Tuesday, December 8, 2009


...It was past 1:00 am and Giorgi was getting ready to play black in a sudden death heads-up match against Miami's board 1, Julio Becerra. Memories of our 2006 final against San Francisco rushed back, when Pascal was in a similar situation with the black pieces against Josh Friedel. But that's getting ahead of myself.

(approximately 7 hours earlier)

The New York Knights and Miami Sharks had similar paths to the final, overcoming draw odds and "upsetting" higher seeded teams to win their respective conferences after middling regular seasons. There were no lineup surprises from our end, as we went with the dynamic GM tandem of Giorgi Kacheishvili and Pascal Charbonneau on 1 and 2, legendary blitz specialist Yaacov Norowitz on 4 and I rounded things out on board 3. Miami's board 1 was no shocker as GM Julio Becerra has been the best and most prolific overall performer in USCL history, despite a subpar 2009 regular season. Miami put veteran IMs Blas Lugo and Alejandro Moreno Roman (a fantastic name!) on 2 and 3. Their lineup was capped by one of the league's most consistent and strongest board 4s, NM Eric Rodriguez, an opponent I've faced since our days in Florida as far back as 1996!

Board 1 saw Julio launch a vicious attack against Giorgi's trademark Caro-Kann.

Becerra - Kacheishvili

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. Be3 cd 7. Nd4 Ne7 8. c4 dc!?

Standard is 8. ..Nbc6 9. Qa4 a6 10. Nc3 dc 11. 0-0-0 where popular choices are 11. ..Qa5 and 11. ..Qc8 with a full battle ahead.

9. Qa4 Qd7 10. Nb5 Nd5 11. N1c3 Bb4 12. 0-0-0!? Bc3 13. Nd6 Kf8 14. Qc4 Be5 15. Nf5 Na6!?

This move looks logical, covering the b4 and c5 squares and threatening Ra8-c8, but also worth considering was 15. ..Nc6 16. Bc5 Kg8 17. Kb1 Qc7 18. Ne3!? Nb6! and black seems like he'll untangle with g7-g6 and Kg8-g7.

16. Bc5 Ke8 17. Kb1 Rc8 18. Qe4 Rc5

Also possible was 18. ..Nc5 19. Qe5 f6 20. Qd4 ef 21. Rhe1 Kf7 22. Bc4 Rhe8 23. Bd5 Kf8 and black is holding.

19. Qe5 f6 20. Qd4 Ra5 21. Bc4 Nac7 22. Ne3 Kf7 23. Bb3 Rd8 24. Qh4 Kg8 25. Rhe1 Ra6 26. f4 g6 27. g4!?

Also interesting was the direct 27. f5 gf 28. g4 f4 29. Nd5 ed 30. Qf2 when white will mop-up black's pawns or 29. ..Nd5 30. g5! f5 31. g6!! and black's position collapses.

27. ..Kg7?

27. ..Rd6! offered holding chances. Now white is winning.

28. f5! Qf7 29. g5! fg 30. Qg5?!

Tricky, but white could have won a piece with 30. Qd4 Qf6 31. Qf6 Kf6 32. fe Re6 33. Rf1 Kg7 34. Nd5 Nd5 35. Rd5 Rd5 34. Bd5, though black's kingside pawns might have provided some kicking chances. Both players were in deep time pressure.

30. ..Rad6??

Much better was 30. ..Re8!, where if 31. fe Rae6 and the tables are turned on white.

31. fe??

Immediately winning was 31. Nd5 Nd5 32. fe Qf6 33. Rd5! Rd5 34. Qf6 Kf6 35. Bd5 Rd5 36. e7.

Now black could battle on with 31. ..Qf4! 32. Qf4 Nf4 33. Rd6 Rd6 34. e7 Ne8 35. Ba4 Kf7 36. Nc4 Re6 37. Ne5 Ke7 38. Bb3! and black has a pawn for the exchange. Instead, the game ends immediately.

31. ..Qe7?? 32. Nf5! 1:0

So Miami took a 1-0 lead, but other events were transpiring on board 3.

On board 3, Moreno Roman chose a Kramnik specialty against the Slav.

Moreno Roman - Herman

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bf6 Qf6 7. g3!?

More popular are 7. e3 and 7. Qb3/c2

7. ..Nd7 8. Bg2 dc 9. 0-0 e5!?

Vallejo Pons held Kramnik without difficulty after 9. ..Be7 in the 2003 edition of Linares.

10. d5 Nb6 11. Ne4 Qe7 12. dc bc 13. Qc2 Qc7!?

Also possible are 13. ..f5 and 13. ..Qe6 which I had opportunity to play later that night.

14. Ned2 Be6?

14. ..Bd6 15. Nc4 Nc4 16. Qc4 should be +/=

15. Ne5! Qe5 16. Bc6 Bd7!?

I also could have tried 16. ..Ke7 17. Ba8 Na8 18. Nc4 Qc5, but white is in good shape after 19. Rfc1 and it's harder for him to go wrong.

17. Ba8 Na8 18. Nc4 Qe6

The critical juncture in the game. White has a nominal material edge (R+2p vs 2B), but needs to pursue his temporary lead in development if he wants to have a comfortable game. Best was 19. Rfd1! Be7 20. Qd3 when black has trouble getting his pieces out (something I misjudged when playing ..Qc7). Instead, probably based on a miscalculation, white lets his entire edge slip with one move.

19. Nb3? Nb6! 20. Nb6 ab 21. Qc3?!

White was certainly not intending 21. Qe6 fe! or 21. Rfd1 Be7, but he needed to bail out. He likely missed black's simple response.

21. ..Be7!

Of course if 22. Qg7 Bf6 traps the queen.

22. Rfd1 0-0 23. Rac1 Rc8 24. Qd3 Bc6 25. b3 Bc5 26. e3 Re8

The first in a weird sequence where I amazingly refuse to play either Qg4-f3 or Qf5-f3, immediately forcing material gains. This move, with the ideas of eventually taking on e3, preventing e3-e4 and the Re8-e6 lift does nothing to spoil the win, however.

27. Qc4 Qh3?

This can be called a mistake as 27. ..Qf5! 28. Qe2 Qe4 wins on the spot. I'd seen the game continuation, which also wins, though white can give back an exchange at points and grovel down a piece.

28. Qf1 Qg4 29. h3 Qf3 30. Kh2 Re6! 31. Rc4 Bd6! 32. Rcd4 Bc7 33. R4d2 Re3! 34. Rd8 Kh7 35. Qg1 Bd8 36. fe Qe2 0:1

That win tied the match at 1, leaving us with what appeared to be slightly better positions on boards 2 and 4. If only things were that simple...

Board 4 was a matchup of two of the league's best, with Yaacov saving the fight for the middlegame.

Norowitz - Rodriguez

1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Be2 0-0 5. 0-0 d6 6. b3 c5 7. Bb2 b6 8. c4 Bb7 9. Nc3 e6 10. Qc2 Na6 11. Rad1 Qe7 12. Qb1 Rfd8 13. Qa1 Rac8 14. dc Nc5 15. Nd4 a6 16. h3 h6 17. Rfe1 Ne8 18. Rd2 f5 19. Bf3 e5 20. Bb7 Qb7 21. Nc2 b5

Rodriguez gets in the programmed b6-b5 break and has gained space on the kingside. White has the d5 square as compensation.

22. cb ab 23. Nb4 Rd7 24. Red1 g5!?

Black must have believed he needed to win for the team, so went with this commital push. Also possible were waiting moves.

25. Ncd5

I had a preference for 25. Qb1 (on this move and later), eyeing black's weakened kingside light squares

25. ..h5 26. f3 Rf7 27. Rf1 f4 28. Qd1 Qa7 29. Kh1 Bh6 30. Rc2

Yaacov plays prophylactically, removing the R from the c1-h6 diagonal, but also possible was 30. ef! gf 31. Qb1 Kg7 32. Rg1 when it is white who attacks!

30. ..Ng7 31. e4 Nge6 32. Nd3 Rcf8 33. Nc5 Nc5 34. Qe2 Rb8 35. b4 Ne6 36. Rfc1 Qb7?

Safer was 36. ..Bf8

37. Rc6 Bf8

Yaacov's logical play should be crowned with 38. Be5 after which black can practically resign. Instead...

38. a3? Qd7 39. Rb6 Rb6 40. Nb6 Qd8

Eric has neutralized white's queenside probes and begins his kingside counterattack.

41. Nd5 g4! 42. fg?

White's sense of danger deserted him. Easier was 42. Qf2.

42. ..Qh4! 43. gh??

43. Rf1 was called for.

43. ..Rg7??

Throwing away the win and possibly the match. After the thematic 43. ..f3! 44. gf Ng5 45. Rc3 Nh3 46. Rc7 Rf3!! 47. Qf3 Ng5 48. Kg2 Nf3 49. Kf3 Qh3 50. Kf2 Bh6! (white threatened Nf6 and Rh7#) and white cannot save the b2 B or the game.

44. Rf1 Ng5 45. Nf4

45. Qe1! trading queens seemed much better

45. ..ef 46. Bg7 Bg7 47. Qb5 f3! 48. Qe8 Kh7 49. Qg6 Kh8 50. Qe8 Kh7

0.5 : 0.5

After that double-edged battle, the season rested on Pascal's Scotch against IM Blas Lugo.

Charbonneau - Lugo

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Bc5 5. Be3 Bb6 6. Nf5 Be3 7. Ne3 d6 8. Nc3 Nge7 9. g3

White could also try 9. Qd2 and wait to see where black will place his king.

9. ..0-0 10. Bg2 f5 11. 0-0 Kh8 12. ef Nf5 13. Ncd5 Ne3 14. Ne3 Be6 15. f4 Qd7 16. Qh5 a6 17. Rae1 g6 18. Qd1 Rae8 19. c3 Qf7 20. b3 Qg7 21. Qd2 Re7 22. h3 Rfe8 23. g4 Bf7 24. g5 Be6 25. Kh2 Kg8 26. Ng4 Bg4 27. hg Re1 28. Re1 Re1 29. Qe1 Qd7 30. Kg3 Nd8 31. Bd5 Kf8 32. Qe3 c6 33. Bf3 Ne6 34. f5?!

