Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mechanics' edge Chicago

Chicago 1.5 - San Francisco 2.5

1. IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs GM Josh Friedel (SF) 1/2-1/2
2. GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0
3. IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs IM Sam Shankland (SF) 1-0
4. NM Yian Liou (SF) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0

This was not a pretty match to watch. Having convincingly defeated two of our main divisional rivals 3-1 the past two weeks some pundits had the Mechanics' running up a big score against Chicago. We were under no such illusion. Last year they drew with us using a "balanced" lineup where the rating differential from first to fourth board was less than one hundred points and they opted for something similar this year fielding a team with four IMs ( Felecan has the norms and a rating of 2429 and is waiting for his the title).

Such a strategy of using an evenly balanced lineup is not likely to lead to blowout victories but it does promise to always be competitive. I would expect to see Chicago fielding this lineup quite a bit in the second half of the season - especially as Young and Pasalic both entered this season with USCL ratings around 2500.

Prognosticators had the two teams splitting the bottom boards but few if any would have guessed it would be by the Mechanics' winning on board four and not three. IM Sam Shankland entered the match with the phenomenal score of 17 from 20 in USCL matches but one of his rare losses was last season to Pasalic in a game similar to the one against Young on Monday night. Both games developed along similar lines with White getting an equal and somewhat boring position out of the opening and Sam pressing and overextending. The game with Young reinforced the lesson and we don't expect to see Sam losing this way again.

Josh looked like he might be getting something against Van der Mortel ( by the way the Chicago team might be the United Nations favorite in the USCL with Van der Mortel hailing from the Netherlands, Felecan being born in Romania, Young the Philippines and Pasalic the former Yugoslavia) but a draw was a fair result for the game. When the players split the point the Mechanics' were pressing on boards two and four. Yian improved his season performance to 3.5 from 4 in his toughest test to date. The 12-year-old from Walnut Creek was in trouble after the strategic error Bb5xc6+ and had to hang on to survive for most of the game but grabbed his chances brought on by better clock management.

Last to finish was Kraai-Felecan. Jesse, nursing a serious cold, essayed the unconventional plan of dxe5 against Felecan's pet Kings Indian. The game was an up and down struggle. Jesse, who was ahead on the clock most of the game, sacrificed a pawn for positional pressure. A logical continuation was a draw had Felecan accepted the Knight at move 32 but his electing to continue could have had serious consequences had White played the intermezzo 34.Rg3+.

Eventually the players found themselves in an interesting ending that both played quite well for a long time. A rare rook ending was reached with White having two extra, but blockaded pawns ( g5 and h6) . These positions, first analysed by Kling and Horwitz in the 19th century and later quite extensively by Kasparian right after WW2, can be tricky. The game should have been drawn but Felecan, down to the increment ( 30 seconds a move) missed one last trick for White. So San Francisco defeated Chicago by the minimum score bringing our record against the Windy City to 2.5-.5 - the Mechanics' defeated Chicago 6.5-5.5 in a match played by telegraph in 1922.

van de Mortel,Jan (2456) - Friedel,Josh (2612) [E15]USCL Chicago vs San Francisco Internet Chess Club (4), 21.09.2009

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.d4 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qa4 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.dxc5 bxc5 8.0-0 Be7 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Bf4 d6 11.Rfd1 Qb6 12.Qb5 Qc7 13.Rd2 Rd8 14.Rad1 h6 15.Qa4 a6 16.b4 e5 17.Be3 Bc6 18.Qb3 cxb4 19.Qxb4 Nbd7 20.Nd5 Bxd5 21.cxd5 Rdb8 22.Qa4 Rb5 23.Rc2 Qb7 24.Nh4 Bf8 25.Nf5 e4 26.Rcd2 Re8 27.h3 Re5 28.g4 h5 29.Bf4 Rexd5 30.Rxd5 Rxd5 31.Rxd5 Qxd5 32.Ne3 Qd2 33.g5 Nc5 34.Qc6 Nfd7 35.Qd5 Qc1+ 36.Kh2 Nb6 37.Qc6 Nd3 38.Qxe4 Nxf4 39.Qxf4 Qc5 40.Qf5 g6 41.Qxc5 dxc5 42.Bb7 a5 43.Nd5 Nxd5 44.Bxd5 1/2-1/2

