Thursday, October 2, 2008

Week 6 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: IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) 1-0

Arun Sharma: A very sharp game and quite well navigated by both players for the most part. I liked the way Lenderman really wore down Zaikov in the sharp complications by utilizing his strong N on e5 and P on h6, eventually taking advantage of the passive nature of Black's pieces created by these strong points and nicely finishing off the game with two passed pawns on opposite ends of the board. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: It's about time that Lenderman won one of these prizes, although I'm sure he would have rather done it when his team didn't lose the match. I just thought this was a pretty hard fought, well played, and interesting game by both players. I'm sure it wasn't perfect, as I didn't run it through Fritz or anything like that, and Zaikov probably made some serious mistakes near the end, but I just liked the style of the game. It seems like hard fought, interesting games do well in the Game of the Year contest, compared to more one sided affairs. For instance, in 2006 the draw Blehm vs Charbonneau won, and in 2007 the very hard fought game Sammour-Hasbun vs Kuljasevic won. I would be very surprised if this game won, but I think that judges generally appreciate sharp play by both players.

I ranked the Simpson game first because I just like that style of game where you lock up the position, just slowly improve, and then CRUSH! Of course Thaler capturing on g3 was horrible, but after that the game just made me happy. Of course, in retrospect this game was probably the best choice. If Queens had won or drawn the match I would have given 1st place to this game for sure because you know it's kind of strange giving Game of the Week to a member of the losing team, but okay sometimes it happens.
(2nd place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: This game was very messy and exciting, but as much as I love Lenderman, I don't think this game was so incredible that it can overcome the great shadow of Queens' defeat. Lenderman had the White pieces and was rated significantly higher than his opponent, Zaikov, and he did a great job delivering the point, but there were so many exciting, match-winning games out there this week. The selection was better this week than in any other I've judged so far, in my opinion, that I didn’t manage to even get this game in my top five. Had Queens won the match, I would have ranked this game. All that said, I'm very happy for Lenderman, and the game certainly makes for quite a story — a noble and valiant struggle by a USCL idol, winning the game (and topping the MVP listings), yet tragically failing to clinch or tie the match for the team. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Lenderman vs Zaikov: 8 points


2nd Place: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs GM Sergey Kudrin (PHI) 0-1

Jonathan Hilton: Kudrin follows in the footsteps of Garry Kasparov by playing 9... Nh6!? (rather than the main line, 9... f6) and then following it up with the spectacular 11... d6! Rather than the greedy 12. exd6!? seen in Fritz - Kasparov 1992 (0-1), Sammour-Hasbun tries out the move 12. h3. Sammour-Hasbun has a space advantage and a lot of pressure, but Kudrin has what he needs -- open lines. I particularly liked his plan of ...c5, ...Nf6, ...Nd4, sacrificing a Pawn for the dark-squared Bishop. That White is mated on the dark squares in the final position is only fitting!

Kudrin's skillful play aside, however, I'm having a difficult time understanding White's idea with 20. Bd5 and then 21. Kb1. White has to defend his a2 point somehow, but this method allows Kudrin to win material fairly easily. Maybe something like a2-a3 was preferable. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to play White's position after the lines opened up on the Queenside. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: I probably ranked this game higher than usual due to Sammour-Hasbun's incredible history in the league. I'm happy that due to tie breaks it didn't get first place though because I don't think that it's deserving in that Kudrin won way too easily. (3rd Place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: While this was quite a good game by Kudrin (13... c5 was a very interesting idea), I'm nevertheless surprised that it managed to finish this high as it didn't really strike me as being anything particularly special. I know it probably had an aura around it due to the "Wow Sammour-Hasbun finally lost" issue, and while I don't mind taking that into account (intrigue factor is certainly relevant), to me, based on the competition, those two factors don't add up to more than a minor ranking for this game. (5th place: 1 point)