Perhaps 34. c4 was worth a try.

34. ..gf 35. gf Ng7 36. Qf4 Qf5 37. Qd6 Kf7 38. Qf4?

38. Qc7 Kg6 39. Qb7 Qg5 with a draw had to be better than the game.

38. ..Kg6 39. Qf5 Kf5 40. Kh4 Kf4 41. Bg4 a5??

41. ..Nf5! was a much better try for black. If 42. Bf5 Kf5, the K+p endgame is a win after 43. b4 b6. If 42. Kh5 Ng3 43. Kh4 Ne4 44. Bc8 Nd6, black has a much improved version of the game, as d6 is a much better square for the knight than g7 and should be winning.

42. Bc8

Now 42. ..Nf5 43. Bf5 Kf5 44. c4! is drawn

42. ..b6 43. Bd7 c5 44. a3??

44. c4! Ke3 45. Kg4 Kd4 46. Kf4 Kc3 47. Ke5 Kb2 48. Bg4!! Ka2 49. Bd1! Kb2 50. Kf6 is drawn.

44. .. Kf3??

44. ..Nf5 wins again! 45. Kh5 Ng3 46. Kh6 Ne4 47. Kh7 Kg5 48. Kg7 Kf4! 49. Kf7 Ke5! shoulder blocks the white king and black wins after 50. Bg4 Nc3 51. Ke7 a4 52. ba Nd5 53. Kd7!? Ne3!! 54. Kc6 c4 55. Be2 Ke4!

45. Bc6 Ke3 46. Kg4 Kd3 47. Bd5 Kc3

47. ..a4!? 48. ba Kc3 49. Kf4 c4 50. Bg8 is still drawn, though black has the fun.

48. a4 Kb4 49. Bf7 b5 50. ab Kb5 51. Kf4 a4 52. ba Ka4 53. Ke5 Kb4 54. Bg8 c4 55. Bh7 c3 56. Bd3 Kb3 57. g6 c2 58. Bc2 Kc2

0.5 : 0.5

With that lucky escape, the match was tied at 2 and headed to a blitz tiebreak. As noted on http://www.uschessleague.com/, this is the fourth consecutive year that the finals have gone to a blitz tiebreak (the first being our loss to San Francisco in 2006).

I liked our chances, given that we had three of the world's best blitz players going and I'd also get a free shot. Anything can happen past midnight, though, and in the first game, Yaacov had black against Eric Rodriguez. After a Petrosian-like exchange sacrifice, Yaacov looked to have a comfortable game with dark-square control and a dangerous passed b-pawn. Eric drummed up some impressive counterplay and could have equalized with 42. Bb1!, with ideas of Re6-f6.

Instead, Eric played 42. Rh1 and lost after 42. ..Qc4 as his kingside attack came to nought.

Having eliminated Rodriguez, Yaacov took the white pieces against Moreno Roman. Moreno Roman's 14. ..c5! secured key central dark squares and he gradually dominated the entire position and converted.

With Yaacov gone, I took a crack at Moreno. We repeated our earlier slow game and I "improved" with 13. ..Qe6, but then ensured a difficult defense by capturing 14. ..cb after 14. b3. With perfect squares for all his pieces Moreno soon won back his pawn and was pressing. I defended tenaciously, but missed my one opportunity with 39. ..Nc3! (instead playing 39. ..Qe7?), which would have kept an interesting fight going. Instead, Moreno shortly won and grabbed the black pieces against Pascal.

Pascal again repeated the Scotch, but blundered with 22. h4 and then again with 23. Bb4. He put up admirable resistance, including the spectacular 28. e6, but had lost too many pawns as Moreno scored a stunning upset, bringing Miami one win away from the 2009 title.

In 2006, we were also down to our board 1 (Pascal), who survived a completely lost (forced mate on the board) position against David Pruess and eventually went on to reach the finals against Josh Friedel. This time, Giorgi's task would be tougher. He had to go +3 against strong opposition and started with the black pieces against Moreno.

After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. dc Qa5 5. c3 Qc5 6. Na3 d6 7. Nb5 a6 8. Be3 Qc6, Moreno could have gone for 9. Na7!?, securing the two bishops. Instead, after 9. Nfd4, Giorgi got a comfortable position and steadily took control of the game. Moreno dropped a piece with the disastrous 19. Bh6 and lost without much of a fight (though Giorgi missed his first mate in 2 of the blitz tiebreak with 27. ..Rf7 instead of 27. ..Qg1!! (which was also available after 28. Nh4). Mate appeared on the board 7 moves later and next up for Giorgi was IM Blas Lugo.

Blas chose the rare 3. ..Ba5 after 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Bb4 3. Nd5, leading to a crazy position after 4. b4 c6 5. ba cd 6. cd. The dubious 9. ..Na6 was all Giorgi needed to secure a comfortable technical edge, which he converted without consequence (though 24. Rc4! would have won on the spot).

So the entire 2009 season would come down to Becerra vs Kacheishvili.

Becerra - Kacheishvili

1. e4 c5!

No Caro-Kann!

2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8. 0-0-0 Nd4 9. Qd4 0-0 10. f3 a6 11. h4 b5 12. g4?!

Standard is 12. Kb1. Now Giorgi gets an opportunity to transform to a standard Najdorf structure with b5-b4 and e6-e5.

12. ..Qa5 13. Kb1 b4 14. Ne2 e5 15. Qd2 Be6 16. Nc1 Rad8 17. Bf6 Bf6 18. g5 Be7 19. Bh3 Qb6 20. h5 d5 21. Nd3 de 22. fe Rd4 23. Qg2 Bc4 24. g6 Bf6 25. Bf5 a5 26. gf Bf7 27. Nf2 Rd1 28. Rd1 Rd8 29. Nd3 a4 30. Qe2 b3 31. Nc1 ba 32. Ka1 Rb8 33. b3 ab 34. cb Bg5 35. Qb2 Be3 36. Ne2 Bb3 37. Rd3 Bc4 38. Qb6 Rb6 39. Rd2 Ba5?

39. ..Bd4! and mates

40. Ra2 Ba2 41. Ka2 Rb6 42. Nc1 Bc3 43. Nd3 g6 44. hg hg 45. Bg4 Kg7 46. Nc5 Kh6 47. Ne6 Rb2 48. Ka3 Rg2 49. Bd1 g5 50. Kb3 Ba1 51. Kc4 g4 52. Nd8 Kg6 53. Nb7 g3 54. Kd3 Rb2

and Becerra resigned, making the Knights the 2009 US Chess League Champions!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Knights Move Past New Jersey to League Championship: Wrap Up by Irina Krush

Hey guys,

I have to say…I am completely wiped out. And I wasn’t even playing. I think that gives you an idea of how difficult our road to victory was.

The match started off on a good foot. I was pleased to see Yakov’s opponent being “creative” with 1.d4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.e3 Nh6!?.

Joel tried to surprise Giorgi with the Caro-Kann Fantasy variation, but seemed to be surprised himself with the relatively rare 3…Qb6!? By move five, Giorgi was up about twenty five minutes on the clock, and nothing he hadn’t seen before had showed up on the board. Joel made a fairly surprising decision to recapture on d4 with the queen, instead of the sharper 7.Nxd4, and the game went into a queenless middlegame. I was confident that Giorgi would be adept at handling this kind of position.

Matt’s opening went even better. In fact, it stayed at the “opening” stage for quite some time, since he played his first fifteen moves instantly, while his opponent, Mackenzie Molner, burned through fifty minutes. So we had a huge time advantage on this board, as well as a promising position, as Molner failed to pose any question marks to the 7…Nc6!? variation of the Bg5 Najdorf.

But of course Pascal’s opening caused some worry. The “staid” Four Knights Game became incredibly sharp when Dean chose 4…Nd4, then later 9…0-0-0. Pascal was aware of a Vallejo-Dominguez game from a few years back where White played the safe and natural 10.Be3 and the game ended in what looked like a forced draw. He didn’t want to enter such a line, so he deviated with the plausible move 10.Bc4, but after Black sacced on e4, it started to look really scary…and I was like, please God, don’t let this be an example of another self-immolation with the White pieces. Are we really just going to get crushed in fifteen moves with White, despite playing the Four Knights!?!?

Out of dire necessity, and maybe because he enjoys sacrificing his queen, Pascal pulled 13.Nxd4!? out of his Canadian fur hat. To be honest, I had no idea what sort of compensation he was counting on for the queen. But at least the queen sac changed the nature of the game. White would get a few pieces and a few pawns, and even a good chance to castle!!

Yakov’s game was smooth, and over quite quickly (Yakov still had forty minutes left on the clock). He got a strong knight on d5 and zeroed in on the weak f6 square, winning a pawn, then two, and finally mating Sean Finn in a double rook endgame.

The other three games were tense, seesaw affairs. Dean made a mistake (wasn’t so obvious, though) right after the queen sac with 14…Bg4 instead of 14…Bxc2 with advantage to Black, and Pascal wound up getting great compensation for the queen. He made many natural moves and some nice ones (like 19.b4), and Black was struggling to stay on the board. Some of the cuter points never came up, but for example Pascal pointed out after the game that Black could never play …b6 (an otherwise desirable move, kicking away the well-placed Nc5) because of Ba6+ and Bb7 and the Black queen will be snared. Isn’t that a nice word? Snared? Coming upon the black queen from behind like that…tricky, tricky Pascal.

It was quite a turnaround. From how things stood in the opening, I never would have dreamed that the board we’d have winning chances on would be Pascal’s board!

