Monday, September 27, 2010

Week 6 Lineup/Preview

Wednesday, 9:00 PM EDT
Time Control 60 min. with 30 sec. increment

Arizona Scorpions vs. Baltimore Kingfishers
IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2583) - GM Sergey Erenburg (2646)
IM Daniel Rensch (2471) - GM Larry Kaufman (2452)
FM Warren Harper (2408) - IM Ray Kaufman (2433)
NM David Adelberg (2275) - FM Ralph Zimmer (2279)

Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.

It's Interdivision Week in the USCL; that is, Eastern Division teams play against Western Division teams. That also means the time control is shorter (60 min. with 30 sec. increment) than usual for both teams this week. You may think that would favor Western Division teams as they are used to shorter time controls than the Eastern Division teams, but USCL history shows that interdivisional matchups are fairly even with the West leading the East by only 1 match point (36-35).

For Interdivision Week, the Baltimore Kingfishers face the Arizona Scorpions. They are matched up for the second year in a row. Could this be a budding rivalry? Only the Kaufmans are returning to play from the previous matchup, so it will take some time to grow the individual matchup histories. Now, Baltimore is looking to stay ahead of the pack for the fourth and final Eastern Division playoff spot while Arizona is neck-and-neck with San Francisco for first place in the Western Division. Baltimore is using its highest-rated lineup to date with a 2452.5 rating average. Arizona counters with a strong lineup having a 2434.25 rating average.

Board 1: IM Rogelio Barcenilla vs. GM Sergey Erenburg. IM Barcenilla is (+2 -2) this year while GM Erenburg is (+1 =2). This is the only board with a somewhat significant rating difference as GM Erenburg holds a 63-point rating advantage. All other boards have a rating difference of 25-points or less, so a Baltimore win here and draws on the other boards or another all-drawn match would seem likely. However, who plays just to draw? Expect sharp, exciting battles, especially with the shortened time control! Look for GM Erenburg to come out swinging after being held to two draws previously.

Board 2: GM Larry Kaufman vs. IM Daniel Rensch. GM Larry Kaufman is (=1) against Arizona and has a good (+2 =1 -1) record on Boards 1+2 this season. He will be looking to rebound after an opening miscue last week. However, his opponent, IM Rensch, is spectacular (+3) on Board 3 this season. He moves up a board this week, but that don't take that to mean much as he has achieved that perfect record against 2400-level competition.

Board 3: FM Warren Harper vs. IM Ray Kaufman. FM Harper is (-1) this season while IM Ray Kaufman is (=1) against Arizona and (+1 =1) for the year. Last time against Arizona, IM Ray Kaufman played a tense 119-move draw against FM Adamson. I don't imagine this game will be quite as long, but anticipate that it will be just as tense a struggle!

Board 4: FM Ralph Zimmer vs. NM David Adelberg. Both players have won their last two USCL games, but FM Zimmer is playing his first game of the season while NM Adelberg has played 1 game already. Let's see if either player can keep their streak going, which may turn out to be the key game in this relatively even match.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week 5 Results/Review

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. New York Knights 1-3
GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) - GM Alex Lenderman (2608) 0.5-0.5
GM Larry Kaufman (2452) - GM Pascal Charbonneau (2566) 0-1
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) - NM Matt Herman (2313) 0.5-0.5
NM Ian Schoch (2245) - NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2289) 0-1

The Baltimore Kingfishers fell to the New York Knights by 3-1. With Boston's victory over New Jersey, Baltimore falls to 4th place in the Eastern Division. Three teams (Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Manhattan) are one match point behind the Kingfishers for the final playoff spot.

