Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 3 Game of the Week

This year we have three judges for Game of the Week, each ranking their top five games. The games are then given from one to five points, based on these rankings, and whichever game receives the most total points wins the award. First place each week will receive a $100 bonus prize, second place $50, and third place $30. Our three judges are: IM Greg Shahade, NM Arun Sharma, and NM Jonathan Hilton. Click here for more details.


1st Place: GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs GM Sergey Kudrin (PHI) 1-0

Greg Shahade: Call me Mr. Negativity, but even though I gave this game the top ranking, I really wasn't excited about any of the games this week. This one sort of won by default because there was a relatively cool tactic at the end against a player who was previously undefeated in the USCL after twelve games. The early stage of the game wasn't super exciting, but Charbonneau showed a lot of grit by refusing a middlegame draw offer and eventually breaking down Kudrin's defenses. I do suspect that Kudrin got a little overly ambitious due to the fact that it seemed like he might have to win to salvage the match for his team. In any case, congrats to Charbonneau for winning, but I do believe this was one of our worst weeks for GOTW in the past two years. (I don't remember so much before that because I wasn't a judge and with no money involved the prize wasn't so serious!) (1st place: 5 points)

Jonathan Hilton: Although I was originally impressed with the way Kudrin closed the center and took control of the dark squares, I was even more amazed by the way Charbonneau simply snuck around and took all the light squares in return! He finished the game by taking the light squares around the Black King with his amazing time-pressure tactics, landing his Bishop on h5. Although I can't personally vouch for the accuracy of Black's defense this game, I can say Charbonneau pulled this game out in fine style, keeping his calm through the locked shuffling and looking for a chance to penetrate. (2nd place: 4 points)

Arun Sharma: I was really unsure what sort of ranking this game deserved. While the ending to it was quite exciting and contained some nice tactics, the earlier portion wasn't especially inspiring to me as it seemed for most of the game that a lifeless draw was the most probable outcome. In addition, as often seems to happen in the league, a combination of time pressure and overextending seemed likely to be a large reason for the end result. Hopefully based on all of that, this ranking is appropriate. (3rd Place: 3 points)

Total Score of Charbonneau vs Kudrin: 12 points


2nd Place: GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) vs GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) 1-0

Arun Sharma: I had a much tougher time picking my first place game this week compared to the first two weeks as I really didn't feel any game truly stood out. In the end, I decided to go with this game since it was quite well played and had such an unusual opening. Plus, it also seemed that in a fairly tame looking ending that Nakamura really outplayed Benjamin, a player who doesn't lose in the league very often, and as such it seemed to be the most deserving of the top spot to me. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: Another game that I had a hard time getting excited about but still ranked in second place! I found it incredible that Hikaru could play such an unorthodox opening and win with relative ease against someone of Benjamin's caliber. Because of this I gave it second place, but I can't imagine that it would fare any better than eighteenth or nineteenth place in the twenty game, Game of the Year Contest and due to its second place finish this week, I highly doubt it will even make the contest as a Wildcard. (2nd Place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: I wasn't particularly fascinated with this game because it appeared to me that Benjamin simply was having an off day; unless I missed something in my analysis, Nakamura didn't have to do anything too spectacular to defeat his lower-rated opponent; he just mopped up the pawns and converted. I don’t think Benjamin would have ever castled Queenside if he had seen the position on move 24. Black had a few cheapos maybe, but no more. Although this certainly was a well-played game by Nakamura, and I wouldn’t strongly disagree with ranking it in one of the bottom three places, I think there were many more exciting games for the top two prizes. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Nakamura vs Benjamin: 9 points


3rd Place: NM Parker Zhao (QNS) vs FM Daniel Rensch (ARZ) 1-0

Jonathan Hilton: In my book, there was simply no competition for this game. With Queen's victory over Arizona just within reach, it was up to Parker Zhao to pull out an upset against the 2400-rated FM Daniel Rensch. And guess what? Zhao completely out-classed his higher-rated opponent the entire game through! Rensch sacrificed an exchange to get some complications, but Zhao defended and kept the material, and then converted to a winning Rook endgame, effectively using zugzwang tactics with his 62nd move. By move 75, Black was forced to resign. Nicely played, Zhao and way to play your heart out for the team! (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: I agree that Zhao played relatively well but there just wasn't anything that drew me to this game in order for me to rank it higher. This is another game that I feel would have almost zero chance to crack the top fifteen in our Game of the Year contest. We will see how this week's winner ends up faring... (5th place: 1 point)

