|New York Knights: 2011 US Chess League Champs|
|By Kostya Kavutskiy|
|November 23, 2011|
In one of the most anticipated final matches of all time, The New York Knights won the 2011 USCL Championship Match after defeating the Chicago Blaze, 2.5-1.5.
In this showdown there was no clear favorite—Chicago had the better record and had been consistently overpowering teams all season, while New York, having not missed the playoffs in seven years and winning the league championship in 2009, was probably also feeling confident based on having more playoff experience, not to mention also having a strong season in 2011. This created a lot of excitement and buzz around the league, as these were definitely the two strongest teams in the league this year, facing off against each other.
The match started off with Chicago's board four, NM Gopal Menon, quickly getting a positional advantage with the black pieces against John Fernandez and swiftly finishing him off.
Next to finish was New York's SM Matthew Herman, playing a very complicated game against IM Angelo Young, where it seemed like all three results were still possible for almost all of the game. At the end Young mouse-slipped and blundered with 36.Qf2, but the position was losing for him at that point so it did not make a difference.
At this point, the match was tied 1-1, with the top two boards still playing. Despite having an extra pawn, GM Dmitry Gurevich, playing for Chicago, could not make any progress against IM Irina Krush, who set up a simple blockade in an opposite colored bishops endgame.
This meant the match would come down to the top board, where GM Giorgi Kacheishvili successfully converted a minor piece endgame against GM Mesgen Amanov. Giorgi had a strong central passed pawn, and ended up confidently displaying the technique to checkmate with a bishop and knight against a lone king.
This gave New York their second league championship, to cap off a strong year.
Chicago fans need not be disappointed--although many people were expecting Chicago to win it all, the 2011 Blaze roster will still go down as one of the strongest teams of all time. Chicago will definitely be one of the favorites to win the championship next season, while New York will hope to become the first team to win three US Chess League titles.
Check in to www.uschessleague.com regularly for the upcoming Game of the Year contest. Good luck in being able to wait until 2012 for more USCL action!