Saturday, January 14, 2012

Game of the Year -- 9th Place

This is the twelfth 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


9th Place: IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) 1-0

The strong exchange sacrifice, 21. Rxf4!, proved very strong as the shattering of Black's Pawns eventually ensured White's triumph.

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 (5th Place, 16 points):
In the old days, before we had computer evaluations, we relied on the punctuation method to tell us who was doing well, and in this game, White would have garnered several exclamation points (i.e., "!’s") in a row during the phase where he is spurning the other side's minors in favor of preserving his own, and giving up clunky Rooks to retain graceful Knights and Bishops (punctuation, is? fun!).

FM Victor Shen (9th Place, 12 points):
I liked this game - it just seemed fresh and creative. Amanov's play was pretty accurate throughout, as he found the powerful 21. Rxf4 (which was certainly planned, possibly since move 16). He did miss a quicker win though (24. Kf2! and if 24... Qxe4 25. Qg4+ Kh8 26. Rg1, and Black must sacrifice his Queen to stave off mate). However, it was still a difficult position for Black to play, and Amanov converted a better endgame. All in all, a creative and interesting attacking game.

GM Alex Lenderman (12th Place, 9 points):
Another interesting sharp Sicilian battle, and I'm usually in favor of those. In this one though Black didn't really play very well. First of all 15... d5 might've been a bit premature. Surprisingly the somewhat unnatural 15... h6!?, a computer move, might be ok! But the idea is unique. If 16. Qg2 Bb7 17. h4, Black answers with 17... h5! and on 18. g5 Ng4. That actually seems ok for Black and d5 can then come with some preparation with great effect now that White played g4. Of course that might be too bold, only computers can tend to play like that. But the next move after 16. g5, 16... d4?! seems not so good. After 16... Nxe4 would follow 17. Nxe4 Nxd3 18. cxd3 dxe4 19. dxe4 Qc4 which seems playable even if a little bit better for White. After Qf3, Black can either attempt to sac an exchange after Bb7 and Bxe4, or play Rd8 to protect against f6 with Bf8. That would probably have been a much better way of defending.

White played extremely well up until a certain point. But the major problem with this game for me is 24. Re1? when 24. Kf2 was just simply winning. 24... Qxe4 leads to mate after 25. Qg4+ and 26. Rg1. And the best Black can do there is the bleak 26... bf5 27. Qxf5+-. Kf2 seems like quite a simple move to me, and White after missing it, Black returned the favor with 26... Qf8?. Instead 26... Qe5! with the idea of Bxf5 gives Black some activity. For example, 27. Bb6 Bxf5! 28. exf5 (Bxd4 then Rg6 comes as a surprise) Qxf5 29. Nxd4 Qg6 30. Qxg6 hxg6 31. Re7, and even though White is probably better, Black is still very much fighting. After 26... Qf8 was played though White finished off nicely.

So all in all a very nice interesting game but mostly it was spoiled by missing 24. Kf2+-, a seemingly a very simple move, and instead giving Black a chance. This would possibly have made the Top Five if not for that big mistake. And also Black did panic maybe a bit with d5 though, but of course White's whole nice sequence with Rxf4 and Ba5 wasn't so easy to see in advance.

FM Ingvar Johannesson (13th Place, 8 points):
A sharp Sicilian game. I really like the exchange sacrifice from White, and it was very nice how the White pieces dominated the board, even after exchanging Queens.

White won the exchange back more or less by force and was left with an easily winning two Pawn up endgame. This game slips a bit though because White had 24. Kf2 which seems like an easy idea to find, simply threatening Rg1+ (if 24...Kh8 25.Qh6). Black has only 24...Bxf5 when the White victory is then only a matter of technique.

FM Alisa Melekhina (15th Place, 6 points):
After Black allowed White to Pawn storm with f5 and g5 and missed either a3 or the intermediate Nd5, it became difficult to defend the unpleasant position. It became a matter of technique from there, which White craftily demonstrated with a timely positional sacrifice and Bishop maneuver. The result was imminent when he obtained a decisive advantage around move 31, and the game really should not have lasted longer.

Total Score of Z Amanov vs Mikhailuk: (10th Place, 51 Points)


Stay tuned for seven 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

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

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

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


9th Place (51 Points): IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

10th Place (48 Points): GM Yury Shulman (CHC) vs IM Mackenzie Molner (ARZ) 1-0 Article Elimination Article

11th Place (47 Points): GM Mesgen Amanov (CHC) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 0-1 Article Elimination Article

12th Place (46 Points): IM Marc Esserman (BOS) vs GM John Fedorowicz (NY) 1-0 Article Elimination 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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