Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back to the Playoffs ...

After dropping to 4th place in the West after 7 weeks, we've made up serious ground the last couple weeks and now sit in 2nd place!

Week 9: SF (3) - Seattle (1)

(2) Tangorn (SEA) - Bhat (SF), 0-1,

This was a tough game that was marred a little bit by Eric's blunder with 46.Qc3 at the end of the game. The opening was relatively quiet, and I equalized easily with the Black pieces. I spent a good amount of time coming up with the plan starting with 14...Bd6 and 15...Qb8, as there were easier ways to get dull equality at hand (such as ...Ne4 or ...Ng4 in general). With 16...Nh5, I have visions of playing ...Ng7-f5, while the knight performs a useful function of keeping watch over the f4-square if White ever gets over-ambitious and plays e3-e4. As it was, Eric played g2-g4, but then Black is happy to push on the queenside and play with the isolated d-pawn. 22...Bf8 and 23...Bg7 was a silly idea (I should've just played ...c5 straight-away), and I then followed it up with 29...Rcd8?!. The e8-rook is doing nothing, and so it should be the one on d8, while the queen's rook should go to a8 to support the a4 push. I realized this one move late, but then with 33.f4 (weakening the long diagonal), it was back to c8 to get rid of the rooks. This made for an optically puzzling sequence, but I think it all makes sense. As Dana mentioned on his blog (, I hallucinated when playing 39...dxe2, thinking the Qc4 was unprotected and so 40...Bf8 would win a piece and the game. As it was, I was only able to win a piece a few moves later, although Black's position was already clearly better after 40...Qc7.

(4) Sinanan (SEA) - Naroditsky (SF), 1/2,

This one went down the KID's main line of the Bayonet
Attack, but with 11...Nf4 12.Bf1, veered off into a sideline thought shouldn't trouble Black too much. White's position may have been slightly for preference in a practical sense, but despite being low on the clock, Daniel defended well and saw all the right tactics in the endgame. A solid game from both players.

(1) Friedel (SF) - Serper (SEA), 1-0,

This is the 5th time that these two have faced off in the USCL, and as has been written elsewhere many a time, white had won all the games. Thankfully, this was no different. As usual when Josh has the white pieces, it was a Sicilian Kan (or maybe a Taimanov/Paulsen/etc - I can't remember the differences in general), and rather than going fishing around on the kingside with a plan of e4-e5, Bc1-f4 and Qe2-g4, Josh played more solidly with b3, Bb2, and Na4. White's idea is just to play c2-c4 and claim a safe advantage. At first glance after 17...Rfd8, Black seems to be doing ok as the dark squares are under control, he can set up his own battery on the h1-a8 diagonal, and his rooks can be centralized. However, White is probably better already - with 18.Be5!, followed by 19.Nb2-c4, Josh hit upon a strong plan to recentralize his pieces and stay out of any dangerous exchange sacrifices. Black could have met 18.Re3 with 18...Rd4!, when maybe it's Black who will be better! After 25.Nf6+, the real problem for Black is highlighted - he cannot plug the long diagonal, while when White neesd to, he can just play f2-f3 and kill the threats. Serper defended well and hung around for a while despite huge positional weaknesses, but in the end, it caught up to him and with his king chased to h4, the end came switftly.

(3) Donaldson (SF) - Schmidt (SEA), 1/2,

I'll let John write the summary here: "I had a big advantage from the opening (11...Qc5? 12.b4! was a Kasparov-Kramnik blitz game) but then lost my advantage through a combination of good defense by my opponent and lack of energetic play by myself (around move 15 or so I should have been thinking about e4 and f4. Going into the endgame was not a good idea for Black. At the end White was winning a second pawn with a very likely win. The score was 2.5-.5 and prudence dictated locking in a draw to secure the tiebreak advantage going into the last week."

That said, we're now back in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, although this time, it won't be as division champs. Dallas clinched the division with another win over Tennessee. Coupled with Miami's win over Carolina, we have sewn up a playoff spot, although it is yet to be seen if that is as the #2 or #3 seed. The #2 seed comes with rather useful draw odds, so stay tuned for the final regular-season match next Wednesday, October 31st!


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