Arun Sharma: This was the only other game I seriously considered for my top five, but eventually I decided against ranking it. It was certainly a nicely played game by Zhao but just didn't really strike me as being anything special. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Zhao vs Rensch: 6 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

6 points (Arun 4, Greg 2):
FM Todd Andrews (TEN) vs IM Jan Van de Mortel (CHC) 0-1

4 points (Greg 3, Arun 1):
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs FM Peter Bereolos (TEN) 1-0

3 points (Jon 3):
IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) vs IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) 0-1

2 points (Arun 2):
FM Osmany Perea (MIA) vs IM Josh Friedel (SF) 1/2-1/2

2 points (Jon 2):
NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) vs FM Daniel Naroditsky (SF) 0-1

1 point (Jon 1):
WFM Bayaraa Zorigt (DAL) vs NM Ilya Krasik (BOS) 1-0


Von_Igelfeld said...

I really don't understand why Angelo Young's game didn't get a lot more attention than a 4 point mention. One thing that was striking in this game was Young took advantage of the minutest weaknesses in black's position, open king (along with weak squares around the king) and suprisingly the little mobility of the black pieces (particularly the queen!). Of course, the "sacrifice" of the knight really wasn't a sacrifice since the tactics were calculable leading to +- for white, but still to orchestrate this move in the first place really was aesthetically pleasing.

5 points for Angelo Young

Brief note on the Nakamura-Benjamin game. Reti abondoned g3 after seeing that it provided no advantage for white very quickly (I think he only played a handful of games with it). But it certainly can lead to a double-edged game with chances for both sides with in this case the obviously better player winning. If nothing else, Nakamura deserves something for having the nerve (and audacity!) to play 1.g3. Perhaps GOW the week should include a difficulty factor included like they do in Olympic diving (weighting the overall score ... okay, not serious about this but one must admit that it's fun to see moves like 1.g3 played).

Finally, I know that Donaldson got a ton of heat for a poorly played game (particularly the aggressive f4) but it seems like with Bb1 instead of Qc2 (with the intention of an eventual Qc2 forcing a weakening of the kingside pawns) the game had a chance to be a lot more interesting.

Mark Ginsburg said...

I was most surprised to read Hilton's weird comment on Zhao-Rensch.

Here it is:

"Jonathan Hilton: In my book, there was simply no competition for this game. With Queen's victory over Arizona just within reach, it was up to Parker Zhao to pull out an upset against the 2400-rated FM Daniel Rensch. And guess what? Zhao completely out-classed his higher-rated opponent the entire game through! Rensch sacrificed an exchange to get some complications, but Zhao defended and kept the material, and then converted to a winning Rook endgame, effectively using zugzwang tactics with his 62nd move. By move 75, Black was forced to resign. Nicely played, Zhao and way to play your heart out for the team! (1st place: 5 points)"

That's a terrible summary of what happened.

On move 21, white incautiously allows a shot:

21. Bh3?! Rxc3! (an on-form Danny finds this) 22. bxc3 Bc4! and since Nxc4 is met by Qxf2 and it's CHECK, black is doing more than fine.

Black's actual 21st was a huge lemon (21...Qc6?) allowing a move Danny overlooked, 22. Ncd5. White is then hugely better.

But then it continues to be sloppy. White is easily winning on move 33 and goes wrong with a series of consecutive bad moves.

It starts with 33. f3? missing the crusher 33. Ng4! and wins. His lemon doesn't ruin things yet, but after 33. f3? d5! 34. exd5? (a further, more serious lemon) black is fine again.
White missed 34. Rc2! Qa8 (34. Rc2 Qb7? 35. exd exd 36. Nxd5! Nxd5 37. Qe4 winning) 35. Ra2 Qc6 36. Rda3 with a huge edge.

So after Zhao's second consecutive lemon, 34. exd5? exd5 correcting black's pawn structure he makes a third lemon with the horribly passive 35. Ng2? missing the cute intermediate move 35. Qc2 with a good edge. After 35. Ng2? d4 (Game), black was fine but only lost due to later horrific blunders. At this point, 35...e4! would have been good too and in a fast time limit like ICC, black is the favorite with more active pieces.

