Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blitzed

In what was originally supposed to the featured Monday Night matchup, we met Boston on Wednesday night. We knew it'd be a tough match going in. Being able to pick 2 players from the group of Christiansen, Perelshteyn, and Sammour-Hasbun, while also having Shmelov and Williams (currently pushing 2400 and 2300, respectively) makes them a real force.

Boston had graciously agreed to the change in order to accomodate the fact that half our players were either out of town or unavailable on Monday. In any case, the chance to field a more regular lineup didn't help us out, as we went down 2.5 - 1.5. Here is a brief recap of each game:

(4) Young (SF) - Williams (BOS), 0-1, http://www.uschessleague.com/games/gyoungcwilliams07.htm

This one was the first game to finish, but not in the way any of us were hoping. The opening was like a dream line for White, who had a huge position by move 14, capped off with 15.Nd5!. Unfortunately, that's when things went wrong - instead of something simple like 16.Nxe7 Qxe7 (there's an amusing threat after 16...Kxe7, of 17...Ng3+, 18.hxg3 hxg3+ 19.Kg1 Rh1+ 20.Kxh1 Qh8+ and mate follows on h2) 17.Kg1. White sidesteps any tricks on the h-file, leaving Black with no counterplay and a pretty unpleasant position.

Instead, Greg probably got excited about his opening success and played 16.e5 dxe5 17.Nxe6, with the idea of giving a check on g6 after 17...fxe6. Unfortunately, he never got to deliver that check, as Williams took advantage of the opened a7-g1 diagonal. The finish was quick and painful.


(1) Christiansen (BOS) - Wolff (SF), 1-0, http://www.uschessleague.com/games/christiansenwolff07.htm

On board 1, we had a match-up of two players with a combined haul of 5 US Championships. I don't know what the opening line is about, but Black seemed to get a decent position. With 14...d5, Black has probably equalized - if 15.exd5, Black can play the simple 15...Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Rxd5 17.Rxd5 exd5 with a comfortable position, or mix things up with 15...Nb4.

It was around move 17 that Patrick said he began to lose the thread. 17...b5!? doesn't really help his position that much, and instead the immediate 17...Qe5 looks much more to the point. The real problem was that Black's moves didn't fit together very well at this point in the game. Larry offered a pawn with 20.g3 that was probably better left untouched, but once that pawn was taken, Larry was off to the races. 23.e5 and 27.Nd5! especially signaled the end, and he finished it off in style.

With that game in the books, we were down 2-0 ...


(2) Bhat (SF) - Kelleher (BOS), 1-0, http://www.uschessleague.com/games/bhatkelleher07.htm

Preparing for this game was a little tough, as I didn't have much to go on. As it was, I ended up facing a line that I normally only see from the black side. This was a little uncomfortable at first, as I've only played this line of the Meran (with the old 8...a6) with black, and I've generally been quite happy with my positions. In any case, 11...Ng4 was a small surprise, as it's not as popular as 11...axb5, but seems to have been scoring quite well in recent years. However, the opening turned out well for me (16...Bd5 appears to be the main theoretical move, as played by Ivanchuk) although I made a serious mistake after that.

19.Qg3 was based on a miscalculation, as I thought I could prepare to develop with c1-bishop and had guarded the e5-pawn indirectly.

The line I was looking at was: 19...Nxe5 20.Qxe5 Rxd3 21.Nxc5 Rd5 22.Na4 Qb4 23.Qc7 Rc8 24.a3! (not 24.Qb6 Rb5) Qb3 25.Qb6 Rb5 26.Qd4! (the key point behind 24.a3), when 26...Rc8 is met by 27.Qd8#!. With this in mind, I happily continued with my plan of Qf4-g3, but then Kelleher played 19...Nxe5 anyways! At first I was quite happy, as I thought he maybe missed this a3 idea, but then I figured something was up and took another look - after 22.Na4 in the above line, 22...Qc6! is the plan, as then 23.Qe4 f5 and White can't hang on to everything, with a4 and g2 both needing constant attention.

So I had just given up my extra pawn and had worse development to boot. Luckily for me, Black's pieces were for the most part on good squares but had nowhere to really go as an upgrade. I became progressively happier with my position, and after 29...Rd2, it's essentially over for Black. So we were now on the board, the only problem was that we only had one chance left to even up the score.


(3) Shmelov (BOS) - Donaldson (SF) , 1/2-1/2, http://www.uschessleague.com/games/shmelovdonaldson07.htm

I think this line of the Slav was featured in the Topalov-Kramnik match, but I don't remember the bishop going to f4 so early. Black's position in the early middlegame looked quite comfortable, as even after the pawn structure gets "ruined" on the kingside, Black's not in any serious danger. With the dark-squared bishop firmly planted on b4 and enough room to maneuver with the knight, Black shouldn't have any problems. Maybe 21...g5!? was the way to go, with a possible plan of ...a5, ...Qd7, ...Ng6-e7-f5!? As it stood, John never really was able to get any real complications started and in the final position was even worse. With the clocks winding down, the game was agreed drawn.


Despite the loss, we didn't drop out of the playoff picture in the West. Dallas won again to move to 5-1 (tied with Boston for the best record in the league, although they've played an easier schedule so far); Seattle and Carolina, our closest competitors in the West both lost, and so we remain 1/2 game back of Seattle and tied with Carolina (but ahead on the Game Points tiebreak).

Last year's undefeated run through the entire USCL set us up for a tough schedule this season, and with only 4 weeks remaining the regular season, we have our work cut out for us. Next week we are up against the Miami Sharks. Feel free to drop by the Mechanics Institute chess club to watch us play!

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