Meanwhile, let’s stop by some of the critical moments in Giorgi’s game. After the game, Giorgi expressed wonderment as to what positional considerations underpinned the move 12.Nc4, which allowed Black to simply trade the knight (nope, it won’t get to enjoy the fine d6 square), and leave White with two pretty ineffective minor pieces and Black with a magnificent outpost on e5 for his knight. He expected 12.Bc4 (White is fine with trading bishops) and thought he still had to work for equality there. Black had a very comfortable game after 12.Nc4, the kind I thought Giorgi could play for an eventual win, but he went astray with the too “deep” 17…Rf8. His idea was very nice and all, planning to keep the king centralized on e7, but he missed the simple Ne6 idea (once White’s knight gets to f4), taking advantage of the awkwardness of the rook on f8. After 17…0-0 Black just has a positional advantage. With the continuation in the game, Giorgi was forced to repeat moves with …Ng4-e5 to avoid being worse.

I was a little surprised that Joel declined the repetition and went hunting the h-pawn with Rh3. At that point, Matt was not doing too well, and Pascal’s game was still unclear, so I didn’t think a draw on board one was bad for New Jersey, given their draw odds. Plus, I didn’t see what would happen if Black defended their h-pawn with …h5.

Matt’s promising opening, unfortunately, fizzled into something less than promising. The first critical moment in his game occurred after 18.g4, attacking the bishop on f5. I was gone from the room at that moment, and came back fifteen minutes later to find his bishop on e6. And I was like, oh no, that’s not where the bishop is supposed to be! It was perfect on the h7-b1 diagonal, that’s why you brought it there in the first place. I mean, I understood that Black had some concerns about Bg2 and the attack on the d5 pawn, but it just couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be, that you’d have to retreat to e6 because of that. I thought that 18…Bg6 was correct, and that Black would always have counterplay based on the …Rxc3 exchange sacrifice, with two such strong bishops on their side. So 18…Bg6 is quite fine, but Pascal suggested the immediate 18…Rxc3!? 19.bxc3 Be4! 20.Bg2 and later the computer filled it in for me: 20…Qb6!! with the idea that on 21.Bxe4 there is 21…Bf4 22.Rd2 and the simple 22…dxe4, with advantage to Black. Well, what can I say? I was just very sad for that lovely bishop to retreat into its dark hole on e6. The position is very dynamic in nature, so you have to strive to play it dynamically, every move.

After that misjudgment, Matt’s position hovered between =/+= for many moves. To be honest, I guess I was overly pessimistic about it. Matt was never seriously worse, and he did a fine job of neutralizing White’s slight plus. Psychologically, it was hard for me to cope with the turn of events…where we went from having the initiative and a huge time lead to defending an endgame with zero active counterplay, a passive bishop, and pawn weaknesses. We still had the time lead, though, which was no small thing, and I knew that this type of dry, technical position was not Molner’s cup of tea.

By the way, I’ll mention the other interesting moment in this game. It was after Molner’s 29.Be4. The fact of this move actually appearing on the board was surprising to me, though I had noticed it. It just looked so suspicious, setting yourself up for a pin on the e-file. Matt instantly replied with 29…Bc6, and I wanted to cry. Wasn’t 29…Re8 at least worth some consideration? White is forced to take the d5 pawn and after 30…Kc7, White is pinned, and has three pieces that will make fine targets on the a8-h1 diagonal; Black also has ideas of getting back their pawn with …Bxg4. I didn’t know exactly how good it was for Black; that depended on whether White could find an effective response on move 31, but I felt that Black should be fine.

However, my intuition let me down! Actually, White saves himself with 31.Kd3! (the only square that works), managing to defend himself against all of Black’s threats and remaining up a pawn. So it was a good thing Matt didn’t go for that…although calculating it would still be a good idea, since it’s a potential winning try J

After a bit more maneuvering around (I like Matt’s a5-a4 advance, precluding White’s own a4 ideas), White offered a draw in a position in which he apparently didn’t see how to make progress. I was surprised. By that point, New Jersey really needed to win board three. Dean was losing, and Joel…well, it’s hard to say, since their game kept swinging from one side to the other, but I think at that moment Joel was not at one of his crests. But Mac was short on time, and didn’t have much to work with anymore. The queenside was locked, and Black was sturdily defending their one weakness on d5. The comp gives it as =0.00, so I guess a draw is a fair result, but still…

After Joel continued the game with 23.Rh3, it seems like Giorgi again reacted in an unnecessarily deep way, activating the rook with 23…Rd4 instead of the simple 23…h5. Black certainly “activated” his pieces, if activation means getting a rook trapped in your opponent’s camp, and could have been punished for that if Joel had found the pretty 30.Be6! with a big edge for White. Instead, the tables turned once again after the cooperative 30.Nd3? Within a few moves, it was Black who had built up a dominating position, which he duly spoiled with 35…Nd6?. I know the knight usually wants to be blockading the passed pawn on that square, but in this case the effective thing to do would have been to blockade it with the king, after 35…Nd4+ and 36…Kd6. There wouldn’t be a glimmer of counterplay in sight. Instead, a few more moves passed, and Giorgi blundered the pawn on g6, giving White a superior position. Joel eventually turned that into an extra pawn, and it was starting to look terrible for Black. In time pressure (to be fair, Joel had been in severe time pressure for a very, very long time), Joel blundered with 54.Bd1?, letting Black into the game, and compounded that with 55.Kg5?? which not only loses an exchange as happened in the game, but a whole rook that Giorgi failed to take!! 55…R6-c5+ followed by Nf5+ picks up a rook (Giorgi probably missed that 55.Kf6 leads to mate in one after 55…Rf4). Thankfully I missed all these horrors, because at that point I was completely focused on Pascal’s game. Pascal was very close to winning, and since Matt had a draw in hand, all we needed was a win from Pascal. However, it remained elusive…Dean put up some stiff resistance, finding the resource 30…Qg4! with the idea of hiding the queen on d1 from a discovered attack by the rook (for example, after 31.g3 Qd1+ 32.Kg2 a4 and White’s rook can’t find Black’s queen for their planned rendez-vous!). Of course, at various points in the game White was winning, but it was never that trivial, and it proved unexpectedly tricky in the R+B+ pawns versus Q+ P endgame that Pascal went for, because of that …Qg4 move.

By the time the win had slipped through Pascal’s fingers, however, Giorgi had profited from all the time trouble mistakes to wind up in a position of strength that he used to steer the game to the needed result. So behind a win from our board four, Yakov Norowitz, the Knights overcame New Jersey’s draw odds with a score of 2.5-1.5 to advance to the USCL finals.

I just wanted to say a few words about how proud I am of our team. At the end of the match, the celebration was quite subdued, because we were all …exhausted.

I’m fond of an expression I once heard in a Charlize Theron movie…I think it was North Country. “Win or lose, leave your blood on the ice.” I don’t know if we left everything we could, but we left a lot.

Stay tuned for our battle against Miami for the League Championship.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eastern Conference Finals: Victory!

We defeated the New Jersey Knockouts, top seed in the East, 2.5-1.5 to clinch our spot in the finals, where we'll face the red-hot Miami Sharks.

It was our third match against NJ this year, after losing the first two by the thin 2.5-1.5 margin.

Board 4: NM Yaacov Norowitz -Sean Finn
Board 3: IM Mackenzie Molner - NM Matthew Herman
Board 2: GM Pascal Charbonneau - IM Dean Ippolito
Board 1: GM Joel Benjamin - GM Giorgi Kacheishvilli

Norowitz- Finn
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. e3 Nh6!?

Finn tries an interesting setup, though his follow-through was slightly passive.

4. g3 0-0 5. Bg2 f6

Why not f7-f5?

6. e4 Nf7 7. 0-0 e5 8. c4 d6 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. Be3 f5
11. de!

Exclamation given because this move is not only reasonable but also fits Yaacov's style.

11. ..Nfe5 12. Ne5 Be5 13. Qd2 Bg7 14. Rad1?!

Solid, but 14. Bg5 seemed to cause black some development issues. For instance, 14. ..Qd7 15. Rae1 or 14. ..Bf6 15. Bh6 Re8 16. Rae1 Kh8 17. ef Re1 18. Re1 Bf5 19. Nd5 and white is much better.

14. ..Qf6 15. Nd5 Qf7 16. b3 fe 17. Be4 Re8 18. Bg2 Ne5?!

Why not 18. ..Bf5?

19. f4 Ng4?! 20. Bd4!

A few slightly dubious moves from black and white looks poised to trade off black's best piece and win material.

20. ..Bd4

Also possible was 20. ..c6 21. h3 Nh6 22. Bg7 Qg7 23. Nc3 Nf7, covering d6, but black still has issues after 24. Rfe1 (preparing Nc3-e4).

21. Qd4 c6 22. h3 cd 23. Bd5 Be6 24. hg Bd5 25. Qd5 Qd5 26. Rd5

White should win this endgame, though Finn created some optically dangerous threats with his rooks.

26. ..Re3 27. Kg2 Rae8 28. Rf3 Re2 29. Rf2 R2e3 30. Rd6 Rc3

Black eyes g3
31. Kh3! Ree3 32. Rg2 g5!!?

If his victories over WGM Shahade and WIM Battsteg were not enough, this move alone demonstrates Finn's potential. Black looks to create a g-file tomb for white!
33. fg Re1 34. Rdd2?! Kg7?

Finn misses his chance to make white's life difficult. 34. ..Rh1 35. Rh2 Rg1! 36. Rdg2 Rd1 leaves white's kingside in a funny configuration, though white should be able to eventually untangle.
Norowitz senses that the new danger is to black's king!

35. Rd7 Kg7 36. Rgd2 Rg1 37. R2d6 Kg5 38. Rg7#

A stunning mate.


This victory gave the Knights a 1-0 match lead. On board 3, a starkly different battle was taking form.

Molner - Herman

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Nc6!?

Our previous game had gone 7. ..Nbd7 8. Bc4!? Nc5 9. e5 h6 10. Bh4 g5?! (10. ..de 11. fe g5! was good) and Molner went on to win a crazy game.

8. e5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. fg Nd5 11. Nd5 ed 12. ed (1:26) Bd6 (1:35)

All theory, but Molner, who to this point had used only a few minutes, sank into thought.

