Before diving into the next series of articles I would like to take this one week off to look at few examples from the recent U.S. Open chess tournament. I followed it live online and found many games to be very interesting.
There were three players tying for the 1st place: Julio Sadorra, Josh Friedel (photo) and Mac Molner, however due to better tie-breaks only Friedel and Molner got to play an additional game to determine who would become the U.S. Open Champion and get the coveted spot to the 2014 U.S. Championship. Friedel, with white and 5 minutes, won the Armageddon game against Molner, who had black and 3 minutes. I am very happy for Josh, as he is my close friend and I would be happy to see him play in the U.S. Championship.
Since we have two GMs and one GM-elect tying for first place, we might as well check out some of their games. The first game we'll look at is Sadorra vs. Friedel, where Josh got an advantage with black out of the opening but, as he indicates, "after 19... f5 Black's position is clearly preferable, with the clear plan of Kh7-g5 coming, but in the game it was very difficult to carry out this plan".
The critical moment of the game happens after 26... e5! where White decided to go for an attack instead of patiently defending. The attack is dangerous but Josh managed to capture enough material, so when the moment came he was able to give up his queen and still be up in material. A stellar game by Josh.
While the above game featured more or less understandable play and a consistent implementation of the plans, the next game from GM-elect Mac Molner has many mysteries to uncover. The players chose a topical and sharp Gruenfeld line where one has to know the theory well. It seems to me that Chirila was not familiar with the sideline 15.Rxe7 that Molner played. I am not sure what was his motivation behind the Na6 move, but this turned out to be almost a losing one.
This is typical for sharp lines: the price of making a mistake is very high. While White can allow himself a few inaccuracies, Black absolutely cannot. After avoiding the immediate loss, Chirila got an advantage in an endgame but then did not find a correct defense against the f4-f5 threat and ended up losing on the spot.
The last game is truly impressive - it is a masterpiece from the Philippine GM Sadorra. In the game he went for a forced line after 16.f4 where he ends up an exchange down, but due to a dominant position of his rook and knight his position is better. This position is hard to evaluate, and it is very impressive that Sadorra managed to do it so well. Lenderman faced the hard task of defending the resulting endgame, which he could have probably done successfully if he'd prevented White from activating his king.
There were more interesting games played but these three somehow stood out for me, maybe because they were played by the top three finishers. Once again congrats to GM Josh Friedel for clinching the title!