Saturday, October 27, 2007

Open rant at Jonathan Hilton

It has come to my attention that for the first time in USCL history,Friedel-Serper 1-0 did NOT win game of the week. The league commissioner Mr. Shahade voted this game second and clearly made a very bad call, but because it was only off by one and not such a huge offense i will let him slide, although we can hope he will exercise better judgment in the future. However, JONATHAN HILTON DESPERATELY NEEDS SOME BRAINS IN HIS NOGGAN IF HE IS TO CONTINUE BEING A GOTW JUDGE.

Jonathan has ranked every single one of Friedels losses this season quite highly, and none of them with the exception of the Milman game (even still, that is pushing it) were any kind of good quality chess. However, when josh comes up with a masterpiece like this against Serper, of course Hilton doesn't rank it at all! Instead he ranked a game first that was decided by one move. Josh specifically made sure not to blow out Serper too badly, he wanted a close encounter, and the result was a great game of fighting chess. Hilton also ranked Bhat's win third. I mean HELLO! Bhat ALWAYS wins his game and already has two gotw's under his belt! The game was not anything special, they just got an equal position where Vinay slowly outplayed his opponent and won with a tactic in the final position. The way I see it, we either have a biased judge that must be disciplined or a blithering idiot helping decide who makes big bucks. Either way, the uscl has a problem. I have nothing personal against Hilton, he is a good kid, but seriously, this is just MADNESS.

P.S. Mr shahade, i believe organizing a Friedel-Hilton boxing match would be largely appreciated in San Francisco.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back to the Playoffs ...

After dropping to 4th place in the West after 7 weeks, we've made up serious ground the last couple weeks and now sit in 2nd place!

Week 9: SF (3) - Seattle (1)

(2) Tangorn (SEA) - Bhat (SF), 0-1,

This was a tough game that was marred a little bit by Eric's blunder with 46.Qc3 at the end of the game. The opening was relatively quiet, and I equalized easily with the Black pieces. I spent a good amount of time coming up with the plan starting with 14...Bd6 and 15...Qb8, as there were easier ways to get dull equality at hand (such as ...Ne4 or ...Ng4 in general). With 16...Nh5, I have visions of playing ...Ng7-f5, while the knight performs a useful function of keeping watch over the f4-square if White ever gets over-ambitious and plays e3-e4. As it was, Eric played g2-g4, but then Black is happy to push on the queenside and play with the isolated d-pawn. 22...Bf8 and 23...Bg7 was a silly idea (I should've just played ...c5 straight-away), and I then followed it up with 29...Rcd8?!. The e8-rook is doing nothing, and so it should be the one on d8, while the queen's rook should go to a8 to support the a4 push. I realized this one move late, but then with 33.f4 (weakening the long diagonal), it was back to c8 to get rid of the rooks. This made for an optically puzzling sequence, but I think it all makes sense. As Dana mentioned on his blog (, I hallucinated when playing 39...dxe2, thinking the Qc4 was unprotected and so 40...Bf8 would win a piece and the game. As it was, I was only able to win a piece a few moves later, although Black's position was already clearly better after 40...Qc7.

(4) Sinanan (SEA) - Naroditsky (SF), 1/2,

This one went down the KID's main line of the Bayonet
Attack, but with 11...Nf4 12.Bf1, veered off into a sideline thought shouldn't trouble Black too much. White's position may have been slightly for preference in a practical sense, but despite being low on the clock, Daniel defended well and saw all the right tactics in the endgame. A solid game from both players.

(1) Friedel (SF) - Serper (SEA), 1-0,

This is the 5th time that these two have faced off in the USCL, and as has been written elsewhere many a time, white had won all the games. Thankfully, this was no different. As usual when Josh has the white pieces, it was a Sicilian Kan (or maybe a Taimanov/Paulsen/etc - I can't remember the differences in general), and rather than going fishing around on the kingside with a plan of e4-e5, Bc1-f4 and Qe2-g4, Josh played more solidly with b3, Bb2, and Na4. White's idea is just to play c2-c4 and claim a safe advantage. At first glance after 17...Rfd8, Black seems to be doing ok as the dark squares are under control, he can set up his own battery on the h1-a8 diagonal, and his rooks can be centralized. However, White is probably better already - with 18.Be5!, followed by 19.Nb2-c4, Josh hit upon a strong plan to recentralize his pieces and stay out of any dangerous exchange sacrifices. Black could have met 18.Re3 with 18...Rd4!, when maybe it's Black who will be better! After 25.Nf6+, the real problem for Black is highlighted - he cannot plug the long diagonal, while when White neesd to, he can just play f2-f3 and kill the threats. Serper defended well and hung around for a while despite huge positional weaknesses, but in the end, it caught up to him and with his king chased to h4, the end came switftly.

