Friday, November 20, 2009

Semifinals 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: GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs IM Dean Ippolito (NJ) 1/2-1/2

In an already wild position, GM Charbonneau threw the spectators for another loop with a very interesting Queen sacrifice, 13. Nxd4!?, creating a severely unbalanced position which eventually, after many more interesting moments, ended in a draw.

Michael Aigner: The Semifinal round saw two thrilling matches, both won by the lower seeded team against draw odds. Unfortunately, there was no obvious Game of the Week, certainly no aesthetic win by sacrificial attack. Pruess and Charbonneau both tried to play entertaining chess, yet neither was able to win. In fact, I believe the two most exciting games both ended in draws (Boards One and Two of New Jersey vs New York).

I selected the wild, yet imperfect, draw between Charbonneau and Ippolito for the Semifinals' Game of the Week. Black stirred the pot in the Four Knight's with 4... Nd4, 7... d5, and the Knight sacrifice 10... Nxe4. Not to be outdone, White raised the stakes with a Queen sacrifice on move thirteen! When the dust settled, White had a pair of Bishops and two Pawns against a Black Queen. White liquidated into an endgame of Rook and Bishop against Queen which he held without adventure. This was a great back-and-forth battle that allowed both combatants to show off their chess skill.

I thought for a long time about how to rank the draw between Benjamin and Kacheishvili and the miniature by Moreno Roman. It came down to the shocking result of the latter's King's Gambit game, with White completely busted after move twelve. Black simply offered up a piece to develop quickly and castle, then found the efficient move order 10... Bxf3, 11... Re8+, and the quiet move 12... Qh5. Bravo to Moreno Roman for being prepared to do battle in such an aggressive opening. Unfortunately, White's lack of resistance (9. Qe1 instead of 9. cxb7+) contrasts starkly to the battle between Charbonneau and Ippolito.

I considered the Benjamin vs Kacheishvili game as well, but to me it lacked a signature move such as Charbonneau's Queen sacrifice. Either player may have earned GOTW by finding a single tactic: 30. Be6 for White and 55... R6c5+ for Black. Finally, Bhat scored a nice win against Lugo, but I could not justify recognizing a player on the losing side in the playoffs. (1st place: 2 points)

Jim Dean: Although this game ended in a draw, it seemed like it was definitely the most interesting game played this week. The opening variation was entertaining, both players played well, and the material imbalance made the game difficult to evaluate at times. Congrats to both players. (1st place: 2 points)

Greg Shahade: Definitely the most interesting game of the week, with a shocking queen sacrifice by Charbonneau. Incredible that both times that these two players faced off, the game ended up winning Game of the Week! (1st place: 2 points)

Jeff Ashton: It is hard for me to select a draw as GOTW. This was by far the most interesting and hard fought game. I did not expect this game to end up in a draw.

On Pruess losing in three moves:

It is inexcusable for Pruess to lose a game like this. In a team tournament, in the Semifinals, with the White pieces, against a lower rated player, seeing the final position is just nauseating.

Of course hindsight is 20/20, but if I were on the team I'd be irritated by my teammate's play while watching it, outraged if he loses, and if he wins I'd tell Pruess "Whew! Don't scare us again like that again!"

And yes, I know that White got a better position that was marred by his own error, but I still don't really like what Pruess did. It's not practical.

I feel bad for Pruess since he's one of the nicest junior players I grew up with and I like to see the beloved San Francisco team win games.

I know Pruess occasionally likes have "fun" with his openings (I remember sitting next to him and seeing him play the Latvian Gambit), but I think he should save it for the World Open or perhaps take up bungee jumping. (1st place: 2 points)

Arun Sharma: This to me was definitely the most interesting game played this week, with some very daring and creative play by both sides in the opening. I considered ranking this first like the other judges, but as often is the case, this creativity also came with some errors (Black playing 14... Bg4 instead of 14... Bxc2!, and White choosing 28. Bf4 instead of 28. Rd8+!). In the end, it was a close decision, but I chose the Moreno Roman game as first simply because even though it was much shorter than I like my choices to generally be, it still managed to be a very interesting game - after every move there was a myriad of possible variations, and it also seemed like the victor really didn't make any mistakes, accurately punishing his opponent's errors. (2nd place: 1 point)

Total Score of Charbonneau vs Ippolito: 9 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

5 points (Arun 2, Michael 1, Jim 1, Greg 1):
IM David Pruess (SF) vs IM Alejandro Moreno Roman (MIA) 0-1

1 point (Jeff 1):
IM Blas Lugo (MIA) vs GM Vinay Bhat (SF) 0-1

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