13. Qe2 (1:10) Kf8 (1:35) 14. 0-0-0 (1:02) Nd4 (1:36) 15. Rd4 (1:01) hg (1:36) 16. Be1 (0:40) Bf5! (1:31) 17. Bc3 (0:18) Rc8 (1:27) 18. g4 (0:17) Be6? (1:17)

Rightly criticized by Irina as too passive! Black has two alternatives, 18. ..Rc3 and 18. ..Bg6.

On 18. ..Rc3 19. gf! (not 19. bc? Be4! 20. Bg2 Qb6! and black is much better, as pointed out by Pascal) Rc5! 20. Bg2 Rh2 21. Rh2 Bh2 22. c3! white will soon pick up the d5 pawn and the likely outcome is a draw.

Much better was Irina's first inclination (and mine as well) 18. ..Bg6!

White doesn't have time for "solid" moves like 19. Qd2 Be4! -+ or 19. Qe1 Bc5 20. Rd1 d4! 21. Bc4 Qc7! and white loses a piece. The only alternative is the "natural" 19. Bg2 Rc3! 20. bc Qa5! with ample compensation. Black only needs to see 21. Rd5 Qc3 22. Rd6 Qa3! regaining the sacrificed material or 21. Bd5 Qc3 22. Qc4 Qe3 23. Kb1 b5! 24. Rd3 Bd3 25. Qd3 Qd3 26. cd Bh2, and though the resulting endgame could be drawish, black has all the fun.

19. Bb4 Bb4 20. Rb4 Qc7 21. Qf2 b5 22. h3 Rh6 23. Bd3 Qc5 24. Qc5 Rc5 25. Kd2 Ke7 26. Ke3 Kd6 27. c3 Bd7!

Against a2-a4

28. Rd4 Rc8 29. Be4! Bc6

29. ..Re8 30. Rd5 Kc7 31. Kd3!

30. Bg2 Re8 31. Kf2 a5 32. Rhd1 Rf6 33. Bf3 a4 34. a3 Re5 (0:40) 35. R1d3 (0:03)

The only remaining moment of interest. Molner offered a draw after playing his 35th move. At the time, Giorgi looked at least equal and Pascal's game was chaotic. Given the time cushion, I intended to wait, "bughouse-style", to see if we could secure at least one point on boards 1 and 2 before accepting the draw (the position is dead drawn). 39 minutes later, I did, though adventures remained on our top two boards...


After the draw, New York led 1.5-0.5.

Charbonneau - Ippolito

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. Bb5 Nd4 5. Bc4 Bc5 6. Ne5 Qe7 7. Nf3 d5 8. Bd5 Bg4 9. d3 0-0-0 10. Bc4!?

Howell played 10. Be3 against Jumabayev at the World Junior Championship a few weeks ago and went on to win

10. ..Ne4! 11. Ne4 f5 12. Bg5 Qe8 13. Nd4 Bd1 14. Nf5 Bg4?!

14. ..Bc2 seemed to give black better chances

15. 0-0 Bf5 16. Nc5 Rd6?!

16. ..Rd4!? 17. Be3 Rh4! 18. g3 Qh5! and black's position is very attractive

17. Rfe1 Qc6 18. Re5 Bg6 19. b4! Re8 20. Rae1 b5 21. Re8 Be8 22. Be6 Kb8 23. Bg4 Bf7 24. Re7 Qd5 25. h4 a5 26. Nd7 Rd7 27. Rd7 Qa2 28. Bf4 Be6 29. Be6?

White had an immediate win after 29. Rd8 Kb7 30. Bf3! c6 31. Rb8 Ka6 32. c4!

29. ..Qe6 30. Rc7 Qg4! 31. Rf7 Ka8 32. ba Qd1 33. Kh2 Qc2 34. a6 Qd3 35. Rg7 b4 36. Rb7 b3 37. Be5 Qe4 38. f4 Qe3 39. Rh7 Qf2 40. Kh3 Qe3 41. g3 Qe4 42. Rb7 Qf5 43. Kg2 Qe4 44. Kf2 Qc2 45. Kf3 Qd3 46. Kf2 Qd2 47. Kf3 Qd3 48. Kf2 Qd2 49. Kf3 Qd3


New York led 2-1, needing only a half point from Giorgi


1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6!

Benjamin presumably planned on surprising Giorgi with the so-called Fantasy variation, but Giorgi's immediate Qb6 response set Joel deep into thought.

4. Nc3 de 5. fe e5 6. Nf3 ed 7. Qd4 Qd4 8. Nd4 Bc5 9. Nf5 g6 10. Be3 Be3 11. Ne3 Be6 12. Nc4? Bc4! 13. Bc4 Nd7 14. 0-0 Ne5 15. Bb3 Rd8 16. Rf2 Ne7 17. Raf1 Rf8?!

17. ..0-0 retained a strong pull

18. Ne2! Nc8?!

18. ..Rd2, forcing white to exchange rooks, seemed better

19. Nf4!

Now Nf4-e6 is threatened

19. ..Ng4 20. Rf3 Ne5 21. R3f2 Ng4 22. Rf3 Ne5 23. Rh3

Benjamin avoided a repetition, not trusting his teammates to score 1.5 on the other three boards.

23. ..Rd4!?

23. ..h5 also looked OK

24. Rh7 Nd6 25. Nd3 Re4 26. Nc5 Re3 27. Rd1 Ke7?

After this, black's rook becomes inextricable. Better was an immediate 27. ..b6 28. Rd6 bc.

28. h3 b6 29. Kf2 Nf5 30. Nd3?

Benjamin missed 30. Be6! bc 31. Bf5 Nc4 (only) 32. Bg6 Re6 33. Bh5 Nb2 34. Rb1 Rf6 35. Kg3 Nc4 36. Rb7 Ke6 37. Ra7 with an extra pawn, though matters are far from clear.

30. ..Nd3 31. cd Re5 32. d4 Re4 33. d5 c5 34. Kf3 Re5 35. Rd2 Nd6?

35. ..Kd6 36. h4 Nd4! and black is much better

36. Bc2 Kf6 37. g4 Nc4 38. Rf2 Rd5 39. Kg3 Ke6 40. Bg6 Nd6 41. Bc2 c4 42. Rh6 Ke7 43. Re2 Kd7 44. h4 c3!? 45. bc Rc8 46. Re3 Rdc5 47. Rd3 R8c6 48. Bb3 Ke7 49. Kf4 b5 50. h5 a5 51. Re3 Kf8 52. Rd3 Ke7 53. Re3 Kf8 54. Bd1??

54. Rf6 would have maintained an edge for white

54. ..Rc4?

The key theme in this game turned out to be rooks getting themselves trapped in strange places. After 54. ..Kg7! 55. g5 Rf5 56. Kg4 Rc4 57. Kh3 Ne4!, black's pieces run wild and white cannot avoid material loss.

55. Kg5??

55. Kf3 held the balance, though by this point, it was clear that white needed a victory.

55. ..Ne4??

As pointed out by Irina, the simple 55. ..R6c5 won a rook on the spot, as 56. Kf6 is met by 56. ..Rf4 mate.

56. Re4 R4c5 57. Kh4 Rh6 58. Rf4 Rd6 59. Bb3 f6 60. Rf3 a4 61. Bc2 b4 62. c4 Ra6 63. Rf1 Kg7 64. Rb1 Rc4 65. Bd3 Rac6 66. Bc4 Rc4 67. Rd1 f5! 68. Kg5 Rg4 69. Kf5 Rg2 70. Rd4 Ra2 71. Rb4 Kh6 72. Kg4 Rg2 73. Kh4 Rh2 74. Kg4 Rg2 75. Kh4 Rh2


With that draw, the Knights punched their ticket to the USCL Finals, 2.5-1.5!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Knights Advance Against Boston: Wrap Up by Knights Manager Irina Krush

Hey, guys..

Tonight we had a very tense match against Boston.

Actually, now that I think back, there was a point where I felt we were doing well on all boards. Yakov had implemented his …Bd3! trick and had Ilya Krasik on the ropes. Pascal had found …Bf7! and sent Eugene into a deep think, during which I figured out that Black is very, very okay. I wasn’t following Matt and Giorgi’s games too closely, but I knew that they had everything under control; in fact, they both had the bishop pair advantage. I was pretty sure that Giorgi had a stable advantage.

But then Yakov, avoiding some repetitions but unsure how to make progress, embarked on a risky pawn grab, and basically completely handed over the initiative to white. White no longer needed to castle with that rook developed to g1! It was probably still fine (actually, I just checked it with the computer; yes, it was still fine, but black had to find only moves to defend), but obviously such a turn of events was very difficult to handle psychologically and Yakov faltered with 29…Bg6? after which Ilya was just winning. I saw the position after 31.Nxe6 Re8 and thought the game was done. I mean, White has an extra piece on the board and though Black is threatening to win it back, you just feel white has something there. Well, I have to admit, I wasn’t trying too hard to determine how white should win, but indeed white had a win: 32.Bf3 followed by 33.Rf1, trapping Black’s queen.

I was surprised by 32.Bf5. It just didn’t look like a very ambitious move. With white’s king so exposed, black wasn’t risking much of anything in the queen + rook endgame. If I saw nothing else, I’d be leaning towards moving the queen out of the pin (32.Qd5) and taking on e6 with the bishop. But again here, White’s king is a long term problem, so I can see why white didn’t go for that.

I thought Yakov would even have chances in the queen + rook endgame, but apparently it was pretty balanced; white committed no more mistakes, and this game finally ended in a draw, to my relief.

Eugene spent all his time, but didn’t find any reasonable plan for White. I can’t really blame him. It turned out that after 27…Bf7!, black gives back their extra pawn but acquires control of the important d and e-files, plus their queenside majority is mobile and highly unpleasant. Pascal played that part of the game quite well. 29…Qd6 and 30…b4 were natural moves, but he followed it up with a nice pawn sac to get a strong passed pawn on b3. Black still needed to work to convert his advantage; Pascal came up with the plan of …c4 and putting the queen on c5 to pin white’s rook. At first, I wasn’t too convinced by it, but then came the brilliant move 35…Rf8!! I really loved this move, and of course it made perfect sense with Black’s previous moves. I didn’t even consider this idea, since black takes their rook off the open file and places it onto a file that is still blocked! Pretty paradoxical.

