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. 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.