Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cutting down the Sluggers

It took a couple extra days, but we beat the Sluggers in the end by a score of 3-1. This match was originally scheduled for Monday night, but due to some strange events, it got moved to Wednesday.

I'll give my take on the lineup changes (EDIT: This is not an agreed upon version, mind you, just my thoughts on the emails I saw). After our last match against Arizona, John emailed Greg asking if Patrick could play from the Marshall Club along with the NY Knights this week. After Greg asked Eddie Chang (the Seattle manager), it was cleared and the lineups were set with Patrick on 1 (as white against Hikaru) and Serper on 2 (as white against me).

Then, on Monday morning, the match was abruptly moved to Wednesday. It seemed there was concern about a strong storm moving through Seattle and also the fact that Serper's wife had delivered late on Sunday night. However, this was not a good move for us as Patrick had since scheduled to fly back on Wednesday evening. Thus, John was again forced into relief duty and had to play on board 2.

It would've been patently unfair to let Seattle use the same lineup on Wednesday as they had penciled in for the Monday match when they had just arbitrarily knocked out our highest rated player. However, they let Mikhailuk play on board 2 without even offering a time penalty to John, which seems ridiculous to me.

The justification seemed to be that Seattle had done us a favor by letting Patrick play from NY. For starters, this seems a bit of a stretch, as the league rules state that some of the factors that increase the likelihood of this being allowed include if: (1) you're away due to a major obligation; (2) the place is a public area; (3) your team has not used this option previously; (4) a league approved TD on site; (5) it's a regular season match. This covers 5 of the 6 applicable factors here, the only one remaining is the other team's willingness (but the commisoner retains the final say based on all the factors present).

Even discounting this, in the alternative scenario where we might have been forced to play on Monday without Patrick's help, Serper likely would not have played because of his newborn child. Our lineup would have been finalized in advance, but they would have had to substitute Mikhailuk (or someone else) with a time penalty offered.

But, in the end, Seattle got to knock out our highest rated player, while making a substitution that might well have taken place anyways without a time penalty! Luckily, we managed to win the match anyways.

Board 1: Bhat - Nakamura, 1-0

On board 1, I again got the white pieces against Hikaru. Last year's game was a bit of a roller coaster that ended in victory for me (the game can be replayed with some of my notes at: Since then, Hikaru has since crossed 2700 FIDE and was a perfect 3 for 3 (all against GMs) so far this year.

The opening was a weird King's Indian Defense with 6...Nc6 7.d5 Nb8. This was one of the more interesting moments in the game, as I hadn't seen this move before, but it did bring back a memory of another weird opening line. It reminded me a bit of 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8!?!?. I was alerted to the existence of this line when flipping through a copy of Khalifman's "Opening for White According to Anand, Volume 5", which at least according to the table of contents, spends close to 10 pages discussing how to get +/= against this line. I don't have the book, so I'm not sure it's a typo, but I've seen that table of contents online, so it's probably correct.

Anyways, I didn't expect to refute 7...Nb8 and when I looked this up in the database today, there were over 300 games with it!

I was a bit better after the opening, but the position wasn't anything amazing. After 16.cxd5, Black's queen is a bit funny on a5 (it can get hit by a3/b4 or Nb3 in various lines), and White is trying to push through e4-e5 when the knight on f6 is short on safe squares. Then, after 16...Nb6 17.a3 Na4, I could've played 18.Ncb5 which secures the advantage. I had seen the key line 18...a6 19.Nc7!! Rxc7 20.Nb3, when the Black queen can't stay in touch with the rook. However, I was unable to find anything special after 18...Qd8! 19.Rxc8 Qxc8 20.Nxa7 Qg4. 21.Qb5 runs into 21...Qd7, when White can't hang on to all his loose pawns (on b2, e4, f4, and sometimes d5). However, 21.Qc4 hits the knight and White comes out on top.

After 18.Nb1?!, then, Hikaru played correctly at first: 18...Rxc1 19.Rxc1 Qa6 before I made another misstep with 20.Qc2?!. Both 20.Qxa6 and 20.Nd2 were better, as even though White loses the b-pawn, the rook invades on the 7th rank and the position remains about equal.

Hikaru then returned the favor with 20.Qc2?! Nc5 21.Nd2 Nd3 22.Rf1 Nd7?. He explained after the game that he was a bit under the weather, which would explain this lackadaisical move. I'm pretty sure he'd normally see and play 23...Ng4! very quickly, when the threat of ...Ngf2+ is bothersome. I'd have to play 24.h3 Ngf2+ 25.Rxf2 (25.Bxf2 Nxf2+ 26.Rxf2 Bxd4 is clearly better for Black - he has the bishop over the knight, a more compact pawn structure, and the open c-file after ...b6 and ...Rc8) Bxd4 26.Rf1 when the position is now better for Black.

After 22...Nd7?, though, he's losing. 23.b4! threatens to cut the queen off from the knight and there's no safe way back from d3. After 23...Bxd4 24.Bxd4, he can try 24...g5, but the calm 25.g3 keeps the e5-square from Black and Qb3 and b5 follow, winning. The rest was pretty easy mop-up duty, as I wasn't planning on giving away gift away like I did against Barcenilla last week.