So with …Rf8, Pascal forces a trade of major pieces on f2, and is easily winning the bishop endgame…the b3 pawn should just queen. 39…b2?? was hard on the spectator (me). Black can just play …Bf7 and on Bf5 Kg7, then …Bg6, and queen that pawn without ever giving white the a2 square. Instead, it became a very close endgame that white nearly drew. But in the end, black achieved the ‘normal’ result.

Giorgi played a very nice game…and was completely winning when I started watching it closely, after Larry’s 45…h4. I had no idea to what extent it was winning actually; I still thought it was tricky. Larry’s a tricky player, and there he goes, after Giorgi’s king…so I was definitely not relaxed. White had a really nice move there 46.Rc6! getting Black’s queen off the c-file and acquiring the c4 square for his own queen after the follow up blow 47.Rxg6! So that was one crushing option…then 47.Rxg6 instead of Qd4 on the next move…then 48.Ra7 instead of Rxg6…Giorgi will probably be disappointed that he missed all these wins. Instead when he finally played Rxg6 (still a nice idea!), it was nowhere near as effective, and Black got big counterplay with …Kh7 and …Rg8. It was pretty scary to see Black’s rook arriving on the g-file…white had to start thinking about how not to lose, but fortunately there were still resources…Black could have drawn with 50…Rb-d8 instead of the final mistake 50…Qc1??. But at least Giorgi’s endgame technique was up to par. I always feel comfortable when I see him getting those two pawn up endgames :)

Matt unfortunately self-destructed in an equal endgame.

Giorgi was very happy with his win….so was Pascal, when he finished about fifteen minutes later…I think there is just something about winning for the team. You feel more, because you know how much the team needed you, and you know that your win makes such a huge contribution to the success of your team. They’re both great team players.

Stay tuned for our Eastern division final against New Jersey next week.

Eastern Semifinals: Knights defeat the Blitz!

Whew! With the clock ticking toward midnight, that was the only response I, and probably the entire contingent of Knights' fans could muster. Seemingly in control of the match, with favorable positions on all boards, despite Boston's draw odds, we demonstrated once again that you cannot take anything for granted in the USCL.

On board 4, Yaacov looked headed for a slightly inferior endgame against Boston stalwart NM Ilya Krasik. Perhaps sensing the need for a victory, Norowitz decided on an interesting pawn sacrifice that soon paid dividends, as Ilya's king was caught in the middle. Norowitz soon had at least a draw in hand, when Ilya offered two pawns in a desperate bid to free himself. Krasik's resourcefulness paid off, as he soon developed massive counterplay against the black king. In Krasik's time pressure, Norowitz missed a cute perpetual idea and the game was drawn.

On board 3, I faced the dangerous veteran NM Vadim Martirosov, fresh off a win over NM Evan Rosenberg, in a Rossolimo Sicilian. After a slight opening inaccuracy from Vadim, my position was slightly better owing to a strong e4/d4 pawn center. When Vadim lashed out with b7-b5, hoping for queenside counterplay, I opted for the committal e4-e5, trading fluidity for the opportunity to bottle up black's kingside. At this point, I started playing second-best moves, allowing black to simplify, rather than grabbing what should have been a clean extra pawn. I held a slight edge, and then thought I could transpose into a slightly better rook and bishop endgame. In my haste, I essayed the terrible 29. Rc6?? which should lose on the spot to 29. ..Bg3!! (which would have earned Martirosov move of the week, if not game). Instead we entered what should have been a drawn endgame, where I proceeded to commit hara kiri. Martirosov didn't have to be asked twice and reeled in the full point, giving Boston a 1.5-0.5 lead.

On board 1, Giorgi started with 1. d4 but soon ended in a g3 Pirc against living legend GM Larry Christiansen. Giorgi was able to maintain a slight edge throughout and avoided some last-ditch swindle tactics, finally forcing resignation in a two pawn up rook endgame. With Giorgi's win, the match was knotted at 1.5, putting Pascal in a must-win situation on board 2.

Shortly into the match, board 2 looked to be the worst for the Knights, as GM Eugene Perelshteyn built an impressive position and time edge against Pascal in a Catalan. Pascal's prospects went from bad to worse after Eugene struck with 18. Nf7!. Dogged defense, however, paid off and by 29. ..Qd6, Pascal was no worse. After 35. .Rf8!, Pascal was likely winning in a remarkable turnaround. Time pressure began to take its toll as Charbonneau missed the instantly winning 39. ..Bf7 40. Bf5 Kg7!. Instead, after 39. ..b2?, a study-like endgame arose. With both players under two minutes, Pascal managed to round up white's a-pawn and cut off the white king, clinching the match for New York!

Week 10: Knights fall to Boston

We closed the season with a "meaningless" 2.5-1.5 defeat at the hands of our upcoming playoff rivals, the Boston Blitz.

On board 1, Giorgi demonstrated that one of the best ways to refute a sacrifice is to accept it, holding steady against Jorge Sammour-Hasbun's onslaught. A cute exchange sacrifice forced a transition to an easily winning endgame.

On board 2, Irina looked poised to win game-of-the-week honors with a beautiful kingside attack, before faltering in time pressure. Shmelov hung in and didn't miss his opportunity, capturing the full point.

On board 3, Yakov easily held a draw with the black pieces against WGM Anya Corke. After the opening transitioned from a Trompowsky to an IQP structure, simplifications soon led to a bishops-of-opposite-colors endgame.

On board 4, Evan looked to be in reasonable shape in a queenless middlegame before dropping a piece to Martirosov's kingside pawn roller. Martirosov's technique was solid and he reeled in the full point, clinching the match.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Week 10 mid-match report

Things look dicey on board 4, as Evan dropped a piece in a queenless middlegame against Vadim Martirosov, though he does have two pawns.

On board 3, Yacov's position against WGM Anya Corke has undergone multiple transformations, starting as a Trompowsky, then becoming a standard IQP and is now a symmetrical BOOC middlegame. We'll either see quick peace or violence!

On board 2, Irina is pressing Denys Shmelov's kingside with an aggressive opening. White's chances look superior.

On board 1, Giorgi is defending against Jorge Sammour-Hasbun's double pawn sac and it looks unbalanced.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Week 9: Playoff bound!

Tonight the Knights beat the Baltimore Kingfishers 3-1 to clinch the #3 seed in the East. In the process, we moved over .500 for the regular season for the first time since October 1, 2006(!). Despite our middling regular season play, we've reached the playoffs for the fifth straight season (out of five), joined only by San Francisco in accomplishing that feat. Next week we play Boston in a preview of our first round playoff match.

On board 1, Giorgi got the better of an Advance Caro-Kann against GM Sergey Erenburg, soon building a massive time advantage. Erenburg was able to wriggle free and forced perpetual.

On board 2, another Advance Caro, Pascal dominated the opening and looked to be on a smooth path to victory before IM Enkhbat played a series of stunning moves (..Rh6 and ..Rh4 to start) that complicated the position. If black had found the natural 31. ..Qb5!, white would be forced to give back his material advantage after 32. Rcc3! (32. Qh6 Ba6 is winning for black) a4 33. Qh6 Ba6 34. Rcd3 Qc6 and black is perhaps even slightly better. Pascal found the accurate Rf3!, Kc2! and e6! to consolidate, reel in the full point and punch our ticket to the playoffs.

On board 4, Yaacov looked to have a comfortable +/= against Jared Defibaugh. Defibaugh defended well and after a tactical miss by Yaacov (29. Qb2! Bc2 30. Bb7!! +/-), Defibaugh had a queen for a rook, piece and pawn and due to white's temporary lack of coordination, good winning chances. The first try was 30. ..Bc2! 31. Rc1 Qd7 32. Rc2 Qd4 33. Kg2 Qd3 34. Rc8 Bf8 35. e6 g5!! and the black queen works miracles, forcing white to shed significant material. After the less accurate 30. ..Bf5, Yaacov improved his pieces and soon liquidated the queenside. Defibaugh's 33. ..a5!? would have been looked back upon as a extraordinarily devious trap if, after the natural-looking 37. Nd5??, black had found the stunning 37. ..Qe2! 38. Ne7 Kg7(h7)!! (not 38. ..Kf8 39. Rd8! Ke7 40. Bc6! and black has to force perpetual). White has a nominally crushing material advantage (rook/bishop/knight/two pawns for a queen), but cannot avoid severe losses and eventual mate!

On board 3, I had the black pieces against WGM Sabina Foisor, fresh off of an appearance at the US Women's Championship in St. Louis.

Foisor - Herman
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 Nbd7 5. cd?!

Foisor exchanges on d5, as did Andrei Zaremba in our week 3 match. Neither experiment seemed to have worked.

5. ..cd 6. Nf3 e6 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. Bd2 a6 9. Qe2 b5!

Black has won the battle for e4 (10. e4 b4!) and is better.

10. 0-0 Bb7 11. Rfc1 0-0 12. a3

White prevents b5-b4, but seems to have no concrete plan.

12. ..Ne4! 13. Ne1 e5!

It was tempting to go 13. ..f5, but white responds f2-f4 and can grovel for equality. With Foisor's pieces in retreat, it's time to open the center.

14. Ne4 de 15. Bb1 Qh4!?

Also possible was to interpose 15. ..cd 16. ed, when the game has a decidedly different flavor. Black would have a permanent positional edge, but also potentially free white's pieces. I decided instead to restrain the white N, Q and d2 bishop.

16. g3 Qh3 17. Bc3 Rae8 18. Qf1 Qh5

White's Q is out of moves, unless you count the fianchetto!

