Clutch and Choke: the Best and Worst of USCL Week 1
So Danny (IM Rensch) and I, in order to spice up the Fantasy US Chess League competition, decided to each week elect a couple games as the "Clutch Performance of the Week" and the "Choke of the Week." (For those who have never seen sports in the U.S., "clutch" refers to a particularly terrific performance, while under pressure, that is also of sporting importance to your team; "choke" refers to an egregious lapse, which is also of great consequence to your team). In future weeks, we will just go over what these are on air, during our weekly Wednesday night Chess.com/TV coverage, but since there was a ton to get organized in the first two weeks, this did not yet make it into our programs.
These are [for the most part] really interesting chess moments, as well as being dramatic from a competitive perspective, so it's a good topic for a blog, as you also get the chance to test yourself:
Now that you've had a look at all these positions, let me explain our selection for "best" and "worst" of USCL week 1.
Of course these selections are always somewhat subjective, but we tried to pick players who 1) played very well 2) contributed to their team's draw or win that week 3) faced decent opposition. This week, all three of our top candidates won must-win games to tie their team's match (a draw would have left their team losing), without the benefit of any obvious blunders from their adversaries.
1. IM Jonathan Schroer for his win with black over GM Bhat from a tough position. Distinguishing features that push this game over the top for me: it's really hard to play a game where you are so seriously on the ropes for so long; and not only was Schroer personally a huge underdog against GM Bhat, but so was his team against the Mechanics, so this added a whole extra pressure on him. It's always great to see a terrific defensive win!
2. GM Romanenko for his complicated win over much higher-rated GM Gelashvili. This game won game of the week, and is well worth looking over a couple times.
3. GM Lenderman for terrific endgame play, low on time, to save the match with all other games finished.
This game was so good!!! I would have strongly considered it in the Game of the Week competition. I think all three of these players deserved the "Clutch Performance" award.
1. FM Perez for throwing away a terrific game. Though his team eventually won the match, this early loss put a lot of pressure on the team, and could well have lead to a drawn match. Though the next candidate did end up costing his team half a point, two considerations gave Perez top dishonors here:
- he had such a great position
- one of the reasons he blew the game was probably time pressure, but this was entirely senselessly, self-inflicted by wasting more than half his time on his first few moves of the game.
2. FM Zaikov who is usually a terrific USCL performer, for playing a risky plan that lead us to think "what is white even aiming at?" He quickly established a type of position where white could only lose, and this put a lot of pressure on the rest of his team.
Note that Matikozyan had a blunder, which might be what we are looking for with "chokes,"
but we don't consider this a bad performance because 1) it was a very complex game 2) he was under serious pressure at that point and 3) his team was in a bad position and would have lost even had he drawn (which was probably the maximal result for him).
Stay tuned for the best+worst of week 2, and for our live broadcast of week 3 action tomorrow starting at 4 PM pac/ 7 PM est.