Thursday, November 16, 2006

A good night

Last night's match must be considered a great success by all members as well as fans of the Mechanics. Though Vinay and myself were disappointed not to win games, the team result easily overshadowed that disappointment. The last four-five days leading up to the match I had been anxious for it to start. I was excited to be in the lineup, and after a couple weeks without playing [serious] chess I was starving for a win. This kind of anticipation is usually an ideal mood for me to begin a chess game.
Unfortunately, an unfamiliar opening left me with (in my opinion) little to play for. A crucial juncture in the game comes when my opponent played f5, seeking to activate both his rooks and clear the long diagonal in one move. This is a serious challenge to white- was I going to allow 3 of his 4 pieces to suddenly spring to life? During my very long think on this move and the next one, I concluded that white had very little chance of maintaining an advantage. The main factor which I could put in my favorables column was the looseness of his king's pawn cover. But as to the quality of the pieces, i was quite concerned that his bishop could prove stronger than my knight. After the game GM Yermolinsky told me that he thinks this is not necessarily the case at all, and that white might have a bit of an advantage by playing 21.b4. But, during the game, I evaluated the black bishop as likely a bit superior, and thought that objectively I was unlikely to be better. I ran over to the other room to check on my teammates' positions, and they looked just peachy, particularly Josh's position, which had the look of a massacre. So I sat back down at my board, and did something I've seldom done. Tried to just hold the position together, without necessarily doing anything special. I decided that exchanging the knight for bishop via Ne4 leaving my queen and rook nicely centralized was probably a decent way to maintain the balance. The idea of later playing h4-h5 would probably encourage black to try and trade queens on the c-file accordingly, and so I already looked ahead to some variations, including the one which occured in the game, and felt comfortable that they were the right path.
When my opponent offered the trade of queens on move 24, I stopped and thought again, deciding to exhaustively check the king and pawn ending, which arose a couple moves later. The ending has a couple neat points to it (gosh, I love the purity of pawn endings, and solving them all the way through with sheer calculation is a joy). I don't want to overly burden you with exercises, but, here are two questions you could ask yourselves. 1) After the kingside pawns run out of moves on 36.h4, what winning try does black have? 2) Why does it not win? So, in fact, I saw that in all variations the king and pawn ending was drawn, and so played Qxc6 dc Kg2 Kf8 Re6, leading to a draw. Before this game ended, Josh had broken through against Serper, and now we found ourselves... in the same situation as last year's divisional championship round! with 1.5/2, and two promising positions left. Last year, with draw odds like this time, we managed to lose both of those games. I don't know how we would have handled the same disappointment again.
This is the time to say that I am so so thankful to Sam for his play. He was both confident and thoughtful. In control, but not careless. This I could tell just from watching, and it kept John and myself and perhaps others from having a heart attack watching at this juncture. Often Sam's confidence is linked to forgetting about his opponent, and imagining that he's just "rolling some guy," and then accidents can happen. Lots of them. But here he had an extremely good position, and was not taking anything for granted, while being confident he could get the job done. His Rh8-h2 n-d5-f6 maneuver led to a nice, efficient closing out of the game. When he had trapped the bishop on c1, I told his anxious mother that his opponent would resign on this move. Moments later, he did, and Sam jumped up pumping his fist. Only a great regard for Vinay prevented me from whooping loudly with insane joy. Only one step[ping stone] remained.
We didn't win all our games, like we dream of doing some day. But it was a solid outing for us as a team. We were only briefly in danger on any board (Vinay's time scramble had its ups and downs, and both he and Orlov had chances to win), and got a couple excellent games. I'd like to thank all my teammates for their play, and fans who came by the mechanics to watch, and gave us a boost through their support.
Let's have a lot more matches like this in the US Chess League in the future!


At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My congrats to David and the rest of the San Fran team for their well deserved victory.

It is interesting to note that the position that arrose in the game with David and I has become "fashionable" with at least 5 games on the chessbase database web site in the last year with Re6.. and f5 ideas.

During the game I believe that black is fine after ef5 but that more interesting (also riskier) was e5. This would of course made the black bishop a very strong piece but also made both black rooks very bad pieces!

Qc6 and the trade of queens seems to lead to a draw. Perhaps more interesting if black wishes to "push" would have been d5 where white should play Qe5 Qc1+ Kg2 Qd1 with a complicated ending with the majors still on the board.

David. Any comments on the opening preparation by the San Fran team? Personally a spent a few hour injecting the accelerated dragon into my repetoire specifically for the match.




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