Thursday, December 29, 2011

Game of the Year -- 20th Place

This is the first part in a series of articles which will count down to revealing what game was voted as the 2011 USCL Game of the Year. The entrants are the thirteen Games of the Week along with the seven Wildcards (full list). There are five judges who ranked the games from 1st to 20th. If a game is ranked in 1st place by a judge, it receives 20 points, if it's ranked 2nd place it receives 19 points, and so on with 20th place receiving 1 point, and the games are then ranked by their total number of points. If there is a tie at a certain total, whichever amongst those games have higher individual rankings will win on tiebreak (e.g., a game which gets 1st + 4th rankings is higher than a game which gets 2nd + 3rd).

The five judges are:

FM Ingvar Johannesson
GM Alex Lenderman
FM Alisa Melekhina
FM Victor Shen
FM Ron Young


20th Place: IM Conrad Holt (DAL) vs FM Joel Banawa (LA) 1-0

The already messy and strange game went up another notch with FM Banawa uncorking 23... Nxd5!? After many complications and twists, IM Holt eventually emerged on top, the first of his many victories in an incredible season.

Below are the comments from the judges on why they ranked the game where they did and in parentheses is the ranking given by that judge and the number of points awarded for that ranking.

FM Alisa Melekhina (8th Place, 13 points):
As I was looking through this game, I thought that Banawa had overstepped with 19... e4 and was punished for his optimism. However, the game soon became more complex with Black even having winning chances around 29... Rxa3 after Holt's inaccurate 29. Be2. Of course the winning 33... Qb8 followed by the unexpected ... d5 was understandably counterintuitive after having moved the Queen to e8 only a few moves earlier, so it is difficult to reproach Black for faltering at the end.

This game is an excellent demonstration of the practical aspect of chess, and shows what we stand to lose if chess becomes absorbed by play against computers or advanced chess. With so many top level games being either completely one-sided or equal all throughout until a slight advantage is capitalized on, this is a rare, exciting battle that deserves a top ten ranking due to its fighting spirit. The players rallied with the advantage until the final mistake, epitomizing a real chess struggle.

FM Victor Shen (12th Place, 9 points):
A very exciting, fighting game. Banawa initiated complications with 19... e4!?, though perhaps out of necessity. Holt then defended pretty accurately and gained a winning advantage despite being under a lot of pressure, until his blunder 29. Be2?? Suddenly the tide swung in Black's favor, but he missed the strong 33... Qb8! to attack f4. After that, the mistake 34... Ra4 allowed White to regain the initiative and mop up. Sure, when you analyze with the computer, you can see all the mistakes, but it was an exciting game nevertheless.

GM Alex Lenderman (19th Place, 2 points):
Fun finish, entertaining for the fans, but if you ask Conrad Holt, this might be very well the game he's least happy about from his great first season in the USCL. Maybe nerves were a factor here. White played the opening curiously, with moves like h4 and b4 (generally not recommended to play on both sides on the same time, especially with a space advantage), and White seemed to give Black good counterplay chances as with 19... Ng3 20. fxg3 Nf5, it is a very unclear game.

However, Black self-destructed into a lost position quickly with 19... e4? 20. g4 (maybe Black missed this move or underestimated it). Point is, that Black gave away too many pawns which became actually a good shelter for White's king. 21... Ng3 was also better than 21... Be5?!, after which White can just take the knight on h5, followed by Qc2 and Kd1+-. 22. Nf3 was also probably good enough.

The real problem with this game is of course that White after just getting a winning game self-destructed into a lost position with 29. Be2?? (29. Bg2 was just winning, or even the curious computer 29. h5!? as the escape square e2 is very important. And then if black found 32... Ra2!! instead of 32... Rxh1?!, 33. Qxa2 Qxe4+, all of a sudden Black is having a tremendous initiative and taking all of White's Pawns. Even after 32... Rxh1 33. Ke3, all Black had to do is find 33... Qb8! taking the b-file away from White's heavy pieces, prophylaxis, and on 34. Bxg6 d5!, Black will be on top. Instead the position first became equal and then 34... Ra4? was losing. 34... d5! followed by Ra4 was the only chance, and it would lead to a perpetual check according to the computer. Nice mating pattern for White at the end but in reality just a comedy of errors.

FM Ingvar Johanesson (19th Place, 2 points):
This game was in somewhat new territory in terms of theory early on although it's a well known position type. Seems like the balance was more or less kept till move 19 when Black had to find the computeresque 19... Ng3 to keep the balance. After that some wild play ensued in which it was difficult to find the best moves. White seemed to be on top of things then slipped up, but Black then returned the favour. An exciting game but too many errors for me to put this anywhere but near the bottom.

FM Ron Young (20th Place, 1 point):
Back in the day, "rich in vicissitudes" was praise comparable to "the cat's pajamas", but modern chess science frowns on too many vicissitudes. To put it another way, "that swing" is a nice thing, but "those swings" lead to dizziness, and there were a couple pretty big ones.

Total Score of Holt vs Banawa: (20th Place, 27 Points)


Stay tuned for eighteen more such articles as the field shrinks by one game almost every day to see which of the following games will be the 2011 Game of the Year!

Week 2: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs IM Lev Milman (MAN) 1-0 Article

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

Week 4: Christopher Wu (NJ) vs NM James Black (MAN) 1-0 Article

Week 5: GM Cristian Chirila (DAL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 0-1 Article

Week 6: GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) vs IM Gabriel Battaglini (CAR) 1-0 Article

Week 7: WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) vs FM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) 1-0 Article

Week 8: GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs FM Joaquin Banawa (STL) 1-0 Article

Week 9: GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) 1-0 Article

Week 10: GM Yury Shulman (CHC) vs IM Mackenzie Molner (ARZ) 1-0 Article

Quarterfinals: GM Yury Shulman (CHC) vs GM Cristian Chirila (DAL) 1-0 Article

Semifinals: IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs GM Josh Friedel (CHC) 0-1 Article

Championship: GM Mesgen Amanov (CHC) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 0-1 Article

Wildcard #1: GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs GM Varuzhan Akobian (SEA) 1-0 Article

Wildcard #2: GM Mesgen Amanov (CHC) vs IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) 1-0 Article

Wildcard #3: IM Marc Esserman (BOS) vs GM John Fedorowicz (NY) 1-0 Article

Wildcard #4: GM Hikaru Nakamura (STL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 0-1 Article

Wildcard #5: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs IM Robert Hungaski (NE) 1-0 Article

Wildcard #6: IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) 1-0 Article

Wildcard #7: GM Sam Shankland (NE) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 1-0 Article


20th Place (27 Points): IM Conrad Holt (DAL) vs FM Joel Banawa (LA) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

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