Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 7 Game of the Week

This year we have five 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 $150 bonus prize, second place $75, and third place $50. Our five judges are: IM Greg Shahade, FM Jim Dean, NM Michael Aigner, NM Jeff Ashton, and NM Arun Sharma. Click here for more details.


1st Place: IM Daniel Fernandez (DAL) vs FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) 0-1

FM Zaikov essentially finished off the wild game with 28... Bf3!, after which the mating threat beginning with Rb8+ allowed him to easily liquidate into a winning ending.

Jim Dean: It is nice to see Zaikov on the winning side of a GOTW winner as he has played the victim in some highly ranked games lately. This was a wild one that followed Kohlweyer vs Tomczak 1987 for twenty two moves ... though I'd be a bit surprised if these two were familiar with that game. It turns out that taking on c3 is probably incorrect after 22... Nc3, and Zaikov pounces nicely with some accurate play. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Very entertaining game as these Nd5 sacrifices in Najdorf positions always create interesting play. As always, I'm certainly not qualified to determine how sound any of this really was, but as he's seemed to become accustomed to doing, with only a slight material edge, Zaikov very coolly defended a very tough looking position and then pounced with a nice counterattack when the time was right. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: A fun game by both sides. Honestly I wasn't familiar with the theory, I just liked the energy displayed by both players, and Black's defensive efforts, which showed that passive defense isn't always best when up material as he viciously counterattacked the White King instead. (1st place: 5 points)

Jeff Ashton: Daniel Fernandez has a style that is perfect for winning GOTW, unfortunately it didn't end so well for him.

Both players should be commended. Daniel for his risky and exciting efforts, and Zaikov for his precise defense. Although the winner and loser don't share GOTW prize money, I think Zaikov should buy Daniel a steak dinner. (NR: 0 points)

Michael Aigner: The game followed mainstream Najdorf theory for fifteen moves and followed Alekseev vs Najer 2004 to move eighteen. The novelty 18... Kc8 was approved by computer engines, and five moves later, White blundered away the entire game with 23. bxc3, albeit in a very sharp position. Finally, Black simply had an extra piece in the endgame after the flashy (but unnecessary) tactic 28... Bf3.

Between moves fifteen and twenty three, White sacrificed two pieces. After that, Black made three critical moves: walking away with Kc8, giving back material on h8, and finally sacrificing the Knight on c3. Very nicely done! Still, none of these moves are terribly shocking; sacrifices, especially on c3, are a trademark for this opening.

I admit that I underestimated this game a little and would have ranked it as high as third or fourth if I had another chance. However, compared to a truly competitive Najdorf game like Herman vs Naroditsky, this week seemed way too one-sided. There's just no way that a game like Fernandez vs Zaikov should take top honors when two judges didn't even vote for Herman in Week 5! (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Fernandez vs Zaikov: 15 points


2nd Place: IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) 1-0

Following an exchange sac, IM Van de Mortel continued strongly with 23. Bxe5!, after which the numerous threats against the Black King were too much for Black to handle, allowing White to enter an ending up a whopping three pawns.

Jim Dean: While this was probably not a performance Ehlvest was proud of, I think a win versus such a strong player in an opening that he authored a book on deserves a lot of credit. White gets a fantastic opening position before Black goes a bit nutty with 19... Bh3, but even without this mistake Black could not have been pleased with his position. White used a lot more clock time and was careful not to allow too much counterplay, helping to secure a victory for the Blaze. (2nd place: 4 points)

Arun Sharma: Like Jim, I feel a win against a major authority on this opening deserves some great credit, even if it was not Ehlvest's best day. I feel it's too easy in these kinds of games to claim that the winner did nothing special, that the result was more due to the loser self destructing. While of course that is true in any decisive game to some extent, in this case, against an authority on this opening who had not lost in fifteen USCL games prior and also had a more than two hundred point rating advantage in this game, I don't feel viewing the game in that way is giving the winner his due credit. Those latter factors, along with the flashiness of the game, forced me to give it a high ranking.
(2nd place: 4 points)

Jeff Ashton: I liked this game very much. Van de Mortel is such a strong player and a class act. He had a bumpy start this season so it was a pleasure to see this nice win. Ehlvest is one of my favorite US players that happens to be playing well lately so it was sad for me to see him on the losing end though. Ehlvest made mistakes in a tough position, but I look forward to watching him come back strong for the rest of the USCL. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: I gave this game three points mainly due to the fact that it was a huge upset that swung the match to Chicago because in all honesty White won this game very easily with not much resistance from his higher rated and previously undefeated opponent. Congratulations to Van de Mortel on being able to do something (beat Ehlvest in the USCL) that no one was able to do in Ehlvest's first fifteen games in the league and also for playing such a fine attacking game. (3rd place: 3 points)

Michael Aigner: As a longtime Leningrad Dutch player, watching this deeply saddened me. White earned a tie for Game of the Week because Black self-destructed! I always found 11... g5 to be suspicious, yet still people seem to play it. But jean puhleeze, what in Caissa's name was 19... Bh3??? Black simply hangs the c6 pawn, plus e7 to boot! Of course, the fact that Black spent all of seven minutes (plus the thirty second increment) for the first nineteen moves (and thirteen minutes for the entire game) troubles me as well.

