Friday, September 10, 2010

Week 3 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 $200 bonus prize ($150 going to the winner of the game, $50 to the loser), second place $75, and third place $50 (both second and third going entirely to the winner). 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 Rensch (ARZ) vs WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) 1-0

Faced with the prospect of his opponent having two Queens on the board, IM Rensch calmly ignored the queening threat with 29. Nxh7! and ended up scoring an exciting tactical victory.

Arun Sharma (1st place, 5 points): I honestly don't know how sound the tactics in this game were, but there is no question of how interesting the ideas involved were - it's certainly not every day that you let your opponent make a second Queen so early in the game! And regardless of whether all the ideas were completely sound, at the very least one has to always appreciate the bravery to play in such a style, especially in a team event. Add to that that it obviously was, at the very least, quite difficult for Black to refute White's plan, and this game became the clear winner to me this week.

Jeff Ashton (1st place, 5 points): White's plan of attack followed by exciting and precise combinations made this an easy winner.

Jim Dean (2nd place, 4 points): IM Rensch is off to a great start this season as this is his second victory of the season that I would consider GOTW worthy. You don't often see a pawn promotion get more or less ignored in the middlegame, but Rensch was able to do so while launching a brutal Kingside assault. Congrats to Daniel and the Scorpions on another impressive win.

Michael Aigner (2nd place, 4 points): IM Rensch executes the standard Kingside attack in the 7. Qg4 O-O variation of the Winawer. At first glance, Black's control of the f-file is enough to equalize, but White manages to open a second file for attack. The key sequence begins with two tempi (24. Ng5 and 26. g4), giving White enough time to swing the Queen's Rook to the h-file. Amazingly, not even a promoted Queen can save Black! The error on move thirty two hastens Black's demise, but the Scorpion already could smell his prey.

I voted this game as second mostly because of imprecise play by both sides. Black looked solid with 23... g6, forcing the Queen to g4 and eliminating Ng5 as a threat. The computer gleefully points out a cold-blooded win for White after 33. Qh6 planning to win the Rook with Bf6 or save the Knight on f8 with Nxg6. Yes, I hold high standards.

Greg Shahade (2nd place, 4 points): A great game by Danny, anytime you allow your opponent to Queen in the middlegame and can't be bothered to even capture it right away, you are in good shape for GOTW!

Total Score of Rensch vs Abrahamyan: 22 points


2nd Place: IM Marc Esserman (BOS) vs IM Eli Vovsha (MAN) 1-0

IM Esserman effectively culminated a brief Sicilian slaughter with the strong 14. Nb6! With the discovery threat making the Knight taboo, IM Vovsha was compelled to sacrifice the exchange which Esserman cleanly converted.

Jim Dean (1st place, 5 points): This was my favorite game of the week as I felt Esserman played very creatively starting with 12. Be3, which is a novelty as far as I can tell. White applied pressure throughout and didn't give Black any real chances to get back in the game once things started going downhill.

Michael Aigner (1st place, 5 points): This week was somewhat more difficult than the first two because of the lack of competitive attacking games by elite players. The first rule of Game of the Week applies specifically to such cases: When in doubt, look at IM Esserman's game. Few players (if any!) in league history have won and lost more GOTW.

In a Scheveningen Sicilian, Esserman first sacrificed his e-pawn on move twelve and then ditched a Knight two moves later. Of course, taking the piece is hazardous to the health of the Black King: 14... Qxb6? 15. Nxe6 Nc5 16. Nxg7+ Kd8 17. Bxf7 intending 18. Ne6+. By move twenty, White had better pieces and was an Exchange up. That didn't stop the alert tactician Esserman from finding one more trick: 29. Rxg7.

Arun Sharma (2nd place, 4 points): While a bit short and brutal, one has to always be impressed when someone so handily defeats such a solid player in a fashion where it's not immediately clear where the opponent went wrong. Even though it seems that White is already winning after the 14. Nb6! shot, Black did probably put up about the best defense he could at that stage, but White's precise technique didn't allow him to escape.

Jeff Ashton (2nd place, 4 points): Esserman consistently wins these tactical games with precise play. Being consistently precise in these "loose" games is an amazing feat.

Greg Shahade (NR, 0 points): I didn't rank this game because after Vovsha took on e4, White's moves were quite obvious. White was basically completely winning three moves later so I just didn't see any reason to give this game a ranking. It's not as if White made some amazing unbelievable sacrifices either, it was extremely standard Sicilian play.

