Friday, September 29, 2006

Fixing Cars

a shout out to all the toolheads!
you all know it's true, but it bears repeating anyway: the mechanics are fixing cars again!!
i know a lot of people were probably disappointed last week, in the match with dallas, when we were only able to repair about half the cars that came in-- it definitely left me unfulfilled. but as the world could see this week, we got a new shipment of tools in, and the mechanics are back, and fixing cars like never before.
first off on board 1, we got our best game ever out of josh friedel. some people think he got caught up in the team's enthusiasm, between the shiny new tools, and donaldson's eyes, but i was sitting very close to him, and i know a little bit more about the situation. it seems he mouseslipped every single move, thus putting together a complete game. we're going to need a lot more mouseslips like this if we want to win the division, but i'm not without hope.
on board 2, vince moved to 2/2 with another f-pawn opening. wow, i can't really say much except that he's been pretty perfect so far this season. 100% score, and good looking games.
my game went fine as well. it was kind of a weird opening position, but after my opponent played 12...qa5? it seemed likely that white was going to win. and in fact, things went pretty smoothly.
and on board 4, it looks to me like the Tennessee player, Gerald Larson, played a good game (and won). so in a 4 board match, we had 4 tense and decently-played games. no blunders deciding this match.
now we'll have our first "monday night chess" match against big-time chess city, new york. well, it's no secret i really want to beat on new york. i'm not sure how good a team they are this season. last season they seemed extremely strong, and i hoped to face them in the league championship. this year, it looks like (if we make it) we'll get boston at that point, which makes this match a little less dramatic... but also our one chance in 2006 to beat on new york! come on, we can't miss out on that!
i predict san francisco over new york. no wait, i should see the lineups before making a prediction, so i'll hold off on that prediction.
so long folks, and be sure to tune in on monday, when the mechanics will be fixing new york cars!!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A word from David

Hey, any mechanics fans.
If you haven't yet, you may be interested to check out a couple interviews on the us chessleague website ( Greg did his 10 question interview with me:
and with Josh:
These interviews will, uh, provide some insight into the Mechanics team.
Since there's a match in 1.5 hours, it seems like an opportune moment for me to go out on a limb, a long, rotted, trembly limb, and predict we'll win our match today.
Tune in again in a few days to see me post my prediction for the match with New York.
And enjoy the games tonight, on icc!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Match with Dallas

Hi folks. Dmitry's here. First of all Happy (Jewish) New Year to those who celebrate it!
Second, big thanks to Josh for saving my neck by winning his game with a super-amazing trick!

Now on to myself and Peter Vavrak. Let me say that we developed a good rivarly over the past year - our games are always exciting. It started last season in USCL with me blowing fantastic position and eventually winding up losing (Yikes!). Then, we played again in Edmonton IM tournament where I scored my third IM norm. I won a must-win game (for the norm) against him, where Peter, leading the tournament with 6.5/7 missed a phenomenal winning combination in the process. Our third (yesterday's) game was one of the most complex strategic battles I've ever been involved with, both of us played with a lot of imagination with the moves like 14.0-0-0 and 16...c4 this game deserved a much better end than 35...d4?? Well, what can you do, other than take something positive and move on. I'm sure if we play each other again either on Internet or in person, it will be another game to remember.

Friday, September 15, 2006

San Fran squeaks by Philly

Hey everyone, Josh here. Vinay and David have posted already, so I figured it was my turn. Last Wednesday was a very nerve-wracking match. Although we were heavily favored, Philly has proved a tough nut to crack in the past, and we knew to take them seriously. At first things seemed to be going well. Daniel drew fairly quickly vs. Bengston in his Mechanics debut, when the experienced master offered him an early draw. Although I'm usually not a fan of early draws, this one was quite understandable to me from Daniel's point of view, as he was the only one of us outrated, and he was worse if anything in that ending. Soon after, Dmitry drew as well, unable to make any headway as black against the ultra-solid senior Shahade. That left it up to David and I. David was up on time and well on his way to victory against Rogers, but I was defending a nightmare ending against Costigan. Similar to in my first game, I managed to blunder horribly right out of the opening. The move b5 not only was based on several miscalculations, but it showed I had no strategic understanding of the position whatsoever. It was all I could do to get to a hopeless pawn down ending, which I probably didn't even deserve.

