[imagefield_assist|fid=7897|preset=fullsize|title=Margaret Hua won the Endgame Clothing Upset Prize for her draw against Cary Thiel.|desc=|link=none|origsize=|align=left|width=375|height=281]By GM Ben Finegold
Week six of the USCL was sad for the Saint Louis Team. We were without our powerhouses Hikaru Nakamura and Yury Shulman, as they are at the Olympiad defending the honor of the USA! One of our reserves, Executive Director, Tony Rich, is also at the Olympiad, and, Spencer Finegold had just gone to the oral surgeon and had his wisdom teeth removed (we could not seriously think of playing Spencer on Board 4 missing his wisdom) so, it was difficult to find four warm bodies for the match! We were paired against the East-leading New England. New England does not have any GMs, but they have a solid team, and, like the Chicago Blaze, have outperformed thus far this season.
I took board one, and, as usual, I was black (5 times out of 6 matches). I played IM Sam Shankland and needed a win. I played a sharp line of the King's Indian, and, unfortunately, we traded down to a rather equal ending (probably more equal for white) and I made a terrible blunder on move 22 (22...Rc7??) losing on the spot. I lost in similar fashion two weeks ago to GM Renier Gonzalez, also making a terrible move in an equal position. I guess I need to have white more often.
IM Mike Brooks held down board two against IM Dave Vigorito and had white in a main line Caro-Kann. After many moves of theory, Brooks was slightly better. But, like me, he blundered a pawn to a simple tactic with 23.Rd1? Instead, white can play for an advantage with the solid 23.f3. After losing a pawn, there was little to do, and Vigorito wrapped up convincingly.
Things were looking up on board three, as Expert and CCSCSL Board Member Jim Voelker outplayed his much higher rated opponent, FM Christopher Chase. Voleker was better or winning in several positions, but time trouble eventually took its toll as Jim lost in the longest game of the night. Many of the ICC onlookers thought this would be the game of the week, due to the passed pawns and sacrifices. Two of Jim's missed opportunities were 47...f5! and the easily winning 56...Rb8! The main line is: 56...Rb8! 57.g6 Rb3+ 58.Kf2 Rf4+ 59.Kg2 fxg6 -+
Our only bright spot was on board four, where 12-year-old Margaret Hua made her USCL debut and was able to draw against the much higher rated Carey Thiel. Thiel had a big advantage, but offered a draw to seal the match after Mike and I lost and it looked shaky for the Nor'easters on board three.
The match was very hard fought, and could have gone the other way, but, things simply did not work out. Luckily, we will likely play New England in the Finals, when we will have our "A" team (Naka, Shulman, Finegold, Finegold), and we will certainly exact revenge.