Friday, September 4, 2009

Week 1 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 $150 bonus prize, second place $75, and third place $50. 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 Dean Ippolito (NJ) vs GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) 1-0

With the match tied at 1.5 and having only a couple of minutes left on his clock, IM Ippolito managed to win this famous endgame and help score a big match win for his team.

Jeff Ashton: Dean Ippolito, a renowned chess trainer, asked me a few hours before this game if I could recommend any good material on checkmating with two Knights against a King and Pawn. Apparently he wanted to show some examples to his students. I told him "No, you'll just have to create your own teaching material", and it seems he took my advice literally.

Ok, I wish that story were true, but alas it is not.

This game was good. Dean does what he does best; play solidly and squeeze (sometimes bore) his opponent to death. Dean is very strong and experienced in these Fianchetto set-ups. Also, Rybka 3 (with no tablebase) has a worse understanding of this specific endgame than Dean.

Even if the game did not end with a "fun" finish it would have been a top nominee. The fact that he checkmated with only two Knights against King and Pawn (in time pressure) sealed the deal. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Nice grind by Ippolito and a fairly clean game by both sides. The middle game both sides seemed to play well with White seeming to nurse a small edge for the majority of the game which he took into the ending. The ending I really was not as sure about - it seemed like White should have been able to win more convincingly as Black had very real drawing chances for much of it, but then probably made it a bit too easy for White to convert by going into the two Knights vs Pawn ending. However, considering the low amount of time, obviously some minor mistakes had to be expected, and the finish of the endgame was obviously nice especially considering the fast pace it had to be played at. A strong win by Ippolito to help start the Knockouts off on the right foot. (2nd place: 4 points)

Jim Dean: This was a really well played game by White which featured the rare two Knights vs. Pawn ending. I really have only seen this ending show up once before in a "serious" game. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: A tough game to decide upon. It certainly wasn't the most exciting game for the first forty moves or so, with Ippolito trying to squeeze the former MVP. Also, it's quite probable that Charbonneau had better defensive chances, even at the very end (before sacking the Bishop on e5). However, this game decided the match result, Ippolito played quite well, and it's very rare that you get to see a mate with only two Knights, even if it's a relatively simple one so I think this game was a deserving winner. Ironically, I believe that the second place GOTW winner, FM Andrei Zaremba, is the only player that I personally know to have been on the wrong side of this type of endgame before (against IM Sarkar in a US Cadet Championship a long time ago). (2nd place: 4 points)

Michael Aigner: No doubt my fellow judges were impressed by the rare two Knights versus Pawn endgame, which was nicely executed. However, I ranked this third behind the more spectacular games by Shabalov and Zaremba. A solid middlegame leading to an instructive endgame would indeed be GOTW material, but it is not clear to me whether this minor piece ending was really winning. For example, 47... Nd8 leaves White's last two Pawns on the color of Black's Bishop with a Knight blockade in place (Black's King might then go to h7 and g6). (3rd place: 3 points)

Total Score of Ippolito vs Charbonneau: 20 points


2nd Place: FM Andrei Zaremba (QNS) vs SM Marc Esserman (BOS) 1-0

Having been building up a strong attack for many moves, FM Zaremba crashed through Black's position with the nice 28. Rxa7+! and soon afterward scored a nice victory.

Greg Shahade: Whenever I'm not extremely inspired by the choices for Game of the Week, I tend to by default just choose the most violent game. Zaremba played very well and had a few simple but nice tactical tricks to deal Esserman his first loss of his USCL career.
(1st place: 5 points)

Jeff Ashton: Black is a very strong player, and he got absolutely annihilated. White attacked with great precision and not a single tactic was overlooked. I personally suspect that Zaremba got lucky on some of his tactics, but if so he should never admit it (but seriously Andrei, you know you were scared when he played 33... Bf7, and you luck-boxed your way into mate in three).

