Thursday, October 25, 2007

Week 9 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: NM Mackenzie Molner (NJ) vs IM Larry Kaufman (BAL) 1-0

Greg Shahade: A very aesthetically pleasing game by Molner. His piece sacrifice was strong, his time out for defensive moves like Qc1 was quite surprising, and the material imbalance at the end of the game was also interesting. I voted for this game over the 2nd place game because I am trying to choose games that have the best chance of finishing well in the Game of the Year contest. It's obvious to me that Friedel-Serper has no chance to do well in Game of the Year while this game does. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: The second very nice sacrificial win by Molner in a row (the first of which nearly won Game of the Week as well!). The idea I most liked was 24. Qc1!, quite an odd looking move at first glance due to the seeming anti-attacking potential of it, yet as shown the idea that probably won him the game! After a tough 2006 season, Molner has come up huge for the Knockouts twice in 2007 and is definitely a big reason why they're in such a good position to be in the postseason. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: I was certainly impressed by Molner’s piece sacrifice, but I had a feeling it was more or less unsound. After some analysis I decided Black’s best chance to turn the tables was 25. … f4!, and although I later confirmed the move with the computer (Fritz gives something along the lines of two pawns in Black’s favor), the game was still very interesting and there were certainly chances for complications. This week’s competition was a close call! I would have given the prize to Rodriguez given the chance, but I am not dissatisfied with the result: after all, Molner has creamed me at least twice in over-the-board play! (NR: 0 points)

(NOTE: We had to bring in a tiebreaker judge because this game and Friedel - Serper were tied on points and on all tiebreakers. FM Donny Ariel's decision between the two games determined which game won, received the $100 prize, and was entered in the Game of the Year contest.)

FM Donny Ariel: Obviously implied in offering a qualitative prize is the assumption that chess spectators are enjoying chess for more than just its sporting results. I like both games a lot, and I'm not just saying that. I liked the Molner game more because I found it more surprising which meant there was more suspense, and I especially appreciated the Qc1 Nd1 idea. The way White wins in the Friedel - Serper game is much more typical which is not to disparage it in the least, but if you were going to show a friend of yours an interesting game and you could choose only one there is no question the Molner game is more "special" if you will forgive the use of such an imprecise characterization. (Winner: Molner vs Kaufman)

Total Score of Molner vs Kaufman: 9 points


2nd Place: IM Josh Friedel (SF) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 1-0

Arun Sharma: I felt that this was the best choice for Game of the Week since to me it really was of far higher quality than any of the other candidates and was certainly plenty dramatic on top of that. The thing I most liked about this game was the way Friedel seemed to quietly build up his position slowly but surely gaining a larger and larger advantage, just grinding his opponent down. And then to finish the game off, with both players desperately low on time, he allowed the seemingly dangerous 50... gxf3, but had a very nice mating net spun in reply which definitely couldn't have been easy to see all the possibilities of in the low amount of time he had left. (1st Place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: I think this game was clearly less interesting than Molner's game. Stop worrying about quality and worry more about fun sacrifices. Despite that I really did like Friedel's game because he made a lot of slow creeping manuevers throughout the game that were kind of pleasing to me. However, I can only be so hard on someone for ranking this game 1st as I did rank it 2nd. In any case I suspect that GM Serper would not enjoy having every loss that he has to Friedel being named as Game of the Week while every time he beats Friedel, the game is practically ignored. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: Not Ranked
(NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Friedel vs Serper: 9 points


3rd Place: NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0

Jonathan Hilton: This 257-point upset is, to my knowledge, the biggest yet this year – that is, if you don’t count the undefeated Vinay Bhat’s 277-point “upset” over Hikaru Nakamura! Although my pick for this week’s #1 game was certainly not the most accurately played, it is still a fascinating encounter. The position before Schroer’s blunder, 22. … Re6??, was still quite unclear – perhaps 22. … Kg7 could have led to a successful defense, but White retains clear compensation for his piece. Congratulations to Rodriguez on his courage, mixing it up against such a strong player, helping Miami gain a crucial point in its victory over Carolina ! (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: This was a rather tricky game for me to rank. For sure it was exciting and contained a very interesting sacrifice, but the fact that Black made it so easy with 22... Re6? somewhat lowered this game's appeal. However, it was certainly a big upset (as most including myself thought Miami was dead before this match even had begun. I guess we stil haven't learned not to take anything for granted in the USCL) and as usual you have to have respect for someone who's willing to try such dangerous ideas even if they might not be totally sound (sort of similar to the way Schroer did that himself when he won Game of the Week). (3rd place: 3 points)

Greg Shahade: A fantastic performance by Rodriguez. Honestly I didn't rank this game higher because I felt that Schroer didn't put up enough resistance. Despite the huge rating gap, Rodriguez just crushed him from beginning to end. I do admit that I almost ranked this game higher. I had a very difficult time ranking the games this week as I felt there were quite a few fun and impressive performances. (5th place: 1 point)

Total Score of Rodriguez vs Schroer: 9 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

8 points (Jon 4, Greg 3, Arun 1): IM Irina Krush (NY) vs IM Bryan Smith (PHI) 0-1

3 points (Jon 3):
IM Eric Tangborn (SEA) vs IM Vinay Bhat (SF) 0-1

3 points (Greg 2, Jon 1): IM Lev Milman (CAR) vs FM Marcel Martinez (MIA) 1-0

2 points (Arun 2):
GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs GM Pawel Blehm (BAL) 1-0

2 points (Jon 2):
FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (BAL) vs FM Aviv Friedman (NJ) 1-0

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