19. Ba2 Kh8 20. Rd1 Bb8 21. Bb4 Rg8 22. d5?

White tries to gain counterplay by pushing her d-pawn, but it was necessary to try to simplify with 22. de Ne5 23. Bd6. Now black has a free hand on the kingside.

22. ..f5 23. a4 f4!

The queenside is of no importance as white's king is under siege!

24. ab Ba7! 25. Ng2

A fianchettoed knight with no prospects is never a good sign. Now white has problems defending h2!

25. ..Nf6! 26. d6 Ng4 27. h4 fe

A critical moment. Those who have allowed Rybka to atrophy their calculation skills will declare that 28. d7 provides white sufficient counterplay. Time to take the red pill!

28. ..ef 29. Kh1 Rd8!! 30. Bg8 e3!!

31. Bd5 Bd5 32. Rd5 Qf7!! with threats of Qf3-g3-h3 and Qf3/e3-e2.

White is forced to play 33. Qd1 f1Q 34. Qf1 Qd5 35. Ba5 Rd7 36. Qf8 Qg8 37. Qg8 Kg8 38. b6 Bb8 39. Bc3 Rf7! (the Ng2 continues to be a source of discomfort) 40. Ne1 e4! and black is winning.

28. fe Ne3 29. Ne3 Be3 30. Kh2 Ref8! 31. Bg8 Rf1 32. Rf1 Qe2 33. Kh1 Bf2!

The last finesse. It was not too late to blunder the game away with the over-cute 33. ..Bg1 34. Kg1 e3 35. Bd5!! and wins. White decides to play til mate.

34. Kh2 Bd4 35. Kh3 Bc8 36. g4 Qg4 37. Kh2 Qh3#


Playoffs?? Don't talk about playoffs!

With New Jersey's win and Boston's draw, the first three seeds in the East are set, while Baltimore and Philly will battle for the 4th and final playoff spot in week 10 [Chris correctly points out that Queens has not been eliminated, though they need some help]. Amanda Mateer's stunning 300-point upset over Josh Sinanan means that 1/2/3/4 are up for grabs in the West, though Seattle is still in the driver's seat, with a one match lead. Miami has clinched at least the #4 seed with their draw against Boston.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 8: Draw death

In week 8, the Knights inexorable sideways march continued, with a tense 2-2 draw against the cellar-dwelling Carolina Cobras. The white pieces went 4-0 as tight and tough losses on boards 2 and 4 were balanced by Pascal's masterful handling of the two bishops and space advantage on board 1 against IM Jonathan Schroer and SM Greg Braylovsky's steady victory against FM Ron Simpson on board 3.

This match marked NY Knights all-time MVP points leader Braylovsky's 2009 debut and NM Raven Sturt's 2nd match of the season, making him eligible for playoff action.

On board 1, a Bb5/Bb4 Four Knights led to a position where Pascal seemingly held all the positional trumps: space, two bishops, pawn breaks. Schroer's response was to, borrowing a phrase from John Fernandez, "barnacle" -- retreat his knights to f8 and d7, and shuffle his rook between e8 and d8, hoping that white could not defeat his fortress. With the match situation looking critical, Pascal finally began pushing his kingside pawns, eventually winning the f7 pawn. He temporarily sacrificed the exchange to reach an easily winning rook and pawn endgame.

On board 2, Irina solidly defended a Queens Indian Declined against FM Oleg Zaikov, but faltered in time pressure, as her weaknesses on the light squares and back rank proved too much to handle.

On board 3, Greg built a massive time advantage with the subtle 3. c3, a move that Simpson had apparently not prepared for. After a tactical hallucination (..c4), Simpson played with extreme resourcefulness, developing significant kingside counterplay. Greg was up to the challenge, eventually giving back his extra pawn to activate his knight. The very pretty Qd8 ended all of black's hopes and he lost on time.

On board 4, Raven and NM Craig Jones engaged in a move-order duel, as an English became a KID became a Maroczy Bind/Accelerated Dragon. Raven played quickly and confidently, building a dynamic position while Jones slipped behind on the clock. Unfortunately, Raven went for the positionally dubious ..d5, after which Jones' pieces activated and he soon won a pawn. Undeterred and perhaps assisted by some dubious technique from white, Raven soon developed massive counterplay and looked to be better in the rook, knight and pawn endgame. In mutual time pressure, though, Raven managed to lose back a pawn and could not hold the resulting rook and pawn endgame, as Jones reeled in the full point.

Playoffs?? Don't talk about Playoffs!

With two weeks remaining, the Knights are a half point ahead of fourth-place Baltimore, whom we will conveniently play next week. To modify the Russian adage, four results are possible. If the Knights can beat Baltimore, we'll practically wrap up 3rd, with a shot at 2nd if Boston loses to Miami (not San Francisco as pointed out by Ilya). A drawn match would also keep the Knights in good playoff position, but require another draw in week 10 to hold on to 3rd. A loss to Baltimore would have the Knights in 4th going into the final week, potentially needing a win against a motivated Boston team.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 7: Another draw

The Knights again failed to break .500 with a 2-2 draw against the Philadelphia Inventors, with Evan Rosenberg's clutch victory on board 4 balancing IM Bryan Smith's upset of the red-hot Giorgi Kacheishvilli on board 1.

The match marked the 2009 debuts of recent HOF inductee GM John Fedorowicz and the ever-dangerous NM Evan Rosenberg, best known for his loss "to a can" and unusually measured blog posts.

On board 1, Giorgi played a strangely passive opening and Smith found the critical 15. ..b4!, highlighting his edge in development and the awkward placement of the white pieces. Smith's accurate play continued with 19. ..e5 and he soon won an exchange and converted the ensuing endgame.

On board 2, John played a very energetic game with black against FM Tom Bartell and agreed to a draw after 32 moves, but appeared to miss the promising 29. ..h3 that would have given him a permanent pull.

On board 3, Yaacov made his board 3 debut against IM Richard Costigan and turned a drawish middlegame into a favorable knight endgame, but missed an opportunity to win a pawn and the game petered out into a draw.

On board 4, Evan gained an optically favorable position in the Exchange Caro-Kann, but the rising Kavinayan Sivakumar soon developed counterplay. Sivakumar twice missed opportunities to simplify into slightly better endgames and went down in flames as Evan's kingside attack won an exchange, leaving white with little compensation.

Week 6: Implosion

The Knights drew a disappointing match against the Baltimore Kingfishers, despite getting impressive victories from Giorgi on board 1 and Yaacov on board 4, as I imploded with the white pieces on board 3 and Pascal failed to hold a reasonably drawish position on board 2 against GM Erenburg. This drawn match left us at 3-3.

On board 1, Giorgi rattled off another impressive example of opening preparation, winning almost effortlessly vs GM Kritz on board 1 in a Hedgehog.

On board 4, Yaacov won a very steady game, finishing with a cute mating attack.

On board 2, Pascal ably defending a Hedgehog-like position before making some inaccurate simplifications that led to a difficult and then lost knight endgame.

My implosion on board 3 was in stark contrast to the prior week's effort against Naroditsky. In the 9. Nd5 Sveshnikov, Uesugi played the very interesting 15. ..Bd7, championed by Radjabov and avoiding the complications that usually follow 15. ..Rb8. Taking advantage of a series of subpar moves by your humble blogger, capped by 19. f3, Uesugi quickly developed a strong initiative and won in short order. A potential improvement was 19. Bd5, sacrificing a pawn for light-squared compensation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 5: All systems go; back to .500

Last night we beat the powerhouse San Francisco Mechanics by a comfortable 3-1 margin on the strength of a very classical +2 with the white pieces and =2 with black.

On board 1, as alluded to by Irina, Giorgi unfurled a devastating piece of preparation against Josh Friedel's Nimzo-Indian. In a rare piece-sacrifice line played before by both Aronian and Kharlov, Giorgi was soon up two pawns, with a massive edge on the clock and converted with precise endgame technique.

On board 2, Irina played the super-solid QGA and played a very strong game against new American GM Jesse Kraii. Kraii was unsatisfied with equality and blundered a queenside pawn which gave Irina winning chances in a rook and pawn endgame. With the match in hand, Irina played for a win without risk, unfortunately missing a very good try and had to settle for a draw.

On board 4, Yaacov again trotted out his trademark Nf6 Caro-Kann and reached a balanced double rook endgame against phenom Yian Liou. Sidestepping any tricks, Yaacov steered the game to a peaceful conclusion.

On board 3, I faced former World Under 12 champion FM Daniel Naroditsky, one of America's brightest stars. He chose to repeat a line that had arisen during my disappointing loss last year to Eric Rodriguez.

Herman - Naroditsky

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 b5 8. f3 Nbd7 9. Be3 Nc5 10. Qd2 Bb7 11. 0-0-0 Be7 12. g4 Nfd7 13. g5 Ne5 14. h4 0-0

Against Rodriguez, I played 15. f4 and could only muster equality, before blundering a pawn and losing. White has better!

15. h5! b4 16. Nce2 a5

Pawn rushes against opposite-castled kings. This is definitely a Sicilian!

17. g6 a4 18. h6!

Now at least one kingside file will be opened.

18. ..Ng6!?

A very interesting choice, as black removes a knight from the center, while maintaining queenside threats.

19. Bd5!!

Computers seem to love 19. hg, but black has the very simple 19. ..ab! and after 20. gfQ Bf8, full compensation for the exchange.

19. ..b3

Black's a/b pawn duo mimics the advance of white's h/g tandem.

20. Nc3! a3?! 21. cb

The potential counterplay against the white king has dissipated.

21. ..ed 22. hg Re8 23. Qh2 Bh4

If 23. ..Nh4 24. Nf5 Bg5 25. Bg5 Qg5 26. f4 Qg2 27. Qg2 Ng2 28. Rh7!! and wins

24. Nf5

Kasparov has often said that a strong Nf5 is worth a pawn -- here it is worth a king!

24. ..de 25. Rd6 Nd7 26. f4!

The prosaic Qd2 also wins, but it is impossible to avoid a simple pawn move that deadens every black piece save the a8 rook!