The Board 1 battle between GM Erenburg and GM Lenderman was not as exciting as anticipated, but it did have some interesting points. They opened with a Caro-Kann: Advanced Variation. The position with 7... f6 8. 0-0 has been played three times, all within the past two years. 8... fxe5 was tried once before with white winning (the other two times, 8... Ne7 was tried with +1 =1 for white). GM Lenderman played the novelty with 9... 0-0-0 (9... Nxe5 played previously). Now, take a look at the position after 12... Qd7:

GM Sergey Erenburg - GM Alex Lenderman, Position 1

In the game, played continued 13. Nxe6 Bxe6 14. Rxe6 Nf6 (GM Erenburg said he missed this move as he thought he could play 15. Rxf6 gxf6 16. Bg4, but 16... f5 saves the queen). He added that he should have tried 13. Rxe6 as 13... Bxe6 14. Nxe6 would give white a slight advantage i.e. 14... Rd8 (14... Nf6 15. Nxd8 Kxd8 16. Be3) 15. Nxf8 Rxf8 16. Bg4 Rf5 17. Qd3. Later in the game, GM Erenburg won a pawn here:

GM Sergey Erenburg - GM Alex Lenderman, Position 2

29. Bxh7 g6 30. Bxd6 Bxd6 31. f5 but with opposite-colored bishops, GM Lenderman was even able to jettison another pawn for a blockade of white's pawns, and the game was drawn by repetition.

The Board 2 matchup between GM Charbonneau and GM L. Kaufman was another Caro-Kann: Advanced Variation. 8... Nc6 appears to be an error as white has scored (+3 =1). Instead, 8... Ne7, which is only (+1 =4 -2) for white, should be played intending to recapture on d5 with the knight. However, after 9. cxd5:

GM Pascal Charbonneau - GM Larry Kaufman, Position 1

9... cxd4 became the critical mistake. 10. Nc4 Qc2 and white could have played 11. Qxc2 Bxc2 12. dxc6 dxe3 13. cxb7 Bb4+ 14. Kf1 Rb8 15. Rc1 Ba4 16. Nb6! Bd7 (16... axb6 17. Rc8+) 17. Rc8+ Bxc8 18. bxc8=Q+ Rxc8 19. Nxc8 and since the knight can escape to a7 or d6, white is a clear piece up. Instead, the game continued 11. dxc6 Qxd1+ 12. Rxd1 dxe3 13. Nd6+ Bxd6 14. exd6 bxc6 15. d7+ Kd8 16. Ne5 and here:

GM Pascal Charbonneau - GM Larry Kaufman, Position 2

Black could try for better drawing chances with 16... exf2+ 17. Kxf2 Ne7 (The knight takes a more central position and keeping the c6-pawn instead of the f7-pawn provides the king cover on c7, where it will be forced to move anyway). However, it would still be clear that white is the only one playing for a win, and that is exactly what GM Charbonneau did in the game.

On Board 3, the game between IM Enkhbat and NM Herman appeared to start as an expected Queen's Gambit, but then, it transposed into a Grunfeld Defense: Russian, Szabo (Boleslavsky) variation with 13... Bg4 as the novelty. Previous moves include 13... Be6 (=2 -4 for white) and 13... Na6 (+3 =2 for white). Then, 14. Rad1 Nd7, and black offers the e-pawn:

IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat - NM Matt Herman, Position 1

White declined the offer with 15. Qc2 seeing as 15. Bxe7 Rfe8 16. Ba3 Rab8 17. Qd3 Ng5 gives black plenty of play. There after, the game never strayed far from equality. Perhaps white's best chance to play for the advantage was here:

IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat - NM Matt Herman, Position 1

22. Bd3 Re8 23. Qf4 and wait to see how black deals with his slightly cramped position. The game would eventually liquidate into a drawish ending with Queens and opposite-colored bishops when both players agreed to a draw as the match result was clear.

