Friday, September 19, 2008

Sinking the Sharks

We actually had a week 3 recap posted earlier, but due to an unfortunate accident, the post was lost for posterity. I'll fill in the blank with this one ...

Board 1: Donaldson - Becerra, 0-1

First off, we originally had a lineup with GM Patrick Wolff on board 1, but due to a last minute family emergency (Patrick has two young children), IM John Donaldson had to fill in for him. This was both psychologically difficult since he was not prepared and was rather inclined to go out for dinner, but also chess-wise, a tough task, as he was up against 2-time league MVP, GM Julio Becerra.

Thus, rather than test the waters in a main-line Slav or Semi-Slav, John tried to play it safe with the Exchange Slav. Actually he drew with Becerra back in 2005 in 15 moves in this line (see Donaldson - Becerra, 2005), but Julio was in a more fighting mood this time around.

John didn't get anything from the opening, but it was relatively symmetric. He could have maintained more of that symmetry with 15.Qf3, since as he said later, "his pieces were not set up to play against the IQP." 21.Bh4 was a more serious mistake, since the bishop pair is not so valuable here - black's knight will cause many more problems than white's dark-squared bishop can solve. Julio concluded the game with a nice and simple demonstration of the value of opposite-colored bishops when attacking.

Board 2: Perea - Friedel, 1/2

This was a pretty standard Nimzo with Josh playing more of a Dutch hybrid setup with ...Ne4, ...f5, and so on.

15.dxe6 was quite accommodating by White since it opens up the diagonal for Black's light-squared bishop, making the attack with 15...Ng5! possible. Actually, this is why Black is in no hurry to play ...e6-e5 himself, since that would relegate his bishop to biting on stone from b7, and it would take time to reroute it to f5 via c8.

Perea made a serious mistake with 15.Nd4 (15.Qd1 was probably better), but Josh played the tempting 17...Nxf2+ which only leads to a draw. The correct move was not that easy to spot, but looking at the game continuation, you realize that White's king now has an escape hatch on f2.

I'll let John take over in his newsletter comments:

"Can you find the win? Imagine the Knight on h4 was gone - ...Qh4 would immediately mate.

The answer is 17...Nf4!

Now 18.Bf3 Qh4 19.h3 Nxh3 20.Nxf5 Ng5+ 21.Nxh4 Rxh4+ 22.Kg1 Nxf3+ 23.gxf3 Bxf3 is the prettiest line;

while 18.f3 Qh4 19.Kg1 Qxh2+ 20.Kf2 Qxg2+ 21.Ke1 Nxe6 and 18.Qxf5 Bxg2+ 19.Kg1 Rf8 20.exf4 Qh4 are easy wins."

With this opportunity missed, Josh had to take a draw very quickly. This didn't seem too bad actually, as by this time, even though we were down 1.5-0.5 on the scoreboard, we looked to be winning on boards 3 and 4.

Board 3: Shankland - Galofre, 1-0

Sam's opening didn't go so well in this game, but it wasn't that easy to punish it and he quickly achieved a better position.

One of the pitfalls that was pointed out on ICC during the game was if 13.Bb2? (instead of the correct 13.Bd2), Black has 13...Qf5! 14.Rc1 (14.Ra1 allows 14...a3, when White's bishop can't keep in touch with the knight) axb3 15.axb3 Ra2, essentially winning.

Having avoided this trap, White is still probably not any better, but ...Ba6 was a bit funny as the bishop doesn't have much of a future there in this position. In order to make this setup work, Galofre probably should've taken on c4 at some point, and after 23.Rdc1, there was no doubt White was in control.

Sam played nicely to increase his advantage and squeeze Black into submission, but then he amazingly forgot about the knight fork and just dropped a piece! He might still be able to draw with correct play, given his strong pawn on e7, but he gave SF fans a real heart attack there. Luckily for him and the rest of the team, Galofre was in some time pressure and blundered back, and resigned after letting Sam queen safely with check on move 47.

Board 4: Rodriguez - Naroditsky, 0-1

This was a pretty nice win from Danya, who played the cleanest game of any of the Mechanics this week. I'm not sure what happened to Rodriguez, but in a pretty standard position, he thought for about 45 minutes on 4 moves from 10.h3, 11.a3, 12.Re1, and 13.Bf1. Maybe he wasn't prepared for this position or hadn't played it before?

As John wrote, "[w]hen White trades on e5 in the King's Indian, he hopes to follow up with c5 and Nf3-d2-c4 or Bc4 at some point. He never got close here..." Black managed to maneuver his knights to the key d4-square and then went to work on the queenside and the center, pushing all of White's pieces backwards. The position after 22...Ne6-d4 is especially amusing, as White has all his pieces on the 1st or 2nd rank, while Black has made inroads into White's 4th rank.

The squeeze continued and White gave up the ghost after 41...Qc2 as Black's pawns will crash through.

And so we managed to knock off the Sharks by a score of 2.5-1.5 and hand them their first loss of the season. It was also nice to get the youngsters on boards 3 and 4 back on track after their lackluster performance in week 2 against Chicago.

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