After a bit, things started to look up. David won a fairly smooth game against Rogers, and after a few errors from Costigan (trading the e pawn for the a pawn was especially bad), the situation was starting to look up a bit, though my position still made a raccoon getting hit by a bus look like a pretty sight. However, knowing that I had to hold for our team to win, I really tried to buckle down and "defend like a mofo," as David likes to say. And for the most part that's what I did, with the exception of blundering with 38... Ra5 (39. Rc6 simply wins a piece, or forces a totally won king and pawn ending), that's pretty much what I did. Even so, I was still lost until he made the critical error 58. Nf8. If 58. Nf6 (preventing f5), I'd have to play Ke5 h7 Nxh7 Nxh7 f5 g5 f4+ Kh4! (Kg4 f3! Kxf3 Kf5 draws) f3 Nf6, with the knight hopping to g4 next would have won. 58. Nf8, however, allowed me to escape with f5. The result was a fascinating king, knight, and split pawns ending vs. king knight, in which he was unable to find a win, though he made me dodge nearly every trick imaginable. After managing not to fall for any one-movers, I finally managed to earn the draw by elimating all of his pieces, deducing logically that with no pieces he'd be unable to trick me.

Anyhow, we managed to move to 3-0, despite a rough day at the office. I'd like to thank my teammates for bailing me out a second week in a row, and I want to assure them I can still play good chess, which I intent to demonstrate in future weeks. -Josh

Friday, September 08, 2006

Mechanics' defeat Sharks 3-1; run record to 2-0

[From the Mechanics Institute Newsletter, written by team captain John Donaldson]

Round two of the US Chess League saw the San Francisco Mechanics' defeated the Miami Sharks 3-1 in what is quickly turning into a traditional rivalry. Both teams feature top heavy lineups with titled players on the top three boards and Experts on board four making for competitive match ups throughout and this match was no exception.

15-year-old Sam Shankland, making his debut on the MI team, scored first despite he and his opponent playing more moves than any other game. Credit this to Sam having 47 minutes on his clock at the end (time control for this match was G/60 with a thirty second increment). Next to score was MI Trustee IM Vince McCambridge with a crisp attack after Black's Queen was misplaced. GM Julio Becerra, one of the highest rated players in the league brought the score to 2-1 but by that time it was clear that IM David Pruess was winning for San
Francisco. A analysis of the games shows the match was closer than the final score indicates and although Miami has dropped to 0-2 in the standings expect them to bounce back in the next few weeks.

Here is Vince's game against Moreno, briefly annotated by John:

McCambridge,V (2502) - Moreno Roman,A (2437) [A03]
USCL Miami vs San Francisco Internet Chess Club (2), 06.09.2006

Vince has never played this move before and after the game offered no clue as to what inspired him. Could it be the view of Alcatraz from his home in the Presidio?
1...d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.b3
Local Bird aficionado Michael (fpawn) Aigner usually prefers to play the Bird as a Stonewall or Leningrad Dutch reversed.
3...c5 4.e3 Bg4 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Nc6 7.Bb2 e6 8.Bb5 Rc8 9.Nc3 a6 10.Bxc6+ Rxc6 11.0-0 Be7 12.g4 0-0 13.g5
So far play has been within normal bounds but Black's next move, the pseudo-aggressive 13...Ne4, lands him in hot water if not followed up precisely.
13...Nd7 or 13...Ne8 were more prudent.
14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Qxe4 Qxd2 16.Rad1 Qb4 17.c4!
This strong move cuts off Black's Queen, putting it far from the action in the center.
This is the losing move. As MI Grandmaster-in-Residence Alex Yermolinsky pointed out in his delayed commentary down the hall, 17...Rd6 was forced.
The threats to capture on b7 and more importantly e7, are decisive.
18...Qxa2 19.Rf2 Re8 20.Rxe7! Rxe7 21.Qe5! f6 22.gxf6 Qb1+ 23.Kh2 Rec7 24.f7+ 1-0
As 24...Kxf7 25.Qxg7+ Ke8 26.Qg8+ Ke7 27.Rg2 is curtains.

Week 2

So, the US Chess League's second season has already seen some pretty bad moves. I contributed my share last week. But probably none of the moves made on the chessboard have been nearly as bad as those of the league's prognosticators in picking the Mechanics to lose every week so far.

First my jaw dropped when I saw an analysis of the supposed championship match-up with New York. Then I was surprised to see that we were predicted to lose to Dallas in the first week. But when I found we were predicted to lose to Miami as well, after our convincing first round win, I was really confused. How are we supposed to get to the finals, if we are expected to lose every regular season match?

