USCL weeks 1 to... 8...

IM Cryptochess
Oct 16, 2015, 12:59 AM |

Hi all! I've obviously fallen a bit behind on the whole USCL writing thing, partially due to the fact that MIT began (psets are hard), but mostly involving the fact that my computer decided to implode. However, the savior known as FedEx finally decided to actually show up today, so I'm finally back in business.

First off, I should probably catch up on some introductions. This year, I'm very happy to be a part of the New England Nor'Easters, a very strong team with the following roster:

  • GM Alexander "I was completely winning then I flagged" Ivanov, who has been a staple of the team for the last half-decade
  • IM David "I somehow win every caro game" Vigorito, our fearless leader and huge performer this year, with a nearly 2700 performance rating thus far
  • SM Mika "I haven't met him yet so here's a random superlative" Brattain, who hasn't seen much action yet this year, but has a completely accurate nearly 2800 performance rating anyway.
  • IM Alexander "I was completely losing then I flagged" Katz, who this author knows quite well, and is attempting to play a different opening in every game with white
  • FM Steven "If you want to give me pawns, I'll take your pawns" Winer, who has been cruising on the third board by simple, solid, take all your pawns play
  • FM Charles "Can't mate me" Riordan, whose incredible escape vaulted us past Atlanta and thus into first place... but more on that later
  • NM Lawyer "I'm running out of things to write darn" Times, who's had a solid year so far minus a rough game against Carolina, including a huge win against Atlanta
  • NM Tim "Did he finally resign?" Sage, who demonstrated his excellent technique in the famous R+N+2P v R ending in a key win last week
  • NM Siddharth "Now I'm *really* running out of things to write" Arun, who started off the season with a solid board 4 showing, but hasn't been active since
  • NM Carissa "You take too long to get to the point" Yip, who STILL OWES ME A POP-TART, and finally
  • Nithin "Alright forget superlatives" Kavi, who's had a rough USCL year, but is quickly pushing master anyway.

Somehow, almost everything has gone right for us so far, and a host of close victories have propelled us to the top of the standings, just ahead of Manhattan on tiebreaks. The positioning has also given us a clinched playoff spot, so you'll have to put up with me for at least one more week than was necessary! Huzzah!

Alright, since I seem to be proving Carissa right, I'll get to some actual substance now. 

Philadelphia Inventors  New England Nor'easters
FM Dov Gorman: 2403 0.0 1.0 GM Alexander Ivanov: 2628
NM Peter Minear: 2353 0.0 1.0 FM Steven Winer: 2425
NM Isaac Leon: 2278 0.5 0.5 NM Lawyer Times: 2290
NM Erick Garcia: 2329 0.5 0.5 NM Siddharth Arun: 2228
Average Rating: 2341     Average Rating: 2393
Philadelphia Total 1.0 3.0 New England Total

Week 1 began with a matchup against the Philadelphia Inventors, which we won relatively cleanly. The season began with a great start, as FM Steven Winer smashed Peter Minear after the latter took one too many pawns away from his king. GM Alex Ivanov provided the other full point of the match, and the bottom two boards ended in draws for a 3-1 New England victory.

New England Nor'easters  New Jersey Knockouts
GM Alexander Ivanov: 2628 0.0 1.0 GM Joel Benjamin: 2629
IM Alexander Katz: 2464 1.0 0.0 SM Praveen Balakrishnan: 2422
NM Lawyer Times: 2290 0.5 0.5 NM Brandon Jacobson: 2192
NM Siddharth Arun: 2228 1.0 0.0 NM Aaron Shlionsky: 2232
Average Rating: 2403     Average Rating: 2369
New England Total 2.5 1.5 New Jersey Total

The second week was an incredibly intense match, as GM Joel Benjamin somehow tricked GM Alexander Ivanov in mutual heavy time pressure to bring a full point to New Jersey, but IM Alexander "it's weird talking in third person" Katz proved for all eternity that the Pirc is in fact winning to equalize the score. NM Siddharth Arun followed up with what would turn out to be the decider, but NM Lawyer Times was the hero of the night, defending a miserable position for hours to save the match.

