Sunday, October 26, 2008

SF Goes Down to Dallas

I've never felt guilty in my life. Except that one time, but she woke up before it could happen. Wednesday night really came close though. I was off in China for a few weeks, the team is doing great, winning almost every match. Then, I come back, and we promptly lose. Though I somehow didn't lose myself, I certainly should have, and I'm sure losing the match was my fault in some way. Let's see how it played out.

The first game decided was David's loss to Igor Schneider. As usual, David decided the best strategy for the game was playing some opening he didn't know much about. Igor's 12. b3 sent David into the tank, and it seemed like he tried to react a bit too violently toward it. 14... Nxd4 looks like a definite improvement over exd4, as then Bb7 can hit the knight on d5 next, and black has good counterplay. With 17... Bxh3 David was already in desperation mode, but 18... Bh4 was too much. He needed to play Nc6, though his position is still unpleasant after Qc3 Bd7 Qd3. After 22. g3 white is clearly winning. Igor needs no help when he has the initiative on his side, and he finished quite easily.

The next to finish was young Nicholas Nip's game. To be honest I was a bit worried at first, as Nicholas is inexperienced in the league, and Zorigt has done quite well thus far. I was happy to see that as usual I was dead wrong. At first he was steadily outplaying her in a closed sicilian, and after 24. exd6 he looked just winning. However, he then went astray with moves like Rc4 and Ra4. In my opinion, he needed to get his knight into the fight, for example with 27. Rc2 followed by Nb2. As it occured, Zorigt managed to win the c5 pawn. Even after that Nicholas seemed better, but nothing materialized, and they drew in 52 moves. While not a perfect game, I thought it was an impressive debut by the youngster, and I have no doubt he'll make his mark in future seasons.

So at this point we were down 1.5-.5. Vinay's position on 2 again Davorin Kuljasevic was looking good, but unfortunately I was dead lost against Marko Zivanic. Vinay's game was one which I'm sure he laments not winning. I bet he'll complain about it on his blog shortly. I'll allow him to show you his analysis, which I'm sure will be superior to mine. To summarize, however, he had a very promising position out of the opening. Then he went astray, missing black's idea of c5. As is often the case in Vinay's games, even after a "ridiculous oversight," he was still better. He was unable to make anything of it, however, and after the queenside pawns traded a draw was the inevitable result. This left me with the task of winning down a queen, a task I just didn't feel up to.

My own game resembled what my dorm room at boarding school was like by the end of the year. It was just a complete mess, with my pieces thrown randomly all over the board. Plus I think there was food somewhere that I couldn't find, because it really stank. OK forget that analogy, it didn't work out at all. I got an awful position out of the opening. 6... Bd6 is sketchy in of itself, but 8... Bb7 really sealed my fate. I was playing too fast, and only after my opponent played 9. e4 did I realize I was practically lost. I sacrificed a queen for rook and piece out of desperation, but there is no way it should have held. 28. Qe7 instead of a3 would probably have finished me quicker, but even after that he was winning. The simple plan of tying me up with his queen, then advancing his kingside pawns seemed like the simplest way to win. He tried playing on the queenside instead, however. This probably should have worked also, but me messed it up, and after 47... Rd4 I'm already getting counterplay.

Some complications ensued, but after 57... Rf5+ I felt I was already close to the drawing zone. If I simply keep my king on the kingside supporting my pawn, it will be nearly impossible for him to win. However, like an idiot, I got impatient and went for 58... Rf3+ and Rxg3. I missed he could win my g-pawn by force then, and then I'm in danger again. My only drawing try then is sacrificing my knight for the pawn, and creating a fortress with my remaining pieces. I was hoping to keep my pawn on b6 and sac the knight for the h-pawn, but then he'll simply march his king up to f5. That meant I had to march my pawn up, which makes fortresses much harder. I still think his best try was meandering his king up to f5, trying to sac for my knight, perhaps forcing me to advance my b-pawn beyond where my king can hold it. He played h7 as soon as I advanced my pawn. It turns out, however, that as long as his king can't get behind my b-pawn it's still a draw! I didn't know this, and my suspicion is that my opponent didn't either. Even if his king managed to get in front of my pawn it's a draw, as long as my rook still has access to c3. He tried to win for awhile, but I managed to hold it together, and we drew after a grueling 107 moves. Unfortunately, this had no bearing on the match status, and we went down 2.5-1.5.

Next week we face the red hot Miami Sharks. If we win or draw, we clinch the division title, whereas if we lose we'll probably get 2nd. If we manage to get blown out, we might even get 3rd, but there I am being all negative again. My hope is that we'll just win and put all doubts to rest, and go into the post season with renewed confidence.

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