Board 4: May - Naroditsky, 0-1

The next game to finish was on board 4, with Danya pretty easily dispatching Andy May. This was a Closed Sicilian where Black chose the interesting plan of playing ...Nh6, ...f5, and ...Nf7. Actually, I think Hikaru used to play this way against the Closed Sicilian when he was younger. Anyways, White didn't find anything useful to do, and after 13...fxe4, dropped an exchange with 14.dxe4 Nb5 15.Nxb5 Bxb5. White could have put up some more resistance, but Danya neutralized any pressure quickly and marched on to victory. May struggled on for a long while, but the result was never in doubt.

Board 3: Shankland - Readey, 1-0

We definitely got a bit lucky on this board. I'm not sure which position Sam is talking about, but he claim after the game that at some point, if he had the black pieces, he'd "have a plus a score against Rybka." Danya quickly told him that was being a bit too bold, but the point remains that Black was clearly better.

The opening certainly didn't go Sam's way, as he sort of castled into it on the queenside. With the long diagonal being opened, and then having to play b2-b3, his position was pretty ugly. 20...Nc4! 21.bxc4 Nxe5 was one nice way to win the game (maybe this is what Sam was referring to?). 22...Nxe5! was also winning, as after 23.fxe5 Nxe3, White can't cover the back rank and the the weak dark squares.

Readey's move order of 22...Nxe3 23.Qxe3 Nxe5 was also good enough, but after 24.Rgd2, he should've brought the knight to c6 instead of g4 (after a preliminary exchange on d2). In the game, he was still better, but wasn't so easily winning. Sam defended well, and the game petered out to a simple equality. However, Readey had been down on time for a while now, and maybe either the time pressure or the fact Seattle needed him to win to salvage a draw in the match clouded his judgment and he let the draw slip away 60...Bf8?. Sam then played correctly, targeting the g6-pawn to finish Black off.

Board 2: Mikhailuk - Donaldson, 1-0

This was a smooth positional effort from Mikhailuk. The game started out as a standard Symmetrical English, with some subtle move order tricks from both players. Maybe an interesting juncture was after 14.Rb1, when John had a chance to play 14...Nd4. Then after 15.Bxb7 Rb8 16.Bg2 Bb3 17.Qe1, Black has compensation for the pawn, but it's not clear it's quite enough. However, this was very similar to John's game as black last year against Readey (!) when he made a similar pawn sacrifice on b7 to get a bind on White's position. Take a look at Readey-Donaldson, 0-1, 2007 - the position after 23.Qe1 is pretty similar. John considered this, but in that game, Readey had lost some time with his queen and knight, and so Black's counterplay (especially with ...f7-f5-f4) was coming much sooner.

Anyways, the next interesting moment seems to be after 17.axb4, when Black can consider 17...Qd6 instead of 17...cxb4. In the game, Black takes the bishop pair, but is saddled with a permanently weak b5-pawn. After 17...Qd6 18.bxc5 bxc5, though, White has trouble targeting the c5-pawn and the d4-square becomes an even stronger outpost for Black's knight. 19.Rb1 Bb3 and 19.Qc2 Nd4 do not inspire for White.

After 17...cxb4 18.Bxb4 Nxb4 19.Rxb4, though, it becomes a long struggle to try and draw the game. The isolated b-pawn became an isolated a-pawn, but it was no safer there. John managed to get to R + B + N, with 3 pawns to 2 for White, but the passed d-pawn is problematic. Pushing the h-pawn with 37...h5 may not have been the best call, but having done so, 38...h4 probably has to be played. Black's happy about pawn exchanges, so 39.gxh4 isn't too worrisome; after 39.g4, though, Black has to find 39...Ng7!, heading for e6 which targets the newly weak f4 and g5 squares.

In the game, White slowly activated his pieces and Black had too many weaknesses to defend. With 3 points in the bag, it didn't affect the match outcome, and we stayed in first place in the West with 5.5/7. Next week, we play on Wednesday against Tennessee.


At 4:34 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Oh how short a memory you have Vinay. Last year Boston happily rescheduled their match against SF from a Monday to a Wednesday since most of your players were taking part in the Miami Open ( They did this even though both Perelshteyn and Sammour-Hasbun were not available on the rescheduled day and there was complaining and no questions raised ragarding penalties and such. I think you should think carefully about what you say as the next time SF needs a favor teams may not be so accommodating.

PS - Congratulations on your win, both individually and as a team.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Vinay Bhat said...

Thanks Chris for the warning and the congratulations. I've edited the post to reflect that this is my view of the situation.

And in fact, I did forget that the match with Boston had been rescheduled from Monday to Wednesday last year. However, I believe that was rescheduled in advance of the match, not on the day of the match.

My issue here was not that a time penalty was not imposed, but that no such penalty was even discussed. My take was that Seattle essentially wasn't going to field a team on Monday (again, SF would've fielded a team against Boston because it had been discussed in advance).

It's quite possible that John wouldn't have even cared to have a time penalty imposed - but it seemed odd to me that a match had been moved to avert what I saw as a no-show and there was no discussion of a penalty.

Anyways, in either case, the team that accomodated the other won - you beat us 2.5-1.5 in that match, and we beat Seattle 3-1. Maybe it bodes well for the next team that does us a favor.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger HA81 said...

There is a response to this from Seattle


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