Board 4 was an Alekhine's Defense played by NM Ostrovskiy and NM Schoch. Black chose a plan involving the king's knight moving from g8-f6-d5-b6-d7-f6. The 9... Nb6-d7 maneuver has actually been played at least 24 times before but with only a 37% score. The novelty occurred with 13... Bf5 (13... b6 [+1 for white] and 13... h6 [-1 for white] were tried before). Black's position in the middle game actually was not as bad as might be expected after losing so many tempos with the knight. After 21. Qe2, black missed an interesting shot at white's center:

NM Alex Ostrovskiy - NM Ian Schoch, Position 1

21... Bxd4! 22. Nd5 (if 22. Bxd4 Nxd4 23. Rxd4 [23. Nxd4 Qxg5+ 24. Kh2 Rxd4 25. Rxd4 Qxc1 26. Rd8 Bg4! 27. Qxe7 Rxd8 28. Qxd8 Be6! 29. Nd1 Kh7 -/+] Rxd4 24. Nd5 [24. Nxd4 Qxg5+ 25. Kh1 Qxc1 -/+] Rxd5 25. cxd5 =/+) e5 with chances for both sides. The game actually continued 21... Nd6 22. Bg2 Qa5 23. Nb5 and here:

NM Alex Ostrovskiy - NM Ian Schoch, Position 2

NM Schoch erred with 23... Nxb5? (23... a6 or 23... Nf5 instead were better) 24. cxb5 Nb4 (24... Nb8 25. Bf4 Re8 26. Ne5 and black's queenside pieces are stuck since 26... Nd7? 27. Rxc8! Raxc8 28. Nxd7 +/-) 25. Bd2 Bf5 Qc4 and black resigns as there is no compensation for the lost knight.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 5 Lineup/Preview

Wednesday, 7:15 PM EDT
Time Control 90 min. with 30 sec. increment

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. New York Knights
GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) - GM Alex Lenderman (2608)
GM Larry Kaufman (2452) - GM Pascal Charbonneau (2566)
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) - NM Matt Herman (2313)
NM Ian Schoch (2245) - NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2289)

Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.

The Baltimore Kingfishers (3rd in East) battle against the New York Knights (2nd in East) in a fight for 2nd (or possibly even 1st) place in the Eastern Division. The Kingfishers have the same lineup as in Week 2 when they defeated Manhattan 3-1. If this match plays out just as well for Baltimore, perhaps we should call this lineup "The New York Special." However, that won't be an easy feat as the New York Knights counter with a very strong lineup, featuring GM Alex Lenderman, who holds the highest win percentage (10+ games) in the USCL with a score of 12.5/14 (89%). Now, let's take a look at the individual matchups:

Board 1: GM Sergey Erenburg vs. GM Alex Lenderman. These are two of the highest performing players in USCL history. GM Erenburg is (+1 -1) against New York, and GM Lenderman is (+2) against Baltimore. Their ratings are relatively close with GM Erenburg having a 38-point advantage. So what happens when two USCL titans face-off? Fireworks? Game of the Week? Game of the Year? Don't miss this game!

Board 2: GM Pascal Charbonneau vs. GM Larry Kaufman. GM Charbonneau is (+2 =1 -2) against Baltimore, and GM L. Kaufman is (+4 -1) against New York. This matchup is another duel of GMs, showcasing two USCL veterans - both are New York Knight-Slayers, but for opposing sides!. GM Charbonneau holds a significant 114-point rating advantage and has the white pieces, with which New York has a near-perfect 7.5/8 score this season, so New York will look to win here. However, Larry has been getting good positions so far this year. Will he continue his strong track-record against New York? Keep an eye out (or board window up) for this game as well.

Board 3: IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat vs. NM Matt Herman. IM Enkhbat is (+2 =2 -3) against New York, and NM Herman is (+1 =1 -2) against Baltimore. IM Enkhbat holds the rating advantage here at 112-points. He will be looking to break even in this season's MVP points with a win. NM Herman is making his season debut, and he will be out to start it off positively. Expect a Queen's Gambit Declined with sharp play.

Board 4: NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy vs. NM Ian Schoch. Neither player has played the other team. Both players are 2-0 this season and have not played since Week 2. However, NM Ostrovskiy recently became the youngest player to win the title of New York State Champion. He also has a 44-point rating advantage and the white pieces. On the other side, NM Schoch has played well from worse positions this season - it just looks like the worse position starts earlier than the middle game this time. Will he be able to turn it around once again?

