In yet another incredible rookie season, FM Liu finished the regular season off on a perfect note, snaring the League MVP Award and also winning the prize for the best game of the same week.
In another strong effort, FM Liu played the natural, yet far from clear, 24. Nxe5+! sacrifice, winning yet another great game
GM Josh Friedel (1st Place, 5 Points): Elliott seems to be unbeatable in USCL this year. This week he turned in another very high quality game. His opponent’s suspicious opening play led to a promising position for White, but it still wasn’t clear how to punish Black. First he found the idea of 17. b4! and exploiting the weak c5 square. I really liked the 24. Nxe5 sacrifice as well, which led to a position which was horribly difficult for Black to play. He also finished with great accuracy, finding 34. Qf6+ followed by Rd6 and Ne6. Just a nice game.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (2nd Place, 4 Points): Just another smooth game by Elliott, who was simply on fire this season. Black’s opening was strategically very risky, and Elliott played logically to punish his opponent, who held on for quite a bit. 24. Nxe5! was a nice sacrifice, which lesser players may have shied away from as it doesn’t immediately lead to checkmate, but rather a slow-burning, winning attack. Kudos.
FM Mike Klein (3rd Place, 3 Points): Did you know that the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings were a perfect 65-0? Another piece of bar trivia you’ll need to remember someday is of course Liu’s perfect run in 2015. Who cares that Black’s pieces were asleep while his King took an Ambien and sleepwalked around the Kingside? You cannot rank Liu’s capstone game to his magical season any lower than third.
Total score of Liu vs Morshedi: 12 Points
After a long sequence of maneuvering and slowly improving his position, GM Holt finally broke through with 52. Qf8+!, transposing into a winning endgame
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (1st Place, 5 Points): Wow, one slip with 24… Ra4, and Nyzhnyk was never able to reorganize his pieces in a suitable fashion. Conrad grabbed his chance to seize the advantage, repeated moves multiple times like a champ, and eventually forced a winning endgame. Really smooth display of using the advantage of an open file, as well as handling Bishop vs. Knight. I’ll be showing this game to my students!
GM Josh Friedel (2nd Place, 4 Points): The game looked pretty level until Nyzhnyk’s optimistic 24… Ra4, taking his Rook out of the game and allowing Holt to take the f-file. After this mistake it was pure torture, and Holt made Black suffer for awhile. Nyzhnyk held it together for a long time, however, until the fatal mistake 51… Rc7? allowing Holt to trade into an easily won endgame. None of White’s moves really stood out to me, but a very nice demonstration of applying pressure by Conrad, who’s work paid off against a strong opponent.
FM Mike Klein (5th Place, 1 Point): Nyzhnyk just won the latest Death Match on Chess.com, but the grim reaper came for him this Halloween. There just wasn’t any life he could offer thanks to Holt’s bind. I imagine masochists would have enjoyed playing Black for the final 30 moves, but that’s not a ringing endorsement for the rest of us.
Total score of Holt vs Nyzhnyk: 10 Points
In another creative effort, IM Zierk struck with a great practical choice, 27… Bxa5!, leaving White with a very tough defensive task
FM Mike Klein (1st Place, 5 Points): Black’s Queen sac was the star idea of the week precisely because it wasn’t 100% clear. I can’t recall too many instances where two Rooks and a feckless Knight dominated a Queen and two Bishops. White’s King was caught in one of those M.C. Escher drawings where it wasn’t clear if he was falling up or down, but we knew he was doomed.
GM Josh Friedel (4th Place, 2 Points): I thought Alexander got the better of the opening battle, and was better for a long time in this game. Steven is a resilient defender, however, and kept himself from getting positionally overrun. The idea of Bd8-Bxa5 was unexpected and tough to deal with. Even so, Alexander had no reason to lose the game, and it was only 34. Qg4 that led him astray (34. Qa3 with the idea of taking d6 should secure a draw). Afterwards it was pretty easy for Zierk to mop up the point. Nice resourcefulness from Steven, but Alexander gets most of the credit for this win.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (5th Place, 1 Point): Perhaps in a different week I would have ranked this higher, but all the games had quite a bit of intrigue this week. 27… Bxa5 was a novel and interesting decision by Steven, who correctly deduced that Black gets enough counterplay with two Rooks and a Knight against White’s Queen and Bishops. True, the game should most likely have been drawn after 33. Qd3 Rcc1 34. Kg2 Rxf1 35. Qxa6 Rfd1 (35…Rxf4 Qc6!!+- might have been missed by one or both of the players, understandably so) 36. Qxd6 Rxd4 37.Qxd7 h6=, but that should not take away from Steven’s bold decision to go in for the material imbalance.
Total score of Ivanov vs Zierk: 8 Points
In a wild looking position, FM Kiewra, conducting his attack clinically, plunged forward with 34… Ng4!, scoring a nice upset
GM Josh Friedel (3rd Place, 3 Points): I thought Kayden had a pretty comfortable hanging Pawns position, but he lost the plot somewhere. I really didn’t like allowing Nd3 followed by taking on f4. Even so, the position was pretty level until the suicidal 32. Nf3?? Black is winning after that, although Kayden forced Keaton to be quite accurate after finding good defensive moves like 35. Bc8! and 38. Qd7! Keaton was more than up to the task, however, and after finding 41.. g5 it was smooth sailing. I really enjoyed this sequence, but the suspect earlier play and the psycho 32. Nf3 don’t allow me to rank this game higher.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (3rd Place, 3 Points): Bonus points to Keaton for scoring the upset with Black. Starting with 32… d4!, 33… d3!, and 34… Ng4! Keaton executed his attack perfectly. A really interesting example of the counter-punching potential of the two Bishops, who can go from passive to deadly in an instant. While Keaton’s play was impressive, it seems like it was more of an unforced error from Kayden that ended up costing him the game, as 32. f3 (instead of 32. Nf3) would have kept Black’s pieces at bay. That said, all of the maneuvering in the middlegame made this one very interesting to watch.
FM Mike Klein (4th Place, 2 Points): Keaton over Kaydon thanks to some strong zwischenzugs in the middle of his attack. The pleasing checkmate was the tiebreaker for me over the fifth-place game.
Total score of Troff vs Kiewra: 8 Points
After a somewhat questionable standard Nd5 Sicillian sacrifice, GM Paragua made his gamble pay off with 22. g6!, leaving Black with no defense
FM Mike Klein (2nd Place, 4 Points): This vote may be a nod to the late Emory Tate, but didn’t he sac a piece on d5 in the Sicilian and blow open Black with g6 in his famous win over Yudasin? Why, yes he did. The fact that White had no interest in recovering his piece was pleasing to me. I have it on good authority that “Paragua” means “imitator” in Spanish — don’t trust the internet on this one.
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy (4th Place, 2 Points): This kind of thing happens a lot in the Sicilian, doesn’t it? White finds a thematic sacrifice, sometimes it’s good, here it seems to be more on the dubious side of things. But Black goes wrong somewherem and White wins. Irina played a bad move in 19… Qe5, and Paragua’s gamble paid off. I guess a move like 19… Bc5 would leave White scrambling to find compensation, but that’s easier said than done. An exciting game nevertheless.
GM Josh Friedel (5th Place, 1 Point): 14. f4 and 15. Nd5 looked extremely optimistic. Two poor moves from Krush (19… Qe5 and 20… Rfe8), however, turned the attack from highly dubious into devastating. The finish was brutally satisfying, but hardly challenging.
Total score of Paragua vs Krush: 7 Points