Kraai,Jesse (2552) - Felecan,Florin (2430) [E94]USCL Chicago vs San Francisco Internet Chess Club (4), 21.09.2009

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 0-0 6.Be2 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qc2 c6 10.b4 Re8 11.Rd1 a5 12.b5 Qc7 13.Rb1 Bf8 14.Bg5 Nh5 15.Na4 Nf4 16.b6 Qb8 17.Bf1 Ne6 18.c5 Nexc5 19.Nxc5 Nxc5 20.Rd8 Rxd8 21.Bxd8 Bf5 22.exf5 Qxd8 23.fxg6 hxg6 24.Nxe5 Qd4 25.Re1 Bg7 26.Nf3 Qc3 27.Qd1 Bf6 28.Re3 Qb4 29.Qd6 Kg7 30.Ne5 Qxb6 31.Nxf7 Rf8

32...Kxf7 33.Bc4+ Kg7 34.Re7+ is a draw.

32.Nh6 Qd8 33.Nf5+ gxf5 34.Qxc5

34.Rg3+ Kh7 35.Qxc5 is an improvement as Black's King doesn't have the option of f6.

34...Bd4 35.Rg3+ Kf6 36.Qc1 Rg8 37.Rf3 Qd5 38.Qh6+ Ke7 39.Qh7+ Rg7 40.Qxf5 Qxf5 41.Rxf5 b5 42.h4 Ke6 43.Rf3 a4 44.Kh2 Kd5 45.Kh3 b4 46.g4 Rb7 47.Bg2 Kd6 48.Rd3 Kc5 49.Bxc6 Kxc6 50.Rxd4 b3 51.axb3 axb3 52.Rd1 b2 53.Rb1 Rb3+ 54.Kg2 Kd5 55.h5 Ke5 56.h6 Kf6 57.f4 Kg6 58.g5 Kh7 59.Kf2 Kg6 60.Ke2 Kf5 61.Kd1 Kg6 62.Kc2 Rb4 63.Rh1 b1Q+ 64.Rxb1 Rxf4 65.Rg1 Ra4 66.Kd3 Rh4 67.Ke3 Rh3+ 68.Kf4 Rh4+ 69.Kf3 Ra4 70.Rh1 Ra8 71.Kf4 Ra4+ 72.Ke5 Ra8 73.h7 Re8+ 74.Kd6 Rh8??

Black could draw with 74...Kh8 or improving the position of his Rook so it has sufficient checking distance with 74...Ra8 or 74...Rb8. What he can't do is allow White's King the e7 square when his Rook is passive.

75.Ke7 Kg7 76.Rh6! Ra8 77.h8Q+ Rxh8 78.Rxh8 Kxh8 79.Kf7 1-0

Young,Angelo (2325) - Shankland,Sam (2564) [D31]USCL Chicago vs San Francisco Internet Chess Club (4), 21.09.2009

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bd2 Bd6 6.c5 Bc7 7.f4 b6 8.b4 a5 9.a3 Ba6 10.Bxa6 Nxa6 11.cxb6 Bxb6 12.Qa4 0-0 13.b5 cxb5 14.Qxb5 Ne8 15.Nf3 Nd6 16.Qd3 Nc4 17.0-0 Qe7 18.Ne5 Rfc8 19.Na4 Bd8 20.Rfc1 Nxd2 21.Rxc8 Rxc8 22.Qxa6 Qc7 23.Nc5 Rb8?

23...Be7 was better not fearing 24. Nxf7 on account of 24...Bxc5 25.Qxe6 Qxf7 28.Qc8+ Bf8. On 24.Rc1 Ne4 Black should be equal.

24.Rd1 Ne4 25.Nxe4 dxe4 26.Qc6 g6??

This loses on the spot. Black had to trade Queens and endure the worst side of the ending.