PS. Both Baltimore and New York have a player - WGM Sabina Foisor and IM Irina Krush, respectively - representing the U.S.A. in the Women's Team Olympiad, starting Tuesday, September 21st. Games start at 5 AM EDT (1 AM for the final round), but you can follow the results for both the Open and Women's Olympiad Teams at USCF Online, Official Olympiad Site,, and TWIC.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Week 4 Results/Review

Philadelphia Inventors vs. Baltimore Kingfishers 0.5-0.5
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 Magesh Panchanathan - GM Sergey Erenburg, Position 1

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

FM Karl Dehmelt - IM Ray Kaufman, Position 1

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:

NM Ricky Selzler - IM Richard Costigan, Position 1

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:

GM Larry Kaufman - FM Tom Bartell, Position 1

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:

GM Larry Kaufman - FM Tom Bartell, Position 2

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!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Week 4 Lineup/Preview

Monday, 7:15 PM EDT
Time Control 90 min. with 30 sec. increment

Philadelphia Inventors vs. Baltimore Kingfishers
GM Magesh Panchanathan (2535) - GM Sergey Erenburg (2646)
FM Tom Bartell (2429) - GM Larry Kaufman (2452)
FM Karl Dehmelt (2308) - IM Ray Kaufman (2433)
IM Richard Costigan (2288) - NM Ricky Selzler (2252)

Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.

The Baltimore Kingfishers have won two matches in a row, and they enter Week 4 with a strong lineup looking to continue that streak. Both Kaufmans come back for an encore this week after fine victories against Carolina. Also, returning after a week's hiatus is GM Erenburg, who took 2nd place in Game of the Week in his last time playing. Finally, we see the USCL debut of NM Ricky Selzler, who is the UMBC Chess Club President. Now, let's look at each of the matchups:

Board 1: GM Magesh Panchanathan vs. GM Sergey Erenburg. GM Erenburg is (+1 =3) against Philadelphia, and GM Panchanathan is (+1 =1) against Baltimore from his seasons with the Dallas Destiny. Erenburg is the 111-point rating favorite though he has the black pieces in this matchup. However, that also could be a slight advantage seeing as the league is scoring 56% this year with black, and Baltimore is one of three teams making the most of playing the black side. Don't count Panchanathan out though - I still remember Blehm's astonished reaction when Panchanathan uncorked that Rxf3! move in Season 2. Anticipate quite a struggle between these two GMs!

Board 2: GM Larry Kaufman vs. FM Tom Bartell. GM L. Kaufman is (+2 =2 -2) against Philadelphia, and FM Bartell is (+1 =2) against Baltimore with that one win coming against Larry in 2008. Looking at the game, you will see that Larry was actually winning until a late blunder (38. Rc3?) into a trap. Considering also the length to which Larry tested IM Schroer's defenses last week, don't expect either player to concede a conclusion without trying everything in his power.

Board 3: FM Karl Dehmelt vs. IM Ray Kaufman. IM R. Kaufman is (=1 -3) against Philadelphia while his opponent, FM Dehmelt, is new to the USCL this year. FM Dehmelt is (+1 -1) in the league thus far. Ray has a sizable 125-point rating advantage and will be looking to score Baltimore's first victory on Board 3 this year (=2 -1, so far). Envision a fantastic middlegame skirmish!

Board 4: NM Ricky Selzler vs. IM Richard Costigan. As previously noted, NM Selzler is making his USCL debut. He faces a veteran of the USCL in IM Costigan, who has a (+1 =2 -4) record against Baltimore. IM Costigan has the only rating advantage for Philadelphia, so they will be counting on him to prevail in this matchup. Will Selzler be able to hold him off or even turn the tables?

