Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Game of the Year -- 13th Place

This is the eighth part in a series of articles which will count down to revealing what game was voted as the 2011 USCL Game of the Year. For more information on exactly how this process works and the prize information, please refer to: Game of the Year Contest


13th Place: GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs FM Joaquin Banawa (STL) 1-0

With 39. g6!, the numerous threats soon caused Black's position to collapse giving the three time MVP GM Becerra yet another win.

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 Ron Young (3rd Place, 18 points):
I'm still not sure if White's exchange loss was a sacrifice that looked like a blunder or a blunder that looked like a sacrifice, but in either case, it made me think again about what is truly valuable, and you've got to be grateful for any game that does that.

FM Ingvar Johannesson (10th Place, 11 points):
This was a tense battle in the Najdorf. Black seemed to be doing at least ok when the course of the game was changed with Black being up the exchange, but White having strong positonal compensation for it (weak light squares d5/f5 and some weaknesses around the Black King). The battle was still very tense but probably Black lost his footing a little when he failed to play 35... Bd4!? which seems interesting and highlights the weakness of the White King and the backrank and lets Black's Rooks come alive. Instead Black lost the thread and allowed White the nice 39. g6 winning the game. A nice game and a tough battle but for me not impressive enough from the winner to be in the top spots of GOTY.

FM Alisa Melekhina (12th Place, 9 points):
Becerra executed the uncommon 12. g5 in a sensible and logical manner, eliminating Black's light-squared Bishop after preventing Black from playing Nb6 and following up with the menacing Bg4. Although Black could have perhaps put up more resistance by going into a positional sacrifice with 20... Nxe3, it is difficult to say how he could have halted White's unwavering and methodical attack. This was a clean game, albeit a bit one-sided, that demonstrated what disparity there is between a GM and a 2350+ player.

GM Alex Lenderman (17th Place, 4 points):
This is a sharp Sicilian where Black at first got a better of it, just soundly on the way of outplaying a very solid GM. 20. Rc3!? probably was an improvement over 20. Bh3, and 26. Na1!? not blocking access to e3 square might've been a better try than 26. Nd2. In the game line, White ended up sacrifising/losing an exchange, which objectively shouldn't work with Black already attacking. And if Black found 28... b4! instead of 28... Rfd8?! then White had nothing better than 29. Ng3 b3 30. Nf5, allowing a Queen trade as anything else actually allows Black to crash through first with his attack. In other lines, for instance if White takes twice on b3, Black puts his Bishop on d4, and then White's pieces would be bit tied down to defending the attack!

Also 31... axb3 followed by Qa7, Ra8, and Bc5 tying White down would also have been an improvement. Then on move 34, there was a comedy of errors. White played 34. Rd5?! when 34. Qg3 would probably be better. And then 34... a3? is just a terrible move, blocking the attack and all the counterplay that Black tried to play for the whole game. 34... axb3 absolutely had to be played, and Black is still doing well there as after 35. axb3 Qa7 it's not clear what White should do as Be3! is a nasty threat with the follow up of Qa2+. If Black forces the trade of the f5 Knight, Black will simply winning. For example 36. fxe5 Be3 37. Nxe3 Qxe3 brings the threat of Qe1+ followed by Ra1+ with mate. And 36. Qd2? is just getting mated to 36... Qa2+ 37. Kc1 Qa1+!! 38. Bxa1 Rxa1+ 39. Kb2 Ra8 followed by mate on a2 in short order. The point is Black absolutely had to try for counterplay and shied way from it at the worst moment, giving White everything.

To me it looked more like White not doing much to win this game, actually Black, his lower-rated opponent even outplaying him, but then just not executing to get his nice win, and losing the game on his own. That's why I ranked this game low, just above the comedy of error games, despite its seemingly nice finish. Even after 34... a3?, 35... Bd4 was still an improvement on the game continuation, either trading away the defending Bishop for the b2 square, or the dangerous Knight? And Black would still be better then! White should've played 36. Bc1 instead of 36. Ba1?! as in several lines the Bishop is better on c1, covering back-rank mates.

FM Victor Shen (18th Place, 3 points):
Though this game may have seemed rather one sided at first glance, Banawa was actually quite in the game until the very end. After Becerra sacrificed an exchange for light square compensation as well as an attack, Black should have probably started immediately on the Queenside with 28... b4. He was still doing fine as both players manoeuvred around, but then missed a chance, 34... axb3, to regain the initiative. Locking the Queenside with 34... a3 was fine also, but only if followed up with Bd4. After this, Black played too passively and was swiftly punished.

Total Score of Becerra vs Banawa: (13th Place, 45 Points)


Stay tuned for eleven 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 5: GM Cristian Chirila (DAL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 0-1 Article

Week 7: WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) vs FM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) 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 #3: IM Marc Esserman (BOS) vs GM John Fedorowicz (NY) 1-0 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


13th Place (45 Points): GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs FM Joaquin Banawa (STL) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

14th Place (44 Points): GM Sam Shankland (NE) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

15th Place (43 Points): GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

16th Place (43 Points): GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) vs IM Gabriel Battaglini (CAR) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

17th Place (42 Points): GM Mesgen Amanov (CHC) vs IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

18th Place (32 Points): GM Hikaru Nakamura (STL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 0-1 Article Elimination Article

19th Place (30 Points): Christopher Wu (NJ) vs NM James Black (MAN) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

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

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