We had our best match in a long time (perhaps since week 2 last year against Manhattan) in week 4, a 3-1 victory over the Applesauce. I managed to equalize quickly with black on board 2 against IM Farai Mandizha . NM Alex King won a very smooth game against NM Levy Rozman in a Dutch on board 3, centralizing all his pieces and capitalizing when Rozman blundered. NM Gary Huang earned a GOTW nomination for his sacrificial demolition of Shaun Smith on board 4 out of a normally quiet QGD. GM Pascal Charbonneau gave a master class on handling Ruy Lopez sidelines and maintained a clear advantage throughout against IM Victor Shen, before agreeing to a draw with the match already in hand.
Week 5 was an altogether different story. The Connecticut Dreadnoughts were fresh off a stunning upset against the previously perfect St Louis Archbishops.
Board 1 featured a US Championship rematch between GM Gata Kamsky and GM Alex Lenderman. Gata gradually equalized and looked to have seized the initiative with the plan of b7-b5-b4.
Lenderman's 34. g4 admirably complicated matters, with Gata playing on 4 minutes + increment. After 34. ..hg 35. Bg4, 35. ..Qe4 would have interrupted white's kingside play, but Gata pressed forward with 35. ..b4. The black kingside was surprisingly and permanently vulnerable after 36. h5 g5 37. h6 Bf6 38. Bf5 ba 39. ba Ba6 40. Qf3 Rb6 41. Rb1! exchanging a key defender. Continuing to play quickly, Gata blundered with 41. ..Qd8, missing Lenderman's 42. Rb6 Qb6 43. Be6!. In fact, Lenderman had a surfeit of possibilities, including 43. Rb2! and 43. Qh5!, each highlighting black's lack of coordination and weak kingside. Lenderman was awarded his second consecutive Game of the Week for his efforts.
Board 4 was very puzzling. NM Yoon-Young Kim surprised NM Qibiao Wang with the Schliemann. Qibiao chose a line that allowed black to equalize without too much trouble. The game still seemed to go according to script as the stronger player improved his position and, out of nowhere, emerged with a completely winning R+P ending.
There were many simple methods to convert. To Kim's credit he set and sprung one of the few tricks in the position: a pseudo-rook sacrifice, with capture leading to immediate stalemate. Neither player was in time trouble, but things started to go wrong for Kim as he seemingly did not know the Philidor defense and instead chose (still keeping the draw, but odd) to move his rook to the back rank. The final blunder came on move 82 and white queened his pawn and won the game.
Board 3 featured two of the country's top juniors. SM Josh Colas chose a placid line against SM Nico Checa's QGD. Nico quickly equalized and seemed to have everything under control. Colas is known for his tactical awareness and won a pawn when Nico blundered with
24. ..Qb6?, leaving the back rank undefended. Nico defended well and could have set white tremendous problems with the shot
48. ..c5!!, highlighting the weakness on a2 and awkward placement of white's knight and king. The prosaic 48. ..Ra8 allowed the strong in-between 49. e4!. Colas should have won on the spot after 49. ..Ne7 with 50. Rh7!, when black cannot avoid serious loss of material. All remained well for CT and simply 59. Nxa3 would have removed black's last chance (the Na2 is trapped after 59. ..Nb4 60. Kc4 Na2 61. Nb5 Nc1 62. Nc3). Colas finally gave away the half point with 65. Kc6? (65. Kc4, rounding up the a3 pawn), continuing to blitz his moves with a 30 to 1 clock advantage. Nico seized his chance and the draw with 65. ..Nb4 66. Kc7 Kd4 67. Nb1 Na2. Drawn match, right? 68. b6 Nb4 and Colas, unwilling to acquiesce to the draw after 69. Nxa3 Nd5 70. Kc6 Nxb6 71. Kxb6 Ke3, threw away the other half point with 69. b7??. Nico mopped up after 69. ..Na6! 70. Kb6 a2 71. Na3 Kd3! 72. Ka6 a1Q 73. b8Q Qa3 74. Kb7 Qb2 75. Kc8 Qb8 76. Kb8 Ke2.
I had white on board 2 against GM Oliver Barbosa. Barbosa chose the Berlin and I sacrificed a pawn, then an exchange, a piece and finally a rook. He defended well and the game ended in perpetual. I could have played for more with the "greedy" 31. Rh6 (playing on down only a single rook), but 31. ..Rh8! is quite unclear and we were both playing on the increment. The joint effort was nominated for GOTW, finishing 3rd behind Lenderman-Kamsky and Bartell-Stukopin.
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