Friday, October 03, 2008

Sort of right

A few days overdue, but we won in one of the featured Monday night matchups against the Arizona Scorpions. It could easily have been 4-0, but we settled for a 3-1 victory (as a side note, it was some nice symmetry with the previous week against Boston, where we should have lost 0-4, but managed to save two games to bring the score to 1-3).

Board 3: Rensch-Shankland, 0-1

The first game to finish was on board 3, as Sam outplayed Danny in an endgame. Like Patrick a few weeks ago, Sam essayed the Classical Sicilian and quickly took the game into an endgame. However, 17...b6? was a mistake that allowed 18.e5!, when White can get a very favorable structure at no real cost. White missed that opportunity and should have then sat tight instead of 20.e5?. A draw would then have been the most likely result in my view.

I'm assuming that White missed 20...Bxf3 21.exd6+ Rxd6!. The resulting R+P endgame is also probably drawn with correct play, but it's psychologically tough to play tough defense after a couple missed lines. As it was, Sam played quite well and easily went from equality to a clearly won game.

Board 2: Pruess - Ginsburg, 1-0

David one-upped me here, as he managed to win with an offbeat Bg5 opening (as opposed to my disaster against Christiansen a couple weeks back). I personally don't think 3...c6 and 4...Qa5 is the most challenging way to meet the Veresov, but Mark said that he's had some success with this line in the past. As he said, 8...exf3! was a better move - in the game, Black's king gets stuck in the center for no real compensation.

White continued thematically with 11.d5!, opening up the position before Black could consolidate. The game turned into David's bread-and-butter: pursuit of the king. He never let Black get a real fighting chance later on, with 13.Qe1! and 19.Ne4!. The finish was rather picturesque - Black can't avoid losing a queen after 23.c7+, so he resigned.

Board 4: Naroditsky - Martinez, 1/2

This game was almost decided in the opening itself. Danya played a King's Indian Attack and black chose a solid, but not especially enterprising line against it with an early ...b6. After 9.Qe2, Black can play 9...a5 or 9...Be7 with a reasonable position, but instead, he chose the lemon 9...Nfxe4?. With 13.Qf3!, White hits b7 and f7, and threatens an annoying check on c6 to boot. Actually, I expected 14.Qc6+ Ke7 (14...Qd7? drops the rook on a8) 15.Nxe6!, when it's all over right away. If 15...Kxe6 (15...fxe6 drops the queen after 16.Bg5+) 16.Re1+ Kf6 17.h4! h6 18.h5!, and Black can't avoid mate. The threat is 19.Qc3+ Kf5 20.Qf3#.

However, Danya chose the more prosaic approach with 14.Rd1 Be7 15.Nxf7. White just emerges up a couple extra pawns in a relatively trivial endgame. I'll take a break in the action of describing this game with my own now.

Board 1: Barcenilla - Bhat, 1/2

I had expected Rogelio to play 1.c4 (since that's all I saw for the past dozen years or so), and then he played 1.e4 on me! I was debating what to play, but decided to go with the Ruy Lopez. He chose a sideline in the Exchange Ruy with 5.Nc3 that was unfamiliar to me, and I responded with 5...Qd6. It's ironic that Josh Friedel was surprised with 1.e4 by Serper in the league, and Serper chose this same line of the Exchange Ruy! Must be easy to learn ...

The endgame was pretty equal right away, as Black has no real trouble with his queenside pawns or in developing his pieces. 16...Be6 was a bit provocative, as 16...Bd8/16...Bc6 would be more normal in this kind of position. White played 17.f4, as expected. The mistake, as pointed by Levan Altounian on the Scorpions' blog, was to keep pushing the f-pawn. 18.f5?! and 19.e5?! left White a bit overextended, when 18.Nc3 was more prudent. White's not really much better, but the game continues.

By 25...Rhe8, I was already a bit better probably, as I had accomplished a lot more over the previous 5 moves or so than White had. White's pawns aren't going anywhere, Black has the bishop pair, and can now try to start pushing with some of his queenside pawns. Maybe in an effort to stir the pot, Rogelio played a bit starting with 26.b4, and was close to losing after 32...Nc7. After 36.Ke2?, allowing 36...Rxb3 37.Rxb3 Nd4+, winning a piece, he was definitely losing.

Of course, at this point, we were winning on the two remaining boards. On Sunday, I had given an interview to Elizbeth Vicary (you can read it on her blog, here) and predicted a win for Seattle by a score of 2.5-1.5, and a win for San Francisco by a score of 3-1. I realized now that I was in danger of being wrong on that prediction and that really couldn't be allowed.

So I started running back and forth between my board and Danya's board in an effort to distract him from his game.

Thus, in spite of having at least 3 winning plans after move 35 in his game (35.h3-h3), he was thoroughly distracted and managed to give away half a point. (The easiest way to win would have been h3/g4/f4-f5/g5-f6, and so on.)

I, too, had to make sure not to win my game and so after consolidating the extra piece, I was only one move away (with 47...Bd7 or 47...Bd5 of completely squashing any hope of counterplay). However, I had to make sure to give away the win as well, and so out came 47...Kb5?, 52...Bg7?, 54...Nf5?, and so on. Actually, even after these mistakes, 64...Nh5 might have provided winning chances, but in the mode of playing bad chess, I couldn't stop myself and so 64...Ne4 came along, allowing the obvious 65.Nxg4 with an immediate draw.

Anyways, the two draws were enough to win by a 3-1 score and reclaim sole first in the west (Dallas lost to Tennessee by a 2.5-1.5 margin). Next week, we get the rejuvenated Seattle Sluggers, who with GMs Nakamura and Serper on boards 1 and 2, present a tough test for everybody.


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