Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Holy broomsticks Batman!"

Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch any part of this match on ICC (the first time this year that happened) as I was at the Giants-Padres game instead. On the plus side, non-observation seems to have been translated into a clean sweep of Tennessee (the 1st sweep in the SF Mechanics' history!), so maybe I should do that more often.

(1) Burnett (TEN) – Wolff (SF), 0-1,

Probably the most complicated game of the match, this one would take more space to do it proper justice. The opening must be some sort of theoretical line, but then Burnett decided to really mix things up with the sequence from 13.e5 to 15.Qh6. It all looks fishy to me – 17…f5 was probably the simplest way to refute the attack – the point being that after 18.Rh3 Qf2 19.Rf3, the opened d8-h4 diagonal means Black can play 19….Qxh4, staying in touch with the important g3-square). Instead, Patrick decided upon a queen sacrifice, after which he had clear compensation in the form of a safer king and bishop pair, but that only brings the assessment to unclear for me. With both players getting short of time, Patrick came out ahead with his bishops raking across the board.

(2) Donaldson (SF) – Andrews (TEN), 1-0,

With John in the lineup, there was no chance for Todd to even up his career score against me. Sorry Todd, by my count you're 1-2 against me , but let me know if my math is a little rusty. =)

As for the game, Black's opening setup was solid, but slightly passive. However, after 17.e5!, White just had a clear advantage. Black can suffer with the isolated d-pawn, but in trying to put up some active resistance, Black threw away his drawing chances. I think 23…Rd7 was essentially the last chance for Black to play “solidly”, as after the exchange of b7- for c4-pawn, White should be winning. The fight continued even after that exchange, but it was all for naught as John's technique came through and he pocketed the point.

(3) Wheeler (TEN) – Shankland (SF), 0-1,

Sam came up huge for us last year, but this year, his busy high-school schedule and big rating gains meant that it made more sense to be an alternate on the team. I'm skeptical of the opening idea (namely ...dxc4, ...Nbd7 and ...c5), but it worked out well. White probably should have just put a rook on the d-file instead of taking on c5 first, and he’s just better. In the relatively quiet middlegame that resulted, Sam played solidly and then used a small combination (...Nd5 and ...Rxc3) to create a useful imbalance. After that, for whatever reason, Wheeler just fell apart quickly.

(4) Naroditsky – Wu, 1-0,

This was a matchup between two players whose combined age equals mine. Daniel played the Closed Sicilian, an old favorite of mine (for what it's worth, I think both Spassky, Short, and Adams used it as more than just a surprise weapon). Like on board 2, Black went for a safe and solid setup. White acted a little too quickly with his central expansion, as Black could’ve won a pawn with 13…Bxh6 14.Qxh6 Ba6, hitting the knight, and then removing the second defender of the d4-pawn. With that opportunity missed, Daniel had the advantage. That advantage turned decisive after 16...f5 was played, which left Black seriously hurting because the position was opening up when he was poorly prepared for that to happen. Daniel took full advantage of his better-developed position and wrapped things up nicely.

'Til the next episode,


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back in the Game

We were at the same table when the chips were checked
A gambling rebel who respect the Deck
Just when you thought I would fold my hand
Against all odds I raised the bet like I changed the plans
It was live on air but in-between station breaks
I was holding a pair and just made the table stakes
Split the demos, put insurance on tapes
A safeguard against the crusaders in capes
I drew hit after hit from a royal flush menu
While the dealer promoted the full house venue
A spade in the club with the heart to wear diamonds
The high roller who got credit upon signing
They look puzzled when I shuffled, most of them stunned by the hustle
Recourse of bluff game's your muscle

And now for some more brief notes on my week 3 game …

IM Vinay Bhat – GM Hikaru Nakamura [A43]

