Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Threefourthtime Report

The Mechanics have now completed 9 of 12 matches, with 7 victories and two tied matches, and thus far, the best record in the league. With last night's victory over top Western Division contender, Seattle, the Mechanics clinched the regular season division title. This represents some serious advantage in the playoffs: a first round bye, followed by draw odds in the semi-final round. We wanted this badly, and now get to breathe a sigh of relief after an extremely tense match.
The match last night started out quite poorly, in my opinion. This was my first time this season experiencing a match as a fan, as it was my first time on the bench. Seven of our eight members were free and ready to go for this most important match of the season if we were called on to play. After long consideration, our manager John Donaldson, in consulation with Alex Yermolinsky, predicted that Seattle's lineup would be Serper-Orlov-Readey-Lee, and that our optimal lineup to face that was Friedel-Bhat-Zilberstein-Shankland.
So last night I went to work as usual at the East Bay Chess Club, logged on to icc, and prepared to watch. It turned out that this was much more stressful than playing had ever been.
From the get-go it seemed that the Seattle team was getting the better of the opening struggle. In Serper-Friedel, as early as turn 7 or 8, I couldn't see anything reasonable for Josh to do. This contributed to making the experience of watching excruciating. After a little bit, it became clear that we were actually doing about as well in our white games as Seattle. When Sam played g5, his opponent sank into a think- not calculating to a brilliant sacrificial win 20 moves deep as his manager might suggest- but trying to come up with any way to keep the game going, as black was already out of
Vinay had made an excellent decision with 11.c4! His advantage was not immediately clear to all eyes after this, but in fact it probably was quite great, and after several more strong moves, it began to become more obvious. The point is, he can not give black time to play a move like Qc7 and then Nf4. He needs to keep the black knights off of good squares, and if his king has to sit on f1 for that, oh well. This was a really nice game, even by Vinay's fairly high USCL standards. In the position where black plays e5, it may look just bad, but ask yourself, what else can black do? Nb8 Be5 or Nf8 Be5 looks great for white, and O-O h5 is probably extremely dangerous. Black really seems to be pretty squished.
Despite good games in our two whites, I still felt quite uncomfortable. I could not see the whisper of a drawing chance in the two black games, and a drawn match was not good enough! Serper and Readey seemed to be playing very well. I know that at one point in Serper-Friedel there is a blip (29...b6!), but I still think for the most part, this was a well played game by Serper, where he was really in control 99% of the time.
One other thing I should mention about this match is that little Michael Lee showed great resilience, even in the face of a pretty strong showing by Sam. He hung in there down a piece, and even managed to call up a few ideas spooky enough to make sf fans (like me) feel quite uncomfortable. Luckily, Sam has earned more of our confidence by navigating everything without trouble.
And then the score stood Serper 1, Bhat 1, Shankland 1, and the Readey-Zilberstein ending played out for what seemed like ages. Readey had finally slipped up, and Dima had reached a rook and pawn ending where he was only down one pawn. With split pawns though, 3 vs 4 could often be a win for white. Both low on the clock, I alternately watched with premonitions of horror, and tremblingly averted my gaze. Even when I knew the position should be a draw, I shook to think of Dima's shaking hand, as he tried to play the moves he could easily and comfortably play in a less important game. Finally after 70 moves in this ending, the two spent (well, I'm guessing here, as there were no web cams) combatants finally agreed to a draw with rook vs rook. They had just apparently set a record for longest uscl game (113 moves), and Dmitry had personally sealed the Mechanics record: most division titles won!
For those really challenged with regards to counting, that is two division titles, in two years of US Chess League history.
I look forward to the Mechanics next match victories, but hope I will not have to watch them in such a stressful way. I'd rather have the measure of control of having one of our opponents within my grip.
To all our fans, I know it looks like we've been giving up an inordinate number of drawn matches so far this season. But during this last stretch, we will prepare for our matches in earnest... We still have some new tools we have not used this far... and you can with confidence look forward to seeing the Mechanics fixing cars once again come playoff time!!!


At 11:57 AM, Blogger DZilb said...

113 moves is no biggie, it simply matched my game with Akobian at US Championship couple years ago :)

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great writeup!

It is much more stressful as a spectator than playing, combine that with me barely able to play the game and I am always unsure as to what will happen until the game is over.

Wasn't there a win for Readey in the rook and pawn endgame, especially when there were lots more pawns? A tied match for the second time was certainly very possible, which would have been an amazing result with 8 decisive games over two matches.


P.S. Can you have John predict our next lineup against you? He was exactly right and it would save me a lot of time if he would just tell me what our lineup will be :)

At 5:46 PM, Blogger David said...

hey clint,
thanks. the r+p is probably a win for white at the beginning, i'm just not 100% sure.
if john told you your lineup for the next match, you wouldn't change it? hehe.


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