I guess Arun and Ron have a competition going now for who predicts scores more accurately. Well, here's a little piece of free advice, with which you could really blow the other guy out: pick the Mechanics to win, 3-1, every week, rather than lose.

The match with Miami was interesting. You can see all the games at .

I think my game was pretty crucial to the match, as from a very early point, it seemed to me that white looked good in all four games. When Marcel played 10.Nh3!, I thought to myself, "oh god, don't tell me you're mated on move 10, and going to destroy your teammates spirits!" I spent a bit over 30 minutes grimly staring at the position, pinching myself, pulling my hair, slapping myself to think better and faster. I'm sure all my teammates knew I was really in trouble from this, but hopefully they also know that these are also signs I was not ready to give up.

Luckily, Marcel spent a ton of time as well one move later, looking for a k.o. which he could not quite find yet, and leading to the mistake 12.Bd3? (correct would be 12.f3 it seems) After this, the position was very tense, with some chances for both sides, and we had a similar amount of time. I think I found some good moves in the sequel, and after white won the other three games, our game was the last to finish, and decided the match 3-1 in SF's favor.

A few other notes about the game: for a few moves (14-16) there is an interesting issue revolving around white playing f4, black taking on h3, in order to take on f4, and white perhaps throwing in the capture on g6. It leads to some interesting variations, mostly good endgames for black. With 16...Rxd6 it's clear that black has a decisive advantage, so a fairly important alternate course for the game would have been 16.c5 Nb4 17.Be4 and now either 17...Nd5 or 17...a5 18.a3 Nd5, with the idea of giving back two pawns to attack the white king on the lightsquares.

I know you're unlikely to enjoy this game as much as I did, but I hope you can enjoy it somewhat.

Check in on next week to see if the prognosticators improve their game at all and pick us to win.

Oh yeah, and, sorry for jabbing at you guys, I'm just having fun =)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thrilla in San Francisco ... or SF-Miami

Tomorrow is round 2 of the US Chess League. Our SF team is matched up against the Miami Sharks in a rematch of last year's Western Divison playoffs. It's not quite Ali-Frazier, but this is the 4th time we've played them, and we're barely into the second season of the league! We beat them twice during the regular season in 2005, but then faltered in the playoffs, allowing them to advance to the League finals. Hopefully we can get back to our usual winning ways against them tomorrow.

Here are the matchups:

Board 1: GM Julio Becerra (2624) vs IM Josh Friedel (2513)
Board 2: IM Alejandro Moreno Roman (2437) vs IM Vince McCambridge (2502)
Board 3: FM Marcel Martinez (2415) vs IM David Pruess (2459)
Board 4: Luis Barredo (2160) vs Sam Shankland (2106)

[Note, Vince and Sam have the white pieces on board 2 and 4; Josh and David have the black pieces on boards 1 and 3]

Our lineup features 2 new team members (Friedel and Shankland), and the 2006 debut of Vince McCambridge, who came on strong at the end of the 2005 season to help lead the team to the Division title.

The match begins at 5:30 PM, Pacific time, although this week, the time control will be a bit faster at G/60 minutes + 30 sec/move. As usual, the games can be followed on ICC (type "finger USChessLeague" for the game numbers), or at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco, where GM Alex Yermolinsky will provide running commentary.

Log on to ICC tomorrow (or drop by the club in SF) to root for the team!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some thoughts on the games ...

Here are some brief comments, provided by IM John Donaldson in the Mechanics' Institute Newsletter ...

Bhat,V (2463) - Panchanthan,M (2530) [A45]
USCL San Francisco vs Dallas Internet Chess Club (1), 30.08.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 c5 4.f3 Qa5+ 5.c3 Nf6 6.d5 Qb6 7.e4

To show you how fast the Tromp develops this move and the ensuing double pawn sacrifice is not even mentioned in Peter Well's acclaimed book on this opening which was published in 2004.

7...Qxb2 8.Nd2 Qxc3 9.Bc7!

This key move, cutting off the Queen's retreat, has garnered some big scalps.

