Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 2: Bloodied

It was impossible to top the score and difficult to surpass the emanating expectations from our week 1 whitewash of the Boston Blitz. Our regular season nemesis, the New Jersey Knockouts, was just the team to bring us back to earth, defeating us 2.5-1.5.

Never lacking in drama, the match went deep into Monday night, as the drawn game on board 2, coupled with an exchange of wins on 1 and 4 left FM Alec Getz battling FM Victor Shen in a complicated and exciting game that frayed nerves (most notably Alex Katz's and mine, prompting League VP Arun Sharma to request that at least one of us play next week!) and was classic USCL.

In the end, Victor Shen continued his dominance of the Knights and scored the winning points for New Jersey.

On board 1, GM Boris Gulko won a smooth game against GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, but nearly let things slip at the end!

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 c5 6. Nf3 d5 7. O-O cd 8.
ed dc 9. Bc4 b6 10. Bg5 Bb7 11. Re1 Nc6 12. a3 Be7 13. Qd3 h6 14. Bf4
Bd6 15. Bd2 Rc8 16. Rad1 Rc7?!

16. ..Bb8 felt more circumspect, preparing to meet 17. d5 with 17. ..Na5 and the tactics are OK for black, with mass exchanges looming.

17. d5! ed 18. Nd5 Nd5 19. Bd5 Ne7 20. Be4!
Be4 21. Qe4

The symmetrical pawn structure should guarantee equality if black can untangle his slightly awkward pieces. Gulko makes that job near-impossible!

21. ..Rd7 22. Bc3 Ng6 23. Qg4 Kh7 24. g3!

Ending all pretense of Bh2 tactics and killing prospects for black's Ng6.

24. ..f5 25. Qa4

Also possible is 25. Qh5!, after which it's hard to find a single move for black!

25. ..f4 26. Re6 fg
27. Qe4 gf

The last dramatic moment of the game. 28. Kg2! ends matters cleanly. Instead...

28. Kf1??

Leaving the door open to a fantastic shot for black!

28. ..Bc5??

Giorgi misses his chance with this very logical move. Instead 28. ..Be5!! allows black to fight for a draw. If 29. Rd7 Qd7 30. Qg6 Kg8 then white is forced to play 31. Kf2 Qd5 32. Re5 Qf3 33. Ke1 Qf1 34. Kd2 Rf2 35. Ke3 Rf3 36. Kd4 Qd1 37. Kc4 Qa4 and now white has two choices. If 38. Bb4 Qb3 39. Kb5 a6! 40. Ka6 Qa4 41. Kb7 Qd7 is a perpetual as the b6 pawn is taboo. If 38. Kd5 Qd7, white must return to c4. If 38. b4 b5! 39. Rb5 Rc3 40. Kc3 Qb5, white is nominally better in the Q+P endgame, but it should be drawn. 29. Qg6 Kg8 30. Be5 Rd1 31. Kf2 Rf3! is also drawn.

29. Rd2?! Rff7?

29. ..Qc8! offered more resistance.

30. Qg6 Kg8 31. Bg7 Rg7 32. Re8 1:0

On board 2, GM Alex Lenderman was unable to generate a significant edge against IM Dean Ippolito and was arguably worse before accepting Dean's draw offer.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dc 5. Bg2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. dc Qd1 8.
Rd1 Bc5 9. Nbd2 c3 10. bc O-O 11. Nb3 Be7 12. Nfd4 Bd7 13. Nc6 Bc6 14.
Bc6 bc 15. Na5 Rfc8 16. Bg5 Bd8 17. Nc4 Ne4 18. Bd8 Rd8 19. Rd8 Rd8
20. Rc1 Rd5 21. Rc2 Kf8 22. Nb2 Ra5 23. Nd3 Ra3 24. c4 f6 0.5:0.5

On board 4, NM Alex Ostrovskiy moved to 2-0 with a fine victory over FM Arthur Shen.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nde2 Be7 8.
Ng3 Be6 9. Be2 O-O 10. O-O d5 11. ed Nd5 12. Nd5 Bd5 13. Nf5 Be6 14.
Qd8 Bd8 15. Nd6

Despite achieving the d6-d5 break, black has some problems in this endgame. The b7 and e5 pawns are weak, the queenside is a bit tricky to develop and white's majority is looming.

