Week 8 Review: New England Nor'easters vs. Baltimore Kingfishers
New England Nor'easters vs. Baltimore Kingfishers 1.5-2.5
GM Sam Shankland (2673) - IM Levan Bregadze (2469) 0.5-0.5 View Game
FM Steven Winer (2409) - IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2492) 0.5-0.5 View Game
NM Mika Brattain (2364) - NM Jared Defibaugh (2297) 0.5-0.5 View Game
NM Andrew Liu (2296) - FM Ralph Zimmer (2244) 0-1 View Game
Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.
The Baltimore Kingfishers defeated the New England Nor'easters by a 2.5-1.5 score to keep their playoff hopes alive. Baltimore is now (3.5-4.5) and in 3rd place in the Northeast Division. Despite the match loss, New England (6.0-2.0) has clinched a playoff birth due to the Connecticut Dreadnoughts (5.0-3.0) beating the Boston Blitz (3.0-5.0) in the other Northeast Division match of the night. Next Wednesday, Baltimore will face the 2nd place Connecticut Dreadnoughts when Baltimore must win the match to have a chance at overtaking Connecticut for the final playoff spot in the Northeast Division. Check out the New Jersey Knockout's Blog for the Northeast Division playoff scenarios.
Here is a puzzle to start off this week's review. Its significance shows up in the Shankland-Bregadze game analysis. Black to play and win:
Board 1: GM Sam Shankland vs. IM Levan Bregadze. The top board began with a Neo-King's Indian Defense: Torre Attack. IM Levan Bregadze played the novelty with 14... a6. Black looked to be clearly worse after 22. Nxg5 hxg5 23. Bxg5 as he had hanging pawns on b5, d6, and e4, little development, and a queen that's shut-in mostly by her own pieces. Somehow, black was only down a pawn after some trades, and then, GM Sam Shankland sacrificed the exchange to win another pawn and reach a favorable position with a bishop and 2 pawns for a rook. While IM Bregadze was clearly trying to trade the queens off the board, he made a mistake with 41... Qd6, but white missed 42. Qf5 (with Bd5 coming) winning at least the f7-pawn. Later, the queens were finally traded, but white was still pressing for a win especially with more than half an hour left on his clock. However, white slipped up when he dropped a bishop probably thinking he had tricked black into a losing position. Instead, white ended up down in a rook+pawn vs. bishop+pawn ending that the endgame tablebases show as a mate in 28 for black. However, it was not so easy to find the win for black especially in time pressure, so the game ended up drawn by 3-fold repetition in 107 moves.
Board 2: IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat vs. FM Steven Winer. The second board started with a Slav Defense with 4.Qb3 that transposed into a Closed Catalan Opening. IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat played the novelty 17. Ra6. Play was focused on the queenside until the queens and queenside pawns were traded off. White had the space advantage and tried to create some imbalances on the kingside, but FM Steven Winer kept the game under control. Unlike the first board, this game did not stray far from even throughout, and on move 90, it also ended as a draw by 3-fold repetition.
Board 3: NM Mika Brattain vs. NM Jared Defibaugh. The third board saw a Leningrad Dutch Defense. In the line these two played, black seems to be willing to sacrifice 2 pawns (maybe even 3 pawns in some cases) to open up the position and activate all his pieces. NM Mika Brattain returned one of two sacrificed pawns with novelty with 14. Nf6+. He also avoided playing Qxb7 several times to prevent black from getting a very active position. Then, he sacrificed an exchange to keep a very annoying e-pawn. NM Jared Defibaugh returned the exchange to trade off queens and get rid of the e-pawn. He ended up down a pawn in the ending, but with a pair of bishops vs. knight+bishop. White managed to trade his knight for a bishop, but the resulting opposite-colored bishop endgame was drawn despite black being down a pawn. A draw was agreed after 52 moves by each player.
Board 4: FM Ralph Zimmer vs. NM Andrew Liu. The fourth board featured a Trompowsky Attack with 2... c5. NM Andrew Liu was using up most of his time in the opening, but he ended up playing a novelty with 7... Bg7. Then, came a strange technical error on move 9. FM Ralph Zimmer played 9. Bc4 on his board and waited in his seat for his opponent to move. About 30 minutes later, NM Defibaugh passed by my computer (as TD, I have all games up on one screen) and noticed it was FM Zimmer's turn to move after black played 9... e6 but the move was not showing up on FM Zimmer's screen. I went to FM Zimmer's computer to refresh Live Chess and the move 9... e6 showed up, but 20+ minutes of FM Zimmer's time had elapsed. I informed the overall league TD of the situation. Then, FM Zimmer noticed that his bishop was showing up on e2 instead of c4 as he had played, which was confirmed to me by both NM Defibaugh and IM Bregadze as they often get up to observe teammates' games. I also informed the league of this error, but advised FM Zimmer to keep playing while the league investigated. Apparently, a similar technical error (only the opponent's move not showing up part) occurred to NM Bryan Hu on Board 4 in Week 2 noted by IM Greg Shahade on the Wednesday night's Chess.com/tv broadcast and in the Week 2 blog for the Arizona Scorpions. Anyway, after the league and chess.com staff confirmed the error, the game and times were reset to before white's move 9. White was on the offensive on the kingside, especially with the open g-file, but had to retreat his queen as black prevented backup from arriving. Then, black grabbed space in the center and tried to attack using the a-file. White stopped the attack and then used the abandoned g-file for his own renewed attack. Black finally fell to a knight-fork tactic that wins a queen for a rook, so he resigned on move 48.