Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Championship 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: GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 0-1

After appearing earlier like GM Becerra's Kingside attack might decide matters, GM Kacheishvili launched a decisive counterattack here with 30... b3!, which wound up winning him the game and in the process the USCL Championship for the New York Knights.

Michael Aigner: The match came down to the top board in the blitz tiebreak. Becerra had won the slow game about two hours earlier, but was somewhat fortunate to put his team ahead 1 - 0. It was fitting that these two fighters met again at the end, winner takes all. The New Yorker definitely felt he had something to prove!

In the blitz game, Kacheishvili calmly defended with Black on the Kingside in a Sicilian Rauzer. His two Bishops on f6 and f7 were well suited to defend and counterattack. White had nothing, and after 30... b3, the fat lady began warming up with her sweet tunes. Perhaps the only mistake all game was when Kacheishvili missed mate in two on move thirty nine. Apparently even strong GMs occasionally get distracted. (No offense intended to any fat ladies or guys who may have watched in New York). (1st place: 1 point)

Jim Dean: I thought this was an excellent game to finish off a great match between New York and Miami. Becerra was playing very quickly and confidently in the opening, and I initially thought it was very fortunate for Miami to have gotten White in this game. However, White's Kingside play seemed to die out while Black's play on the Queenside had more bite. Kacheishvili deserves a lot of credit for winning three consecutive games and bringing home the Championship for his team, despite his loss in the regulation match. Congratulations to all of the New York Knights! (1st place: 1 point)

Arun Sharma: I honestly was not very certain about which game to pick this week, and I really did not expect that I would ever wind up picking a game from the blitz tiebreaker to be GOTW, no matter how many times the Championship ended up being decided in that fashion!

But be that as it may, I did feel this was overall the best available choice. Obviously it was a blitz game and wasn't perfect but for a blitz game it seemed like a very high quality encounter, and other than the missed mate in two, if I had seen it without knowing the context I probably would not have guessed that it was a blitz game.

Add that to the fact that this game was certainly in many senses the most important game of the season, I felt it should get the nod for GOTW.

Like two of the other judges, I also strongly considered the regulation game between these players for the award as it unquestionably was a very interesting game, but I felt it contained a few too many mistakes for a slow game to get the prize. Naturally mistakes were not surprising considering how tough a position it was to play along with the amount of time the players had left near the end of it, but due to that and the fact that the blitz game was the match decider, I thought overall that the latter was the better choice. (1st place: 1 point)

Greg Shahade: Gotta be honest, but I completely disagree with this choice as Game of the Week. The game from the regulation match was one of the most exciting games of the season while this was a blitz game. I admit that Kacheishvili played well, but the regulation game was nonstop excitement and action from beginning to end, and I think would have a legitimate chance to do very well in the Game of the Year Contest, despite the final time trouble induced blunders. I'm not sure if I've ever disagreed more with a Game of the Week winner than this one even though it decided the Championship. I really thought, based on the comments during the game from the spectators and the commentators, that it would be an obvious five to zero victory for the Becerra vs Kacheishvili game from the regulation match. I also thought during the game, depending on how it ended up (which wasn't a perfect ending obviously), that it'd be a strong contender for Game of the Year, and then it ends up losing out in Game of the Week to a blitz game! (NR: 0 points)

Jeff Ashton: Should I say something like: "Kacheishvili's ability to instantly play correct opening moves then handle the middlegame with great precision and natural understanding and finally seal the deal with close to flawless endgame technique ... this game was nothing short of extraordinary!" Something like that sounds pretty good until you hear that I'm talking about a blitz game!

It would take one amazing blitz game compared to some pathetic slow games for me to agree with this week's GOTW choice. Sure, it was a good blitz game and exciting to watch due to what was on the line, but I'm sure I can log onto ICC right now and find a game of similar entertainment value.

Imagine if someone told you: "The best game at last year's World Open was played at 2:00 am in the skittles room. I know it was a blitz game ... you just had to be there to understand. It was really intense, trust me." You would probably end up slowly walking away from that person.

There might be a little recency bias going on if you would like to argue that the importance of the game was a factor in it winning GOTW. If Becerra didn't win his "real" game against Kacheishvili, there wouldn't have even been this exciting playoff. The "first is the worst, second is the best arguments" shouldn't really hold up.

I liked the "real" game played between Becerra and Kacheishvili a lot even without comparing it to a blitz game. It wasn't as good as some other GOTW winners but still a very good game worthy of GOTW votes.

I'm not taking anything away from Kacheishvili's speed chess skills, and I know it might have been one of the most important blitz games he's played in his career, but this game should not be lumped in the same category as other GOTW winners.

Also, it's a bit weird because I am basically arguing that Kacheishvili's blitz game against Becerra stole the GOTW victory from his opponent (if I were in Becerra's shoes I would be nauseous).

Finally, I have to say that Kacheishvili is possibly my favorite player for this season but for games much more memorable than this one. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Becerra vs Kacheishvili: 3 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

2 points (Greg 1, Jeff 1):
GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 1-0

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