Total Score of Sammour-Hasbun vs Kudrin: 8 points


3rd Place: GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) 0-1

Arun Sharma: I really thought this was the best game of the week, and I'm quite surprised that the other judges thought so much less of it. It was definitely well played, and certainly had its share of excitement, with Black walking his King into the middle of the board with virtually all the pieces still on the board. I don't know if White missed a strong continuation somewhere in there as it definitely looked dangerous for Black for several moves, but on the whole it seemed like Erenburg played very well throughout, especially his nice technique in the endgame. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: I have an inkling this may end up being one of Arun's Wildcard selections for the Game of the Year contest. I also think that Lenderman vs Zaikov would have been one if it hadn't won this week, although I might have been the one choosing it, especially after the season when you forget which team won and you look more at the actual game. We all have our own judging style, and I sometimes don't go with quality if I don't find the game aesthetically pleasing enough. Arun is obsessed with quality; I don't begrudge him his choice here, and I would have had no problem if this game ended up winning. Because of that I guess I probably should have ranked it in at least third place, but oh well! But honestly the game just didn't do quite enough for me, not quite dynamic enough I suppose, sorry Kingfisher fans! (4th place: 2 points)

Jonathan Hilton: I had originally ranked this game fourth — Erenburg’s creative King-walking had to be worth something! However, I eventually moved it to fifth place and then to sixth. Although it was an incredibly thorough positional job by Black, it wasn't really an "upset", at least on the books — at present, I believe Erenburg is probably stronger in his League performances than his under 2600 rating would indicate. My own choices this week were for more messy, less clear-cut struggles. In the end, these games, such as Simpson vs Thaler, wound up being more interesting to me. Though Erenburg's performance was probably the single most accurate game of the night (Fritz correct me if I’m wrong), I was also troubled that I didn’t really see very much in the way of inspiring counter-play by Benjamin. He seemed to trade pieces a little too early, and he never got his light-squared Bishop into play. (The very nice maneuver ...Na5-c4-d6 prevented this, though!) (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Benjamin vs Erenburg: 7 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

6 points (Greg 5, Jon 1):
FM Ron Simpson (CAR) vs NM Michael Thaler (QNS) 1-0

5 points (Jon 5):
GM John Fedorowicz (NY) vs GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) 0-1

4 points (Jon 3, Greg 1):
IM David Pruess (SF) vs IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) 1-0

3 points (Arun 3):
GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 0-1

2 points (Arun 2):
GM Gregory Serper (SEA) vs IM Irina Krush (NY) 0-1

2 points (Jon 2):
IM John Bartholomew (DAL) vs FM Todd Andrews (TEN) 0-1


Ilya said...

Guys honestly whats so good about Kudrin-Sammour, Jorge just overlooked that he is losing a piece and the game was lost, nothing really spectacular from Kudrin, we analyzed this game quite a bit afterwards--am I missing something?? I really liked the way Erenberg outplayed Benjamin. You all need to be fired...:)

Anonymous said...

Lenderman was worse for most of the game, then screwed up the position and then won when black ran out of time. I can not believe the Simpson game got Greg's vote for the best of the week. I was one sided and there was nothing special about the game. On the other hand Benjamin - Erenberg was a nice close game and was overall well played. Zaikov game has no chance to win GOTY and yet Benjamin game has a better chance!

Greg Shahade said...

Given that I'm pretty sure Benjamin-Erenburg will get a wildcard bid into the Game of the Year contest, we will find out which one wins. Thankfully for the fans, idiotic judges like me will not be part of that contest (although maybe I will be replaced by other idiot judges!)

Greg Shahade said...

Also I admit Simpson-Thaler wasn't the objectively best choice. Being a huge KungFuChess advocate, it reminded me of some games where you just lock everything up and slowly move in.

Of course no one reading this has any idea what I'm talking about, but basically I have an unhealthy fondness for such positions.

Anonymous said...

all your readers play kung fu chess constantly.

Jonathan Hilton said...

Dang... this was a weird week. I definitely felt like the Simpson game was worth an honorable mention. But lol, I thought Nakamura's win over the Fed was a quality game, demonstrating Naka's resolve to turn out results this year. So, I ranked that game first. Ilya might well be right this week about the Sammour game. Sammour did just go down a piece. Still, I thought Kudrin's technique getting to THAT point was very impressive.