15. ..Bd5 16. Rfd1 Bc6 17. Nc4!?
Nd7 18. a4 Bc7 19. Bf3 Rad8?

It is a testament to the subtlety of this position and the depth of Alex's plan that this move is a blunder. A better try was 19. ..Nf6.

Bc6 bc 21. a5! f5 22. Bb6! Bb6 23. ab

White has a dangerous passed pawn on b6, juicy weaknesses to target on a6/c6, phenomenal squares for the c4 N and a winning edge.

23. ..e4 24. Kf1!?

24. Ra6 was met by 24. ..Nb6! but 24. g4! both creates luft (threatening Ra6) and further damages black's already tattered pawn structure.

24. ..Nb8 25. Nd6 Rf6 26. Nb7
Rd7 27. Nc5

Another fantastic maneuver! GM Alex Yermolinsky eventually remarked that white was playing like a 2700 FIDE!

27. ..Rd5 28. b4 Rfd6 29. Rd5 cd 30. b5 Rb6 31. ba Na6 32. Ra6

And the rest is a mop-up!

32. ..Rb2 33. Rd6 Rc2 34. Rd5 g6 35. Nb3 Rc3 36. Nd2 Rc7 37. Ke2 Kf7 38. Rd4 Kf6
39. Rc4 Ra7 40. Rc2 Ra6 41. Nc4 h6 42. Ke3 Ra1 43. Kd4 Rg1 44. Ne3 Ra1 45.
h4 Ra4 46. Rc4 Ra2 47. Rc6 Kf7 48. Rc2 Ra5 49. Nd5 Ra4 50. Ke5 e3 51.
Rc7 Ke8 52. Ne3 Rh4 53. Rc4 Rh5 54. Ke6 Kd8 55. Nd5 Rh1 56. Kf6 Rf1 57.
Nb6 Rf2 58. Rc8#! 1:0

Board 3 - not the cleanest, but certainly the most exciting - was a slugfest between FM Alec Getz and FM Victor Shen, with Shen landing the knockout.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nf3 h6 8.
O-O Be7 9. Re1 O-O 10. h3 Be6 11. Bf1 Rc8 12. Nd5 Bd5 13. ed Nb4 14. c4
a5 15. a3 Na6 16. Bd2 Nd7 17. b4 f5 18. Qb3 Bf6 19. Bc3 Qb6 20. Nd2 ab 21.
ab e4 22. Bf6 Rf6 23. Rab1 Ne5 24. Qc3 Qc7 25. Qe3 Qf7 26. Kh1 Qh5 27.
Rb3 Qh4 28. Kg1 Rg6 29. Rc1 Nc7 30. Qd4
Ne8 31. c5 Nf6 32. Rbc3 Ra8 33. c6

34. c7!?

Roundly criticized by the kibitzers, but 34. cb Rb8 35. Qa7 Nfd7 36. Rc8 e3!! gives black some life.

34. ..Rc8 35. b5 b6!?

Worth a shot in time pressure (Shen down to 2 minutes). White should "sacrifice" the exchange with 36. Qb6 Nd5 as the queenside pawns are soon irresistible. Instead, Getz's bluff works and he has a chance to gain the advantage.

36. Ra1? Nfd7! 37. Ra7 Nc5?!

Shen doesn't ignore a second opportunity and plays the intuitive exchange sacrifice. 37. ..Qf6! was called for and with Shen down to 70 seconds, black would be for choice.

38. Rc5! bc 39. Qe3 Nd7?

39. ..Qe7! 40. b6 Nd7 41. Qb3 Nb6!! 42. Qb6 e3! and black has at least a perpetual.