Will Baltimore enjoy its first 3-match win streak since 2005? Find out during Monday Night Chess!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week 3 Results/Review

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Carolina Cobras 3.5-0.5
GM Larry Kaufman (2452) - IM Jonathan Schroer (2437) 1-0
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) - FM Ron Simpson (2330) 1-0
WGM Sabina Foisor (2367) - NM Carlito Agner (2251) 0.5-0.5
IM Ray Kaufman (2433) - NM Craig Jones (2286) 1-0

The Baltimore Kingfishers scored a lopsided 3.5-0.5 match victory against the Carolina Cobras. However, the games were much closer than the final score. Let's take a look at each game.

The Board 1 battle between GM Larry Kaufman and IM Jonathan Schroer began as a Queen's Gambit Declined: Exchange Variation. The novelty occured with 15. Rfc1 (Only one game, played by two German Masters, continued with Black's 14... Bd6 line and 15. Bf5 was played with an eventual white win). Larry thought for over 20 minutes after 18... Re6, finally deciding on Bf5. Apparently, what he was worried about was the position after 20. Qg4:

GM Larry Kaufman - IM Jonathan Schroer, Position 1

Here, Schroer could have gone for the shot 20... Qxf2+! 21. Kxf2 Bxf5 when white probably has to return the queen with 22. Qh4 Bxb1+ 23. Qxf6 gxf6 24. Rxb1 and black has an extra (though doubled) pawn. After Schroer missed this opportunity, Larry took over the initiative, but it was far from won. On move 33, Larry could have made the win clearer with Ra1 or Ra2, as the a6 and c6 pawns will fall in short order and the b-pawn will be much more difficult for black to try to hold than the a-pawn as in the game. The final mistake by black was 67... Bb4 where Be7 instead keeps hopes of holding a draw alive. With the long victory, GM Larry Kaufman is off to a nice 2-0 start to the season, and he leads the Kingfishers with 8.0 USCL MVP Points.

On Board 2, the game between IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat and FM Ron Simpson moved away from well-trodden lines pretty quickly. Enkhbat's usual Caro-Kann defense was met by the novelty 7. Qb3 (An unusual attempt at mixing things up; it's difficult to say what move would have been better as white only scores 27.2% in 138 games in the position after move 6). There was a strange relay error of 8. Qc2 instead of gxf3, but clearly a master would not drop a piece when there is a simple recapture, so a takeback occurred (We were also assured that the player had made the correct move 8. gxf3 on a physical board). Enkhbat only though for more than 10 minutes on the move 11... e5, deciding to open up the center for an eventual rook invasion. Simpson tried to keep play sharp, choosing to allow a 2 Rook for Queen and Pawn trade by playing 21. cxd5:

FM Ron Simpson - IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat, Position 1

21... Rbxb2+ 22. Qxb2 Rxb2+ 23. Kxb2 and a draw was offered by Simpson around here. However, Enkhbat smoothly demonstrated that he knew how to win the position by working to advance his kingside pawns. IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat has put his earlier defeats behind him and will look to repeat his triumphant performance for the rest of the season.

Board 3 between WGM Sabina Foisor and NM Carlito Agner opened with a King's Indian Defense; and the novelty was 11. Kh1 (White only has a 27.8% score in 18 games after 10... Qe7; other white tries that have scored are 11. Be3, 11. Bg5, and 11. b3). Both players seemed fine out of the opening, but Foisor's 16. f4 allowed Agner to keep white from maneuvering in the center with 16... e4 (16. f3 kept the possibility of more open play). White's pieces were slightly cramped through the middle game, and black was able to take advantage by lifting the queen's rook to the h-file! Foisor slowly built toward a break on the g-file and found some play. For instance, Agner had to watch out for the blunder 29... Bf7??

WGM Sabina Foisor - NM Carlito Agner, Position 1

30. Qg8+! Bxg8 31. Rxg8#. Instead, Agner played 29... Qg7 and allowed Foisor the opportunity to trade Rook and Bishop for Queen with Rg8+ from moves 31 to 34. However, Foisor declined - probably due to the relatively closed position, which would make it difficult for the queen to assert dominance. Agner might have even been better if he had allowed the trade possibility for one more move with 34... Bxb2 35. Rg8+ Qxg8 36. Bxg8 Kxg8 and white's remaining pieces will have difficulty finding useful points of attack. Finally, the game ended with a repetition as black's king was kept stuck in the corner. WGM Sabina Foisor scored a well-timed draw that clinched this week's match victory. Look for her to try to improve the result as she continues to gear up to play for the US in the Women's Olympiad.

