GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) - GM Alex Stripunsky (2659) 1-0
GM Larry Kaufman (2452) - IM Lev Milman (2501) 1-0
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) - IM Eli Vovsha (2539) 0-1
NM Ian Schoch (2245) - James Black (2102) 1-0
The night started out with a nervous tension as by the start of the match, only GM Erenburg and IM Enkhbat were on-site. About 15 minutes into the match, GM Larry Kaufman arrived to start his game against IM Lev Milman. Larry played the opening quickly and actually caught up on time by move 9. Then, NM Schoch arrived 25 minutes into the match. Quite a daunting time deficit in 90 minute game!
Board 4 was the last to start and the first to finish. It started out in a Nimzo-Indian: Botvinnik System. Schoch seemed to be on the worse side of the opening after 11... c4 (b6 appears to be the main line). James Black played the novelty with 14. Bd2 (My database shows 7 games with 14. e4 played with a score of +4 =2 -1 for white). Schoch's position looked really bad starting with 19. Ba4! (18... b3 is an improvement over Rb7). The outlook changed quickly as 22... Rb2! was allowed. Suddenly, Schoch was not losing a piece as anticipated, but keeping a material balance and gaining an initiative. After 28. g3? (Rc1 was better), Schoch relentlessly attacked the king and his opponent resigned. Just like in Week 1, Schoch managed to complicate a worse-looking position and come out with a win! With 2 two wins, once with the Black pieces, Schoch is tied for 7th place at 5.0 in the USCL MVP Leaderboard.
Board 2 was next to finish. The opening was a Closed Ruy Lopez: Exchange Variation. 13. Qd2 was the novelty (a4 and f4 were each tried once before). Both players positioned their pieces in the center, but when black chose to keep it closed after 23... f5, white tried to attack on the kingside. Then, as Milman had maneuvered a Rook to h4, Larry abruptly sprang out 28... g5 to the bewilderment of the audience, and probably Milman as well. Milman looked for some complications with 30. Rxh7, but Larry calmly took it with the rook, and Milman resigned with less than a minute on his clock. The continuation was probably 31. Bf6+ Kf7 32. Nxf5 Rg8 33. Qf2 Nf4 when the black king is actually safe due to the long range attacks of its pieces against the white king. A good season debut for GM Larry Kaufman and congratulations to him for recently earning the official US spot for the World Senior Championships.
Board 1 opened with a Paulsen Sicilian. The position after 14... f6 has been reached at least 7 times (+2 =3 -2) including a Leko-Ivanchuk game that continued 15. Qd2 with an eventual draw and a Shabalov-Stripunsky game continuing with 15. Bc2, also a draw. Clearly, Stripunsky was prepared, but was Erenburg? It seemed so - Sergey played the novelty 15. Rab1 and nicely maneuvered his f3-knight to d5. After 23. Rdc1 and 24. Qa3, white was clearly going to win a pawn on the queenside, but the question was whether the a-pawn could be moved toward promotion safely. I am sure many players (including myself) would have tried pushing the pawn immediately on move 30, but Sergey displayed a nice technique with 30. Ba7 and 31. f3 - not allowing Black to complicate matters by playing 31... f3 himself. Then, he continues to focus on neutralizing Black's kingside play culminating with 48. Bxh8 when Black resigned in view of 48... Kxh8 49. Qxh5+ Qxh5+ 50. Kxh5, and finally, it is clear that the a-pawn will promote. Another great performance by the Kingfisher's top player.
The final game to finish was board 3. The opening was a Neo-Grunfeld where Vovsha played the novelty 11... Rd8 (4 prior games had continued 11... Bh3 with +2 =2 for white). Vovsha opted for play on the queenside white Enkhbat gained space in the center and kingside with his pawns. Both players were under 10 minutes by move 30. Black's queen on d4 was quite menacing, so perhaps 31. Qe4 was a better continuation than 31. e6, which was played in the game. Black gained a pawn and kept the material advantage with aid of an aesthetic duo of knight-blocking maneuvers 37... Nc4-d6 and 41... Nd6-c4. So unfortunately, IM Enkhbat starts 0-2, but expect that to change soon as he has been playing up about 100 rating points in both games.
So the Kingfishers ended up with a 3-1 victory over the Manhattan Applesauce. It's a good turnaround from last week's (-1) loss. Baltimore will look to continue it's winning ways against the Carolina Cobras, next Tuesday!