40. Nc4 Qe7 41. Qb3 f4 42. b6 e3 43. Bd3 e2 44. Bg6 Kh8!?

44. ..Kg6 45. Qb1! Kf7 46. Ra1! g6 47. Kh2! f3! 48. Qb3 also works for white

45. Ra1!?

Shen makes the pragmatic decision, but glory was to be had with 45. b7!! e1Q 46. Kh2 Rf8 47. Qf3! (diagram) when an extra queen cannot save black!

45. ..e1Q 46.
Re1 Qe1 47. Kh2 Nb6 48. Nd6 Qf2 49. Nc8 Nc8 50. Bf5 c4 51. Qc3?! f3!
52. Qf3 Qc5 53. Qf4

53. ..Nb6?

53. ..Nd6!? would have forced white to find the only move 54. Bg6! and created the 54. Qd6?? Qd6+! swindle possibility.

54. d6 Nd5 55. Qe5! 1:0

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Week 2 Preview

The Knights kickoff week 2 against the New Jersey Knockouts at 7PM on Monday night. Last year, New Jersey triumphed in both regular season matches but the Knights emerged victorious in the Eastern finals on their way to their first USCL championship.

On board 1, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili makes his return against the incomparable GM Boris Gulko (only Soviet and US champion, winning record against Kasparov, before last week 8-0 in league play). Giorgi's blitz heroics clinched the title last year and he's been an anchor for the team. This is the first-ever game between the two and Gulko is looking to get back in the win column after losing to FM Tom Bartell last week.

GM Alex Lenderman faces IM Dean Ippolito on board 2. Alex had an impressive debut for the Knights last week, defeating GM Larry Christiansen, while Ippolito is playing his first game of the 2010 USCL season for New Jersey. Alex's week 7 victory over Ippolito netted him GOTW in 2008, though Dean held him to a draw in week 2 last year.

FM Alec Getz and NM Alex Ostrovskiy play the super-dangerous Shen brothers (FM Victor and FM Arthur) on boards 3 and 4. Alec and Alex are coming off impressive week 1 victories against Boston. Victor played sparingly in 2009, but made the most of his games, defeating yours truly, All-Star IM Marc Esserman and IM Richard Costigan. Arthur made NM Yaacov Norowitz sweat out his USCL debut before faltering in time pressure.

Expect some hard-fought games!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 1b - League Roundup

Time pressure and insane swings were the name of the game on Wednesday night.

The newly minted Manhattan Applesauce got things going against the always dangerous Carolina Cobras with a 2.5-1.5 victory. Due to a last-minute lineup change, Carolina was down a half-hour on two boards, but very nearly pulled off the upset. IM Jonathan Schroer pressed IM Dmitry Schneider on board 1 but could only draw, while NM Craig Jones overcame his time deficit to stun SM Greg Braylovsky on board 3. Manhattan's board 2, IM Eli Vovsha, provided the winning margin with his epic Grunfeld victory over FM Ron Simpson, but the real turning point in the match was on board 4, where Carolina's NM Udayan Bapat was pressing Manhattan's James Black on the white side of an Alapin Sicilian.

Bapat had gotten the better of Black, but in early time pressure (down to 18 minutes), he bashed out 23. Be4?!, missing the more immediate win to be had with 23. Re3! g6 24. Rh3 Kg7 25. Qc1! Nf5 26. Bc5 Bd5 27. Be3 Ne3 28. Qe3 and the threats of Qe3-h6 and c3-c4 should force black to resign.

Bapat was given another chance to end matters on move 28.

Still deep in time pressure, Bapat instantly took on b7, missing the crushing 28. Qf4! - after 28. ..Kg7 29. Rf3 Rf8, White would have a pleasant choice between the prosaic 30. Bf8 or the spectacular 30. Rh3 Rh8 31. Bf8!! (an incredible deflection) forcing mate as black cannot continue to cover both f6/h8.