The game between IM Ray Kaufman and NM Craig Jones on Board 4 transposed, from an unusual move order, into a Queen's Indian Defense where the novelty was 11. 0-0-0 (Each of 4 previous games had white [+3 -1] kingside castling and capturing on c3 with the b-pawn). White pushed for a quick kingside assault while black positioned to play in the center. In the following position, Jones decides to go for the attack with 21. gxh6?!:

NM Craig Jones - IM Ray Kaufman, Position 1

21... Qxh4 22. Rxg7+ Kh8 23. Qxe5 Nf6 24. Qf5?? (24. Rg5 suggested by IM Ray Kaufman - although white is still worse, it keeps chances to complicate). See if you can find the win:

NM Craig Jones - IM Ray Kaufman, Position 2

24... Rxd2! 25. Rxd2 Qe1+ 26. Rd1 Qe3+ and Jones resigned in view of 27. Kb1 Rxd1+ 28. Bxd1 Bxe4+ winning the white queen (it is also mate in 7). IM Ray Kaufman makes his season debut with a spectacular finish. Hope his future games are just as entertaining!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Week 3 Lineup/Preview

Tuesday, 7:15 PM EDT
Time Control 90 min. with 30 sec. increment

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Carolina Cobras
GM Larry Kaufman (2452) - IM Jonathan Schroer (2437)
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) - FM Ron Simpson (2330)
WGM Sabina Foisor (2367) - NM Carlito Agner (2251)
IM Ray Kaufman (2433) - NM Craig Jones (2286)

Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.

The Kingfishers bring a very balanced lineup for Week 3 against the Carolina Cobras. IM Ray Kaufman is making his seasonal debut on Board 4. Yes, that's right - a 2433 rated player on Board 4 - that must be a USCL record!

Board 1: GM Larry Kaufman vs. IM Jonathan Schroer. GM L. Kaufman is (+2 =1 -1) against Carolina, and IM Schroer is (+1 =3) against Baltimore. Also, these two played once previously in Week 2, 2007, a draw in an Open Catalan. Now, with the Cobras heavily outrated on Boards 2-4, don't expect such a peaceful conclusion to this game as IM Schroer probably needs to play for a win.

Board 2: IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat vs. FM Ron Simpson. These two have not played each other, though IM Enkhbat is (+2 =2 -2) against Carolina, and FM Simpson is (-1) against Baltimore. Both players are coming off (-2) starts in the league, so each will be hungry for a win, especially IM Enkhbat, as he holds a 95-point rating advantage. Expect slow-building, but exciting conclusion on this board.

Board 3: WGM Sabina Foisor vs. NM Carlito Agner. These two players are relatively new to the USCL, so neither has played against the other team. WGM Foisor, in 2 games, has yet to score in the USCL. With a 116-point rating advantage, she'll be looking to change that here against NM Agner, who is making his season debut for Carolina. Look for a complicated, unbalanced middle game with a decisive conclusion.

Board 4: IM Ray Kaufman vs. NM Craig Jones. IM R. Kaufman is (-1) against Carolina, and NM Jones is (+1 =2 -1) against Baltimore. IM R. Kaufman has been getting significantly stronger in recent years by playing tournaments in Europe. He'll be looking to change his relatively poor USCL record thus far. Theoretically, what better place to start than with a 147-point rating advantage on Board 4? His opponent, NM Jones, has been a solid veteran of the USCL, and he will not make it easy for Ray to achieve his aims. Expect this to be the match's most entertaining game throughout.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 2 Results/Review

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Manhattan Applesauce 3-1
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!