A game which seemed destined to be boring given the early Queen trade turned out to be anything but, with a very unexpected piece sacrifice causing chaos in an effort which was very key to the match result throughout its duration
In a normal looking position, GM Benjamin uncorked the incredible 20… Nxe4+!!? leading to some very interesting back and forth play, eventually ending in a standoff
FM Arthur Shen (1st Place, 5 Points): The game looked destined for a quiet endgame from the opening, but Benjamin spiced things up with 14… h5!? and 16… g5!?. His position looked a little loose at first glance, but then came the move of the year: 20… Nxe4!?, one of the most incredible piece sacrifices I’ve seen. Black is down a piece in an endgame, but his pieces are coordinating beautifully. While my cold blooded computer suggests that White has a path to a clear advantage, Black is having a lot more fun. The game had several ups and downs but eventually ended in a hard fought draw. I welcome everyone to analyze this game further – I’m sure it’ll be fun and instructive. While certainly not a perfect game, I felt that the victories this week were instructive but a bit one sided while this game was full of fight. Hats off to both players!
FM Jason Doss (1st Place, 5 Points): What a well fought battle between these two GMs! This game has like every chess motif you can search for. Attacking, sacrifices, positional maneuvering, strategical imbalances, etc… The entire game is just a lot of fun trying to figure out what’s going on. Probably White had something more concrete near the end, but with all the pressure and difficulty it’s no shame to draw that. In my opinion the players really entertained the audience with this one.
IM Yian Liou (2nd Place, 4 Points): Between this game and Varuzhan’s game it was a challenging decision which one to rank first. A Nimzo Indian led to an imbalanced endgame with the different, dynamic Pawn structures and the two Knights vs Bishop + Knight. Just when White was about to consolidate and have a pleasant edge, 20… Nxe4! changed the course of the game dramatically as the roles were shifted. Both sides played well and the material imbalance petered out to a draw. This game was quite exciting and high quality in my opinion, and deserving of its spot!
Total score of Charbonneau vs Benjamin: 14 Points
With his Knight hanging, rather than trying to save it, GM Akobian left another piece hanging with the well calculated 24. Nxf7!, winning a smooth game
IM Yian Liou (1st Place, 5 Points): After imbalanced opening play mostly on Black’s part, White got a good hold of the Black Kingside with 15. g4!, and proceeded to play energetically on all fronts to suppress Black’s counterplay. The steady White buildup until move 20 was utilized when Varuzhan embarked on a well-calculated sequence which netted him a Bishop and two Pawns for a Rook, except the central pawns of White were truly menacing along with a weakened Black King. White wrapped up his excellent game with fine technique.
FM Arthur Shen (2nd Place, 4 Points): A very interesting game. Black’s typical Benoni counterplay on the Queenside didn’t pan out, and Akobian accurately staved off Black’s threats with a nice exchange sacrifice starting with the cute 24. Nxf7!, leaving three of his pieces hanging. Black’s position was miserable after this, and White converted cleanly. I especially liked the final position, with three monster Pawns on the sixth rank.
FM Jason Doss (3rd Place, 3 Points): Akobian has been a long time aficionado of this variation of the KID and he doesn’t disappoint. Smooth from beginning to end. White seems to effortlessly squash Black’s typical b5 counter-punch and play along the e-file. Akobian then transitions to an exchange for three pawn ending that he converts with smooth efficiency.
Total score of Akobian vs Aldama: 12 Points
In a fantastic positional effort, GM Nyzhnyk paid no need to his hanging Rook with 38… Ne7!, eventually breaking through despite his material deficit
FM Jason Doss (2nd Place, 4 Points): Another extremely well fought close GM battle this week! Nyzhnyk’s funny King-dance along the light squares gives the game an extra flare that might have otherwise made the game feel a bit more standard. You got to feel for Troff, he held the balance for most of the game, despite always looking to be under intense pressure. Also notable is the cool exchange sacrifice by Black that left White’s Rooks with zero penetration.