26. ..Re6 27. Bd4! h5 28. Re6 fe 29. Nh6 Kh7 30. g8Q Qg8 31. Ng8 Rg8 32. Rg1 Ndf8 33. f5!

Black loses another piece and thus resigned.


Knights off to a FANTASTIC start!!

Hi all, for a long time I have claimed I am about to post. I found the most lame way to do so, posting someone else's post! So without further ado, I hereby present Irina's post and make my first post on this blog. I continue to promise that I am about to post. Don't lose faith in the Knights!

Hey guys,

Did you SEE Matt’s game against Daniel Naroditsky!!?!? Oh my god!! I only saw it after getting home from the match. Thankfully, Matt was sitting on the opposite side of the room, and I never had an inkling of what was going on in his game…Well, actually, I did glance at his board once, the position was already totally crazy; I made a guess that he was doing alright, and stopped thinking about it, since there was no way I could evaluate it while playing my own game.
But back to his game. WOW!!! I had no idea we had such a killer on our team. I’ll let him tell you about it in more depth, but what stood out to me…first, Matt offered his light squared bishop twice in the game! (on b3 and then on d5). I also like the cold-blooded move 20.Nc3, dealing with Black’s threats on the queenside and simultaneously opening the second rank for operations by White’s queen. Then 26.f4 was another non-obvious move, taking a time-out in the attack to clamp down on any counterplay by Black.
I haven’t studied the competition closely, but to me…this game looks like GOTW winner. Go Matt!!
On to our other beautiful victory…right before the match, Giorgi told me he’d prepared the line that you saw in the game. He said he got so into the analysis that he stayed up till 3:30 in the morning working on it! And then it appeared on the board…I don’t know how far his preparation went, but I’m assuming it contributed a lot to the final result. Looking at the game from home, I’d describe it as: very good preparation, leading to a position ripe for finding knockout blows, which were found, and then precise endgame technique. This is Giorgi’s first win in the USCL, and now that he’s broken out of his mouse slips, move order mix ups, and one move blunders, I think we’ll get to see his real level of play. Because he is that strong.
Well, Matt won fairly quickly, and Giorgi was nursing two extra pawns in the endgame, so all that remained was for me and Yaacov to hold with Black.
My game with Jesse was a tense, strategic battle in the dxc5 line of the QGA. I’ll admit, I spent most of my day searching for equality for Black in the dxc5 QGA, and it was not the most inspiring day! I guessed this line was likely to come up, based on the fact that Jesse had played it before, and that Jesse enjoys playing endgames, and has a tendency to choose lines that transition from opening-endgame right away when given the opportunity (ie, his dxe5 against the King’s Indian, with which he won a very nice game against Bruci Lopez earlier this season). It’s the kind of line that is not much subject to concrete analysis, so even spending many hours on it with the computer doesn’t get you that far.
So why did I allow a line where Black has to fight for equality from the get-go, with very little prospective of playing for a win himself?
Well. If I can not defend Black’s position in the dxc5 QGA, an outwardly innocuous endgame line, how can I play the QGA at all? But the QGA…is my opening. I’ve played it since I was eleven years old. So I’ll defend it against the sharpest 7.Bb3 lines and against the dry, bore-you-to-tears 7.dxc5.
You know, 7.dxc5 has inflicted pain on me in the past. I didn’t appreciate its nuances, and I lost a number of games in it. But because I lost ,I was forced to learn how to play it. And I did learn. It’s actually a structure of position that I feel comfortable in now. And here’s the funny thing: I could have played into Jesse’s pet King’s Indian line, and tried to fight my way out of += there, but Jesse has so much more experience in it than I do. But in the 7. dxc5 Queen’s Gambit Accepted, I have more experience. So that’s why I chose to fight on this turf.
Actually, the game didn’t bore me to tears. We left ‘theory’ very early, when Jesse came up with the Nb3-Nfd4-Na5 setup, and I was left to my own devices. I think I reacted pretty well (Bd6-Nb6-e5), maybe optimally, because I got a very comfortable game. Somewhere along the way Jesse overpressed, maybe under the influence of how SF was doing on their Black boards, and his knight got stuck on c6. The game turned in Black’s favor. I didn’t do exhaustive analysis, but I think I should have won the rook endgame (56...Kd5 was just a blunder; 56...g5 seems to be a very good winning attempt).
Yaacov also reached some rook endgame, and his game ended in a quite logical draw.
So in the end we won 3-1. We could have gotten a little more out of that, but that’s okay. It was an important victory for our team, and as for me…I was glad to get in a match before leaving for Saint Louis! With all my traveling (three weeks in China and now two in Saint Louis), this is the only match I’ll have played until at least week Eight.
Yeah, for a ‘manager’ I’m not there that much. But I am always with the Knights in spirit! When I was in China, I followed their games live, because with the twelve hour time difference, the games were played during my mornings. That was convenient, except my own preparation didn’t advance that much during the Knights games 
Anyway, when I’m not there, Pascal takes care of the Knights for me. I leave them in the most competent hands you’ll ever find 
Good luck to San Francisco for the rest of their matches. I hope to face them one more time this season.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 4: Knights fall to New Jersey

We lost a very tough match tonight against the surging New Jersey Knockouts, who are off to a perfect 4-0 start. By comparison, we are 1.5-2.5, clinging to the 4th and final playoff spot in the East.

New Jersey played very well on all boards and earned a well-deserved victory.

On board 1, Giorgi managed to wriggle out of a dead-lost position against Joel Benjamin. 18. Rf7! would have immediately ended matters. Instead Joel allowed Giorgi's king to escape to the queenside and, in deep time trouble, gave perpetual check.

On board 2, Pascal held a small pull throughout the game against living legend Boris Gulko, before eschewing 39. Nd8! for 39. b4?!

Gulko's active pieces put Pascal on the verge of defeat and he was forced to shed a knight to avoid mate. Gulko got careless with his extra piece and after 54. ..Ke6??, Pascal only needed to find 55. Nd5!!, immediately forcing a stalemate draw after 55. ..Bd5 56. b7 Bb7. Alas, it was not to be for the Knights, as Pascal instead played 55. Nf5?? and Gulko was able to round up the b-pawn while avoiding stalemate, securing the point.

On board 3, Mac Molner played a stellar game on the white side of a Najdorf, using nearly all of his remaining time to find the super-precise 21. Ne5!, temporarily sacrificing a piece to consolidate and win. Other moves would not have sufficed. For instance, 21. Bd3 Bh6! 22. Qg8 Ke7!! 23. Qa8 Qe3 24. Be2 Bb5 25. Qb7 Kf6 and white has to sacrifice back his queen to avoid mate.

On board 4, Yaacov played a very sedate game against rising junior Anna Matlin. She missed her chance for another upset prize with 34. ..e3?, dropping a pawn and leading to a lost endgame. Instead, the prophylactic 34. ..Kh6!, preparing 34. ..e3 would have led to at least a draw. For example, 34. ..Kh6 35. h4 e3 36. Qe7 ef 37. Kf2 Qb2 38. Ke1 Qc3 when white cannot avoid the perpetual. Yaacov's technique in the rook and pawn ending was impeccable and he scored the Knights' sole victory.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 3: Knights back to .500

The Knights got into the win column in 2009 with a convincing 3.5-0.5 victory over their cross-town rivals, the Queens Pioneers.

On board 1, Giorgi got a promising position against Alex Stripunsky's Trompowsky and was close to winning with either 34. ..Re1 or 34. ..Nf4, but played 34. ..Re2 which led to a draw by perpetual check after 35. Ne5! R7e5 36. de Qg4 37. Kf1 Rb2 38. e6 Nf4 39. Qd4 f6 40. gf Qh3.

On board 2, Pascal prepared a nasty surprise for roommate Dmitry Schneider in a sharp line of the Two Knights Defense. After 14. Qh5!, Pascal was winning and Dima resigned before making his 21st move.

On board 4, Yaacov looked poised to deploy his trademark Stonewall, but Elizabeth Vicary had prepared a tricky move order with an early exchange on d4 and Qc7. In what looked to be a pawn blunder (given the times spent on each move), Liz soon got great compensation for her missing d5 pawn. Yaacov consolidated and luckily got a takeback on Qh4-h5 in the position below (he did not intend to move at all, but his hands brushed the touchpad). Instead, after the more reasonable Bc6, he traded pieces and ground out the full point in a rook and pawn endgame.

On board 3, I was paired against the red-hot FM Andrei Zaremba (Pascal and Dima's other roommate). In the first two weeks, Andrei has garnered multiple GOTW nominations, including a second place for his victory against IM-elect Marc Esserman. Zaremba had his third white in a row and I was looking to score my first points of the season after starting with a difficult loss to NM Victor Shen in week 1.

Zaremba - Herman

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. cd?! ed 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. 0-0 0-0 9. Qc2 Re8 10. e4?! de 11. Ne4 Ne4 12. Be4 Nf6

12. ..h6 also warranted consideration, as the Bc1 has no natural home and Nd7-f6 and Bc8-g4 are coming.

13. Bf5?! Qa5N 14. Bc8 Rac8 15. Bg5 Ne4 16. Bh4 Qd5

Black's pieces have all found natural squares, with tempo. I briefly considered 16. ..Qf5 to prevent 17. Bg3, but white can simply play 17. Qb3.

17. Rfe1 Re6 18. Re3?

White's sense of danger is missing. 18. Bg3 was necessary, though black is for choice after 18. ..Bg3 19. hg Rce8.

18. ..f5!

Suddenly the Bh4 lacks for squares and the Re3 is in the path of the onrushing f-pawn.

19. Rae1 Rce8

Black threatens h6 and g5 so white tries to bail into an endgame.

20. Ng5 Ng5 21. Bg5 f4!

The bishop's troubles will live on.

22. Re6 Re6 23. Re6 Qe6 24. Qb3 Qb3 25. ab

Black wants to bring his king to d5 before white gets to d3. This was accomplished by combining threats to snare the g5 bishop with a timely f4-f3 push.

