GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) - FM Tom Bartell (2429) 1-0
FM Ralph Zimmer (2279) - IM Jay Bonin (2424) 0.5-0.5
NM Adithya Balasubramanian (2255) - FM Karl Dehmelt (2308) 1-0
NM Richard Selzler (2252) - IM Richard Costigan (2288) 0-1
In the shortest 90/30 match I can remember Baltimore playing, the Kingfishers edged the Philadelphia Inventors 2.5-1.5. Although the match was decided in Baltimore's favor after only 3 boards finished, you will see in the analysis below that the match could just as likely have been drawn. Also, during Monday night, New Jersey was able to comeback from a 0-2 deficit to draw the match against Manhattan. Thus, Baltimore is now 1 match point clear of Manhattan for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. Now, let's take a look at the games which actually finished in board order.
The Board 1 battle between GM Sergey Erenburg and FM Tom Bartell began with a Sicilian: Taimanov. The novelty occurred when FM Bartell played 13... e5 instead of 13... Nxe3 (=1 -1 for white). Later, FM Bartell tried the overly-ambitious 19... e4:
GM Erenburg neatly diffused the aggression in the center with 20. fxe4 fxe4 21. Rxe4! Bd5 (21... Nxe4 22. Bxe4 and the black king comes under heavy fire) 22. Rd4 Be4 23. Rc4 Qd5 24. Bc3 Bxd3 25. Rxd3 Qxg2 26. Rg3 Qf1+ 27. Kb2 (Black resigned as Rf4 and Rxf6 are coming).
GM Erenburg now has 15 USCL MVP Points along with GM Joel Benjamin and IM Julio Sadorra (GM Benjamin holds the tiebreaker with the most games played). Also, GM Julio Becerra, GM Hikaru Nakamura, and GM Pascal Charbonneau each have a chance to tie or pass that total on Wednesday night.
The IM Jay Bonin and FM Ralph Zimmer game on Board 2 looked as if it was going to be a King's Indian Defense, but soon switched to a Sicilian: Maroczy Bind. The novelty was IM Bonin's 13. Bxg7 (13. Rac1 [+1 for white] and 13. b4 [-1] have been tried). IM Bonin gained space after 14. b4 and seemed to have a good edge through 20. Nxe5 fxe5:
White could keep a clear edge with 21. Rd2! planning to double rooks on the d-file. Instead, the game continued 21. Qd2 h6 22. cxd6 exd6 23. Qxd6 Qxd6 24. Rxd6 Rc2! This active rook allows black to win back the pawn on a2 as in the game or with 25. Bd1 Rc4! (Not 25... Rxa2? 26. Rxa2 Bxa2 27. Bh5! when white wins either the b-pawn or e-pawn). The game ended in the 3-fold repetition that put Baltimore up 1.5-0.5 with Boards 3 + 4 looking slightly better for Baltimore but far from conclusive.
Board 3 between NM Adithya Balasubramanian and FM Karl Dehmelt started "very quietly" with a Giuoco Pianissimo: Four Knights variation. The novelty came quickly with 7... Bb4 (7... Bxe3 with one draw has been played). The middle game was anything but quiet with 12. Nh4 g5 (12... Nxe4 is impossible due to 13. dxe4 Qxh4 14. Qd5! attacking a5 and f7) 13. Nf5 Bxf5 14. exf5 Qd7 15. Qf3 d5 16. Rfb1 0-0-0 17. Rb4 e4!? 18. dxe4 dxe4 19. Qe2 Qxf5?! (19... Nd5 was better):
Here, white missed a chance to play the imaginative shot 20. Rxb7! Nxb7 (20... Kxb7 21. Rb1+ +/-) 21. Qxa6 Qa5 (otherwise Rb1 and xb7 are coming) 22. Qxf6 Nd6 23. Rb1 (+/=; Black could even blunder into mate with 23... Rdf8? 24. Be6+! fxe6 25. Qxe6+ Kd8 26. Rb8+ Nc8 27. Rxc8#). Now, the game actually continued: 20. Bxf7 Rhf8 21. Bh5 Nxh5 22. Qxh5 c5 23. Rb6 Nc4 24. Rxh6 Nxe3 25. fxe3 Qf2+ 26. Kh1 Qxe3 27. Qg4+ Kb8 28. Rh7 Rd6 29. Re7 Rdf6 30. Qxe4 Rf1+ 31. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 32. Kh2. Here, I am not sure if FM Dehmelt felt he had to play for a win due to the match situation or simply missed the draw that NM Balasubramanian admitted he overlooked earlier:
32... Qg1+ 33. Kg3 Qf2+ 34. Kh2 (Definitely not 34. Kg4? Qh4#) Qg1+ with perpetual check. The game actually went 32... Qf4+? 33. Qxf4+ Rxf4 34. a5 Rc4 35. Rg7 Rxc3 36. Rxg5 b5 37. axb6 Kb7 38. h4 Rc4 39. h5 Kxb6 40. Rg3 Rf4 41. h6 Rf7 42. Rh3 Rh7 43. g4 a5 44. g5 a4 45. g6 a3 46. gxh7 and Black resigns. With this win, Baltimore was assured the match victory with at least 2.5 points.
The Board 4 game between IM Richard Costigan and NM Richard Selzler began in an offbeat variation: 1. Nf3 c5 2. b3 d5 3. Bb2 f6 (NM Selzler said he saw this move in the game Petrosian-Fischer, 1971; however, IM Costigan deviated from that game on the next move) 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Qd2 e5 7. e3 Be6 8. Be2 Bb4 9. c3 Ba5 10. 0-0 Nge7 11. Rc1 (Novelty - 11. Rd1 tried with one draw) O-O 12. b4 Bb6 13. c4 Rc8 14. c5 Bc7 15. a3 Qd7 16. Nc3 Rfd8 17. Bb5 Qe8 18. Ne2 Qg6 19. Ng3 h5 20. Qe2 Qh6 (20... e4 21. Nd4 Nxd4 22. exd4 h4 =/+) 21. h3 g5 (21... e4 is playable still) 22. Nh2 h4 23. Nh1 Qg6 24. f3 Kf7?! (24... a6 25. Bd3 f5 or 24... f5 immediately seem more to the point) 25. Nf2 f5 26. Rf1 Kg8 27. Rad1 e4? (It is bad now due to white's rooks, which are better placed on the soon to open files):
28. fxe4 dxe4 29. Rxd8+ (29. Nxe4! is even stronger as the e6-bishop won't be supported when Rf6 is played) Nxd8 30. Nxe4! (30. Nhg4! is also good) Bxh2+ 31. Kxh2 fxe4 32. Rf6 Qh7 33. Qf1 (33. Bc4! Bf7 34. Qg4 +/-) Bf7 34. Bc4 Rc6 (34... a6 35. Be5 b5 36. Ba2! +/=; Black is still worse but can play on for awhile with the extra piece for a pawn) 35. Qd1 Rc8 36. Qd7 Kf8 37. Be5 Kg8 38. Qxe7 (Black resigns with mate coming soon; 38... Qe8+ is the threat).
The match would have been drawn had FM Dehmelt taken the perpetual check on Board 3, so Baltimore had a little luck this week to take the match victory. However, Capablanca said "A good [team] is always lucky," no? Look for Baltimore to try to cement a playoff spot next week against the very tough Boston Blitz!