been having an incredible season which currently has him tied for the League MVP Award. But he shall not be flying under the radar any longer, as his strong victory from this past week against IM Edelman of Connecticut was voted the best of Week 8!
GM Stripunsky struck with the typical Sicillian sacrifice 20… Rxc3! with his powerful Bishops eventually carrying the day
IM Eli Vovsha (1st Place, 5 Points): This game shows what can happen when White chooses a somewhat lethargic approach in the Sicilian, and Black plays lots of good moves. The main culprit was the awkward looking 15. Re3?!, although you’d think White’s plan was to continue 16. Rg3 with the idea 16… dxe4 (b4 e5 bxc3 exf6 Bxf6 bxc3) 17. Qh6 g6 18. Nxe4. In any case, Black was very comfortable already, and after the “thematic” Rc8xc3 sack, White’s only chances were to play f5 quickly or 23. Rc1 with the idea of forcing a Queen trade after 24. Qg5. After 23. Qh4? Black converted his advantage efficiently, and White had no way back into the game.
IM Michael Bodek (2nd Place, 4 Points): This game is a textbook example of the power of the two Bishops. In the face of a Kingside attack, Black sacrificed an exchange to neutralize the pressure, and those powerful Bishops of his turned into monsters. After the Bishops were firmly cemented on outpost squares, Black made winning this game as simple as running the Queenside pawns down the board. It is difficult to watch this game without marveling at the impression the out-posted Bishops on d5 and c3 give off.
IM Salvijus Bercys (3rd Place, 3 Points): Black shows off his mastery of the Kan and shows that two Bishops are a horror to face in a semi-open position against your King.
Total score of Edelman vs Stripunsky: 12 Points
GM Akobian played the strong 29… Qe2! with the devastating threat of Rxh3+, leaving White with an unenviable defensive task which he wasn’t able to complete despite his extra piece
IM Salvijus Bercys (1st Place, 5 Points): Resilience in a complicated position by both players the entire game leads to a Black win. Very nice 101 by Akobian on how enough pressure can break any player and force mistakes to appear out of seemingly nowhere.
IM Eli Vovsha (3rd Place, 3 Points): White outplayed Black and obtained a decisive advantage. Almost out of desperation (and some generous help) Black found vicious counterplay, and despite being down a piece turned the tables when White spurned a draw by perpetual. I would have ranked this game higher if White didn’t lose it.
There were some fascinating moments starting with 12. Kf1!?, which allows White to avoid playing h4 himself. Black’s reaction was lacking (perhaps 12… d5!? was preferable), and especially after 14… Kb8?! White not only obtained a better structure but also trapped the Bishop on a3. 20. Nf4?! gave Black some chances, instead 20. Ne3! (with the additional idea of Nc2) looked stronger. Later, 25. Rf1 dxc4 26. Nc5 followed by Qg3+ was an improvement, and the tables really turned with 27. Qa5?? (Qf3!). In particular, White had plenty of time at this point and played 28. Rf1 quickly (instead of taking the draw with Na6+) so I find it hard to believe that he missed how 28. Qb6 fails to 28… Ne2+ 29.Kh2 Rh3+! when he played Qa5. More likely, White didn’t realize just how bad the position is after 28… Qe5 — Black’s pieces are dominating the board and the Rook on h1 is fodder.
IM Michael Bodek (3rd Place, 3 Points): White seemed to get a bad position out of the opening and had to fight an uphill battle for equality. But from a position where things looked like they were going horribly wrong, White built up a sizable edge, and Black sacrificed a piece to keep the position dynamic. White failed to find the best defense, and Black went on an incredible King-walk to win the game. While this certainly was an interesting game, it was definitely very topsy-turvy.
Total score of Kovalyov vs Akobian: 11 Points
Hitting at his opponent on all sides of the board, IM Gorovets fatally struck with 32. e5!, causing Black’s position to soon crumble
IM Michael Bodek (1st Place, 5 Points): Simply an amazing game. After ruining Black’s pawn structure, White just maneuvered, made weakness and kept his opponent in a bind. White won this game by slowly improving his pieces without forcing the action, and ended up winning in this fashion, without any clear mistake from Black, and that, to me, makes it worthy of the top spot for Game of the Week.
IM Salvijus Bercys (2nd Place, 4 Points): Simplest of things in chess are the most enjoyable. White played this game logically and targeting his opponent’s weaknesses until Black crumbled under pressure. Technique worth admiring.
IM Eli Vovsha (5th Place, 1 Point): Black obtained a good position after the opening (Nh7, Bf6 worked well against White’s unconvincing play), but initiated a self-destruction sequence starting with 20… Kg7? & 21… Bc6? trading away his dark squared Bishop, and then trapping his own Queen (26… Qe5?, 28… Qg3?, 30… Qh4?). Once the Bishop was gone, White just needed to find the logical plan Nf1-e3-g4 (h1-f2-g4 is also possible) and then play a couple of energetic but obvious moves (31. b4, 32. e5) to finish Black off.
Total score of Gorovets vs Aldama: 10 Points
In a tough position IM Bartell made a great practical decision with 22. Bxe4! leaving his opponent with challenges he was unable to solve
IM Eli Vovsha (2nd Place, 4 Points): A typical game for a semi-closed structure, where on many occasions both players have to make a difficult decision with unclear long term consequences. I liked Black’s reaction (h5-h4) to White’s “creativity” in the opening (Nfd2, g3), but I’m not a fan of 13… h3. Later on both sides chose not to play on the Queenside: 15… Bxa3 followed by a5 made sense for Black while 18. g4 looked very risky for White. The critical position arose on move 21 and from here on White played some excellent moves. 21. Bxe4! is just in time as Black’s main problem is the lack of coordination between some of his pieces, while 25. a5! is a deceptively strong move. 25… a6? really sealed Black’s fate, but the position is already difficult after mistakes in the previous two moves.
IM Michael Bodek (4th Place, 2 Points): Black put his Pawns on light squares and killed White’s light squared Bishop. However, White not wanting his Bishop to waste away its life on h1, sacrificed it in the center to destroy Black’s pawn structure and create decent practical chances. While objectively Black should have been better, the problems were too difficult to face at the board, and White persevered. This game shows true fighting spirit, and White seized his chance, and though it might not have best objective chance, it was the best practical chance, and very entertaining to say the least.
IM Salvijus Bercys (5th Place, 1 Point): I understand why it was chosen as a candidate for GOTW, but other games just seemed better this week. Good game by White nonetheless.
Total score of Bartell vs Schroer: 7 Points
In a brutal attacking game, NM Martirosov continued his assault with 19… Bxf4! and scored a quick knockout
IM Eli Vovsha (4th Place, 2 Points): White didn’t understand the opening, and Black was already better after move 10. He could have won a Pawn with 13… Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nd7, which would have given White some compensation, but instead played the strong 13… Qb8!. This led to an interesting position which White could have defended if he had started running away with the King (18. Kg1 or even 18. Kg2). White still had chances after 18. Rg1? as Black wasn’t accurate, but with limited time on the clock he played Qf3 at the worst moment and put up no resistance.
A fairly well played game by Black but completely one sided.
IM Salvijus Bercys (4th Place, 2 Points): White lost the thread of this game pretty fast it seems. Good attack by Black but very little back and forth to be considered a GOTW.
IM Michael Bodek (5th Place, 1 Point): Black got everything he wanted out of the position, and White simply crumbled. This is a Stonewall player’s dream, and White was almost mated by move 20.
Total score of Subervi vs Martirosov: 5 Points