The most accomplished player in the history of the United States Chess League (USCL) finally has his crown. GM Julio Becerra once again led his team to the championship match, but for the first time, the Miami Sharks emerged victorious.
They beat the two-time champion New York Knights 3.5-0.5. The Sharks had previously lost three title matches, in 2005, 2009 (to the Knights) and 2010. The winning margin was the biggest title match rout since that 2005 loss. In the first season of the USCL, Baltimore beat Miami 3.5-0.5.
Left to right - Miguel Fonseca, Manager John Salisbury, NM Carlos Gaston Andretta, GM Renier Gonzalez, GM Julio Becerra, FM Eric Rodriguez
Neither team played specific matchups or colors - last night both teams used the exact same lineup as they did in the semifinals.
Becerra, who has far and away the most points of any player in league history, moved up from board two to board one earlier in the year, and he hasn't looked back. In the title match, he won relatively quickly, dispatching GM Tamaz Gelashvili's Dragon in about two hours.
GM Julio Becerra
As Yugoslavs go, it was pretty much par for the course. White tried to mate down the h-file while Black hoped his exchange sac came with more aggression.
There was no panic at the Marshall Chess Club, as GM Pascal Charbonneau pleasantly picked up a stray pawn against GM Renier Gonzalez. Soon after though, White began drifting and within 15 more moves, his pieces stumbled around on the queenside. Gonzalez didn't let up, and Charbonneau (who won on that 2009 team that beat the Sharks in the finals) couldn't find adequate counterplay.
Miami could now taste the title, as they only needed a single draw from the bottom boards to clinch. They weren't in trouble in either, so it was really just a matter of who would "settle" first.
NM Nicolas Checa, his space advantage long since dwindled away, couldn't find a breakthrough against NM Carlos Gaston Andretta.
NM Carlos Gaston Andretta
After 85 moves of gentle prodding, the youngster realized his fate. The draw sealed it.
Not content to draw in a winning position, FM Eric Rodriguez played out his winning position and eventually got the full point, making the final margin 3.5-0.5.
FM Eric Rodriguez
The Knights were seeking their third title in five years - they also won in 2009 and 2011. Miami is the first team with the best regular season record (7.5/10) to win in the finals since New England in 2010.