The position on move 56...   

...and the position 50 moves later, when a draw was finally claimed

Boston Blitz  New England Nor'easters
IM Steven Zierk: 2562 0.0 1.0 IM David Vigorito: 2511
IM Denys Shmelov: 2444 0.5 0.5 IM Alexander Katz: 2464
NM Chris Williams: 2334 0.0 1.0 FM Steven Winer: 2425
NM Ilya Krasik: 2276 1.0 0.0 Nithin Kavi: 2175
Average Rating: 2404     Average Rating: 2394
Boston Total 1.5 2.5 New England Total

The third week saw the inter-city Boston-NE rivalry, which is always an entertaining match to watch, but New England took this one convincingly. IM David Vigorito decided to play the Caro-Kann for who knows what reason, but it worked perfectly as he seemingly effortlessly outplayed a very strong player. FM Steven Winer perfectly demonstrated his "Take ALL the pawns" strategy for the second point, and IM Alexander "third person is getting weirder" Katz clinched the match by offering a draw in a technically winning position. It was also Nithin Kavi's first appearance of the year, but Ilya Krasik spoiled his entrance with a flashy -- if a bit sloppy -- victory. Whatever that game was, it certainly warmed Krasik up for the rest of the season: his next two games won GOTW!

New England Nor'easters  New York Knights
GM Alexander Ivanov: 2628 0.5 0.5 GM Mark Paragua: 2638
IM Alexander Katz: 2464 0.0 1.0 GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2552
FM Charles Riordan: 2342 0.0 1.0 FM Nicolas Checa: 2436
NM Carissa Yip: 2236 1.0 0.0 Joshua Bromberg: 2004
Average Rating: 2418     Average Rating: 2408
New England Total 1.5 2.5 New York Total

We had a serious setback in week 4, however, as the always-absurdly-strong New York team did just enough to squeak past us in this match. GM Pascal Charbonneau proved that GMs are actually pretty good at chess, and FM Nicolas Checa pressed a much worse position -- then a slightly worse position -- then a dead equal position -- then a slightly better position -- then a position with serious pressure -- into the key victory. NM Carissa Yip's dismantling of the Grand Prix attack, unfortunately, wasn't a big factor in this match, but the game is an instructive exercise in not randomly collapsing when being attacked (this is mandatory viewing for anyone playing Krasik).

New England Nor'easters  Connecticut Dreadnoughts
GM Alexander Ivanov: 2628 0.5 0.5 GM Sergey Kudrin: 2586
IM David Vigorito: 2511 0.5 0.5 FM Joshua Colas: 2350
IM Alexander Katz: 2464 1.0 0.0 NM Ian Harris: 2346
Nithin Kavi: 2175 0.0 1.0 FM Jason Shi: 2249
Average Rating: 2445     Average Rating: 2383
New England Total 2.0 2.0 Connecticut Total

In week 5 we faced the Connecticut Dreadnoughts, and this match definitely could have gone either way. GM Sergey Kudrin was the unsung hero, as he saved a lost ending for the arguably match-saving half point, and FM Joshua Colas also remained solid in a difficult ending to neutralize our top two boards. Nithin Kavi just couldn't get any real attack going in a King's Indian defense, and we all know how that turns out (spoiler: brutality), so my horrific technique ended up being on display for almost an hour as I continually rejected simple wins in favor of the "safe" alternative, until suddenly it wasn't so clear I would win at all. Fortunately, I didn't screw up completely, and the match ended in a well-fought tie.

