Friday, December 17, 2010

Boston and New England well represented in USCL Game of the Year Contest

The wildcard slots are finalized for the USCL Game of the Year. Twenty games from around the League will compete for top honors. Click HERE for the complete rundown of games.

Once again the Boston area is well-represented (8 of 20!), with winning games competing in the contest. Hardly a surprise given the success of both teams, the Champions, the New England Nor'easters (with 3 games) and the Boston Blitz (5 games).

From the Boston Blitz:

Larry Christiansen -- Jesse Kraai, Week Six 1-0. Castling on opposite wings, hanging pieces, an elegant attacking finish. What more could you ask for? Despite this, my gut feeling is that this game is barely in the Top 10. This game did win the Game of the Week in a relatively strong week, but I personally liked Lendermann-Becerra and Zilberstein-Esserman from that week more. For a rabid pro- or anti- Esserman stance, see almost any comment thread in the USCL this year.

IM Jonathan Schroer- GM Larry Christiansen, Week 8 0-1. Larry played a beautiful combination as a bolt from the blue. Adding to the quality of this combo, it did not lead to the immediate mate that many of the observers had assumed. Unfortunately, Larry butchered the last half of the game, perhaps even slipping into some drawn opposite colored bishop positions. Maybe it cracks the Top 15, but certainly no better than that. One of the wild cards from Week 8 is a strong contender to finish in the Top 10 (see below).

Jorge Sammour-Hasbun - GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, Week 10, 1-0. A double pawn sac followed by relentless creative attacking a la Jorge. A contender for Game of the Year. I'll put it in my personal Top 3.

Ilya Krasik - Adithya Balasubramanian, Quarterfinals, 1-0. Krasik's best game, best prep, and best blog post of the year. I seriously doubt a Board 4 game is going to be a serious contender for Game of the Year, especially given the fewer number of games competing that week, but an entertaining game. Although Black didn't find the best continuations, I think this will finish in the Top 15, probably even ahead of Larry's Week 8 game.

Jorge Sammour-Hasbun - Sasha Kaplan, Wildcard, 1-0. Maybe I'm biased, but I like games in the Marshall Gambit. This one seems theoretically important. It also was a hair-line tightrope from win to loss, so even more plusses. A top 10 finish for this game, maybe even higher.

From the New England Nor'easters:

IM Sam Shankland - GM Julio Becerra, Championship, 1-0. Although this game clinched the championship victory for the New England Nor'easters, I predict this will not finish terribly high in the contest. Sam converted a tough opposite colored bishops ending into a win. I don't want to give it away, but several of us have been quietly concluding that Becerra had missed a least one and perhaps two concrete drawing lines in this game (stay tuned for analysis). If A players and experts without a computer can find drawing lines, so will the judges. I predict this finishes in places 20-15.

GM Giorgi Kacheishvili - IM Sam Shankland, Wildcard, 0-1 . Some people didn't like this game. I loved this game. Not only was it the culmination of very clever team prep led by David Vigorito, this unbalanced endgame is very difficult, instructive, and exciting as a fan. This is the kind of game that will get some very high votes and some very low votes (I am the exact opposite, but some people won't like that it was based in part on strong prep). Tough to say where it will land, but let's put it right in the #10 spot, no more, no less.

IM Robert Hungaski - IM Jonathan Schroer, Wildcard, 1-0. I didn't understand this game when I was watching it live, and I don't really understand this game replaying it now. I hands down love this game, especially since strong human and computer opinion seems to be that White was always doing well in the massive complications. I want to put it into the Game of the Year #1 spot, but prudence prevails -- I'll predict a Top 5 finish. Played between two GMs, or maybe GM Tal vs. GM Random, this game would have gotten more respect.

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