Bapat unfortunately missed one more chance to end things on move 30 (Rd5!) and then tragedy struck. With Black drumming up kingside counterplay, Bapat looked to force a queen trade.

Black didn't miss his opportunity, responding to 32. Qc1 with the crushing sequence 32. ..Nf4! 33. Rg3 Ne2! winning a rook and the game.

The New England Nor'easters won their debut match against the Baltimore Kingfishers by a 2.5-1.5 margin, with smooth wins on boards 1 and 2 compensating for a wild loss on board 4.

Baltimore's NM Ian Shoch crazy rook sacrifice (rather forced from a practical standpoint, given his weaknesses on d4 and f4 and the match situation) on move 23 finally paid dividends as New England's FM Christopher Chase sense of danger betrayed him on move 31

Chase had navigated a tricky defense well and only needed 31. ..Rd5! to end matters. Instead, he went for 31. ..Na5 and after 32. Qh3 Kg7 33. Ne3! he was lost.

Everything went the San Francisco Mechanics' way against two-time league champion Dallas Destiny, looking to return to their former glory after missing the playoffs last year. After scoring an easy 2.5/3 on the bottom three boards to clinch the match, board 1 fell into their hands in incredible fashion.

Dallas' IM Puchen Wang had played a very nice game til this point, but spoiled things with 50. ..Ne6?? (50. ..Rd5 maintained the pawn advantage, though white can still fight for a draw) and after 51. Rf5 was forced to resign giving San Francisco's GM Patrick Wolff the full point.

The Arizona Scorpions kicked off their 2010 campaign by defeating the defending Western Conference champion Miami Sharks 2.5-1.5, behind IM Danny Rensch's masterpiece on board 3 against FM Eric Rodriguez and IM Dionisio Aldama's mating attack on board 2 against IM Blas Lugo.

Aldama has just played 30. Ndf5! leaving Lugo with a difficult decision and only 2 minutes left. Lugo needed to find 30. ..Qf4! guarding h6, hitting f2 and stopping white's attack in its tracks. Instead, after 30. ..Bc2?? 31. Nh6 Kg7, white had a surfeit of options: 32. Qd6 (played in the game) or 32. Nef5!! forcing mate. Aldama forced resignation on move 43.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Night of Firsts

That went well. The Knights began their title defense with their first ever 4-0 match victory, stunning their fiercest rivals, the Boston Blitz.

Three new Knights scored their first wins for New York and Pascal strengthened his already absurd record against Boston.

GM Alex Lenderman got things going on board 1, with a smooth victory over GM Larry Christiansen.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 0-0 6. Be2 e5 7. 0-0 Nbd7 8. Re1 a5 9. Bf1 c6

This line has a decent pedigree for black, with super-GMs Peter Svidler and Vasily Ivanchuk championing it as recently as December 2009.

10. d5 Nc5 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 g5 13. Bg3 cd 14. cd Bg4 15. Rc1 Rc8 16. h3 Bh5 17. Bh2 g4!?

A committal choice from Christiansen.

18. hg Bg4 19. Qd2?!

19. ..Nh7?

19. ..Bd7! takes advantage of white's inability to properly overprotect the e4 pawn, making b7-b5 possible.

20. Qe3! Kh8 21. Nd2 f5 22. ef Bf5 23. Nc4 Nf6 24. f3!

Alex restricts black's Nf6 and his pieces quickly take up optimal squares.

24. ..Bh7 25. Nb5! Nd5 26. Qd2 Nf4 27. Bf4 ef 28. Ncd6 b6 29. Rcd1!

White's knights and heavy pieces control the center.

29. ..Bg8 30. Nc8 Qc8 31. Nd6 Qb8 32. Bc4! Bc4 33. Nc4 b5 34. Nd6 Na4 35. Re7! Qb6 36. Qf2 Qc6 37. Nf7 Kg8 38. Nd8!

What a career!

