GM Niclas Huschenbeth (2610) - IM Steven Zierk (2543) 0-1 View Game
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2492) - SM Denys Shmelov (2465) 0-1 View Game
NM Jared Defibaugh (2297) - NM Vadim Martirosov (2349) 0-1 View Game
Jeffrey Chang (2116) - NM Daniil Mosiyenko (2181) 1-0 View Game
Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.
The Baltimore Kingfishers lost 1-3 to the Boston Blitz in the final week of the regular season. Baltimore finishes 4th in the Northeast Division with a (3.5-6.5) match record while Boston places 3rd with a (4.5-5.5) record. In other divisional news, the New England Nor'easters and Connecticut Dreadnoughts drew their match, so New England (7.0-3.0, 1st) will get draw odds while Connecticut (6.5-3.5, 2nd) gets color choice in their Quarterfinals showdown.
Board 1: GM Niclas Huschenbeth vs. IM Steven Zierk. The top board showcased a Sveshnikov Sicilian Defense: Chelyabinsk variation. White offered the h-pawn which black accepted and a trade of rooks from diagonally-opposite corners ensued. GM Niclas Huschenbeth played the surprising resource 18. Ne3 as the novelty. Then, queens were traded and white was left with an extra knight for two pawns. Although the queens were off, it was a very interesting game with black creating a 5-pawn-wall from the kingside to the center after move 31 and clearly aiming to march the h-pawn to promotion. Meanwhile, white tried to nurse a long-term advantage with his queenside pawns. It seems white should have been better until the dual-mistakes 33. a3? and 34. axb4? which cost white his bishop to stop the black h-pawn. IM Steven Zierk pounced on the opportunity and easily converted the ending up only an exchange. White resigned after move 50.
Board 2: SM Denys Shmelov vs. IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat. The second board featured a Slav Defense: Chebanenko variation. IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat played the novelty 10... Nhf6 whereas 10... Bg6 had been played twice before resulting in draws (Note: Two of the stem games coincidentally feature former Dallas players, GM Valentin Iotov and IM Puchen Wang). Black tried to open up the queenside to play with 12... b6 but this plan seemed to backfire as SM Denys Shmelov chased away the black queen and exploited the c-file with his rooks. From that point onward, white was clearly better though black tried to drum up an attack on the kingside. However, NM Shmelov's control of the board was too great and black resigned on move 41.
Board 3: NM Jared Defibaugh vs. NM Vadim Martirosov. The third board saw NM Jared Defibaugh's King's Gambit answered with the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit by NM Vadim Martirosov. The move 4. Bc4 is very rarely played for such an early move, so NM Defibaugh was probably trying to avoid theory in this game. He later played the novelty 7. Bb5+. White returned the counter-gambit pawn on d4 and the queens were traded. The two players castled on opposite sides but play was focused in the center with black trying to bolster his passed e-pawn. White missed a surprising chance on move 23 to get compensation by allowing the e-pawn to promote while taking a rook with check (!) though black would have to give up a knight as well. Two pawns for the exchange and the result would have still been unclear. Soon after, it was black who missed a clear win on move 25, but all was not lost as white was still in a bind due to black's pawn on e2. NM Martirosov did not miss another chance and converted to a won ending with an extra bishop. White resigned after 42 moves.
Board 4: NM Daniil Mosiyenko vs. Jeffrey Chang. The fourth board began with another sharp Sicilian Defense, but this time, it was the Classical Main Line of the Najdorf variation. These two young players zipped through theory nearly until Jeffrey Chang played the novelty 18... Nf6. Note that one of the stem games was played by GM Niclas Huschenbeth, who was playing on Board 1 in this match. I have to seriously wonder if Jeffrey knew this game while playing as he first sank into deep thought when NM Daniil Mosiyenko varied from that game on move 18 and both endings had similar ideas. I am only aware that Jeffrey is being coached by GM Larry Kaufman, not GM Huschenbeth! Despite being down a pawn out of this opening line, black seemed to have a solid position with plenty of control. When it came down to a pawn race, black's kingside pawns were much faster than white's queenside pawns. It also helped that black ended up with a bishop vs. knight in the ending. There was a bailout to a drawn rook and bishop vs. rook and pawn ending that white missed, but practically, that ending would still be difficult to hold. Thus, Jeffrey Chang won his USCL debut in 61 moves.
Finally, in Baltimore's Team MVP standings, Jeffrey Chang tied FM Ralph Zimmer for the lead with 3.5 MVP points though FM Zimmer wins the title (on most games played tie-break) for the second year in a row. Thanks to everyone for playing, watching the games, reading articles, and voting in polls. We look forward to a great season next year!
Reposted at: Chess.com blogs