27.Qe8+ Kg7 28.Nd7 Qd6 29.Nxb8 Qxb8 30.Qa4 Qb2 31.d5 Bb6 32.Qxe4 Qxa3 33.dxe6 Qxe3+ 34.Qxe3 Bxe3+ 35.Kf1 fxe6 36.g3 Kf6 37.Rd6 Bc5 38.Ra6 Bb4 39.Ke2 h5 40.Kf3 Kf5 41.h3 Kf6 42.Ke4 Be1 43.g4 hxg4 44.hxg4 Kf7 45.Ra7+ Kg8 46.Re7 1-0

Liou,Yian (2149) - Pasalic,Mehmed (2346) [B60]USCL Chicago vs San Francisco Internet Chess Club (4), 21.09.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bd7 6.Be2 Nc6 7.Bg5 Qa5 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.Nb3 Qg5 10.g3 f5 11.f4 Qg7

This is not commonly seen here. Usual are 11...Qg6 or 11...Qh6. The objection to the text might be that Black can't post his Bishop on g7.

12.exf5 Bxf5 13.Bb5?

13. Qd2 followed by castling queenside looks better. The text cedes Black two strong Bishops and a big pawn center.

13...a6 14.Bxc6+ bxc6 15.Qe2 Qg4 16.Qg2 Bd7 17.Nd4 Bg7 18.Qe4 0-0 19.Kf2 f5 20.Qd3 e5 21.Nde2 d5 22.h3 Qg6 23.fxe5 Bxe5 24.Nf4 Qd6 25.Nce2 d4 26.b4 a5 27.Qc4+ Kh8 28.a3 Bc8 29.Rad1 axb4 30.axb4 Ba6 31.Qe6 Qc7

31...Qxe6 32.Nxe6 Bxe2 33.Kxe2 Rfe8 34.Nc5 Bxg3+ leaves Black on top but with good chances for White to draw. As is often the case in the USCL towards the end of matches it was not clear for Pasalic what his team needed. The score at this point was 1.5 -.5 Chicago but Jesse Kraai was pressing against Felecan on board two.

32.Rhe1 Rae8

32... Bxe2 33.Nxe2 f4 looks easier to play in time pressure ( Pasalic had less than three minutes at this point). After the text the worst is over for White and he exploits his chances.

33.Qh6 Rf6 34.Qh5 Rg8 35.Qf3 Bb7 36.Qb3 Qb6 37.Nd3 Bd6 38.Nef4 Ba6 39.Re6 Rxe6 40.Qxe6 Bxf4??

Down to less than a minute Black blunders. He had to play 40...Qc7.

41.Qf6+ Rg7 42.gxf4 Bxd3 43.Rg1 1-0


Hey everyone, Shanky Here,

So far, this season has been just like last season except even more extreme- more trash talk, less objectivity, rants between players fighting senselessly over stupid things like which GOTW judge who graciously volunteered their time has a secret grudge against who and which one is too stupid to be allowed and whether some game is overvalued or undervalued. Oh and lets not forget the heated debates on whether GM Stripunsky is a blithering idiot who really did mean to play Qa8... its an extremely close call (of course), although I'm going to have to lean towards... NO, NO, and NO! Let the man play the move he intended! Mouseslips, of course, are again the subject of huge internal squabbling, just like last year, it's nice to see nothing has changed. I mean seriously, isn't chess a violent enough game on its own? Do you really need to fight OFF the board? I'm guessing within 24 hours this post will have somewhere between 5 and 15 hostile comments saying that I'm talking trash about people just because they are passionate, or biased against Boston somehow because I believe Stripunsky deserved to win his game or something else I can't even anticipate, and quite frankly I don't want to deal with it or anything like that so this will be my only report for the season. Now, that I've vented my anger, I'll do a brief recap of SF's match against Chicago.

Coming into the match, SF was 2.5-.5 and in first place in the west, while Chicago was bringing up the rear. Coupled with the fact that we had a large rating advantage on boards 1-3, we were probably reasonable clear favorites to leave victorious. While in the end (somehow) we won the match, for awhile it looked about as pretty as a racoon lying in the middle of the highway after losing its right with an 18-wheeler. On board 1, while GM Joshua will of course never admit it, he seemed to have a worse position with the white knight salivating over the f5 square and the rook on c2 controling the cfile. However, Josh found some good ideas and even seemed to have a nominal advantage at some point, although soon enough the game petered out to nothingness. On board 2, Jesse played his usual exchange Kings Indian which he claims "makes for small plus". Although I'm somewhat skeptical of his evaluation, he played a fine game and ground out IM Felecan in a drawn yet difficult roook endgame, one which, by the way, sparked the same kind of fighting over ICC where people were passionately arguing the result to the point of making proposition bets amounting to $10,000. Discussing games can be all fine and good, but next time try giving variations and actually explaining your thoughts, rather than "It's winning!!" or "It's drawn!!" or "I'm a total idiot but my super strong computer/tablebase says win/draw (pick one)!!" My own game was rather saddening but there were some key lessons I learned from it. My opponent played a couple strange moves, and it felt like they just didn't add up and after Qa4? 0-0 I thought I should have some advantage with my lead in development and a knight soon going to c4. However, although white played somewhat odd and perhaps inaccurate moves for the first part of the game, I was still playing black in a quiet opening- there is no reason to expect an advantage. Couple this with the fact that because of these silly looking moves I may have underestimated my opponent who is an IM and has had great results in the league- disaster was waiting to happen. I played too ambitiously, and after Qc6 I had an unpleasant position, although I probably could have held a draw in the rook ending after exchanging queens. Instead I blundered that very move and lost promptly, and while I'm sure many would disagree I believe for at least part of the game my opponent played extremely well. On board 4, our little kid got a bad position but fought back hard, defending seemingly foreever, and when time pressure kicked in he ended up on top. So in the end we somehow won 2.5-1.5, although it was not looking good for awhile. NY is up next, be sure to watch on ICC and make obnoxious comments during the games!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mechanics' defeat Sharks

The match with the division leading Miami Sharks was a good test for the Mechanics' and early season indicators suggest this year's team compares favorably with the 2007 USCL Championship squad. GM Jesse Kraai was the first to get on the scoreboard and he was quickly joined by Yian Liou. Up 2-0 and with Sam Shankland his customary 30 minutes up on the clock, and his opponent IM Blas Lugo running low on time, the match score was soon 3-0. GM Julio Becerra, the 2006 and 2007 USCL MVP and the first team all star selection for board one four seasons running, averted a shut out for the Sharks.

Miami 1 - San Francisco 3

1. GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs GM Josh Friedel (SF) 1-0
2. GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) 1-0
3. IM Blas Lugo (MIA) vs IM Sam Shankland (SF) 0-1
4. NM Yian Liou (SF) vs NM Ernesto Alvarez (MIA) 1-0

Practical players and not perfectionists rule supreme in the USCL and Becerra is the practical player par excellence. Rule number one is play quickly and confidently and try to set your opponent problems. Sometimes, as in this game, that can lead to a somewhat dubious position but if the opponent is low on time he will be hard pressed to find the right moves. One last observation is those who plays frequently on ICC tend to do better - it helps if playing in front of a computer screen feels nature.

The following game could be analyzed for hours but in a nutshell White was outplayed in the early middlegame and found his best chance in sacrificing a piece for two pawns and a mobile center. One answer to this was to return the material for a better position. It appears Black had at least two opportunities to do this. First he had 34...Bxf2+ 35.Nxf2 Nxd6 when the pin on f2 and the passed pawn on b3 give Black the advantage. The second possibility was 37...Bxd7 (and not 37...Ba6??) 38.cxd7 Ra7. Josh might well have found the latter if the match had not already been decided, but up 3-0 he was noticeably relaxed.

Becerra,Julio (2615) - Friedel,Josh (2612) [C88]
Miami vs San Francisco (3) 2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.Nc3 d6 10.a3 Nd4 11.Ba2 c5 12.d3 h6 13.b4 Qc7 14.Bd2 Rfe8 15.bxc5 dxc5 16.Nd5 Nxd5 17.exd5 Bd6 18.c3 Nf5 19.c4 Bc8 20.Bc3 Bd7 21.Nd2 b4 22.axb4 cxb4 23.Bb2 a5 24.Ne4 a4 25.Rc1 b3 26.Bxb3 axb3 27.c5 Bf8 28.c6 Bc8 29.d4 Qb6 30.dxe5 Ra2 31.Bc3 Bc5 32.Qf3 Bd4 33.e6 fxe6 34.d6 Rf8 35.d7 Ba6 36.Bxd4 Nxd4 37.Qxf8+ Kxf8 38.c7 Qxc7 39.Rxc7 Ke7 40.Nc5 Kd8 41.Ra7 Bc4 42.Rb7 Ra8 43.Re4 1-0

Black was already worse (and getting low on time) when he blundered with 20...f5. This was a very efficient performance by Jesse.

Kraai,Jesse (2552) - Lopez,Bruci (2480) [E97]
Miami vs San Francisco (3) 2009

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 Qxd1 10.Rfxd1 h6 11.Be3 Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Rfd8 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.cxd5 Nd4 16.Rac1 Rd7 17.Kf1 h5 18.Be2 Rf8 19.Bc4 Kh7 20.g4 f5 21.exf5 gxf5 22.Bxd4 exd4 23.Bd3 Re7 24.Bxf5+ Kh8 25.Re1 Rfe8 26.Rxe7 Rxe7 27.d6 1-0

Sam’s win clinched the match and was filled with some eventful moments. White got nothing from the opening but Black decided to unbalance things with 26...Qb4 ( in place of 26...Rd4 or 26..Rbd8). White should have tried 29.Rxd4 but very low on time blundered with 29.Kb2 and 30.a3.

Lugo,Blas (2351) - Shankland,Sam (2564) [B90]
Miami vs San Francisco (3), 2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.f3 Be6 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 11.g4 b5 12.g5 b4 13.gxf6 bxc3 14.Qxc3 Nxf6 15.Na5 Rc8 16.Nc6 Qd7 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.Qa5 Rc6 19.Bd3 Rb8 20.Rhg1 Qb7 21.b3 Nd7 22.Qd2 g6 23.h4 Nc5 24.Bxc5 dxc5 25.c4 Rd6 26.Qg5 Qb4 27.Qxe5 Rd4 28.Bc2 Rbd8 29.Kb2 Bxc4 30.a3 Qb6 31.Rxd4 cxd4 32.h5 d3 33.h6 f6 34.Qe7 Bf7 35.Rd1 Re8 36.Qd7 dxc2 37.Rd3 Qc5 38.Kc1 Rc8 0-1

Yian had the advantage in the middlegame when his opponent went wrong with 25...Qe7 (better was 25...Qxa5 26.Qxa5 Rxa5 27.Rxd6 Ra2 when White has two connected passed pawns but at least Black has some activity. In the game after 27.Qb6! White’s d-pawn is a game winner.

Liou,Yian (2149) - Alvarez,Ernesto (2200) [B92]
Miami vs San Francisco (3), 2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 b5 9.a4 b4 10.Nd5 Bb7 11.Be3 Nxd5 12.exd5 0-0 13.a5 Nd7 14.c4 bxc3 15.bxc3 Rc8 16.c4 Bg5 17.Qd2 Bxe3 18.Qxe3 Nc5 19.Rfb1 Qe7 20.Nxc5 Rxc5 21.Rb6 Qc7 22.Qb3 Bc8 23.Qb4 f5 24.Rd1 e4 25.Rc6 Qe7 26.Rxc5 dxc5 27.Qb6 f4 28.d6 Qf7 29.f3 e3 30.Qxc5 Be6 31.Qd4 Qg6 32.Bd3 Qh5 33.c5 Bh3 34.Qe4 e2 35.Bxe2 Qxc5+ 36.Qd4 Qxd4+ 37.Rxd4 Bd7 38.Bxa6 g5 39.Rb4 Kf7 40.Re4 Kf6 41.Bb7 Bc8 42.a6 Rd8 43.Bxc8 Rxc8 44.d7 1-0