IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2583) - GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) 0.5-0.5
IM Daniel Rensch (2471) - GM Larry Kaufman (2452) 0-1
FM Warren Harper (2408) - IM Ray Kaufman (2433) 1-0
NM David Adelberg (2275) - FM Ralph Zimmer (2279) 0-1
In a tense match that lasted past midnight EDT, the Baltimore Kingfishers defeated the Arizona Scorpions by 2.5-1.5 as GM Sergey Erenburg held onto a draw as black on Board 1. On all the other boards, the player with the white pieces won. Let's take a look at how they did it in order of their finish.
Board 2 started with a Queen's Gambit Declined: Classical variation. IM Rensch played the novelty, 7... Nh5 (other common moves played before include 7... dxc4, Nbd7, or c5). After 11. Be2 Nxg3 12. hxg3, it was clear white would have significant play against the black kingside. GM Larry Kaufman doubled his rooks on the h-file, centralized his knights, and then fended off the black's attempts at disturbing the queenside. Take a look at the position after 27... Rd2:
GM Larry Kaufman secured his advantage with 28. R1h5! Black offered his queen, knight and pawn for the two rooks with 28... Qg7 29. Rg5 Ng6 30. Rhxg6 hxg6 31. Rxg6 Qxg6 32. Qxg6+ Kf8 33. Qf6+ Ke8 34. Bf3 and black resigned as white's material advantage is clearly too great once the e- and f-pawns fall. This was the first game to finish, and on the lower two boards, white seemed to have an advantage on both, but they were not clear wins yet.
The next game to finish was Board 4, which began in the English Opening. NM Adelberg played the novelty 8... Qe7 (only 8... 0-0 has been tried with +2 =2 for white). The c-file opened with 9. cxd5 cxd5. Black took control of it quickly, but white prevented any good use of the open c-file. Then, it was white who made use of it after 22. Nc6 Nb8:
23. Qc2! (23. Bh3 was also good) Nxc6 24. Rc1 Qd6 25. bxc6 Nd7?! 26. Bh3! and white kept the initiative after 26... f5 27. e4 Nc5 28. Bxa5! Qxc6 29. exd5. Eventually white ended up with an extra a-pawn, which FM Zimmer managed to promote before NM Adelberg resigned. Baltimore was up 2-0 at this point, but Board 3 was looking good for Arizona and Board 1 was drawish, but still unclear.
Board 3 began sharply as FM Harper played a version of the Halloween Gambit (a month early!): 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. a3 (avoiding the critical 4. Nxe5 Nxe5 5. d4 Nc6 6. d5 Bb4!) g6 5. Nxe5!? Then, after 5... Nxe5 6. d4 Nc6 7. d5:
IM Ray Kaufman chose to give the piece back with 7... Bg7 rather than having to "undevelop" his pieces as in the variation 7... Nb8 8. e5 Ng8 9. d6 cxd6 10. exd6. The game continued 8. dxc6 bxc6 9. Be2 0-0 (Novelty; 10... d6 played in one game that black won) 10. 0-0 Re8 11. Bf3 d6, and now, the position looks more like it came from a Pirc. 12. Bg5 h6 13. Be3 a5 14. Qd2 g5 (Perhaps 14... Rb8 15. Bxh6 (15. Rab1 g5) Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Rxb2 was better in view of white's following moves):
15. e5! Rxe5 16. Bxc6 Rb8 17. f4! and black sacrificed the exchange with 17... Rxe3 (17... gxf4 18. Bxf4 Rc5 [18... Rf5 19. Rab1 =/+] 19. Bxh6! and the c6-bishop cannot be taken due to Qg5 and if 19... Rxb2 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Nd5! a move similar to the game and gives white an even larger advantage) to slow white's attack. However, FM Harper showed that he still had enough of an advantage to win the game. This was the third game of the match to finish, so all eyes turned to Board 1.
Board 1 started out pretty quietly. It actually followed Week 4's game, GM Panchanathan - GM Erenburg, up through 8. e4. Not wanting to allow his opponent to simply follow that game, GM Erenburg deviated first with 8... dxe4. However, the game was still very similar to the one against GM Panchanathan. 13. Bf4 was actually the novelty (13. Qb3 tried once, leading to a draw; in fact, IM Barcenilla offered a draw around here and GM Erenburg was given a bonus 2 minutes by the league. Warning: Don't offer early draws!), but the new idea was trading trading black's light-squared bishop for white's remaining knight with 15... Bxf3. This kept a pair of minor pieces on the board, allowing for the complications that would arise later. Around move 25, it became clear that IM Barcenilla would have to play for a win with white in order for the Arizona Scorpions to draw the match, and so the game opened up after 26. g5. The game became really exciting after 47... Ne3+:
IM Barcenilla sacrificed the exchange for a pawn with 48. Kxf4! (48. Kh3 Rf2 was too drawish with white needing to win) Ng2+ 49. Kg4 Nxe1 50. Rxe1. Then, it looked like white had made progress after 65. Rg8:
However, GM Erenburg sacrificed the exchange back with 65... Rxe4! Both sides were under a minute here. For several moves in a row, GM Erenburg nearly flagged as he would move with less than 5 seconds to go (the closest was 1.6 seconds left). However, the position had simplified and both players soon gained time from the increment. It seemed like black's rook could always disturb the white king, preventing promotion threats, so the game was drawn by repetition. While the match victory was clinched, the Kingfisher players were just so enthralled by this endgame that they continued to analyze for awhile after the match ended around half past midnight.
The Kingfishers gained ground on the New York Knights, who are now in 3rd place in the East, while also adding to their lead over the 5th-8th place teams in the East. With only 4 matches to go, Baltimore is in firm control of the final Eastern Division playoff spot.