The game was simple and enjoyable to watch. This game is exciting and educational to players of all levels. Black's best plan for most of the game was to wait, move his pieces back and forth and pray that White blunders. The interesting thing is that Black didn't do anything that was obviously bad. Did he really deserve such punishment? (2nd place: 4 points)

Michael Aigner: As a Dutch player myself, I can only congratulate Andrei Zaremba on successfully executing a spectacular attack. Whether home preparation or inspiration matters not; it was instructive to watch! Sadly, Black's resistance ended way too soon and by move twenty it was already over. We can only speculate what would have happened if Black had hesitated with castling and continued with 9... g5 10. O-O Ng6 11. Na4 h5. (2nd place: 4 points)

Arun Sharma: Nice, strong play from Zaremba throughout, building his attack up well, and then carrying it out with some nice tactics, in particular the game ending combination. In many cases, I might have ranked a game of this style higher than the two games I ended up ranking ahead of it, due in large part to the nice tactics (something those two games couldn't really match this one in). However, the stage at which the flashy moves occurred just seemed too easy for White, having so many ways to win as Black never seemed to develop any real counter play, and in the two games I chose to rank higher, it seemed that the winner had to work much harder for the victory. (3rd place: 3 points)

Jim Dean: This was a nice attacking game by Zaremba that had a cute finish. I didn't rank this game quite as highly as it finished because I thought it was a bit one-sided and Esserman's play in general was uncharacteristic as he generated virtually no offense. Still, no fault of Zaremba's as he played his attack very well. (4th place: 2 points)

Total Score of Zaremba vs Esserman: 18 points


3rd Place: GM Sergey Kudrin (PHI) vs GM Alex Shabalov (TEN) 0-1

GM Shabalov cleverly shied away from what seemed destined to be a promotion race with 60... Rh8! and caught his opponent in a surprise mating attack.

Jim Dean: In this game I thought Shabalov made a brave opening choice as Kudrin always seems to be well prepared with his White openings, and playing the Dragon certainly doesn't avoid theoretical pathways. Shabalov played the game in a very scrappy and uncompromising way throughout and most importantly earned the crucial victory for his new team in what may have been the biggest win in Tennessee Tempo history!?!? (1st place: 5 points)

Michael Aigner: People looking for a quick knockout instead were treated to a heavyweight brawl that went the distance. After driving all the way to Tennessee and with the other boards tied 1.5 - 1.5, Shabalov wanted to get his money's worth. Both players had chances in the endgame, but Kudrin was low on time. At the end, Shabalov instructively demonstrated how connected central passers, supported by a King, are far superior to flank passers. The checkmate finale was simply the act to a wild game, which was my top choice for Game of the Week. (1st place: 5 points)

Jeff Ashton: Shabalov is simply good at finding ways to win though this was not a typical Shabalov attacking display that the world has learned to love. The audience gets to see Shabalov's defensive skills as well as his strong endgame ability.

Tennessee might be the most underrated team in the league. Also, Tennessee might be the most underrated state in the US. Sports, economy, clean air, health insurance, nice people, etc. For more information visit: (5th place: 1 point)

Arun Sharma: When I first thought about what my GOTW choices were going to be this week, this game was definitely at the top of my list given how dramatic it was, its importance to the match situation, and the nice fighting spirit showed in what I assumed would be a short draw in the endgame. However, despite those attributes, it did also seem that the endgame play was rather sloppy at several junctures (not surprising considering the extreme time pressure on both sides), and in the end, I ended up giving my highest rankings to a couple of games both of which seemed cleaner on the whole, albeit less exciting. In any case, nice win and fight by Shabalov to put Tennessee in the unfamiliar spot of having started the season off on the right foot which I'm sure they're hoping will blossom into something bigger. (5th place: 1 point)

Greg Shahade: I didn't rank this game for a few reasons. First, I thought the opening was pretty boring, and secondly I thought the endgame was relatively sloppy from both sides. I remember watching when Black played the strange 49... Bf3, allowing White to defend with 51. Ra1, and suddenly things became much tougher for Black, where instead it seemed that Black would have won pretty easily if he just played the natural 49... Rxb5. There were just too many evaluation changing mistakes for me and the bulk of the game wasn't exciting enough. The only things that it had going for it, in my view, was that it decided the match and the name recognition of the players. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Kudrin vs Shabalov: 12 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

9 points (Arun 5, Jeff 3, Michael 1):
GM Eugene Perelshteyn (BOS) vs IM Eli Vovsha (QNS) 1-0

6 points (Jim 3, Greg 3):
IM Eric Tangborn (SEA) vs IM David Pruess (SF) 0-1

4 points (Jeff 2, Michael 2):
GM Alejandro Ramirez (ARZ) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0

2 points (Arun 2):
FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0

2 points (Greg 2):
GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs IM John Bartholomew (DAL) 1-0

1 point (Jim 1):
IM Daniel Ludwig (DAL) vs FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) 0-1

1 point (Greg 1):
FM Ron Simpson (CAR) vs GM Larry Kaufman (BAL) 0-1

1 comment:

NJKOs said...

A deserving winner!