Atlanta Kings  New England Nor'easters
IM Daniel Gurevich: 2449 1.0 0.0 IM Alexander Katz: 2464
NM Richard Francisco: 2391 0.0 1.0 FM Steven Winer: 2425
NM Michael Corallo: 2359 0.5 0.5 FM Charles Riordan: 2342
FM Xiao Cheng: 2323 0.0 1.0 NM Lawyer Times: 2290
Average Rating: 2381     Average Rating: 2380
Atlanta Total 1.5 2.5 New England Total

At the halfway point, both of these teams were performing quite well (3/5 and 3.5/5, respectively), and it's a complete miracle that we managed to win this match -- let alone not get swept. FM Steven Winer played a nice, methodical game for a relatively clean victory, but he was the only one on the team that wasn't in serious trouble at some point! FM Charles Riordan, in particular, was just straight up getting mated, and Lawyer Times appeared to be on the wrong end of a powerful exchange sacrifice. In the meantime, IM Daniel Gurevich apparently prepped a 25-move deep line and ended up with 85 minutes on his clock. Whoops.

Somehow though, Riordan survived and Michael Corallo was forced to settle for a perpetual, while Lawyer Times turned it completely around (or maybe it was always fine, just visually scary) and showed that material is important for a reason. This, thankfully, made my complete inability to play endings largely irrelevant.

Every Russian schoolboy can draw this, but not me!
New England Nor'easters  Carolina Cobras
IM David Vigorito: 2511 1.0 0.0 IM Jonathan Schroer: 2427
SM Mika Brattain: 2452 1.0 0.0 SM Ilker Bozkurt: 2393
NM Lawyer Times: 2290 0.0 1.0 NM Aaron Balleisen: 2282
NM Tim Sage: 2183 0.0 1.0 NM Steve Wang: 2233
Average Rating: 2359     Average Rating: 2334
New England Total 2.0 2.0 Carolina Total
The Carolina Cobras are much improved from the olden days, but they're still in a position where they're massively outrated in the majority of their matches. Even so, most of their losses are by the slimmest of margins (though they do things like lose 4-0 to Philly on occasion), and they've consistently shown they play well above their level in the league. The half point they managed here may well turn out to have huge consequences for both teams as the playoff race draws to a close. Tim Sage made his first appearance, and though he played quite well to salvage a bad position, the resulting time pressure was too much to deal with and he eventually made a key error. Our top two boards managed to prevent the full upset though, as both played very patient victories to stave off disaster, even though there were points where it was far from clear.
Miami Sharks  New England Nor'easters
GM Julio Becerra: 2616 0.5 0.5 IM David Vigorito: 2511
NM Jeffrey Haskel: 2355 0.0 1.0 IM Alexander Katz: 2464
FM Jorge Pelaez: 2264 0.5 0.5 FM Steven Winer: 2425
NM Vlad Yanovsky: 2229 0.0 1.0 NM Tim Sage: 2183
Average Rating: 2366     Average Rating: 2396
Miami Total 1.0 3.0 New England Total
Finally, last week we pulled together a key victory over the Miami Sharks, clinching our playoff ticket and putting us in temporary control of the division. In what IM David Vigorito called a very "professional" showing, due to our adherence to "win with white, draw with black", everyone put forth solid performances: Vigorito held off USCL legend GM Julio Becerra without too much trouble (ok, he was down a piece at one point, but...), and Tim Sagestruck back with a clean victory in which his opponent appeared to have misplaced his resign button. My win was a bit odd, since an English (!) somehow ended up in a vicious mating attack, but I'll take them any way I can get them.
White seems to have a slight edge here...

And so, after 8 weeks, we've already improved on last year's score by a factor of... well... twelve. Next week will be a huge showdown though, as we take on our co-leaders, the Manhattan Applesauce, for control of the division and potentially a clinched first-round bye. Don't miss the match, this Tuesday at 7:20 PM, only on ICC! And don't forget to check out the main US Chess League site for all the league information and videos of Greg singing (disclaimer: these may or may not actually exist).