(3) Donaldson (SF) - Schmidt (SEA), 1/2,

I'll let John write the summary here: "I had a big advantage from the opening (11...Qc5? 12.b4! was a Kasparov-Kramnik blitz game) but then lost my advantage through a combination of good defense by my opponent and lack of energetic play by myself (around move 15 or so I should have been thinking about e4 and f4. Going into the endgame was not a good idea for Black. At the end White was winning a second pawn with a very likely win. The score was 2.5-.5 and prudence dictated locking in a draw to secure the tiebreak advantage going into the last week."

That said, we're now back in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, although this time, it won't be as division champs. Dallas clinched the division with another win over Tennessee. Coupled with Miami's win over Carolina, we have sewn up a playoff spot, although it is yet to be seen if that is as the #2 or #3 seed. The #2 seed comes with rather useful draw odds, so stay tuned for the final regular-season match next Wednesday, October 31st!

Better late than never ...

Finally an update on the team's results the last few weeks, just as we have turned things around and clinched a playoff spot. We've gone 2-1 in the past 3 weeks, and here's the rundown ...

Week 7: Miami (2.5) - SF (1.5)

The match itself was quite interesting, and it could have easily turned the other way with a couple lucky breaks.

(1) Friedel (SF) - Becerra (MIA), 0-1,

Both these guys make a living with the Ruy Lopez, and in their 3rd USCL career matchup, they entered a theoretical discussion in the ...Nd7 Chigorin Variation. Black's 17...f5 was supposedly refuted by Khalifman, but maybe Becerra has resurrected it? The first key position was probably on move 24, when Josh decided to go with 24.Bxf5 instead of the tempting alternative of just pushing his central passed pawns down the board. It worked out great, and Josh was well on his way to victory, when he played 34.Kg2?, walking right into ...Qg5+ and ...Qxc5. The idea of Kg2 was to trade queens with Qg3, which is a good idea (as then the pawns will run), but the execution could have been better. 34.Rg2, with the same idea is virtually curtains for Black. Instead, Josh accidentally dropped the c-pawn first, and the d-pawn wasn't destined to live too much longer after that.

(2) Martinez (MIA) - Zilberstein (SF), 1/2,

Dima's 2007 USCL debut was an exciting affair. Don't let the result fool you - this was an exciting game. As John Donaldson wrote, "Marcel sacs the house for mate but Dima comes up with 24...Nf3+!, 28...e3! and 30...Rb3! and Marcel has to bail out with a perpetual. Nice defense!" An amusing sidenote is that the game followed Becerra-Friedel, USCL 2006 for the first 17 moves!

(3) Pruess (SF) - Espino (MIA), 1-0,

A nice, smooth win from David, who was due to get back on track. Maybe 5...Nf6 and 6...Ng4 is already the wrong idea, as Black's position just doesn't impress there. Burmakin likes to play the positions after 5...dxe4, and he tends to have some ideas about these positions. As it was, David just developed all his pieces, pried open a kingside file, and then his activity (and Black's lack of development) carried the day.

(4) Rodriguez (MIA) - Naroditsky (SF), 1-0,

A tough loss for Daniel, whose first mistake was probably 12...e5. A more standard plan with 12...b5 was probably called for. In a tough middlegame, Black just got outplayed, and made a serious error with 28...g5, blocking the path of the bishop on h6 and allowing Nc2-e4 (preparing to jump into d5 in some cases).

Coming off the loss against Boston, this loss to Miami dropped us to 3-4 and into 4th place in the West. Meanwhile, we headed into the home stretch, with one match apiece against each team in front of us at the time - first Carolina (one spot ahead of us), then Seattle (two spots ahead), and finally Dallas (who continued to put up good result after good result and was leading the division).

Week 8: SF (3) - Carolina (1)

(3) Zaikov (CAR) - Donaldson (SF), 1/2,

A relatively tame game from both players. Queens were exchange on move 7, and after further piece exchanges, peace was the exchange. A solid, uneventful draw that worked well for us given the other boards.