In hindsight I wish I'd ranked the Simpson game higher so it could have gotten in the money--these days, it seems like you have to be 2500+ to get some money in the GOTW. There are plenty of exciting games played in the 2200-2400 range that I'd like to see snag $30 or $50.

Jonathan Hilton said...

By the way Greg & Arun, just curious, why wasn't the Bartholomew-Andrews game in anybody else's rankings for 4th or 5th place? It was an exciting game and a very important one for both TN and the defending champs, Dallas... I did think Bartholomew just messed up a nice position by getting too materialistic, but I thought it ought to have gotten an average of 1-2 points per judge...

Chris said...

Of all the Philly wins against Boston I thought the Bartell win against Vigorito was more impressive, especially the clean cut technical finish displayed by Bartell. In my write up on the Blitz site I was going to mention that Bartell may get some GOTW votes but I didn't expect Kudrin to get any since it was a very one sided game. (The position that Greg showed on his video as been key was probably ok for white if he had played g5, preventing the bishop checks and also creating some tactical tricks based on back rank stuff, although it is still messy.)

Greg Shahade said...

Ok few notes:

1. Bartell game was in my shortlist of finalists but I think black just went a bit nuts at some point when it wasn't necessary, and I didn't find any of white's moves after that to be too exciting/difficult and it wasn't a really exciting game or anything like that.

2. Bartholomew messed up too badly on multiple occasions for me to rank it. Also his blunder wasn't some move where Andrews had to find a nice tactic, it was simply hanging a pawn for nothing, giving black a winning position.

3. Of course I'm an idiot for ranking Simpson first. Ok it can make the top 5, but first was probably a bit over the top.

Anonymous said...

I am really surprised again by the Game of the Week voting. In my opinion, Erenberg's game against Benjamin was a nicely played game (not sure why Joel hung the e-pawn but thats another matter). Nice technique overall.

Oleg actually had a very nice position and Alex I think would be the first to say that it was not one of his better games in USCL even though he won. His game against Ginsburg was much more impressive where he outplayed Mark with the black pieces.

Kudrin defeated Sammour in a fairly one sided game. Kudrin had almost 60 minutes left at the end of the game - could not have been too difficult to play. Why should a one-sided game get so much love?

The Simpson game had a nice sacrifice but really, black didnt play that well I didnt think and Simpson did the obvious (Qh1 was nice - dont get to see that too often). But to garner 5 points from Greg makes me wonder if Greg was watching the Phillies, who are great by the way - light up CC Sabathia baby,instead of the Benjamin game.

What ever happened to a well played game by both sides where one side wins?


Greg Shahade said...

Robby what are your top 5?

Also Ginsburg vs Lenderman was not exciting or flashy enough to be a GOTW in my opinion.

Jonathan Hilton said...

I took another look at the Bartell game and I get the impression now that I should have ranked it. It was a really neat game and Bartell just seemed to show a lot of positional understanding in a very tricky position, especially with his willingness to hang the a2 pawn to have active pieces. Black's king was stuck in the middle. Given that there is so little time to deliberate on games, I remember deciding on first impression that the Bartell game didn't strike me as very exciting. I didn't really have time to absorb the game and get a good feel for what was going on. In hindsight, I say I should have put it ahead of the Sammour-Hasbun -- Kudrin game.

I also agree with Robby (I take it FM Robby Adamson?) that the Ginsburg--Lenderman game was very, very impressive by Alex. Ginsburg is stronger than he looks (wink, wink) and for Alex to outplay him so dramatically with the Black pieces is really something.

To answer the rhetorical question about why a one-sided game should get so much love...because *somebody finally beat the Great Warrior, Sammour-Hasbun, King of Gods and Men*. Had he beaten Sammour-Hasbun in four moves, making the game even more one-sided, I would have ranked the game #1 and put up the $100 prize myself should he fail to win it.

I think the Simpson game was cool. I think 4th or 5th is totally appropriate, and I wouldn't have minded if it had snagged some cash with 2nd or 3rd. I don't think you should have to be rated 2500+ to win some dough for a nice sack or an interesting victory.