Skipping forward, the quality of the game is further degraded by the fact black was blitzing his last 15 moves, accumulating time but not using it, and missed the relatively easy to find 58...Kh5! posing problems, especially in a blitz finale, for white to convert. For example, on 58...Kh5 the tempting 59. Kf2? Kg4! draws due to 60. g6 Rf3+! 61. Ke2 Rxf4! and the rook gets back. White can win with very accurate play, but if we needed a half point and 58..Kh5 was on the board in a blitz finale, I'm not sure what the chances are of white pulling it off.

Greg Shahade said...

Thanks for your inputs! We definitely would love to see rankings from fans/players....listing your top 5 would be a great addition to the USCL!

Bondying said...

What are your criteria for judging GOTW?

Some pointers:

1. Quality of the game
2. How deep is the sac!
3. Not so many errors.
4. Strength of the players ( upset maybe)

Ilya said...

Ok, well if Hitlon actually gave my game 1 point he is either completely blind or completely clueless, cause there was nothing in it besides me blundering in a very promising position 2-3 moves in a row due to time pressue. I personally think he is both.

FishyMcpatzer said...

Nah Ilya...Hilton was just inspired by Greg's very instructive video. By the way, Zhao is easily 2400 strength right now, hence his win was no upset. That game (Zhao-Rensch) was interesting but of poor quality overall. Maybe worth a point or two.

Ilya said...

LOl, yes I loved that video, oh here is the game that clinched the whole match...ok well here is what happened, do you see it, bam mate in one!! --No comment--

Jonathan Hilton said...

Hi all,

Mark my friend, I love you, but I'm afraid I'm still sticking by my comments on the Zhao game. I was watching it live and it did not appear inaccurate to me. These aren't classical time controls, and if I can't spot the error myself in the turn-around time I have to do the judging (I do not rely on Fritz to rank these games), it goes down in my book as a fairly accurate game.

But analysis aside, here's my point: this game was far more exciting to me than this week's winner. Here we've got a young kid taking on an experienced 2400 player and defeating him in a time-scramble endgame. Greg's main criteria is trying to select games that have a shot at Game of the Year; I'm a bit more of a maverick judge, however, and one of my main goals is to pick games that are in the best interest of the League (for someone who is a chess journalist, you can read this as: creates the most news). That isn't my main criteria every week, but this week there were simply no good games--just like what Greg said. So I don't think I'm unjustified in my choice of criteria... the Zhao story fits my definition of a possible "Game of the Week"; the Charbonneau game just doesn't cut it. I'm really glad I ranked this game first and threw all five of my points at it, because I think it definitely deserved to finish in the money!

Anyhow, though, I really do appreciate your feedback Mark. It was clearly well thought-out.

To Ilya: yes, I know you messed up that game. However, there simply were not 5 games worthy of consideration for GoTW, so I had to pick *some* game for 5th.

Ilya, I don't know if what I'm saying will get through to you, but I want to say this. Most of the times you have complained about the way I've voted, you've been complaining about votes that simply didn't matter once the scores of all three judges were tallied. That's why we have three judges--to reach some kind of consensus. If I vote in a way that affects who wins Game of the Week and I actually do make an inane or stupid decision, then I'll pay close attention to criticism. However, the fact that I gave your game 1 point had no effect on who won money. Thus, I am not make me blind or clueless. I don't mean to put this in a derogatory way, but I am really surprised that a player weaker than myself would mock a League volunteer over something so trivial. I'm trying to put this as nicely as I can, but really Ilya, you are not a GM. I would really appreciate it if you showed some respect in your postings here. Disagree with me, but don't insult me.

Finally, I'll be in Honduras this next week teaching kids to play chess... so I'm afraid it will just be Arun and Greg for Week 4 judging. :)

Greg Shahade said...

A few notes about the Young vs Bereolos game. Originally I had it ranked 2nd, and was considering it for first, but after further examination I just felt that white's play was too easy, and even without this tactic that white had an extremely strong position.

Just seemed a bit too simple to get game of the week from me, but I wouldn't have had a major problem if it won out, as I did rank it 3rd, and I quite possibly should have ranked it higher.

This was a really tough week though IMO. Week 1+Week 2 I knew my first place winner after pretty much one run through of the games, and then just had to work out the other places. This time much less clear for me.

Mark Ginsburg said...

Jonathan, it's fine that you don't use Fritz. But it makes the strong statements based on first impressions dangerous!

I was just reacting to the strong statement "Zhao completely out-classed his higher-rated opponent the entire game through!"

White's opening was a little suspect and black's 21...Rxc3! just busts through. Who would then out-class whom? ICC games are full of such Sturm und Drang.

You are right, it was exciting.