(4) Shankland (SF) - Jones (CAR), 1-0,

Sam has been a beast for us in the league (putting up a massive 6.5/8), but this year was relegated to alternate duty because of other commitments. His game with Jones followed Pruess-Jones from week 1 until 12.Na4. Black never seemed to get any real activity, and in the meantime, was left with a hemmed-in light-squared bishop and kingside pawn weaknesses. Sam played quite well, with 25.Bxg6! (25...fxg6 26.Rh8+ and 29.R1h7# is the point) and then 29.Rxe8+!. The only blemish was that he didn't play 32.Bg8#, and instead went for the prosaic 32.Bxe8+ (which led to mate anyways).

(1) Milman (CAR) - Bhat (SF), 0-1,

I had come into the game expecting a tamer opening (the Ruy Lopez Exchange, in fact), and instead I got a slugfest. We went down the main line of the ...Nd7 Chigorin, but instead of the ...f5 idea as Becerra played, I went with the more traditional idea of ...Bh4. I hadn't played this line before, and hadn't specifically prepared it for this game, and so when Nf3-g5xh7 was quickly played by Lev, I was a little worried I had walked into something bad. A 35 minute think convinced me otherwise, although the position is still a mess - White has a major alternative in 25.e5 that wasn't clear to me then and still isn't clear to me now. 25.Qd2 was tempting though, and I'd like to say I came up with the best defensive plan - 28...c4 (threatening ...Qb6+ and so forcing the King to the h-file), 29...Rb7, and 30...Ng4, clearing the way for ...f6 and opening the 2nd rank for my rook. However, White could've secured a likely draw with 30.Qh4 instead of 30.Raf3, as then 30...Kg7 31.Qh6+ Kg8 32.Qh4, and Black has nothing great to do. Alternatively, if White tries to play on there with 30...Kg7 31.Raf3 Rh8 32.Bxf6+ Bxf6 33.Qxf6+ Qxf6 34.Rxf6, I think he's worse after 34...Rd8. Black threatens 35...Bf5, which forces the rook back from f6, after which Black's rooks aren't so tied down while White is saddled with a horrible bishop on c2. 35.R6f3 b4 is slightly better for Black. As it was, after 31...f6, it was all over.

(2) Pruess (SF) - Schroer (CAR), 1/2,

A marathon game that essentially went on until closing time at the Mechanics. People were noting at the recent Mexico World Championship event that the Ruy Lopez had taken over for the Sicilian as the opening du jour recently, and for the 2nd week in a row, we had our pair of Spanish Games on the top 2 boards. David played what appears to be a sideline of the Zaitsev and after some small fireworks on the queenside and in the center, came out a pawn ahead. However, by about move 30, we had already secured the match with 2.5 points, and maybe David lost his concentration for a little bit. His advantage slipped and then he had to fight to make sure he wasn't worse. The endgame was quite interesting with chances for both sides - maybe 45.Bc2 was better, similarly 50...g4 instead of 50...Nxd4. In the end, a draw was a logical result.

This win let us switch places in the standings with Carolina. With Dallas' victory over Seattle, we were only half a match point behind them for 2nd place, and we were facing them the following week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How SF will defeat Carolina

In conjunction with Josh Friedel and David Pruess, I have figured out a way to assure victory against the Carolina Cobras. In the last 2 years of the USCL, the mechanics have scored 8.5/9 when they have won board 4. This goes to show that board 4 is the key - When we win on 4, we win the match. Here is my plan of action: Just before the match starts IM Bhat and i will switch to each others computers. I will play a solid french defense and make it look like am vinay, and vinay will make random looking moves that somehow manage to confuse people into messing up. As a result we will lose on 1 and win on 4, but the win on 4 is all we need. David and John will therefore easily score at least 1.5/2. Special thanks to Josh and David for helping me come up with this idea, Carolina's cars will be working again after tonight.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


In what was originally supposed to the featured Monday Night matchup, we met Boston on Wednesday night. We knew it'd be a tough match going in. Being able to pick 2 players from the group of Christiansen, Perelshteyn, and Sammour-Hasbun, while also having Shmelov and Williams (currently pushing 2400 and 2300, respectively) makes them a real force.

Boston had graciously agreed to the change in order to accomodate the fact that half our players were either out of town or unavailable on Monday. In any case, the chance to field a more regular lineup didn't help us out, as we went down 2.5 - 1.5. Here is a brief recap of each game:

(4) Young (SF) - Williams (BOS), 0-1,

This one was the first game to finish, but not in the way any of us were hoping. The opening was like a dream line for White, who had a huge position by move 14, capped off with 15.Nd5!. Unfortunately, that's when things went wrong - instead of something simple like 16.Nxe7 Qxe7 (there's an amusing threat after 16...Kxe7, of 17...Ng3+, 18.hxg3 hxg3+ 19.Kg1 Rh1+ 20.Kxh1 Qh8+ and mate follows on h2) 17.Kg1. White sidesteps any tricks on the h-file, leaving Black with no counterplay and a pretty unpleasant position.

