Friday, November 6, 2009

Week 10 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 Michael Aigner currently being on vacation, for this week again we will have only four judges.

1st Place: GM Gregory Serper (SEA) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0

GM Serper played the clever Rook lift 26. Rb4!, and the multiple threats compelled IM Van de Mortel to significantly weaken his structure with 26... e5, after which White soon won a clear Pawn that he skillfully converted in an endgame.

Jeff Ashton: It seems like it's impossible for Serper to lose with White when he gets these set-ups. I don't really get it ... it seems like White just moves back and forth and next thing you know it he's winning. Is 15... f5 bad? By the way, does anyone else detect the pattern? Will someone beat Serper next week to win GOTW? (1st place: 5 points)

Jim Dean: A really nice game by Serper who created pressure all over the board before finally transitioning into a winning ending. I liked the Rook swings along the fourth rank, and Serper's technique once the game simplified looked excellent. Extra credit for taking out Jan, who had the "hot hand" in the USCL recently. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Being one of the league's most successful players every season, it's rather amazing that it took Serper nearly four full seasons to win GOTW, but I'm glad that he finally managed to do so!

I suppose Serper's typical style of slowly outplaying his opponent and often winning in an endgame (just like this game!) isn't the most conducive style for garnering GOTW votes, but I think this game was definitely a worthy winner. As usual, Serper just played one strong move after another, never allowing any counterplay, continually forcing his opponent into making concessions, and eventually grinding his opponent down. It's always impressive to beat such a strong player in a fashion where it's not really clear where the opponent went wrong and yet still seemed to lose without much of a fight, never garnering any play of their own. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: Amazing that this is the first time Serper wins Game of the Week, especially since I think it's far from his best league game. Serper made it look easy, and we continue the trend of the previous week's GOTW winner being the loser the following week! Seattle may want to consider resting Serper in the first round of the postseason! (4th place: 2 points)

Total Score of Serper vs Van de Mortel: 17 points


2nd Place: IM Bryan Smith (PHI) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0

IM Smith played the simple 38. Nh4!, leaving IM Schroer no satisfactory way to defend his g-pawn, winning White a Pawn and soon after the game.

Greg Shahade: I liked Smith's c4, creating a new weakness on c6. It felt like he displayed a great deal of patience and skill in the endgame, with lots of subtle maneuvers that eventually led to Schroer cracking. Please note that this was one of the weakest overall weeks for GOTW in my opinion. I think Bryan's earlier game against Vovsha, which I didn't even rank, was probably a better GOTW candidate than this one even though I gave it first place! Also let me state that if Irina Krush didn't blunder at the end of her loss to Shmelov, I think she would have won the prize easily. (1st place: 5 points)

Jim Dean: This game didn't look like much fun for the Black side, as White slowly improved his position once the Queens came off. Smith never allowed much counterplay, and basically just played really well the entire game. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jeff Ashton: White played nicely. The more I look at this game, I can't believe it did so well in GOTW. Pretty dry for GOTW if you ask me. But what can I say, I voted for it. Also, Bryan Smith did play incredibly well. See previous GOTW comments for my thoughts about Smith's play. (3rd place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: I admit I probably underestimated this game, and even though I didn't rank it, it seems like a definite worthy game for second place. My first impression when I looked at it was that it was headed towards a lifeless draw but that Black went astray in the endgame, and White punished him for it.

However, that likely was a bit of a superficial assessment, as Smith really did play the ending well, making very life very tough for Schroer, and I think White definitely did more to win this game than Black did to lose it - which was quite contrary to my initial impression.

As I mentioned the combination of slightly misjudging why this game had the result that it did, and it simply not seeming particularly inspiring to me when I looked at it, caused me not to rank it. But again, I do think it was quite deserving, and congrats to Smith on a very strong season.

In regards to Greg's comment about the Krush vs Shmelov game, I essentially agree that that game (and also perhaps the Zaikov vs Bartell game) would likely have won had they not each been marred by a huge blunder near the end. While the debate for how much one big blunder at the end should detract from a good game in this contest has never really been resolved, I typically am not in favor of ranking such games highly. But since I felt the collection of games this week was not especially inspiring, and both of those games were very interesting and quite well played (aside from the ending blunders!), I thought they were the best choices for those top spots. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Smith vs Schroer: 12 points


3rd Place: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 0-1

GM Kacheishvili nicely liquidated with 27... Ne3!, forcing the game into an ending at the cost of an exchange, and the multiple extra Black Pawns quickly proved to be too much there.

Jeff Ashton: I was impressed by how much play Sammour-Hasbun got for the Pawn. I assumed his initiative would have ended earlier. Kacheishvili defended well. Nice game for Black. When Kacheishvili wins, he makes it look easy. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: Nice defense from Kacheishvili after some interesting sacrifices from Sammour-Hasbun. The fans thought that Jorge went nuts, but he definitely did have reasonable compensation, and this game was a real tough fight from beginning to end. Jorge's time trouble really hurt him once the game reached its final stages though. (3rd place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: Really was not sure what to think about this game. Like most of the observers, I assumed Jorge had gone badly astray in the opening rather than it being prepared by him. I certainly can't say that I felt this double Pawn sac gave White sufficient compensation, but Jorge has played many a masterpiece under this general idea, i.e. sacrificing material for long term compensation while continually putting his opponent to tough decisions so it's hard to question his decision too much.

It mostly seemed to work out the way he probably had planned, before he went a bit astray in time pressure. I thought Kacheishvili played that portion of the game very well, especially the giving up of an exchange to enter the endgame - an ending which at first glance I felt was not really clear. But the fact that he won it so quickly and with such seeming ease was a nice demonstration of how well he'd assessed the position and had played to reach it. (4th place: 2 points)

Jim Dean: I strongly considered this game but eventually decided that I liked a handful of other games better. Not surprisingly, Kaceishvili plays another good game in this one though. It seemed like White got a questionable opening position by playing 9. Bxf6 rather than 9. e5. Even so, it seemed like White had some decent compensation for a while, but just wasn't able to maintain it thanks to some nice maneuvering by Black. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Sammour-Hasbun vs Kacheishvili: 9 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

8 points (Arun 4, Greg 4):
FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) vs FM Tom Bartell (PHI) 1-0

4 points (Jim 3, Arun 1):
FM Peter Bereolos (TEN) vs FM Ralph Zimmer (BAL) 0-1

3 points (Arun 3):
IM Irina Krush (NY) vs SM Denys Shmelov (BOS) 0-1

2 points (Jeff 2):
IM Alejandro Moreno Roman (MIA) vs FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) 1-0

2 points (Jim 2):
IM Daniel Ludwig (DAL) vs GM Patrick Wolff (SF) 1-0

2 point (Jeff 1, Jim 1):
John Timmel (CAR) vs NM Elvin Wilson (PHI) 0-1

1 point (Greg 1):
Jared Defibaugh (BAL) vs David Justice (TEN) 1/2-1/2

No comments: