Friday, October 23, 2009

Week 8 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 John Bartholomew (DAL) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 1-0

IM Bartholomew played the strong 30. d5!, after which the variety of potential threats against e6 (d5 x e6, e5-e6, and N to f4-e6) compelled GM Becerra to sac the exchange. Even so, White still managed to invade on f7 soon after to compel resignation.

Arun Sharma: Very strong, creative game by Bartholomew. What I liked most about this game was how Bartholomew just relentlessly applied pressure, refusing to quit on his attack, even though at a few points it definitely seemed like his Kingside attack would amount to nothing, and that he would wind up getting steamrolled on the Queenside or in the center. But again, Bartholomew kept putting Becerra to tough decisions, and not surprisingly he could not meet all of them adequately, and White eventually broke through. Ok, sure if Black had defended perfectly, he would have probably defused the attack, but obviously it's ridiculous to expect anyone to play perfectly, and White's strong, daring play, especially 30. d5!, was a big reason as to why. (1st place: 5 points)

Michael Aigner: In this week's top game, White demonstrates what it takes to beat a strong GM: center control, open lines, weaknesses to attack, strong desire to play aggressively, and some luck. While watching the game, I truly got the impression that White simply wanted to win really badly. He kept probing the holes on the Kingside until Black cracked on move twenty nine.

To be fair, Black could have defended better. Both Rybka and Fritz 12 give a decisive advantage to Black with Queenside pawn play, e.g. b7-b5 or a7-a5 on move twenty seven. White also missed a spectacular mate in five on move thirty five that would have put an exclamation mark on this game. These criticisms led me to select this game as second instead of first. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: A nice game by Bartholomew against the two time MVP. It would have been nicer if Bartholomew had played 35. Rxg6+ instead of 35. R2f2, leading to a much more beautiful and quicker win (although the line he chose is totally winning also). There also seemed to be some real theoretical relevance to this game as I've never before seen the line that Becerra chose, although it has been played by Morozevich recently. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jeff Ashton: Nice game. Black defended relatively well, and Bartholomew maintained pressure. (3rd place: 3 points)

Jim Dean: I guess I probably underestimated this game as White did play creatively for a nice win against a very strong player. I thought Black was doing fine for quite a while during the game, but it is definitely challenging for Black to find a constructive plan throughout. Congratulations to Bartholomew for winning during a week of many well played games. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Bartholomew vs Becerra: 16 points


2nd Place: GM Boris Gulko (NJ) vs GM Eugene Perelshteyn (BOS) 1-0

GM Gulko played the strong 31. Rxe7! following it up with 32. Ne5!, after which the dual threats against c6 and g6 compelled GM Perelshteyn to return the exchange at the cost of a pawn, and White converted without much difficulty.

Jeff Ashton: Gulko is showing his positional versatility this season. 31. Rxe7 was clever. It is such a strange move and very easy to overlook or underestimate. It is hard to find obvious fault in Perelshteyn's play. (1st place: 5 points)

Jim Dean: This game was my favorite of the week, as I thought Gulko played another gem here. I enjoyed his handling of the entire middlegame, and the temporary exchange sacrifice on e7 seemed like a nice practical decision. Perelshteyn couldn't keep everything together in the transition to the endgame, and Gulko converted without allowing any tricks. (1st place: 5 points)

Michael Aigner: GM Gulko improved his record to 4-0 this season and 7-0 lifetime in the USCL by defeating a third straight GM opponent! There was never much doubt in this one. Black was slightly worse from the opening and, with maybe the exception of move thirty two, never had a chance to get back into the game. Despite such a glowing review, I ranked this game only fourth because the win was less spectacular than games against Zaikov (Week 3) and Charbonneau (Week 4).