Instead, Greg probably got excited about his opening success and played 16.e5 dxe5 17.Nxe6, with the idea of giving a check on g6 after 17...fxe6. Unfortunately, he never got to deliver that check, as Williams took advantage of the opened a7-g1 diagonal. The finish was quick and painful.

(1) Christiansen (BOS) - Wolff (SF), 1-0,

On board 1, we had a match-up of two players with a combined haul of 5 US Championships. I don't know what the opening line is about, but Black seemed to get a decent position. With 14...d5, Black has probably equalized - if 15.exd5, Black can play the simple 15...Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Rxd5 17.Rxd5 exd5 with a comfortable position, or mix things up with 15...Nb4.

It was around move 17 that Patrick said he began to lose the thread. 17...b5!? doesn't really help his position that much, and instead the immediate 17...Qe5 looks much more to the point. The real problem was that Black's moves didn't fit together very well at this point in the game. Larry offered a pawn with 20.g3 that was probably better left untouched, but once that pawn was taken, Larry was off to the races. 23.e5 and 27.Nd5! especially signaled the end, and he finished it off in style.

With that game in the books, we were down 2-0 ...

(2) Bhat (SF) - Kelleher (BOS), 1-0,

Preparing for this game was a little tough, as I didn't have much to go on. As it was, I ended up facing a line that I normally only see from the black side. This was a little uncomfortable at first, as I've only played this line of the Meran (with the old 8...a6) with black, and I've generally been quite happy with my positions. In any case, 11...Ng4 was a small surprise, as it's not as popular as 11...axb5, but seems to have been scoring quite well in recent years. However, the opening turned out well for me (16...Bd5 appears to be the main theoretical move, as played by Ivanchuk) although I made a serious mistake after that.

19.Qg3 was based on a miscalculation, as I thought I could prepare to develop with c1-bishop and had guarded the e5-pawn indirectly.

The line I was looking at was: 19...Nxe5 20.Qxe5 Rxd3 21.Nxc5 Rd5 22.Na4 Qb4 23.Qc7 Rc8 24.a3! (not 24.Qb6 Rb5) Qb3 25.Qb6 Rb5 26.Qd4! (the key point behind 24.a3), when 26...Rc8 is met by 27.Qd8#!. With this in mind, I happily continued with my plan of Qf4-g3, but then Kelleher played 19...Nxe5 anyways! At first I was quite happy, as I thought he maybe missed this a3 idea, but then I figured something was up and took another look - after 22.Na4 in the above line, 22...Qc6! is the plan, as then 23.Qe4 f5 and White can't hang on to everything, with a4 and g2 both needing constant attention.

So I had just given up my extra pawn and had worse development to boot. Luckily for me, Black's pieces were for the most part on good squares but had nowhere to really go as an upgrade. I became progressively happier with my position, and after 29...Rd2, it's essentially over for Black. So we were now on the board, the only problem was that we only had one chance left to even up the score.

(3) Shmelov (BOS) - Donaldson (SF) , 1/2-1/2,

I think this line of the Slav was featured in the Topalov-Kramnik match, but I don't remember the bishop going to f4 so early. Black's position in the early middlegame looked quite comfortable, as even after the pawn structure gets "ruined" on the kingside, Black's not in any serious danger. With the dark-squared bishop firmly planted on b4 and enough room to maneuver with the knight, Black shouldn't have any problems. Maybe 21...g5!? was the way to go, with a possible plan of ...a5, ...Qd7, ...Ng6-e7-f5!? As it stood, John never really was able to get any real complications started and in the final position was even worse. With the clocks winding down, the game was agreed drawn.

Despite the loss, we didn't drop out of the playoff picture in the West. Dallas won again to move to 5-1 (tied with Boston for the best record in the league, although they've played an easier schedule so far); Seattle and Carolina, our closest competitors in the West both lost, and so we remain 1/2 game back of Seattle and tied with Carolina (but ahead on the Game Points tiebreak).

Last year's undefeated run through the entire USCL set us up for a tough schedule this season, and with only 4 weeks remaining the regular season, we have our work cut out for us. Next week we are up against the Miami Sharks. Feel free to drop by the Mechanics Institute chess club to watch us play!