Friday, November 13, 2009

Quarterfinals 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.


*Due to the lower number of games played, in the Quarterfinals only the first and second place prizes mentioned above will be given out, and in the Semifinals and Championship only the first place prize will be.

1st Place: GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) vs GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) 1-0

GM Kacheishvili had played a very strong game, yet GM Christiansen had done a remarkable job in creating counter chances, but wound up missing his only real chance to save the game with 50... Rbd8!!

Michael Aigner: Heading into the playoffs, the intensity of each game increases. A single poor move on one board can change the course of all four games in the match. To some extent, I feel this stifled the creativity of the players in the Quarterfinal round; few games rose to the level of previous weeks.

One player, however, tried his best to be brilliant, even if a bit too aggressive. New York's top board GM Kacheishvili faced the legendary Bostonian ace GM Christiansen in by far the tightest match of the week. For the first forty moves, Kacheishvili maneuvered his Rooks and Bishop pair to steadily increase his opening advantage, but alas, time pressure changed the course of the game. Bonus points to Kacheishvili for trying to play sharp and exciting chess with few minutes on the clock, even if his bold Rook sacrifice 48. Rxg6 failed to the stunning 50... Rbd8!. It wasn't perfect, but the tight match made it all the more thrilling.

I ranked this game slightly ahead of Perelshteyn vs Charbonneau (Board Two in the same match) only because it was the sharper middlegame. Frankly, it might have been proper to split the top honors between teammates Kacheishvili and Charbonneau, but the Commissioner won't let me. I also seriously considered Benjamin vs Erenburg, but Benjamin clearly took his foot off the gas pedal after an exciting opening for team-based strategic reasons.

Finally, I need to add a few words about the Becerra vs Nakamura non-contest, which I ranked third. No doubt this was the most shocking twelve move game in League History! However, as a fan of both players, I must express my disappointment that we were not treated to a more worthy battle. It is obvious that Nakamura simply did not come mentally ready to play a game. And while Becerra pushed wood, any young student of Morphy could have found his moves.

Throughout the season, I have consistently refused to rank highly a game where the loser self-destructed (unforced errors) more than the winner playing creatively. I ranked the game as third mostly because of the lack of other exciting games played at a reasonably high level. (1st place: 3 points)

Greg Shahade: The game wasn't perfect as some mistakes were made in time trouble (with White missing 47. Rxg6! mainly,) but it seemed like it was by far the most exciting game of the round, and was relatively well played on top of this. (1st place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: I admit the dual mistakes late (White missing 47. Rxg6+!! and Black missing 50... Rbd8!!) did give me pause as to whether this game should be ranked first. But on the whole, I felt this game was still definitely the best of the week. Both sides played quite well in totality; Kacheishvili slowly but surely building on a small edge with one strong move after another, and Christiansen fighting back tenaciously in the only real opportunity he was given. Considering the extreme time pressure also and the rather difficult nature of the position, it would have been fairly unrealistic to not expect a couple of strong moves to be overlooked and given how many strong moves were still found, I had to rank this game first. (1st place: 3 points)

Jim Dean: This was a pretty exciting game that I gave consideration to, though it seemed less accurate than some of Kacheishvili's other USCL gems. What a find 50... Rbd8 would have been, which appears to force a draw in a wild position. (NR: 0 points)

Jeff Ashton: This is the first game that I saw this week. I assumed that I would probably end up ranking it first. After thinking about it, I'm surprised that it ended up getting bumped down to fourth. I think Kacheishvili played very well (like he usually does when he has White,) and LarryC put up some good resistance but eventually cracked. Nice game. Also this was an important game; maybe I will regret not voting it higher later? (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Kacheishvili vs Christiansen: 9 points


2nd Place: GM Eugene Perelshteyn (BOS) vs GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) 0-1

GM Charbonneau played the very strange looking, but powerful 35... Rf8!, nicely utilizing the pin on the White Rook to force the game into a winning ending.

Jim Dean: I enjoyed this game a lot as Charbonneau really made nice use of his Queenside Pawn mass. Cutting off the King at the last minute so that the "wrong" colored Bishop doesn't matter was a nice finish to an impressive win with the Black pieces. (1st place: 3 points)

Michael Aigner: In typical USCL fashion, the action went back and forth, with Black finally picking up the point. Charbonneau won the opening battle and later converted an elegant endgame of Bishop against Pawns, but in between Perelshteyn had his chances after the seizing the initiative with a temporary sacrifice 18. Nxf7. The highlight was watching Charbonneau calmly pick off the White pawns with his Bishop in the endgame. Most significantly, all of this happened in the context of a super tight match that came down to this board and the top board. (2nd place: 2 points)

Jeff Ashton: Black had many ways to defend although White maintained pressure for a large part of the game. Charbonneau showed great defensive skills in a critical game. It seems like Perelshteyn took risks which we didn't see in his other USCL wins. (2nd place: 2 points)

Greg Shahade: I ranked this game in third but barely. Charbonneau played quite a good game, but his technique at the end was actually quite poor. Black could have won very easily by not rushing tp Queen the b-pawn and instead keeping it on b3 and playing 39... Bf7 and Kg7 first, leaving White totally helpless and avoiding the final rhity or so moves of the game in which it seemed as if White at least had some chance to draw. Despite that the first forty or so moves were very interesting by both sides, and so I have no real qualms with this finishing in second place. (3rd place: 1 point)

Arun Sharma: I did consider this game as it certainly was one of the more interesting ones of the week along with being the ultimate difference maker in the match result. However, quality wise it just didn't seem to quite have it to me as it seemed that White got in some trouble in the opening for no real reason, and that Black nearly managed to let White escape much later into a drawn ending (39... b2? where instead, 39... Bf7! 40. Bf5 Kg7!, and Black wins immediately).

However, there is no question that White played some strong ideas like 18. Nxf7! after what seemed to be a dubious opening, and that Black played the later part of the middlegame very well, especially the way he used the pin in tandem with the powerful b-pawn to achieve the victory so I definitely can understand why the other judges found this game appealing.

Personally I found the Benjamin vs Erenburg and Adamson vs Naroditsky games a bit more appealing than this one. The Naroditsky game might not have been particularly exciting but seemed very well played by the victor. The Benjamin game, I have a feeling the other judges were rather turned off by the way the game ended, with Black ending up taking a suicidal King march. But looking at that game from the beginning to the point where Black declined the perpetual in the ending, it seemed like a really great game to me, very interesting and creative play from both sides with no seeming huge errors, honestly exactly what I look for in GOTW. The fact that Black had to decline the perpetual solely because he HAD to try to win for the team at that point and then wound up losing because of it, should not, imo, detract too much from that game's overall appeal which is why I ranked it second. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Perelshteyn vs Charbonneau: 8 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

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

4 points (Greg 2, Arun 1, Jim 1):
FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs FM Daniel Naroditsky (SF) 0-1

3 points (Arun 2, Jeff 1):
GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) 1-0

2 points (Jim 2):
WIM Tsagaan Batsettseg (BAL) vs Sean Finn (NJ) 0-1

No comments: