The New York Knights drew their opening match against the New Jersey Knockouts.IM Irina Krush's exciting draw with GM Boris Gulko on board 2 and NM Alex King's draw in his playoff rematch against NM Alex Katz on board 3 got things going. GM Pascal Charbonneau's loss on board 1 against GM Joel Benjamin was offset by NM Nicolas Checa's board 4 victory (his first in USCL play!) over Haik der Manuelian.
The match was balanced throughout, but both teams had chances to squeak through had a few critical moments gone differently.
Krush-Gulko (position after 19. e5!?)
Gulko sacrificed his queen for rook and bishop, relying on his better pawn structure and active rooks and knights with 19. ..de 20. Be5 Qe5 21. Re5 Re5. It's hard to fault this decision as Irina had to defend very carefully to secure the draw.
Instead, 19. ..g5!?, however, might have proved decisive. After 20. Bd2 (20. ef?? Qe1 21. Qe1 Re1 22. Re1 Nd3 and wins) 20. ..de 21. Bc2 e4 22. Qd1 Qd6 23. Nh5 Re7 24. Nf6 Qf6 25. Be3 Rae8 26. Bd4 Qd6, black's extra pawn should tell with f7-f5-f4 coming. Alternatively, 20. e6!? fe! (20. ..gf 21. Nf5! Qf8 22. e7! and white will eventually win) 21. Bc1 Nd3 22. Qd3 e5, black should be able to consolidate his extra pawn.
Katz-King (position after 27. ..Rb7)
Katz might have been a little impatient with 28. b4. He went for a repetition draw after King's precise 28. ..g5! signaled black's intentions against the e5 pawn and a quick kingside expansion. White could have pressed for a few more moves with 28. b3 (restricting the Nb6) g5 29. Kf1 with one idea being 29. ..Bf8 30. Ke2 Bg7 31. Bc3 (impossible with the pawn on b4) Rc7 32. Kd3 and black may have some difficulties.
Benjamin-Charbonneau (position after 45. ..Qc7)
Benjamin needed to find 46. Bg2! (covering h2) with idea 47. Rc6 and 48. Bd5 and mate. Instead, with both players in severe time pressure, he went into an endgame with 46. Qg7? that offered Pascal one chance to save. After 46. ..Qg7 47. fg Kg7 48. a5 Rf6 49. Re5, the door opened for 49. ..Re2!!
|after 49...Re2 (analysis)|
Checa-der Manuelian (position after 22. Nf4)
Checa's impressive positional performance centered around his entombment of black's light-squared bishop. Maneuvering his N from g2-f4-h5-f6, he planted a pawn on f6 that ensured a free hand for the rest of the game. der Manuelian believed Checa's calculations and played 22. ..Bh7? and lost 67 moves later, but 22. ..gf! would have turned the tables. 23. Bf4 e5 24. de looks overwhelming , as white threatens e5-e6, but black had the simple 24. ..Rd1 25. Rd1 Bg5! rescuing the attacked bishop, exchanging white's Bf4 and emerging with an extra piece.
Checa-der Manuelian (position after 82. Kh4)
der Manuelian could have set a few more traps with 82. ..Ke4! when only 83. Kg3! Bd1 84. h4! Kd5 (a sad necessity as 84. ..Bg4 85. Kg4 and white "shoulder-blocks" black's K from h8) 85. g5 and white slowly advances the pawns and wins. If instead 85. h5?? Bg4! and the black K gets to h8.
Our next match is on Tuesday, September 2nd against the Manhattan Applesauce!
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