By Grant Oen, Manager of Atlanta Kings
In the Week 2 US Chess League action on Wednesday night (9/3), the Atlanta Kings drew our match against the Connecticut Dreadnoughts. The Kings, who brought the same 2399 lineup as week 1, won on boards 2+4 with Black against the Dreadnoughts, who featured a GM on board 1 in addition to FMs on boards 2+4 for a 2391 lineup.
The USCL is an online league, played over the Internet Chess Club, which pits top players from 18 cities across the country against each other. Atlanta’s squad plays from Emory University. Each week, team managers select 4 players from their respective 9-player rosters to represent the team. All lineups must average under 2401 USCF, with some special caveats to this rule.
1. GM Alonso Zapata 2555
2. Deepak Aaron 2446
3. IM Carlos Perdomo 2400
4. FM Kazim Gulamali 2397
5. Richard Francisco 2382
6. Damir Studen 2372
7. Michael Corallo 2284
8. Leonardo Martinez 2266
9. Sanjay Ghatti 2245
USCL matches take place each Tuesday and Wednesday night – throughout the season. Atlanta will play two more Tuesday matches and six Wednesday matches for a total of 10 regular season matches. Every team’s immediate goal is to play well enough to qualify for the playoffs and post-season matches, which lead up to the national 2014 USCL Championship on December 3rd.
Week 2 Game Recap (Atlanta Kings vs Connecticut Dreadnoughts):
Board 4 – In the first game to finish, FM Jason Shi (CON 2220), as White, avoided Richard Francisco’s (ATL 2382) Nimzo-Indian with 3.g3, steering the game into an early Catalan/Bogo-Indian hybrid after 3…Bb4+. A complicated game arose, with both sides’ light squared bishops posing up on the fianchetto diagonal. The position became very interesting after Francisco’s 15…Qa3 hoping to provoke weaknesses on White’s extended queenside. On the next move, Richard found 16…Ne4!, where Black could already claim an advantage. However, Richard soon made a slight inaccuracy with 18…Qxa4, where White’s chance for a slight advantage could have appeared after 19.Ra2 Qxb5 20.Nxe4 Bxe4 21.Bxe4 Rab8, and White will soon recapture on a7. After the youngster Shi missed this opportunity reach a position with a strong bishop on e4 vs Black’s knight on d7, the position was equal for several moves. However, on move 26, Shi played the strange blunder 26.Qb3?? which simply gives away a queen after 26..Rc1. Our board 4 won easily after this gross blunder. Although he technically missed a forced mate in 5 later (in a completely winning position), Atlanta’s Richard Francisco moves to a perfect 2/2 after defeating Kevin Mo (CAR 2334) last week. He has launched himself into an impressive tie for 6th place in the USCL MVP Leaderboard, which tracks the “most valuable player” among all 161 players in the league using specific formulas. As a result of the young Dreadnought’s unfortunate blunder, Atlanta moved to an early 1-0 lead.
Board 3 – In a Kan Sicilian, FM Kazim Gulamali (ATL 2397), playing White, played the rare 6.Qe2. Connecticut’s Josh Colas (2400) played creatively with 8…Nc5 and 11…e5, allowing Black to equalize. Kazim lost the thread with 22.Qe3? The young yet experienced Colas spotted 22…Bxf5 23.Qxg5 Ngxf5 24.Rxf5 g6!, after which Black is only playing for 2 results. The position very soon decomposed into a rook and knight endgame with Atlanta’s Gulamali down a decisive pawn. Colas converted without many problems, as Kazim resigned on move 43. Gulamali will soon be seeking his first win this season following a draw with Ilker Bozkurt (CAR 2383) last week. Connecticut bounced back to tie the match 1-1.
Board 1 – Two-time US Open Champion and Grandmaster Michael Rohde (CON 2548) played the dynamic Taimanov Sicilian. As White, Atlanta King Deepak Aaron (ATL 2446) deviated from the main lines with the interesting 8.Qe2!?. Rohde continue with the standard Sicilian …a6, …b5, gaining space and fully equalizing by move 15. Black established a passed pawn on d3, leaving the essential question to be whether that pawn was weak or strong. In time pressure, Atlanta’s board 1 made a serious inaccuracy with 27.Bf4?, allowing 27…f6! after which White’s pieces are very tangled. Rohde skillfully forced White to make serious concessions to avoid being down material, and soon established decisive passed pawns on e3 and d2. After both sides escaped severe time pressure by using the 30 second increment, Aaron was forced to resign on move 36, giving Connecticut a 2-1 lead. Atlanta’s hopes rested on our board 2 in Damir Studen.
Board 2 – Against Damir Studen (ATL 2372)’s pet Scandivanian Defense, Connecticut’s FM Leif Pressman (CON 2432) played a structure well-known to give White a decent try for an advantage since Vachier-Lagrave – Papaioannou, 2013 European Team Championship. Both sides played logical and theoretical moves until Pressman’s novelty 12.Qd2, where White maintain a steady opening advantage. However, everyone in Atlanta knows that Damir’s experience in Scandinavian structures is very deep. Assistant Manager and National Master Leo Martinez mentioned to me that he knew Damir would win this position. After trading dark squared bishops on d6, the Dreadnought’s second board sought queenside expansion with 19.b4 and 22.c5. Just when it looked like Damir’s position was very passive and unlikely to achieve more than a draw, Pressman lashed out with 26.g4?!, an ambitious but weakening pawn push, not unlike Caruana’s double-edged 15.g4!? vs Vachier-Lagrave a couple days ago in Round 2 of the Sinquefield Cup. The players entered a dynamically equal Queen and single rook endgame, but with Damir having much more time than Pressman. In severe time pressure, Connecticut’s FM misjudged the resulting rook endgame and played 40.Qd6? Damir immediately swapped off the Queens and proceeded to win quite a nice rook endgame, in which he played precisely. Pressman was forced to resign on move 67, right as Black was about to queen both of his pawns. A great game by Damir that unfortunately did not make it into this week’s Game of the Week finalists. In any case, Damir moves to 2.0/2 on board 2 after defeating IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR 2426) last week. After defeating 2 titled players back-to-back, Studen is tied for second place with GMs Akobian and Stukopin on the MVP Leaderboard. This group of 3 trails IM Kassa Korley, who followed up win over the Kings’ Deepak Aaron last week with a nice technical win against the experienced IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat. As the last board to finish, Damir’s Scandinavian held up for Atlanta, allowing us to finish the match with Connecticut in a “drawless draw” where Black curiously won all 4 games.
Summary: Atlanta vs Connecticut, Week 2
Final Score: 2-2 Draw
Highlights from elsewhere around the league include the draw between GM Julio Becerra and GM Le Quang Liem, GM Varuzhan Akobian’s victory against GM Renier Gonzalez, and US Champion GM Gata Kamsky’s draw with GM Alex Ivanov.
Our next match is against the New Jersey Knockouts, who have featured GM Alex Stripunsky on board 1 and GM Joel Benjamin on board 2 for both of the first 2 matches. The Knockouts were only able to score 1.5/4 in their first match vs Manhattan in Week 1, and drew Wednesday’s match against Philadelphia in another “drawless draw.” Our match is next Wednesday, Sept 10 at 7:15pm. Visitors are welcome to join us – the Kings will be playing from Emory University. More details here.
We hope to see you next Wednesday at Emory for week 3!
Photo by Grant Oen
Photo of Richard Francisco by Frank Johnson at http://www.chess-coach.net/