38. ..Qg6 39. Ne6 Bb2 40. Nf8 Kf8 41. Rb7 1:0

On board 2, Pascal, playing on minimal sleep dispatched SM Denys Shmelov

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 0-0 5. e4 d5 6. cd ed 7. e5 Nfd7 8. a3 Bc3 9. bc f6 10. ef Qf6 11. Ne2 Nb6 12. Nf4 c5

13. dc?

13. a4!? (Aleksandrov-Kravtsiv 2010) appears to be superior, with the idea a4-a5, driving away d5's defense.

13. ..Qc3! 14. Kf2 Qc5 15. Be3 Qd6 16. Rc1 N8d7 17. g3 g5 18. Nd3 h6 19. Kg2 Nc4 20. Bd4 Nf6 21. Nf2 b5

22. Qd3?

The natural 22. Bd3 seems to give white a decent position.

22. ..Nh5 23. Qb3 a6 24. Bd3 Ng7 25. Rhe1 Nf5 26. Bf5 Bf5 27. Rcd1 Rf7 28. Ba1? Qa3! 29. Qa3 Na3 30. g4 Bd7 31. Re5 Nc4 32. Re2 Raf8 33. Rd3 b4 34. Ra2 a5 35. Rd5?

Following the game, Pascal said that his initial reaction "..was Bd7-c6, but then I saw something better"

35. ..Ne3 0:1

On board 3, Alec won a very nice positional game against NM Vadim Martirosov

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 0-0 7. 0-0 c6 8. Qc2 b6 9. Rd1 Bb7 10. Nc3 Na6 11. a3 Rc8 12. Bf4 dc 13. Ne5 Nd5 14. Nc4 Nf4 15. gf Nc7 16. e3 Nd5 17. Rac1 Rc7 18. Ne5 Bd6 19. Ne4 f6 20. Nd6 Qd6 21. Nc4 Qe7 22. b4 Rfc8 23. f5 Kh8 24. fe Qe6 25. Qe4 Qd7 26. Qh4 Rd8 27. e4 Ne7 28. Qg3 Nc8 29. e5 Ba6 30. Ne3 Ne7 31. d5! Nf5 32. Nf5 Qf5 33. ef Rf7 34. dc Rd1?

34. ..Rdf8 put up more resistance. Now white finishes in style!

35. Rd1 Qf6 36. Qb8 Rf8 37. Qf8!! Qf8 38. c7 1:0

Alex Ostrovskiy capped the night by defeating Ilya Krasik with the black pieces on board 4.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cd cd 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4 Nc6 6. e3 a6 7. Bd3 Bg4 8. f3 Bh5 9. g4 Bg6 10. h4 Bd3 11. Qd3 e6 12. Nge2 Nd7 13. Bg3 b5 14. Rc1 Rc8 15. Kf2 Nb6 16. a4 Nc4 17. Qb1 b4 18. Ne4 N6a5! 19. Ng5 h6

20. b3?

20. Ne6!? fe 21. Nf4 Qf6 22. b3 recovers the piece for white and keeps him in the game.

20. ..hg 21. bc gh 22. Be5 Nc4 23. Qd3 a5 24. Nf4 Rh6 25. g5

Supposedly a "smart-move" slip, but likely the best anyway.

25. ..Qg5 26. Rcg1 Qe7 27. Bg7 Bg7 28. Rg7

28. ..Kd7?

Giving away the win! 28. ..h3! is much more direct, preventing white from easily coordinating his pieces.

29. Rcg1?

Krasik sees the right idea...one move too late.

29. Nd5!! ed 30. Qf5 Qe6 31. Rf7 Kd6 32. Qf4 Kc6 33. Rc4!! dc 34. d5!! Qd5 35. Qh6 Kc5 36. Ra7! Qd2 (only) 37. Kf1 Qd1 38. Kf2 and black can either immediately force a perpetual, or try to play for a win with 38. ..b3 but white has the saving 39. Rb7! and black must go for the draw.

