Thursday, September 27, 2007

Week 5 Game of the Week

This year for game of the week we have three judges, all ranking their top five games. The games are then given anywhere from one to five points, based on these rankings, and whichever game receives the most points wins the award. Also note that this year the winner each week will receive a $100 bonus prize. Our three judges are: IM Greg Shahade, NM Arun Sharma, and Jonathan Hilton. Click here for more details.


1st Place: FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 0-1

Greg Shahade: I have decided to start judging these games without using the help of a computer engine. I found that in the past I would see a good game then Fritz would spit out some line where the other side could have improved and gained an advantage, thus discouraging me from selecting the game, despite the enjoyment I felt while watching the game live. Isn't it a shame that the mighty computer could influence my decision over so much? (After making my official selections I ran through some of the games on the computer and probably would have even made different selections. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing? Comments?)

These USCL games are played under intense pressure, and if you pose enough problems for your opponent, even if they may be unsound problems, you stand a good chance of cracking their defenses. Schroer did just that this week. I remember that during the game I liked the way that all his pieces were surrounding the enemy king, although I didn't really see a knockout blow. 31....Nd3 was a nice finishing touch, although I do admit that White probably had the better game on move 31 if he had just played something normal such as 31. Rc1. However I appreciate the style of just haphazardly throwing pieces at your opponent's king, hoping that something will work out. Even though it probably shouldn't have worked, his opponent was in time trouble, and Black's position was still quite playable even if White played correctly. After a rough first two seasons in the USCL, Schroer is coming through big time for the Cobras in 07. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: This was quite an impressive tactical display by Schroer. One nice move was of course 28… f3! forcing Mikhailuk to jettison his e and c pawns to distract the Black Queen, but of course the likely best move was 31…Nd3! tearing open White’s King and punishing the overextending 30. h4? Though, as Greg stated, these ideas might not have been 100% sound, you have to have some amount of respect for the willingness to try them. This was a very important victory from Schroer to help the Cobras tie the Sluggers. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: Looks like again I failed to chose the Game of the Week! I did consider this game very seriously as a top contender, but I felt the game was decided prematurely by Mikhailuk’s blunder 31. h4?? I believe after the simple retreat 31. Bg2 Black shouldn’t have much, because White has such a powerful dark-squared bishop. He can regroup with Qd1-d4 and force Black to either exchange queens or enter a passive position defending g7. The position is still highly unclear, and Black has a lot of tactical tries, but unless I am missing something egregious, White, isn’t in any trouble at all. With that said though, congratulations to Schroer on a very enterprising game! I really liked Schroer’s middlegame ideas of …Ne8 and …f5, and the maneuver …Ne8-c7-a6-b4 was indeed a good find as well. I felt Black did take advantage of the holes left by White’s opening play very well, so he should take credit for that! (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Mikhailuk vs Schroer: 9 points


2nd Place: NM Mackenzie Molner (NJ) vs FM Marc Arnold (NY) 1-0

Greg Shahade: A nice attacking game by Molner; I have to admit I went back and forth between this game and the acutal winner for first place. It turns out that my decision made the difference between which game would be the winner. I still have no idea whether I made the right choice! In any case, the Knockouts will need play like this to keep winning matches. (2nd Place: 4 points)

Arun Sharma: Molner finally notched his first victory in the USCL and couldn’t really have found a better time to do it as the Knockouts winning this match was extremely instrumental to their playoff hopes. Speared by the typical sacrifice 18. Nd5 along with 21. Ne6+!, Molner really froze Arnold’s pieces completely (as can be discerned by Arnold’s three pushes of his h pawn) and eventually crashed through his position with 30. Re7! (3rd place: 3 points)

Jonathan Hilton: I would have ranked this very fine specimen higher, but the “smashing the Najdorf” Nc3-d5 sac theme is already getting a bit worn after last week’s Keaton Kierwa game! Najdorf players need in the League: I am calling you to regroup and take vengeance for the sake of this noble opening! With Gelfand switching to the Petroff for the World Championship, the Najdorf needs to start showing its power and fury at the League level. Don’t succumb to the Nd5 sacrifice! My full confidence is in the Najdorf players, however – they are a very innovative bunch, and I’m sure they will come up with something! I hope to be judging a convincing Najdorf win each week by the end of the League… (5th place: 1 point)

Total Score of Molner vs Arnold: 8 points


3rd Place: IM Lev Milman (CAR) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 0-1

Arun Sharma: This was the first week in awhile where I did not feel one particular game was a no-brainer pick for Game of the Week, but to me this game seems like the most logical choice. In a fairly tame looking position after 18. Rad1 (where the spectators were claiming White was better due to his extra pawn and the semi-openness of Black’s King), Serper concocted a very nice, fairly deep combination brought on by moves like 18… Re8! and 20… Re3! which left Milman no choice but to liquidate into a very bad ending which Serper expertly executed with nice technique (moves such as 28… a5! and 37…b1 (Q) with the idea of answering 38. Bb1 with 38…Rb2+!); a very smooth, impressive win by Serper. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: This game just barely made my list. Although it seemed as if Serper completely outplayed Milman after sacrificing the pawn, it wasn't quite action packed enough for my crude tastes. With so many other violent attacking displays and strange sacrificial games being played, my heart led me to those games. (5th place: 1 point)

Jonathan Hilton: Not Ranked (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Milman vs Serper: 6 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

5 points (Jon 5): GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) 1-0

5 points (Greg 3, Jon 2):
IM Ron Burnett (TN) vs GM Patrick Wolff (SF) 0-1

4 points (Jon 4): IM Robert Hess (NY) vs IM Mikhail Zlotnikov (NJ) 1/2-1/2

3 points (Jon 3):
IM John Donaldson (SF) vs FM Todd Andrews (TN) 1-0

2 points (Greg 2): NM Michael Lee (SEA) vs NM Craig Jones (CAR) 1-0

2 points (Arun 2): FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (BAL) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 0-1

1 point (Arun 1): FM James Critelli (QNS) vs IM Richard Costigan (PHI) 0-1


Vishank said...

Just a small correction, John Donoldson is on the San Fancisco Mechanics, not the New York Knights.


Greg Shahade said...

So confused....where does it say he's on the Knights?

Greg Shahade said...

Oh, nevermind I'm told that Arun changed it after noticing the error that he created of course. I just copy and paste the links from the USCL website, so somehow in the midst of his editing he actually changed Donaldson from San Francisco to New York!!! Incredible!