USCL (3), 10.09.2007

1.d4 Mixing it up a little from the previous week. I used to play 1.e4 exclusively; now I play both 1.e4 and 1.d4, with the occasional 1.c4 or 1.Nf3 thrown in for good measure. 1...Nf6 Hikaru generally plays anything and everything, so I had no real idea of what to expect. In the past year or two, 1...d5 and 1...f5 have also featured pretty heavily in his games. 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 b5!? A slightly unpleasant surprise - I didn't know he would play this position, nor did I have anything prepared for this. 4.Bg5 Qa5+ [4...Ne4 appears to be the more common move according to the database, but Hikaru's choice does keep White from interposing on d2 because of the weakness of the d5-pawn.] 5.c3 Ne4 6.Bh4 [I've played the Trompowsky a number of times with the white pieces (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5), and in that opening, the retreat 6.Bc1 is paradoxically quite common. I thought about it for a moment here, before playing a more normal move.; 6.h4 is another idea here (with analogies again to the Tromp line of 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4).] 6...b4 7.c4? This solidifies the standing of the d5-pawn, but doesn't really do much to "punish" Black for his lack of central presence. [7.Qc2 was more logical, hitting the knight on e4 and guarding the c3-pawn. 7...bxc3 8.bxc3 f5 9.Nfd2 and White is clearly better. After the knights are exchanged (or Black retreats), White will have more pieces developed, better control of the center, and the ability to play e2-e4. ] 7...b3+ 8.Nbd2 bxa2 9.Qb3 Na6 10.Rxa2 Qb4 11.Qc2 [11.Qd1!? White threatens Ra2-a4, kicking the queen away and breaking the pin, and so Black must capture on d2: 11...Nxd2 12.Nxd2 Qb6 13.e4 - this looks great for White, except that Black can play 13...g6 and now will get good chances by fighting on the dark squares.] 11...Nxd2 12.Nxd2 d6 (Diagram)


13.Ra4 This was a big think moment for me. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to kick the queen right away, play e2-e3, or play e2-e4. [13.e3 g6 14.Be2 Bg7 15.0–0 Rb8 16.Rfa1 was probably more accurate. What I played in the game looks appealing, as White gets a big center, but at the same time, it isn't all that easy to maintain it with Black's pieces hitting it from all angles.] 13...Qb6 14.Qc3 f6 Black tries to prepare the development of his bishop on g7, but this wasn't the way I expected it to be done. [14...Rg8 was what I expected the grand majority of my time on.] 15.e4 g6 16.f4 Bg7 17.Be2 [17.Bd3!? Rb8 18.b3 0–0 19.f5 plugs the diagonal, but now White is left with a lot of dark-square holes. Black can start exploiting those with 19...Bh6 . It's not clear to me that White is doing all that great here.] 17...0–0 18.0–0 f5 [18...g5 19.Bg3 (19.fxg5 fxg5 20.Rxf8+ Kxf8 21.Qf3+ Kg8 22.Bxg5 Qxb2 23.Qg3 with some initiative for White, although the position is still rather complicated.) 19...f5 20.e5 dxe5 21.fxe5 f4 22.Bf2 Rb8 (22...Qc7 23.Ne4 Bxe5 24.Qa3 and White is clearly better.) 23.b4! Nxb4 24.Ne4 and Black is in some trouble.] 19.e5 Re8 20.Bf3 [20.Rfa1 Nb4 21.Bf3 is probably more correct, as White pushes the knight to b4, plugging the b-file and thereby alleviating some of the pressure against b2. White would like to avoid playing b2-b3, as it leaves the Nd2 with a poor job and also creates potential problems on the long diagonal with a1 exposed.] 20...Rb8 21.b3 [21.Ra2!? - based on the explanation above, maybe White should continue to try and avoid playing b2-b3.] 21...Nb4 22.Re1 e6 (Diagram)