Amazingly, after eight weeks of reading my commentaries, it appears that my fellow judges developed a good taste for positional grinds! I like! (Ironically, after weeks of promoting positional masterpieces, I ranked this game below a violent knockout by Seattle teenager Howard Chen against John Bick). (4th place: 2 points)

Greg Shahade: An impressive display by Gulko although I didn't rank it as highly due to the lack of flashy tactics and violent Kingside attacks that usually get me going. However, I couldn't overlook Gulko's impressive technique from beginning to end, with special attention paid to the temporary exchange sacrifice, 31. Rxe7. (4th place: 2 points)

Arun Sharma: Another very strong performance by Gulko, winning in his usual League fashion, mercilessly grinding his opponent down from a small opening edge without ever really allowing any counterplay. The exchange sac was also a nice touch, definitely not something that seems immediately clear to be good for White, but unsurprisingly Gulko demonstrated why it was so strong, converting in short order. I definitely could have ranked this game higher as the other judges did, just the games I did rank higher I personally found to be a bit more exciting generally, containing more interesting moments than I felt this one did. (5th place: 1 point)

Total Score of Gulko vs Perelshteyn: 15 points


3rd Place: FM Victor Shen (NJ) vs IM Marc Esserman (BOS) 1-0

FM Shen struck with the nice tactic 19. Bxh6!, where the potential of 20. Qc1+ compelled IM Esserman to play 19... Bxe1 instead of Kxh6, and after some liquidation, White strongly took advantage of the dual edges of Black's weakened King and undeveloped Queenside.

Michael Aigner: This impressive attacking game was my top choice for Week Eight. Moves such as the well-timed 15. d4, 19. Bxh6, 23. Qe5, 25. d6, 30. g4, and 38. Nf6 left zero doubt who was the better player this week. The game felt smooth and convincing, despite facing a newly minted and successful IM. I plan to incorporate this game in my future classes on how to conduct an attack as White against 1. e4 e5. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: I was really pulling for this game. It was a long fight in which White showed constant energy and put endless pressure on his strong opponent while facing stiff resistance throughout. It was an especially impressive display from someone rated just barely above 2300 and perhaps was one of the most complete USCL games in history by someone of Shen's rating level.
(1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Very strong game by Shen all around. It seemed that he developed a nice edge in the opening, then played a strong tactical sequence to gain a large advantage when Esserman tried to mix it up, and finally finished up the game quite efficiently, not allowing any real counterplay after tying down his opponent. A nice upset also considering that it didn't seem like Black made any obvious mistakes, making White's victory that much more impressive. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jeff Ashton: Pretty nice, I guess. I considered ranking it, and it most likely makes my top ten list. After Esserman made some tactical errors, Shen was alert tactically. Other than that, I will probably forget this game's existence within a few hours of hitting the 'send' button ... now. (NR: 0 points)

Jim Dean: I was surprised this game made the Top Three. Shen did play well, but I felt Black picked a very dubious plan early on starting with 13... Kh7, and after Shen appropriately opened up the center Black was left to scrape and claw to try to and keep things somewhat interesting. A nice performance by Shen, but there were a handful of games this week that I felt were stronger candidates. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Shen vs Esserman: 14 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

8 points (Jeff 4, Jim 4):
IM Ron Burnett (TEN) vs GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) 0-1

6 points (Michael 3, Jim 3):
NM Howard Chen (SEA) vs FM John Bick (TEN) 1-0

3 points (Arun 3):
IM Richard Costigan (PHI) vs FM Ralph Zimmer (BAL) 0-1

3 points (Greg 3):
IM Dionisio Aldama (ARZ) vs IM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0

3 points (Arun 2, Greg 1):
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0

3 points (Jim 2, Michael 1):
IM Lev Milman (QNS) vs IM John Donaldson (SF) 0-1

2 points (Jeff 2):
GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0

1 point (Jeff 1):
GM Vinay Bhat (SF) vs GM Alex Stripunsky (QNS) 0-1

1 point (Jim 1):
FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) vs IM Irina Krush (NY) 1-0


Robby said...

Nice job John!

Anonymous said...

The real question is whether TN is going to field a tuff lineup? Do they care to put up a GM even?

Anonymous said...

It seems unfair that TN is not fielding its best team when all the other opponents had to face GMs

Anonymous said...

A 2272 average for a team is pathetic and yet they allowed to do it?