GM Magesh Panchanathan (2535) - GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) 0.5-0.5
FM Tom Bartell (2429) - GM Larry Kaufman (2452) 0.5-0.5
FM Karl Dehmelt (2308) - IM Ray Kaufman (2433) 0.5-0.5
IM Richard Costigan (2288) - NM Ricky Selzler (2252) 0.5-0.5
An all-draw match! Amazingly, that's even rarer (this is the 3rd occurrence) than a 4-0 victory (10 occurrences) in the USCL. Let's check out how this uncommon result came about.
Board 1 was the first game to finish. The clash of GMs, Panchanathan and Erenburg, featured a King's Indian Attack-like (d4 instead of d3) setup stemming from the Reti Opening. GM Panchanathan played the novelty with 10. Qb3 - previously, 10. exd5 (+1 =2) had been played exclusively. All the minor pieces were quickly traded in the center. Then, white had the initiative in attacking black's pawns, so GM Erenburg had to find some resourceful ways of keeping the position even. For instance, take the position after 24. Kg2:
GM Erenburg played 24... Rb2 with the threat of 25. Rxc6 Rxf2+ 26. Kxf2 Qb2+ followed by Qxa1. Instead, the game continued 25. Ra2 Rxa2 26. Qxa2 Rd5 27. Qc4 Qb7 28. a5 Qb1 29. Rxd5 cxd5 30. Qc8+ Kh7 31. Qc7 and a draw was agreed as a perpetual check by the black queen on the b1-h7 diagonal would surely ensue.
Board 3 was the next to finish. This matchup of FM Dehmelt and IM Ray Kaufman followed a relatively long (for USCL games) theoretical line of the Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack. Finally, on move 18, the novelty was played - 18. 0-0; other moves tried before include 18. Ke2 (+2 =1 -1), 18. Kd2 (+1), and 18. Bd4 (-1). 18... Rhc8 19. Rxc8 Rxc8 20. Bxa7 Ra8 21. Bd4 Rxa2 22. Re1+ Kf5
Here, 23. Bxg7 f6 would appear to give black the better chances as the b-pawn will soon fall. The game actually continued 23. Re8 g6 (23... f6 is also possible) 24. Rd8 Ke6 25. Re8+ Kf5 26. Rd8 Ke6 27. Re8+ Kf5 and a three-fold repetition was claimed.
Board 4 concluded soon afterward. In the Battle of Richards, NM Selzer - IM Costigan, the game as a Queen's Gambit Declined: Slav variation with 8... b5 as the novelty. Previous games had tried 8... Nbd7 (=1) and 8... c5 (+1 for white). White seemed to have a slight edge from the opening, but Black's strong move 23... e5 had the position looking very equal. Then, after some liquidation of pieces on e5, there was the position after 27... Bxe5:
28. Nxa5 would have given white some chances to win. For instance, 28... Bxh2+ 29. Kxh2 Qe5+ 30. g3 Rxd1 (30... Qxa5 31. Rxd7 Rxd7 32. Rc8+ Kg7 33. Rc4 +/=) 31. Rxd1 Qxa5 (31... Rxd1 32. Qxd1 Qxa5 33. Kg2 +/=) 32. Qb5 is better for white due to white's passed a-pawn and black's weak b-pawn. However, the game continued: 28. Rxd7 Rxd7 29. Rd1 Bc7 30. g3 Qd8 31. Rxd7 Qxd7 32. Qd2 Qxd2 33. Nxd2 and a draw was eventually agreed.
The result of the match came down to Board 2. The rematch of GM Larry Kaufman and FM Tom Bartell was quite a tension-filled game! They opened with a King's Indian Defense with 13... Nh7 as the novelty. Moves tried before include: 13... Qe7 (+1 -1), 13... Nh5 (+1 -1), and 13... Kh7 (-1 for white). Larry got an edge in the opening and eventually won the d-pawn on move 25. However, FM Bartell kept his pieces active and managed to make it difficult to convert the edge. In fact, toward the end, it seemed as if FM Bartell was even playing to win by setting up mating ideas against the white king! Take the position after 53. Be8:
Here, black chose 58... Nf4!? instead of the seemingly safer Ne7. 54. Rh7 Rc3 55. Rd7+ Ke6 56. Ra7 Rc2 57. c7 Kd6 58. Kf1 h4 59. Rxa5 Rxc7 60. Ra6+ Ke5 61. Bxg6 Rg7 62. Ra5+ Kd4 63. Be8 Nxg2 64. Rh5 Ke3 65. Bc6 Nf4 - Both players have been under 2 minutes each for awhile here:
White declined playing 66. Rxh4 worrying about 66... Rc7 threatening Rc1#, but 67. Rh6 holds an advantage for white as the bishop cannot be forced out without letting the white king out of the mating net. White played 66. Re5+ instead and the game finished with a three-fold repetition with Kd3 67. Rf5 Ke3 68. Re5+ Kd3 69. Rf5 Ke3 70. Re5+.
And with that, the match ended in all-draws! Baltimore was surely disappointed with not being able to pull out the win considering the moderate rating advantage going into the match and the advantage on Board 2 during the match, but they can be happy they have maintained 3rd place in the Eastern Division thanks to New England's drawn match with Boston on Wednesday night. Tune in next week for the matchup against the 2nd place New York Knights!