23.Raa1? [23.Bf6! was better - I had seen this move, but during the game, I was spooked by 23...exd5 24.cxd5 Bxf6 , as it's clear that White isn't going to take back on f6 immediately. However, I missed the nice little zwischenzug 25.Nc4! , hitting the queen on b6 and opening up a defensive line for the rook on e1. White is pretty much winning here.] 23...Bb7 24.dxe6 dxe5 25.fxe5 Rxe6 26.Bxb7 [26.Bf6? Rxf6! 27.exf6 Bxf6 is curtains.] 26...Qxb7 27.Nf3 Nc6 28.Bf2 Qe7 [28...Qxb3 29.Qxb3 Rxb3 30.Bxc5 Rc3 31.Bxa7 Rxc4 32.Bf2 - Black is slightly better in an objective sense because of the weak e5-pawn, but such an advantage shouldn't be enough to win the game at this point.] 29.Rad1 [29.Ra6 looks nice, but then simply 29...Rb6 and it's not clear what White has accomplished. I guess he could continue with 30.Rxb6 axb6 31.Bh4 Qe8 32.Bg3 and just sit tight, but it looks a bit too passive to me.] 29...Nxe5 30.Nxe5 Rxe5 [30...Bxe5 31.Qa5 Rc8 32.Rd5 and Black isn't likely to hang onto his pawn for too long.] 31.Rxe5 Bxe5 32.Qe3? [32.Qf3 was much simpler and maintains equality - the d5-square is a great square for the White queen, and Black can't cover it properly without giving up the c5-pawn.] 32...Bd6 Now things aren't so easy - Black keeps his extra pawn, although there are definite conversion problems. With a slightly exposed king, weak queenside pawns, and problems exchanging those pawns into a winning endgame, Black is only slightly better. 33.Qd3 Rd8 34.Qd5+ Kg7 35.Qf3 a6 36.Rd5 Qc7 37.Qc3+ Kf7 38.g3 Re8 39.Qa1 [39.Qd2 Re6 40.Qh6 Kg8 41.Rxf5 appears to get the pawn back nicely, but then 41...Qb7! is problematic.] 39...Qc6 40.Qa5 Rc8 41.Qd2 Be7 42.Rd7 Ke8 43.Rd5 [43.Ra7? Rd8] 43...Kf7 44.Rd7 Rb8 45.Qd3 Rb7 46.Rd5 a5 After a lot of shuffling on both sides' parts, Black starts to take a few too many liberties. Admittedly, it is still not easy to convert here for Black, but at least this doesn't appear to be the right way. [46...Qb6?! 47.Rxc5! Bxc5 48.Qd5+ Kg7 49.Bxc5 Qc7 50.Bd4+ Kf8 51.Bc5+ Kg7 52.Bd4+ is just a draw.] 47.Qf3 Qb6 (Diagram)


48.g4? [I could have kept up the defensive front with 48.Rd3 after which I'm not sure how Black really hopes to win, but I decided to roll the dice and take my chances in some complications. By this point, I had seen the position on move 52 (although I didn't see clearly through a number of the alternatives for each side along the way), and assessed that position as likely favoring me. Objectively, as it turns out, those alternatives along the way don't justify the pawn push, so 48.Rd3 was the best move. But I can't complain about the result now ...] 48...Qxb3 49.Rd3 Qxc4 [49...Qb1+ 50.Kg2 and the f5-pawn is lost.] 50.gxf5 Rb1+ 51.Kg2 g5 [51...Kg8! A cold and calculating move, but Hikaru was probably moving too quickly in general to notice such things. 52.Qe2!? Bf8 and it's not clear what White is doing.] 52.f6! [52.Qh5+ Kf8! 53.Qh6+ Kg8 gets White nowhere.; 52.Rd7 g4! pushes White's queen away before the fun has started, leaving Black with a winning position.] 52...Bxf6 [52...Bf8 53.Qh5+] 53.Qf5! Continuing to keep the pressure up. [Fritz9 appears to like 53.Rd6 at first glance, but then 53...Qf4 and White can't win (although there are some draws). 54.Qh5+ (54.Qd5+ Kg7 55.Rd7+ Kh8!) 54...Kf8! 55.Qh6+ Ke7 56.Rxf6! Qg4+! (56...Qxf6 57.Qxh7+ Qf7 58.Qxb1 with a potentially winning advantage.) 57.Bg3 Rb2+ 58.Kg1 Qd4+ 59.Rf2 Rxf2 60.Bxf2 Qd1+ 61.Kg2 Qg4+ secures a draw with checks along the light squares.] 53...Rb2? [53...Rb4 54.Qxh7+ Kf8 55.Qh6+ Bg7 56.Rd8+ (56.Qg6 Qe4+ 57.Rf3+ looks nicer than it is: 57...Kg8 58.Qf7+ Kh7 59.Qh5+ Bh6 60.Qf7+ Kh8! and the checks won't be around for much longer.) 56...Kf7 57.Qh5+ Kf6 58.Qf3+ Ke7 59.Rd5 Qg4+ 60.Qxg4 Rxg4+ 61.Kh3 and a draw is the natural result at this point.] 54.Rd7+ [54.Qxh7+ Ke8 55.Qf5 is similar to the game continuation.] 54...Kg8 [Of course not 54...Kf8 55.Qxf6+; But 54...Ke8 was quite reasonable: 55.Rxh7 Rxf2+! 56.Kxf2 Qd4+ leads to a number of interesting positions that aren't so easy to figure out. My gut feeling is that with accurate play, Black can make a draw, but White is generally pushing.] 55.Qxh7+ Kf8 56.Qf5 Rxf2+ This probably shouldn't lose, but it might not yet be necessary. [56...Qc3 57.Qg6 looks like curtains for Black, except that he can turn the tables nicely with: 57...Rxf2+! 58.Kxf2 Bd4+ and it's Black who's winning! If White doesn't take on d4 immediately, then he'll drop the rook on d7 after some checks. And if he does take on d4, well, the resulting position is not too heartening.] 57.Kxf2 Qf4+? Accompanied by a draw offer, but this is a losing move. [57...Qa2+? 58.Kg3 Qb3+ 59.Kg4 and White's king escapes.; 57...Ke8! still leaves the waters a bit murky.] 58.Qxf4 gxf4 59.Kf3 Bc3 The bishop needs to go to b4 to allow the pawns to advance, but this is time consuming and leaves the bishop poorly placed. The endgame is lost regardless of what Black does at this point, largely because of the poor placement of Black's bishop and the horrible placement of Black's king on the 8th rank. 60.Kxf4 Bb4 61.Ke4 (Diagram)