25. ..h6! 26. Bd8 Kf7 27. f3

If 27. Kf1, black has 27. ..f3!

27. ..Ke6 28. Ba5 Kd5 29. Kf1 Kd4!

If 29. ..g6 30. Bc3 b5 31. Ke2 b4 32. Be1! Kd4 33. Bf2 Kd5 34. Ba7 Be5 35. Kd3 Bb2, it will be nearly impossible to break white's blockade.

30. Bc3 Kd3 31. Bg7 h5 32. Kf2 Bc5! 33. Kf1 Ke3!

Eschewing the unclear pawn hunting after 33. ..Kc2 34. g4 fg 35. hg Kb3 36. g4 hg 37. fg Be7. Black should still be winning, but why allow counterplay?

34. Bh6

34. ..h4?!

Black must play concretely! In time pressure, I mistakenly saw and rejected the following as unclear. 34. ..Bd4! 35. g4!! Kf3 36. g5 Bb2 37. g6 c5 (only) 38. g7 Bg7 39. Bg7 b5 40. Bf8 c4 41. bc bc 42. Bb4.

It looks like white may have enough resources, but 42. ..a6! wins for black, as the pawns are one too many.

35. h3?

Andrei and I both saw the "obvious" h4-h3 idea, but white's best chance was to complicate with 35. Bg5! h3 36. Bh4! Kd3 37. Bf2 hg 38. Kg2 Be3!

and now either

A) 39. Kf1!? Bc2 40. Ba7 Bb2 41. h4

B) 39. h4 Ke2 40. Be3 fe 41. h5 Kd3 42. h6 e2 43. h7 e1Q 44. h8Q and black's advantage, if any, is minimal.

Now white can never create a passed pawn and he cannot abandon the kingside.

35. ..Be7!

Black's "bad" pawns restrain white's "good" pawns and restrict white's bishop activity.

36. Bg7 a6! 37 Be5 b5!

Slowly improving the position before deciding on a committal king move.

38. Bc3 Kd3 39. Be5 Kc2!

It's finally time to go after the queenside. White can only create harmless, disconnected kingside passers.

40. Ke2 Kb3 41. Kd2

Tantamount to resigning. 41. Kd3 c5 42. Ke4 c4 43. Kf4 b4 44. Kf5 still lost but demonstrated resistance.

41. ..Bg5
42. Kc1 a5

Time to roll.

43. Kb1 a5 44. Bc3 b4 45. Bd2 c4 46. Bc1

Allowing a cute finish.

46. ..c3 47. bc bc 48. Ka1 Bf6!

On any white move, c3-c2 is mate in two. Andrei resigned. 0:1

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 2 Roundup

We got on the board this week against a tough Seattle team, headlined by super-GM Hikaru Nakamura and sporting the second highest rated lineup in USCL history.

On board 1, Hikaru played a non-opening and received a full point due to an unfortunate blunder from Giorgi, who had played a stellar game til that point.

On board 3, Jay defended well against FM Michael Lee, finding 17. ..a5! and 18. ..b4 to secure at least equality.

On board 4, in his debut match, Raven took queens off early against NM Howard Chen and built some queenside pressure. He avoided the critical 21. b5!?, which would have led to the following forced sequence 21. ..cb 22. Ba5 b6 23. Bb6! (23. cb Kb7! =/+) Nb6 24. cb Kb7! 25. Ra6 Ra8! 26. Ra8 Ra8 27. Ra8 Ka8 28. Bf1 Bd8 29. Bb5 (29. Kf2!? Bb6 30. Ke3 Kb7 31. Bb5 is drawn) Bb6 30. f4 Be5 31. Kg2 Bb2 32. Bd7 Kb7 33. Be6 Kc6 34. Bf5, when black likely has enough to hold a draw. After 21. b3 and the critical 24. g4!, preventing black from g5-g4, a mutual fortress arose and peace was agreed.

Pascal played a star game on board 2 to secure the match draw for the Knights.

Charbonneau - Serper

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. 0-0 d6 7. c4 Be7 8. Nc3 0-0 9. Qe2 Re8

A justifiably rare move. Far more popular are Qd8-c7 and b7-b6.

10. Kh1 b6 11. f4 Bb7 12. Bd2

A novelty, and a bad one. White's attack begins to play itself. 12. ..Nc6 might be an improvement.

13. e5! Nfd7

14. f5!?

White's pawns lurch forward. Also strong was 14. Ne6! fe 15. Qh5! Nf8 16. Qe8 Nc6 17. Qh5 de 18. Be4! +-

14. ..Ne5 15. fe Bf6 16. Nd5

White plays the simplest line and is comfortably winning, but brutal and direct was 16. Rf6! gf 17. Ne4! Re6 (only) 18. Ne6 fe 19. Nf6 Kh8 20. Nh7! Nd3 21. Ng5! Nc6 22. Qh5 Kg8 23. Qg6 Qg7 24. Qe6 Kh8 25. Qh3 Kg8 26. Qd3 +-

16. ..Bd5 17. cd Nd3 18. Qd3 fe 19. Ne6 Qf7 20. Qg3 Ra7 21. Bc3 Nd7 22. Qd6 Qe7 23. Qg3 Bc3 24. bc Nc5 25. Rae1 Ne6 26. Re6 Qd8 27. Qe3!

And the rest is easy.

27. ..Rae7 28. Qb6 Qb6 29. Rb6 Rc7 30. d6 Rf7 31. Kg1 a5 32. c4 Rf1 33. Kf1 Kf7 34. c5 Ke6 35. Rb7 Kd5 36. Rc7 1:0

With that spectacular victory, the Knights drew even and pushed their record to 0.5/2.

I would be remiss if, after covering such a spectacular game, I didn't mention another worthy contender for GOTW, played by board 3 for our fierce rivals, IM-elect Marc Esserman of the Boston Blitz. Esserman conducted the white pieces with immense precision and energy -- the 10 move sequence of captures and checks is the longest in USCL history to end a decisive game.

Esserman - Simpson

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 b5 6. Bb3 Ne4!?

A rare move, as black often follows 5. ..b5 with either 6. ..Bc5 or 6. ..Bb7.

7. Re1 d5?!

This may be too much. Also possible was 7. ..Nc5 8. Bd5! Bb7 9. d4 Ne6 10. Ne5 Be7 and black should be OK.

8. Nc3!

Black is slightly underdeveloped and Esserman wastes no time in facilitating the rapid deployment of his pieces. The forcing nature of the remaining moves is stunning.

8. ..Nc3

The machine-like 8. ..Be6 leads to the depressing 9. Ne4 de 10. Be6 fe 11. Re4 Bc5 12. b3! and white will pick up the weak e-pawns.

9. dc Be6 10. a4!

Esserman is not willing to settle for equality after 10. Ne5 Ne5 11. Re5 c6!

10. ..Rb8?!N

This is a novelty and it is a slight improvement on the awful 10. ..Ne7 played in 1939(!) in Buenos Aires. Given the speed at which the white pieces would flood into black's position following the opening of the a-file, 10. ..b4! was more circumspect. Play could continue 11. Ne5 Ne5 12. Re5 c6! 13. cb Bd6! (not 13. ..Bb4 14. Qg4! Bd6 15. Qg7 Be5 16. Qe5 with massive compensation for the exchange) and black should have equality.

11. ab ab 12. Ra6! Qd7

The most natural move, though in retrospect 12. ..Rb6 might have limited the damage. White emerges a pawn up after 13. Rb6 cb 14. Qe2! but black can survive. Esserman now unleashes a torrent.

13. Rc6! Qc6 14. Ne5 Qc5?

Black had to play 14. ..Qd6! with two potential outcomes

A) 15. Nf7! Kf7 16. Qh5! g6 17. Qf3 Kg7 18. Bf4 Qd7 19. Be5 Kg8 20. Bh8 Re8 21. Be5! (21. Re6 c6!!) c6! with compensation due to the limited activity of white's Bb3.

B) 15. Bf4 Be7! 16. Ng6 Qd7 17. Nh8 Kf8 with similar compensation

If Simpson tried 14. ..Qb6, two branches emerge

A) 15. Bd5 Bc5! 16. Be6 Bf2 17. Kh1 Qe6 18. Re2 0-0 19. Nd3 Qd5 20. Rf2 with two pieces for the rook. Better however, would be

B) 15. Nf7! Bc5!

and now, not 16. Re6? Qe6 17. Bd5 Qf6 18. Nh8 Qf2 19. Kh1 Kf8!! and black will soon bring his rook into the game with devastating effect, but

16. Kh1!

with a few choices

A) 16. ..0-0 17. Ng5!!
(17. Re6? Qe6 18. Bd5 Qb6! and the discovery brings white nothing) and wins or

B) 16. ..Kf7 17. Qf3 Kg6 (17. ..Ke8 18. Bd5 Kd7 19. Be6 Qe6 20. Re6 Ke6 21. Qg4 +-) 18. Re5! h6 19. Bd5! and wins

15. Nf7! Kf7 16. Qf3

White also wins after 16. Qh5. Instead of the game-like 16. ..Ke7, black has the option of 16. ..g6, which loses after 17. Qf3 Bf5 18. g4! Be7 19. gf Bf6 20. Bd5 Kg7 21. Re6!

16. ..Ke7 17. Bd5 Rb6 18. Bg5!

18. Re5 also wins but the text gives black the possibility of losing in quicker fashion than the depressing Q+2p vs RR endgame that would have arisen after 18. ..Qd6 19. Bg5 Kd7 20. Be6 Qe6 21. Re6 Re6 22.g3!

18. ..Kd7 19. Be6

Also possible is 19. Re5, but the text contains a tiny practical trap.

19. ..Re6 20. Qf7 Re7?

Black could carry on a grim defense after 20. ..Kc6, but clings to the illusion of hanging onto his extra material.

21. Be7 Be7 22. Qe6!

After 22. ..Kd8 white can play the direct 23. Ra1! or the picturesque 23. Re5!

Simpson resigned.