Friday, January 6, 2012

Game of the Year -- 14th Place

This is the seventh 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


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

GM Shankland started a nice tactical finish with 46. Nxd6!, handing the top Board One All Star his only loss of the 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 Victor Shen (4th Place, 17 points):
This game received criticism for the fact that both players made a mistake in the opening, but if it wasn't apparent to two 2600s then it's really not something to cry about. It was a complex game where Sammour-Hasbun made the instinctive, but as it turned out, objectively wrong choice to break with 21... e6, probably hoping for a complicated position in which he thrives. However, Shankland proved to be up to the task and handled the complications quite well, putting Sammour-Hasbun's Queenside in a bind. Though Shankland might have missed a quicker win, his final combination was quite aesthetic. In all his other games this season, the invincible Sammour-Hasbun won game after game by besting his opponents in a complicated, dynamic position, but this was the exception, making it even more impressive.

FM Alisa Melekhina (10th Place, 11 points):
Black was unable to obtain sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn in a Benko, and after coordinating his pieces, Shankland made good use of his extra Pawn on the Queenside. He was able to simplify the position with exchanges, and eventually his material advantage proved decisive. Overall, this game puts into question Black's Qf5-g6 maneuver. It seems that a potentially exciting game was sedated by an early imprecision by Black. Natural and simple moves by Shankland proved effective against Sammour-Hasbun's setup.

This game is not representative of what Sammour-Hasbun is capable of, as evidenced by his three other games in this year’s competition. However, Sam should be commended for halting one of the league’s most dangerous attackers.

GM Alex Lenderman (14th Place, 7 points):
Sammour-Hasbun has played many brilliant games in his USCL career, but in this lone loss of the season it just wasn't his day. This game didn't start on the right foot, beginning with the move 14. 0-0?! which seems to just blunder a Pawn with 14.. g5 15. Nf3 Nxd5. If Sam was hoping for some kind of discoveries with the Knight they don't work because once the Bishop moves from g2, Qh3 comes too powerful with mating threats. Instead 14. Bb2 secured a typical Benko game edge. But for some strange reason Black also returned the favor and missed Nxd5 instead playing 15... Qf5? 16. e4 Qg6 17. Bb2 +/-

One would think that would essentially be it for this game but unfortunately not. White's technique didn't seem great in this game either, despite it looking relatively straightforward. A shaky moment was 23. Qf1?! as 23. e5 looks like it speeds up the process as 23... Ne8 24. Qe4!, and Black's position just crumbles; Black doesn't really have an adequate defence after 23. e5! Instead after 23. Qf1, on move 28 Black had a more tenacious defence with 28... Ne5! instead of 28... Red8?! which is just too passive, already being down a pawn. 29. Qxb6? Reb8 will allow a perpetual on the Queen which can only allow White to play for a win with the strange 29. Be4 as after 29... Qe7 30. Re8 f5 31. Qb7 fxe4, White has given away practically all of his advantage. And after 28... Ne5! 29. a5 Nbd7 30. Ra2 Reb8, White's Queen is forced into passivity, and Black still has chances to hold although it's still +/-, but not +-.

Also, on move 40, White played 40. Ne3?! Instead after 40. Re8! Nb4 then 41. Rxd8!? and 41. Qa4 both win. Black played 40... Ne7 while instead 40... Qd2!? keeps Black in the game as 41. Nf5 Kg6 42. Ra1(look where the Rook has to go now!) Nb4 43. Qb5 Nc2, and even though White is still better, Black is still defending and you see where this is going as it can still become messy. 42... Qb4! would have been more tenacious after 43. Bf1 Qe4. After 42... Qe5 43. Bf1?! was played but 43. Nc4!? was better. 43... Nb4?! finally gave away the game completely while 43... Qe4 keeps Black in the game.

Finally, 45. Re3?! again ruined a big advantage. Instead 45. Rxf7+! Kxf7 46. Qxa7 was also winning on the spot. 45... Qc2?! wasn't best either as 45... Qg6 was better, and Black is again fighting. Black ends up with an ending down a Pawn after 45... Qg6 46. Rxe7, but it's still a battle.

The finish in this game was nice. But it was sloppy in the opening, sloppy with technique, missing several much better continuations and really nothing special all around before the finish so I had to rank it pretty low.

FM Ingvar Johannesson (16th Place, 5 points):
Interesting to see Sammour-Hasbun for once being "spanked" instead of holding the whip for a change! They contested a line in the Benko that Dutch Karel Van der Weide tried out for a while to counter the fianchetto line which was starting to have very good success for White. Black's play is very direct, but it is my understanding that White had more or less completely neutralized this idea. It also felt like White got in control without doing anything special in this game. From there it just felt like standard GM technique to direct the win home, but it had some sloppy moments before the aesthetically pleasing ending. With Black not playing very well and the finishing not exactly clinical I couldn't rank this very high.

FM Ron Young (17th Place, 4 points):
A heavyweight fight to be sure, but even a heavyweight perhaps ought not to lead with his Queen. By move 28, Black was clutching a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

Total Score of Shankland vs Sammour-Hasbun: (14th Place, 44 Points)


Stay tuned for twelve 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 8: GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs FM Joaquin Banawa (STL) 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


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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