61...c4 [61...a4 62.Ra7 a3 63.Kd5 Kg8 64.h4 Kh8 65.h5 Kg8 66.Ke6 c4 67.Kf6 c3 68.h6 c2 69.h7+ (69.Kg6? aims to trick Black into playing 69...c1Q (But 69...Kf8! 70.h7 Bc3 leaves Black doing just fine!) 70.Ra8+ Bf8 71.h7+ Kh8 72.Rxf8#) 69...Kh8 70.Kg6 c1Q 71.Ra8+ and mate follows. This is the common theme in this endgame - the pawns are stopped momentarily while Black can do nothing more productive; the white h-pawn runs up the board; and then finally, the white king slides over to start making mate threats a reality.] 62.Rc7 c3 63.Kd3 Kg8 64.h4 Kh8 65.h5 Bd6 [If Black continued to shuffle back and forth with 65...Kg8 , then 66.Ke4 a4 67.Kf5 a3 68.h6 and like in the note to Black's 61st move, White is going to checkmate one way or another.] 66.Ra7 a4 67.Rxa4 Kh7 68.Ra7+ Kg8 [68...Kh6 69.Ra6 picks up the bishop.] 69.Kxc3 Bf8 70.Kd3 Bg7 71.Ke4 Kh7 72.Kf5 Kh6 73.Rb7 Bc3 74.Rb6+ Kh7 75.Rd6 Bb2 76.Rc6 Bd4 77.Ke4 Bg7 78.Kf5 Bd4 79.Kf4 and Black resigned. With the Black bishop cut off from the c1–h6 diagonal, White pushes h6 himself, slides the king over to h5, and then uses the rook from the side to help escort the h-pawn up the board. 1–0

From dark matter to the big crunch
The vocals came in a bunch without one punch
Rare glimpse from the, strictly advanced, proved unstoppable
Reputation enhanced, since the cause was probable
So you compare contrast but don't blast
through extreme depths, with the pen I hold fast
The rhyme came from the pressure of heat
Then it was laid out, on the ground to pave streets

A Texas Two-Step

Here are some brief notes on my week 2 game …

IM Vinay Bhat – IM John Bartholomew [B01]

USCL (2), 05.09.2007

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 [9...gxf6 is the other option for Black here. Both moves seem to be equally popular, although this was the recapture I was expecting.] 10.Qe2 Bg4 (Diagram)


