Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Week 1: The USCL is back!

No shortage of excitement in week 1. Pascal kicked things off with a short, sharp draw against FM Denis Shmelov.  Pascal's preparation was excellent:

11. ..Qh5 deviated from GM Conrad Holt's brilliancy against IM Jonathan Schroer. Shmeliov played the comparatively rare 12. Be2 and after 12. ..Qg6 13. a3, Pascal chose to secure comfortable equality with 13. ..Nc3!?.  After the forcing sequence 14. Bd3 Nb5 15. ab Nd4 16. Bg6 Nc2 17. Bc2 dc, Pascal's extra pawn was compensated by white's lead in development, bishop pair and a-file pressure.  They drew six moves later.

The match looked grim on boards 3 and 4, but on board 2 FM Michael Bodek played a powerful game against NM Vadim Martirosov to keep our chances alive.  Small nuances often matter in chess and evaluating Bodek's transformation of the position with

 10. ed Nd5 11. Nc4 Nb6 12. Nce5 Ne5 13. Ne5 Re5 14. d4 Bd4 15. cd depended on the placement of black's h-pawn.  Off its home square, black had to resort to desperate measures to close the b1-h7 diagonal after 15. ..Re7 16. Qd3 Nd5 17. Bc2. Bodek pounced on black's dark squared weaknesses  after 17. ..f5 and later finished the game with a nice tactic

 39. h4 Kh4 40. Bf6#!.

Veteran Boston NM Chris Williams won a nice Grunfeld game against SM Nicolas Checa after Nico failed to generate timely counterplay against white's pawn center.  The top three boards all reduced to bishops of opposite colors and Williams showed their attacking potential with the sequence 

 28. Rc7 Qd5 29. Bc2 Qh5 30. Rb5! Qh6 31. Rg5! and after 31. ..Rg8 32. Qf5 d3 33. Bd3 Rdf8, the nice shot 34. Rcg7! ended matters.  Williams netted a GOTW nomination for his victory.

NM Gary Huang made his debut for the Knights against NM Ilya Krasik and what a start! Gary started to go astray in the opening and Krasik steadily increased his positional advantage, initiating play on both wings, backed by his dominant dark squared bishop.  In the finest tradition of Boston-NY matches, Gary dug in and awaited his swindle chance.  The door cracked open on move 38

when Krasik's natural 38. ..Rb1 allowed white's oddly placed Nb7(!?) to rejoin the fray and empower white's last trump, the seemingly blockaded c6 pawn: 39. Nd6 Be6 40. Ne8! Qh6 41. Nc7! Raa1 42. Ne6 Qe6 43. c7Krasik, not wanting to abandon the double-pin on the f1 Bishop, did not play it safe with 43. ..Ra8 and instead blockaded with his queen.  After 43. ..Qc8, white continued to fight with 44. Qg4!. Krasik defended with 44. ..Ra8 and after 45. Qh4 b4

Gary had a ridiculous chance pointed out in the kibitzes.  White would have secured a place in the tactics books with the geometric 46. Rf4!! (opening the 5th rank!) 46. ..ef 47 .Ra2!! (deflecting the Ra8 from d8)

 47. ..f6 48. Qh5! Ra2 49. Qd5! and now white's point is apparent: the black K cannot cross the f-file due to Qd8, so he must acquiesce to perpetual with Kh7/8.  

Krasik was again on the verge of victory following 46. Rg2 Qc7 47. Qf6 g6 48. h4 Qd8 49. Rf4 ef 50. Qf4 Raa1 51. Rf2 Qd7 52. Qg3 b3 as it seemed nothing could stop black's plan of b3-b2/Rb1xf1/Ra1xf1/b2-b1Q.  After Gary's 53. h5, all required of Krasik was 53. ..Qe6 controlling the e5 square.  Instead this game entered USCL lore after 53 ..b2??

 and Gary pounced with 54. Qb8!, not only equalizing (black cannot avoid perpetual) but requiring black's position to contain study-like resources not to lose after 54. ..Kg7 55. Qe5 Kg8 56. Qb8 Kh7?! 57. hg Kg7! 58. Qe5 Kg8! 59. gf Qf7!

Krasik impressively found only move after only move, despite being down to the 30 second increment and contemplating the myriad lost wins.  Even if Gary won the d4 pawn with check and then the Q for the R, the Q+2p vs RR ending would likely have been drawn.  As it was, Krasik could have set one last trap for Gary on move 78 (with an echo on move 81).Black's most dangerous try is 78. ..Kc6!?.  If white plays the natural 79. Rc2, black's K escapes the checks after 79. ..Kb5!.  White (at that point up to over 10 minutes by accumulating increment) would have had to find 79. Kg2!!, the only move to maintain a draw, with the primary point being 79. ..Rf1 80. Rb2! and perpetual. The game ended on move 88, securing the match draw.


The Knights face New England on Wednesday, September 3rd at 710pm. Four time US Champion GM Gata Kamsky will make his USCL debut for the Knights, playing black against GM Alexander Ivanov. Also making his debut for the Knights, Qibiao Wang plays white on board four against the talented child Carissa Yip.

Thanks to our sponsor, ChessNYC!

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