As the regular season draws closer and closer to its conclusion, little was done to clarify the playoff scenarios as almost all of the playoff spots remain well within reach for most teams.
The Atlantic division saw Manhattan continuing its momentum with a smashing 3.5-0.5 victory over New York, who find themselves not leading the division for the first time this season. New Jersey hoped to keep pace with a victory over the struggling Philadephia Inventors, but was only able to muster a tied match and has to settle for a second place tie.
NJ had tried a somewhat unusual lineup this week, electing to forgo the dual-GM setup in favor of strengthening the lower boards. Naturally this meant a slightly weakened lineup on the top 2 boards, but allowed both of our lower boards to be young master-level players.
Christopher Wu took up the mantle on the third board, with us having the white pieces on that board for the final time this season. Playing against Peter Minear, a strong near-2400 level player, he was able to build up a great position, with a monstrous pawn on c6 restricting all of Black's pieces, but was unable to successfully navigate the position, eventually dropping the c6-pawn and the game soon after:
A disappointing game after getting such a great position, but so it goes in the USCL. Following this Praveen Balakrishnan got a dubious-looking position from the opening and wasn't able to recover, eventually losing a difficult rook endgame.
This loss left us in a huge 0-2 hole, meaning that both myself and GM Alexander Stripunsky would have to win just to save the match. Not only this, but considering our lineup was made to increase our firepower on the lower two boards, having them both win puts a strain on the top two boards even greater than usual, as instead of having 2 GMs leading the charge we have just one.
I had black against FM Dov Gorman, against whom my results have not been particularly good with 2 losses within fairly recent memory. Anti-Nimzo move orders have become all the rage recently as White's attempts to defeat the Nimzo tend to fall short. This game FM Gorman chose a hyper-aggressive line and hoped to quickly sweep Black off the board:
This big win put us back into the match, yet once again our hopes were pinned on GM Alexander Stripunsky. Fortunately for us, he claimed a nominial edge in the endgame and played a beautiful and instructive technical grind, allowing us to stave off disaster this week. This game is a must-see for any serious player, excellently demonstrating so many instructive endgame themes that the game is worthy of inclusion in a Dvortetsky book.
Play over games like this and I'm quite sure you'll see a noticable improvement in your play. These heroics left us clinging on to our playoff hopes, while Philadelphia needs to both win out (preferably by huge margins) but will also need a lot of help if they want to sneak in.
The standings are thus:
|Atlantic Division||W||L||Game Points||Opps Avg Rating|
Manhattan, after a disappointing first half to the season, has charged back with 3 big wins in a row to claim the top spot with 2 weeks left to go, while New York has dipped down to second place for the first time on the season. Next week sees a battle royale with New York dueling it out with New Jersey in what will likely determine the playoff spots. Take off from work, push off your midterms - this is one match you absolutely don't want to miss. 7:00 PM EST next Wednesday - don't forget it! All it takes is a quick login to the live games server, with live commentary on chess.com/tv as well.
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