IM Yian Liou (3rd Place, 3 Points): White’s opening line with a4 and a5 stood out as rather unusual, despite my little knowledge of the opening. After Black locked in the Pawn structure with his Pawn on e4 and a White Pawn on c5, he was clearly fine, but breaking into White’s fortress remained difficult. The idea of sacrificing the exchange by Black was a really nice idea, and even if the position afterwards may have been objectively hold-able, play remained very tough for White, and Troff eventually cracked despite his stiff resistance. Overall a strong positional effort by Black, though not as exciting as the top two games!
FM Arthur Shen (4th Place, 2 Points): I didn’t like Kayden’s opening choice, though he is very well prepared and definitely had some idea that he did not get to use. 6. a4 is an idea I haven’t seen before, but Riazantsev has played in a few times recently with good results. Maybe 11. c5 followed up by Na4-b6-xc6 wasn’t the best course of action, and White soon found himself in a nasty situation. Kayden bailed out into an uncomfortable endgame, but Nyzhnyk showed good technique and a nice positional exchange sacrifice (leaving the Rook on d5 hanging for several moves) and converted accurately.
Total score of Troff vs Nyzhnyk: 9 Points
GM Xiong nicely changed the dynamic of White’s solid opening with 18… c4!, opening things up with his Bishops eventually triumphing in the resulting complications
FM Arthur Shen (3rd Place, 3 Points): This was an excellent game by Jeffery. He put all his pieces on good squares, then struck with a strong strike in the center, 18… c4, sacrificing a Pawn. Jeffery then opened up the position with 20… d5 and 23… e5, and with two powerful Bishops pointed at an exposed King, the end was near. Jeffery’s play was both instructive and accurate.
FM Jason Doss (4th Place, 2 Points): The young GM from DFW never looked in doubt this game. From beginning to end it felt like Black’s position made more sense and had more potential. Perhaps it was a preparation error on White’s part. I think it’s pretty cool how Xiong broke down White’s entire center with the b5-Qa5-Qa6-c4 alongside Bd7-c6 and Nf6. The d3 and e4 squares crumbled, and Black’s pieces shoot to life. I think for other young players having trouble with these Closed Sicilian structures that this is an excellent game to take some notes from.
IM Yian Liou (4th Place, 2 Points): A rather strange game to look at for me, considering my past affiliation with SF and multiple challenging encounters with Xiong OTB. A meek Closed Sicilian by white who was looking for a regular game without much theory ran into unexpected trouble with a series of well timed central pushes by Xiong. Under the pressure of an exposed King and Black’s active pieces, White’s position cracked and Black had a smooth conversion. A good effort here by Black, though other games stood out more this week!
Total score of Bhat vs Xiong: 7 Points
After a fair bit of manuevering, GM Izoria broke through with 32… g4!, soon gaining a decisive advantage
FM Arthur Shen (5th Place, 1 Point): Fairly smooth effort by Izoria with the Black pieces. White did not put up the strongest resistance, and White’s decision to close up the Queenside was very questionable strategically. On that account, I can not rank the game too highly: seemed a bit too one-sided.
FM Jason Doss (5th Place, 1 Point): A bit confusing. White seemed to have a fairly pleasant opening position, decent chances. Then it seems to go a bit odd when he locks up the entire Queenside and the King goes on a dash. It feels like this just made the game really easy for Izoria, and indeed he punishes by just wrecking the Kingside. For my money, this game feels a bit like a steamroll.
IM Yian Liou (5th Place, 1 Point): Something went wrong for White in the early middlegame, and the Queenside was locked up after 22… a5. After this, White’s position was devoid of counterplay, and Vigorito could only look on as Izoria prepared g5-g4. A textbook example of preventing your opponent’s counterplay in King’s Indian Defense structures.
Total score of Vigorito vs Izoria: 3 Points