I will give White credit for playing smoothly and efficiently. However, he can't take credit for much more, as the plan of 12. e4, 18. Bb1 and 19. f4 is hardly anything new. Depending on your philosophy, I can see this game earning some fourth or fifth place votes for GOTW, but no way should it be tied for first! (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Van de Mortel vs Ehlvest: 15 points


3rd Place: GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) vs IM Bryan Smith (PHI) 0-1

In a game that had mostly been dictated by Pawn tensions, IM Smith made a strong addition to them with 19... e5!, after which the threats on the long diagonal forced White to liquidate the exchange.

Jeff Ashton: Finally Bryan Smith gets some recognition. He is one of the biggest "sleepers" in US chess. For those who don't know that expression, it basically means he doesn't get the respect and recognition that he deserves from the public.

He is a strong player and he contributes much to the chess community. I have officially joined the Bryan Smith fan club.

And finally, I would like to apologize for unintentionally jinxing Kacheishvili with my "always wins with White" comment last week. (1st place: 5 points)

Jim Dean: In my experience, playing against an opening system like the one White employs here is rarely tons of fun, but Smith was able to create an enjoyable position for himself here. Black appears to get the upper hand around move sixteen, and never really lets up. After winning the exchange, Smith cruises in a fairly easy endgame. (3rd place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: Another game where, like Van de Mortel, the upset factor really stood out and caused this game to be something special in my mind. While again some might be tempted to attribute this result to GM Kacheishvili having an off day, IM Smith really deserves credit for mixing it up well with such a strong player with the Black pieces, really going for the jugular right out of the opening with both 15... b4! and 19... e5! (4th place: 2 points)

Greg Shahade: A very nice game from Smith as Kacheishvili is very hard to defeat, especially with the Black pieces. I ranked this behind the Van de Mortel game only because that one was a bit more flashy, but it's hard to ignore anyone who pulls off such an upset with Black against such a solid player. (4th place: 2 points)

Michael Aigner: Thank you to Mr. Smith for demonstrating proper technique to embarrass these bizarre looking openings. In a week with so many games decided on blunders, I was glad to see one sensible game! While I can't imagine it was that hard to play, it was nonetheless a nice win against a GM with the Black pieces. (4th place: 2 points)

Total Score of Kacheishvili vs Smith: 14 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

12 points (Michael 5, Greg 4, Arun 3):
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs FM John Bick (TEN) 1-0

6 points (Michael 4, Jim 1, Arun 1):
IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) vs GM Vinay Bhat (SF) 1-0

5 points (Michael 3, Jeff 2):
GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 1-0

4 points (Jeff 3, Michael 1):
GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) vs IM Eli Vovsha (QNS) 0-1

3 points (Jim 2, Greg 1):
Miguel Recio (MIA) vs NM Joshua Sinanan (SEA) 0-1

1 point (Jeff 1):
GM Alex Shabalov (TEN) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0


Chaos said...

Alot of fantastic games this week! (Obviously the three that won but also the 4th place Angelo-Bick and Nakamura-Beccerra).

How was the tie broken between 1st & 2nd since they both got 15 pts?

Greg Shahade said...

Number of 1st place votes was the tiebreaker in this case. Click on the link at the top of the article where it says that the rules are explained in more detail.

Evan Rabin said...

just a thought... overall I thought the choices were good. With the Van Mortel- Ehlvhest game a lot of you said the rating difference was a key factor? Obviously, it was a large upset but should this really by a factor in terms of how good the game was?

Arun Sharma said...

I don't know about a "key factor", but certainly that was part of the game's appeal to me. Intrigue factor in general (such as a big upset) has always been something that we've taken into account in GOTW, albeit generally not in a major way (at least to me).

Whether something like that should be taken into consideration, well like everything involving GOTW, probably everyone will have a different opinion!

Anonymous said...

Jeff should shut up with his stupid sarcastic comments

Anonymous said...

Why did TN not play any Grandmasters in Week 8? Will they in Week 9 or 10 or are they done?

Anonymous said...

Its clear Tennessee has mailed it in.