[10...Nd7 looks like the usual move here, with the idea that on 11.d5 , Black can play (Thus, 11.0–0–0 is the normal move, after which we can transpose back into the game with 11...Bg4 12.d5) 11...cxd5 12.Bxd5 Qxb2 with a relatively comfortable position.] 11.0–0–0 I spent about 20 minutes before making this move. I was trying to figure out whether to castle long or play d4-d5 immediately. As it turns out, d5 is the theoretically approved continuation. [11.d5! Bxf3 12.gxf3 cxd5 (12...Qxb2 13.0–0 cxd5 14.Bxd5 Nc6 transposes.) 13.Bxd5 Qxb2 14.0–0 Nc6 - the problem for me here was to try and figure out whether White was actually better in this position. After my long think, I wasn't able to make clear progress, and so I decided to just castle and bide my time. 15.Rab1!? (15.Be4!? Qb6 16.Rab1 Qc7 17.Qc4 with pressure.) 15...Qxc2 16.Rxb7 with some initiative.] 11...Nd7 [Having already set up the pin on the Nf3, I thought Black might go with 11...Be7!? , so as to cut out any d5 tricks. Still, the bishop on e7 doesn't make a great impression, and although Black will have the slightly better pawn structure after exchanges on f3, White can benefit from the two bishops, the open g-file, and the precarious position of the Black queen. For example, 12.h3 (12.Qe4!?) 12...Bxf3 13.gxf3 Nd7 14.Rhg1 g6 15.Bc3 Qf4+ 16.Qe3 Qxe3+ 17.fxe3 with a minimal advantage.] 12.d5 Now, by transposition, we've got back into normal waters, except with the caveat that I had lost 20 minutes by this point. 12...Bxf3 13.gxf3 cxd5 14.Bxd5 0–0–0 15.Be4 Qe5 16.Bc3 Qc7 17.Kb1 Sidestepping any potential checks on the c1–h6 diagonal. White is clearly better thanks to the active bishop pair and Black's development issues on the kingside. 17...f6 18.Rhg1 Tying Black's bishop down to the defense of the g7-pawn. 18...Nc5 [The pawn is taboo: 18...Qxh2? 19.Ba5! Re8 20.Qb5 and Black is toast.] 19.Rxd8+ Kxd8 [19...Qxd8 20.Qc4 Qc7 21.Bd4 offers the potential to transpose back into the game.] 20.Bd4 Bd6 [Once again, the pawn cannot be taken safely: 20...Qxh2 21.Rd1 Kc8 22.Qb5 and Black can't cover all his weaknesses.] 21.Bxc5 The knight on c5 is essential for holding Black's position together, so it's important to eliminate it. [21.Qb5 a6 doesn't appear to get White anywhere.] 21...Bxc5 22.Qc4 Kc8 [22...Re8 23.Rd1+ Ke7 (23...Kc8? 24.Bxb7+! Qxb7 (24...Kxb7 25.Qb5+ , picking up the rook on e8.) 25.Qxc5+ picks up a key pawn.) 24.Bxh7!? (24.Bxb7 Rd8 25.Rxd8 Kxd8 26.Be4 is probably not quite enough for White.) ] 23.b4?! After a decent think, I lashed out with this move, but I missed a simple defensive idea for Black. [The simple 23.Qxe6+ was probably better - 23...Kb8 24.Rd1 Rd8 25.Rxd8+ Qxd8 26.a3 and White has some pressure. Whether it's enough to win or not is a whole different story, but White can probably press for a little while.] 23...Bd6 24.Qxc7+ Bxc7 25.Rxg7 f5 26.Bd3 Bxh2 27.Bc4 Be5 [I had only considered 27...Re8 , when 28.Rxh7 Bf4 (28...Bg1 29.Rh6 reaches an endgame similar to that in the game after about 35 moves. Black can't save the e6/f5 chain with 29...Kd7? because of 30.Bb5+) 29.c3 with advantage to White. During the game, I thought this sort of endgame held as much promise as the Q+B endgame described in the note to White's 23rd move.] 28.Bxe6+ Kb8 29.Rf7 f4 30.Rf5 [30.c4 was better. White doesn't have time to swing the rook to h5 (to block the progress of the pawn), and so he might as well leave it on the 7th rank.] 30...Bd6 31.a3 h5 Given that Black hit the b4-pawn with gain of time, White could have had something similar with the rook on f7 and pawn on c4 here. 32.Rd5 Bc7 33.Kb2 (Diagram)