9... b6

[Note by Vinay: An Alexandrov game is given in the next note from the black side a few moves later (on move 12). He must have been impressed, as he tried the line out with the white pieces after that game:

Aleksandrov,A (2627) - Danin,A (2431) [A45]
Inautomarket Open Minsk BLR (7), 16.07.2006

9.Bc7 d6 10.Ne2 Qe3 11.Nc4 Qh6 12.Bxb8 Rxb8 13.Qa4+ Nd7 14.Qxa7 g6 15.Nb6 Nxb6 16.Qxb8 Qe3 17.Rb1 Bh6 18.h4 Bf4 19.Rb3 Qd2+ 20.Kf2 c4 21.Ra3 0-0 22.Qc7 Qb2 23.Ra7 Be5 24.Qxe7 Nxd5 25.exd5 Qb6+ 26.Ke1 Qxa7 27.h5 Qe3 28.Kd1 c3 0-1

However, it looks like he was unlucky from both sides of the Tromp. The line with 9.Bc7 has been called an opening trap and even winning (!), but as far as I know, it isn’t either. It just happens to be a relatively unknown line in which the practical chances currently are generally with White because of the difficulty in defending accurately.]

10.Rc1 Qa5 11.Be5 Ba6 12.Bc3 Bxf1?

Black decided to keep his Queen in the following battle, but White's compensation was never in doubt and he went on to win a beautiful game:

Pavlovic,Milos (2471) - Aleksandrov,Aleksej (2630)
Vrnjacka Banja 2005

12... Qa3 13.Nc4 Bxc4 14.Bxc4 d6 15.Bd2 Qb2 16.Ne2 Qe5 17.Bb5+ Kd8 18.0-0 g6 19.Bf4 Qh5 20.Ng3 Qh4 21.Qd2 h6 22.e5 Ne8 23.Ne4 f5 24.Bg3 Qh5 25.Nxc5 dxc5 26.Bc6 Nc7 27.Bxa8 Nxa8 28.e6 Nc7 29.Rxc5 bxc5 30.Qb2 Nba6 31.Qxh8 g5 32.Qxf8+ Qe8 33.Qxf5 1-0

13.Bxa5 Bxg2 14.Bc3 Bxh1 15.Qa4 g6 16.Nc4 Bh6 17.Rb1 0-0 18.Nxb6 axb6 19.Qxa8 Be3 20.Ke2 Bxg1 21.Bxf6 exf6 22.Rxg1 Nc6 23.Qxf8+ Kxf8 24.dxc6 Bxf3+ 25.Kxf3 dxc6 26.a4 Ke7 27.Rb1 b5 28.axb5 cxb5 29.Rxb5 Kd6 30.Rb7 1-0

Kuljasevic,D (2423) - Pruess,D (2459) [A73]
USCL San Francisco vs Dallas Internet Chess Club (1), 30.08.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 7.Nd2 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Be2 Na6 10.0-0 Nc7 11.a4 b6 12.f3 Nh5 13.f4 Bd4+ 14.Kh1 Qh4 15.Bxh5 Qxh5 16.Qxh5 gxh5 17.Ne2 Ba6 18.Nxd4 Bxf1

This win of the Exchange might look grubby, but it is typical of David's concrete style. Matters are far from clear.

19.Nf5 Ba6 20.Ra3 Ne8 21.Rg3+ Kh8 22.b3 Rd8 23.Bb2+ f6 24.Nc4 b5 25.axb5 Bxb5 26.Na5 Rb8?

This is an unfortunate square for the Rook. Better was 26...Bd7 when the forcing line 27.Nb7 fails to 27...Bxf5 28.Nxd8 Bxe4 29.Ne6 Rg8 30.Ng5 Bxd5

27.e5! fxe5 28.Nxd6! h6 29.Bxe5+ Kh7 30.h3 h4 31.Rc3 a6 32.Rxc5 Nxd6 33.Bxd6 Rfc8 34.Bc7 Bd7 35.d6 Rb5 36.Rxb5

Both players were down to a couple of minutes here. During the game David thought that 36.Rc3 was more dangerous. 36.Re5 was another choice.

36... Bxb5?

Black might possibly still be holding after this but 36...axb5 37.Nb7 Rg8 38.Nc5 Bc6 was simpler and should draw.

37.Nc4 Rf8 38.Kg1 Kg6 39.Ne5+ Kf5 40.Nf3 Ke6 41.f5+ Kf6 42.Nxh4 Re8 43.Bb6 Re1+ 44.Kh2 Rb1 45.Bd4+ Kf7 46.Nf3 Rxb3 47.Ne5+ Ke8 48.f6 Rd3 49.d7+ Bxd7 50.f7+ 1-0