29. ..h3 30. Nd5 ed 31. Qf5 Qe6 32. Rf7 Kd6??

Giving white another chance to draw. Much better was 32. ..Kc6! preventing white from repositioning his Q to the optimal f4 square with tempo.

33. Qf4 Kc6 34. e4??

Krasik's last chance was 34. Rg8!! Qe3 35. Qe3 Ne3 36. Rc8, though white must take the perpetual due to the strength of black's h-pawn.

34. ..Qd6?

34. ..Kb6 would have made life a lot easier

35. ed?

Looks dangerous, but 34. e5! forced black to give back the piece with Ne5. If black was greedy with 34. ..Qe6 35. Re7!! Qe7 36. Qh6 Kb7 37. Rg7 leads to a crazy position where black's passed pawns should be enough to hold off the white queen.

35. ..Kb6 36. Rgg7 Rb8 37. Qc1 Qh2 38. Kf1 Nd2 39. Ke1 Re8 40. Kd1 Qe2 41. Kc2 Nc4 42. Kb1 Qd3 43. Ka1 Qd4 44. Kb1 Na3!

The queen will guard a7 after the king moves to a6.

45. Qa3 0:1

Saturday, August 21, 2010

USCL 2010!

A new season is upon us. The last time the New York Knights were in action, Giorgi Kacheishvili was conducting the black pieces in an Armageddon blitz game against Miami's Julio Becerra. With the clock well past midnight, Giorgi converted a better position in a Sicilian and brought the 2009 USCL title to New York.

Eight and a half months later, the USCL has three new teams (New England, St. Louis and Los Angeles) and unfortunately lost its Tennessee franchise.

The Knights have undergone some changes, turning over half the roster by adding GM Alex Lenderman, FM Alec Getz and the 3-headed board 4 of NM Alex Ostrovskiy, Justus Williams and Alexander Katz.

We lost Knights veteran and US Chess legend IM Jay Bonin, 2009 Rookie of the Year Yaacov Norowitz (surely the league's most underrated player last year and one of the world's best blitz players), NM Evan Rosenberg (whose stunning performance at the New York International in June netted him an IM norm) and NM Raven Sturt.

As the USCL has abolished the "alternate" roster spots, we also said goodbye to SM Greg Braylovsky (a Knight legend from the earliest days of the USCL who has taken his talents to the Manhattan Applesauce) and SM Igor Sorkin.

To kick-off the season, the Knights have the "home court" against their long-time rivals, the Boston Blitz. The Knights defeated the Blitz last year en route to the championship and lead the series 6.5-5.5.

Board 1 features USCL powerhouse GM Alex Lenderman (11/12 in league play, 2/2 against GMs) against living legend GM Larry Christiansen (3-time US Champion, 20.5/34 in league play). Christiansen's wild game against Giorgi in last year's playoffs proved to be a deciding factor in sending NY to the semifinals.

Board 2 sees noted Boston-killer GM Pascal Charbonneau (6.5/8 all-time against Boston) against SM Denys Shmelov. Pascal recently had a disappointing performance in New England (http://main.uschess.org/content/view/10621/598/) and is sure to want to score some regional revenge.

FM Alec Getz (#4 rated 16-yr old in the US) makes his debut for the Knights on board 3 against Boston veteran NM Vadim Martirosov (who beat your author in last year's quarterfinals in a crazy game). Alec is in the middle of an impressive year, winning the National High School Championship and netting an IM norm with 5.5/9 at the Philadelphia Open a few months ago.

NM Alex Ostrovskiy is playing his first game for the New York Knights against the ever-quotable and dangerous NM Ilya Krasik on board 4. Alex gained an incredible 228 rating points in 11 months (June 2009 - May 2010) to become the #2 rated 14-yr old in the US, trailing only San Francisco's FM Daniel Naroditsky.

Unless I am mistaken, it appears to be the first time that any of these individual matchups has occurred, so look out for some fireworks!