33...Re8? Black offered a draw here - Stopa had already won on board 3, and the Dallas team had to be happy with their positions on boards 1 and 4. Unfortunately, this is a huge mistake after which Black is on the ropes. 34.Rxh5! [The drawing idea behind the rook move is: 34.Bf7 Re5] 34...a5 [34...Rxe6? 35.Rh8+ Bd8 36.Rxd8+ Kc7 37.Rf8 with a relatively easy win for White in the rook and pawn endgame.] 35.Bc4 axb4 36.axb4 Re5 37.Rh8+ Ka7 38.Rh7 Bd6 39.c3 The endgame now is pure torture for Black, and is almost certainly losing. 39...Re7 40.Rh5 Re5 41.Rh7 Re7 42.Rh5 A couple repetitions to get some time back. 42...Re5 43.Rh6 Bc7 44.Bd3 Rd5 45.Be4 Rd7 46.c4 Rd4 47.Bd5 Rd2+ 48.Kb3 Rd1 49.Rh7 Kb8 50.Rh8+ Ka7 51.Rh7 Kb8 52.Be4 Rd8 53.c5 Kc8 54.Bf5+ Kb8 55.Be4 Kc8 56.Kc4 Rf8 57.Bd5 Rd8 58.Be6+ Kb8 59.Bd5 Kc8 60.b5?! [60.Rh6! with the idea of b5-b6, without allowing ...b7-b6 in response, was even cleaner.] 60...b6 61.Rh6 bxc5 62.b6 [was more prudent, in order to save myself the trouble of dealing with this pawn later on. I thought it might come in handy to have the c-pawn blocking some diagonals for me, but that was a little too deep a thought for the position. 62.Kxc5 ] 62...Bd6 63.Bc6 Be5 64.Rh7 Rh8 65.Rf7 Bd6 66.Bb7+ Kb8 67.Bd5 Kc8 68.Be6+ Kb8 69.Kd5 Rd8 70.Kc6 Be5 71.Rb7+ Ka8 72.Ra7+ Kb8 73.Kb5 [73.Bd7 was slightly more accurate, as it cuts Black's rook off from coming to the d1 and giving some checks from behind.] 73...c4 74.Bd7 c3 (Diagram)


75.Bc6? After all the previous moves, I was always on the lookout for some way to deliver checkmate in the corner, but here I let it slip. [75.Ka6! c2 (75...Rxd7 76.Rxd7 Kc8 77.Rd5 is the end.) 76.Rb7+ Ka8 77.Bc6! , and it doesn't matter what Black does - mate will be coming in short order. 77...c1Q 78.Ra7+ Kb8 79.Ra8#] 75...Kc8 76.Be4 Rf8 77.Ra8+ Bb8 78.Ra3 Be5 79.Kc6 Rf6+ 80.Kd5 Bd6 81.Rxc3+ Kb7?? [81...Kb8 was necessary, after which White still has some work to do. He's up two pawns, but the doubled f-pawns aren't all that useful at the moment.] 82.Rc6 Black resigns, as whatever he does, he's going to drop a piece. 1–0


Thank you, thank you, you're far too kind. I must admit to having a bit of success in the league, although the past week I got into a little more trouble than I'm used to experiencing. Luckily for me, this week I get to stay a little later at the office and so recuse myself from stumbling into another Game of the Week prize.

Since we haven't had a recap of the last couple weeks, here goes...

In week 2, we were up against a strong Dallas squad. Featuring the debut of GM Patrick Wolff, we felt pretty good about our chances, but early on, David made an incomprehensible move on board 3 (...Rfc8, instead of his planned ...Rac8), and his position turned south soon afterwards.

With board 4 not looking so good, and Boskovic holding a small edge on board 1, we weren't in great shape, until Bartholomew blundered badly with ...Re8. I had made a miscalculation and thrown away my advantage, but that move gave it right back. That seemed to coincide with some good luck on 1 and 4, as Wolff turned the tables and Young managed to reach a drawn opposite-color bishop endgame. While those two finished in a draw, I managed to finally find my way around to a full point after missing some easier wins. This salvaged a tie in the match, bringing our score to 1.5/2 on the season.