Total Score of Esserman vs Vovsha: 18 points


3rd Place: GM Varuzhan Akobian (SEA) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 1-0

GM Akobian played the nice maneuver 18. Nd2!, eventually swapping the Knight for Black's light squared Bishop after which he effectively utilized the two Bishops and his Pawn majority to score a nice victory.

Michael Aigner (3rd place, 3 points): While looking at this game, I am struck by how dominant GM Akobian's position is post Queen trade. Black never really had a chance - a shocking statement considering GM Becerra's history in the League! First, White completely shut down Black's Queenside with 15. b4 and 16. Ra3, provoking the impatient 16... e5. The second phase of White's plan involved relocating his King's Knight. By the time 20. Nd6 came down, the game was all but over. Considering the dominant White pawn structure (b4-c5-d6), even the opposite colored Bishops could not save the Miami All-Star. Definitely a great debut for GM Akobian in the Pacific Northwest!

Greg Shahade (3rd place, 3 points): Great game by Akobian but similar to Erenburg's game last week - it was almost too clean. Nothing for the fans to get excited about, just a cold blooded slow and methodical grind. However, I still gave it third place as to beat the all time most winning USCL player in such fashion is deserving of high praise.

Arun Sharma (4th place, 2 points): This game might not have had the amazing tactical shots most commonly look for in GOTW candidates, just was a very clean and dominating game by GM Akobian. While historically I tend to appreciate these kinds of games more than most of the other judges, I'm glad there seemed to be general approval for this game, and it's obviously impressive to defeat such a strong player with such seeming ease.

Jeff Ashton (4th place, 2 points): Akobian nicely converted his advantage once the Queens were traded.

Jim Dean (NR, 0 points): This game was among the seven games I strongly considered for the top five spots this week. Ultimately, I felt that while Akobian played very well, the game lacked the fireworks that some of the other games provided this week. Still, it was clearly an excellent USCL debut for GM Akobian.

Total Score of Akobian vs Becerra: 10 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

9 points (Greg 5, Jim 2, Michael 2):
IM Sam Shankland (NE) vs GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) 0-1

9 points (Arun 3, Jeff 3, Jim 3):
GM Dmitry Gurevich (CHC) vs IM Dmitry Zilberstein (SF) 1-0

2 points (Greg 2):
FM Joel Banawa (LA) vs IM Dionisio Aldama (ARZ) 1/2-1/2

2 points (Arun 1, Jeff 1):
GM Yury Shulman (STL) vs NM Tyler Hughes (DAL) 1-0

2 points (Jim 1, Greg 1):
GM Larry Kaufman (BAL) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0

1 point (Michael 1):
FM Andy Lee (SF) vs FM Gauri Shankar (CHC) 1/2-1/2


Anonymous said...

There are three undefeated teams... Arizona Scorpions Noreasters and Chicago Blaze.

Rihel said...

Glad to see the Esserman game getting the love this week....except from one judge :<

But Greg does make a good point.... Nxe4 in similar positions has a bad reputation, and it just didn't look good here, either.

Still, Marc should have gotten some extra points for his opening. He tricked Black into a Smith-Morra-like position where Black is missing the b-pawn!

EJ said...

Congratulations Danny! You've been on a tear lately. I hope it doesn't stop!

Ilya said...

somewhat suprised Chase's win over Shen didnt get any love, seemed like a pretty decent beating of one of the up and coming juniors and an important game from the match standpoint as well.

dvigorito said...

I have to agree with Ilya. V Shen just gained 90 points in a month after decimating the World Open <2400 with 8/9. Chase won a wonderful game that decided the match, and the game didn't even make the also-rans.

Rihel said...

Hey- I agree with Ilya, too! Chris's win was quite something, regardless of the upcoming Junior storyline. Not fireworky enough for the judges, I guess, but a gem from Board 3.

That said, I liked Shankland-Benjamin, too. I was trying to annotate that game, and it never became 100% clear to me where White went wrong. My computer kept calling the positions equal, but when I followed down various sidelines, Black was always ending up on top. A great concept from Benjamin in that game.

Anonymous said...

Just as he has done in previous USCL seasons, Esserman displayed beautiful tactics in a very sound game. It is a shame that Greg is too blind to notice his brilliancy in a unique position, arising from the sacrifice of numerous pieces.

Had Greg not awarded Marc 4-5 points, I'd understand, but to award nothing for the most exciting game of the week is an outrage.

Greg, throw away your bias and learn to love watching Marc win with style. Maybe one day Marc will give you a lesson in tactics so you can be half as brilliant as him.

Please take note and re-evaluate your scoring.

Kolb Raymond