Friday, September 26, 2008

Week 5 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: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs IM David Pruess (SF) 1-0

Jonathan Hilton: Sammour-Hasbun showed tremendous foresight (or perhaps simply attacking intuition) when he played the move that launched a thousand ships -- 12. Nb5!!? This move could easily be seen as a waste of time; sure, White can penetrate d6, but there is no way for the Knight to stay there. Yet on move 15, Sammour laid everything on the line with 15. f5!!?, sacrificing two pawns for what I believed at first to be a less-than-impressive attack. By move 25, ten moves later, it was unclear what White had accomplished. He'd sunk the g6 pawn into Black's position, but all of his positional pressure came at the price of two pawns.

Yet White slowly developed his pieces, organizing, coordinating -- until suddenly, it became clear Black could do nothing to stop White's inevitable breakthrough. Perhaps Pruess had some chance to activate, to break up the position with an ...e5 strike, but if so, he didn't take it. 31. Nxe6!!, and White was winning. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: This week wasn't a close decision, great game by Jorge and flashy as well. 31. Nxe6 was a nice shot. I suspect that the judges will win the poll comfortably this week... (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Though I had trouble finding five games I thought were super deserving of being my Top Five this week, first place was definitely not an issue this time. This year I feel the amount of games which have been both exciting and quite high quality has been very low, and this game definitely fit the bill for me in both regards. As he often does, in a fairly tame position Sammour-Hasbun found a very nice tactic with 31. Nxe6!, neatly crashing through Black's position after which the g-pawn, who's advance hadn't seemed to accomplish much, quickly became deadly. (1st Place: 5 points)

Total Score of Sammour-Hasbun vs Pruess: 15 points


2nd Place: FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) vs GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) 0-1

Jonathan Hilton: Lopez seemed to have the upper hand in this one until he mishandled the position with 28. Rc8?!, trading two Rooks for a Queen. Simply building the position some other way would have undoubtedly worked out better, and White certainly would have stood no worse. Yet I'm still ranking this as my second game because of Ehlvest's spectacular finish with 24... Rc1+!! with the follow-up 26... Bh2! Black's Rook, Knight, and Bishop work in beautiful harmony to attack the White pieces. 37. g4 seemed more or less forced, and if there is some better defense for White, it must be around move 39, yet I haven't found it myself. 40... Rc3!! is a nice shot, effectively ending the game by bringing about the pawn-up endgame after the intermezzo 41... Bxd4!! Ehlvest's endgame technique, of course, appears to have been flawless. Although the middlegame play in this game is not very inspirational, I still think this game had a truly exciting finish! (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: I like how Ehlvest always seems to win in the USCL no matter what. He used a few nice tactical motifs at the end to force the victory. Perhaps I rated this game slightly too high, as both sides could have surely improved at many moments, however I felt that some of the mistakes in the other contending games were worse.

Also, I'd like to note that I really liked the games that I chose 4th + 5th. If only there weren't such huge blunders at the end, those games probably would have been ranked very highly.
I'm willing to forgive a blunder or two in this league though, which is why I ranked them at all, as it's just so hard to not mess up in such tense situations in a relatively quick time control. They were both super exciting games, with both players really going all out and playing quite well it seemed until an eventual collapse by one player at the end. (3rd Place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: This was basically my sixth place game which I strongly considered ranking, but in the end decided not to. For one, as Jonathan notes, I felt White was better for most of the game until the idea of winning the Queen for two Rooks came about. I disagree with Jonathan about 26... Bh2 being an ! move as it seemed like a mistake to me (and was definitely a reason why I chose not to rank this game) with 26... Bd2 seeming more natural, making it harder for the King to hide on g2. After that, it seemed like White had strong drawing chances for several moves. Perhaps Black was still winning even then, but overall it just seemed to me that the game had too many big swings (especially for a Board One game) to be ranked highly. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Lopez vs Ehlvest: 7 points


3rd Place: Andrew Ng (NJ) vs NM Elvin Wilson (PHI) 1-0

Greg Shahade: Nice game by Ng, like Arun says underneath, it was a very high quality game for a Board Four, and it was flashy with a few nice attacking/tactical motifs. Wilson has had great success in these lines in the past against players as strong as FM Bruci Lopez, but he was pretty much smashed by the young Ng this week. (2nd place: 4 points)

Arun Sharma: As Board Four games go, this was definitely a very, very good one; no huge blunders from either side and very strong play by Ng, especially the sequence beginning with 21. h6 and ending with 24. Nxe6! (4th place: 2 points)

Jonathan Hilton: Not Ranked (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Ng vs Wilson: 6 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

5 points (Arun 3, Jon 2):
GM Boris Gulko (NJ) vs IM Bryan Smith (PHI) 1-0

4 points (Arun 4):
GM Alex Stripunsky (QNS) vs GM John Fedorowicz (NY) 1-0

3 points (Jon 3):
NM Ilya Krasik (BOS) vs FM Daniel Naroditsky (SF) 1/2-1/2

2 points (Greg 2):
FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) vs IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) 1-0

1 point (Jon 1):
IM Irina Krush (NY) vs IM Dmitry Schneider (QNS) 0-1

1 point (Greg 1):
NM Craig Jones (CAR) vs NM Warren Harper (ARZ) 0-1

1 point (Arun 1):
FM John Bick (TEN) vs NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) 0-1

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