In week 3, it was a finals rematch against NY. The two lineups looked somewhat different than last year's version, with me being matched up against GM Hikaru Nakamura on board 1. Meanwhile, some of last year's heroes (Josh Friedel and Sam Shankland for SF, and Pascal Charbonneau for NY) were not active.

The match seemed to start out alright, with relatively good chances on all 4 boards - we achieved better positions out of the opening with white (boards 1 and 3), and had playable positions with black. Unfortunately, David played a little too nonchalantly and missed ...b5!, Black's only resource in the position and things weren't looking good for us for the second week in a row.

I then decided that in addition to time odds (I showed up late, leading to 5-minute time penalty, and then burned a lot of time in an unfamiliar opening/middlegame structure), I needed to give Hikaru an extra pawn to boot, and that's when the fun really began on my board.

I missed the remainder of the other 2 games, but while Greg picked us up with a big win, Vince was outplayed in a complicated position under mutual time pressure. Meanwhile, my position went from being a pawn down with pretty good holding chances to something completely random, and finally to a winning R + P vs. B + 3P endgame. Once again, I made my living off the increment and we escaped by a hair. With a second straight drawn match, we moved to 2/3, and into a tie for 2nd behind Dallas in the West.

And finally, to Drasko - well, you won a nice game last week, but you made it look a little too easy. You've got to give your opponents a fighting chance.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

We're playing New York!

Hey there all you people who desperately need a life! It looks like the Mechanics are facing the dreaded New York Knights, and the Knights seem to be prepared. Rumor has it that team manager John Donaldson is panicking and even had a mild heart attack causing him to fall and injure his leg when he heard that the New York players now know how to set up and move the chess pieces. However, he recovered and has put a lot of thought into the lineup. The biggest surprise is putting Vinay on board 1. I shall make a prediction about how all boards will finish.

This choice seems to be a good one. We are now engaged in our own preparations, and one of them is testing our first board for short-term memory loss. One test was have Vinay look at a position where the best move is to push the king away with a check then grab a loose pawn. He passed this test by not forgetting to check, so he is clearly infinitely superior to Friedel. Also, his league performance rating is higher than Hikaru's projected, so it may be possible for him to win, although we must give Hikaru a large edge when predicting this encounter.

On board 2 we have our very trusty trustee Vince McCambridge. Although he has been inactive, his results do not indicate weakness or rustiness. However, the main reason i believe John decided to put him on board 2 is that when he mouseslips, he loses, unlike Friedel who always manages tow in by mouseslipping. His eye-hand coordination and skills with a mouse and keyboard have now been enhanced and he should be all ready to beat Krush. However, Krush is probably angry that she lost to a mechanic in the championship match, so she is going to be very agressive and vigorous, and considering her height advantage i must predict her to come out on top.

Pruess-Bonin: What can i say? although Bonin is not old and decrepit like David, he does not have the advantage of knowing our prep. The prep we used for David in the championship match seemed to work very well, however this year it may be trickier. With David playing more tournaments and being busier, his stress levels are skyrocketing. It may take a little extra work from our designated David-prepper.Although since David has the day off and can start his prep around midnight the night before so it should not pose too much of a problem. Nevertheless, Bonin should have a large advantage.

On board 4 we actually have some healthy youth. Greg Young is on fire, including trapping me in the opening only just 7 days ago and winning without any trouble. However, he will not be playing a fish, so his trap may fail this time around. Herman seems to be a well-prepared opponent, except he may not have time to learn how to set the pieces up correctly. If this is the case which i believe it may well be, Greg can simply resign because he will be out of theory and Herman is a genius. Large edge to Matt in this encounter.

I therefore should predict the Knights to sweep the Mechanics 4-0. But this is exactly the opposite of what will happen! The knights will be winning on all boards but suddenly the little ninja Naroditsky will come bashing into the Marshall club, cut the internet, and we will win 4-0 by forfeit. Danya, please do not fail us.If the knights try to hurt you, you can use your good-luck booster seat to protect yourself. SAN FRANCISCO WILL PREVAIL!