By John Gurczak
After a very close nail-biter versus the Seattle Sluggers last week the Arizona Scorpions move on to the Western Conference Semifinals to face the dangerous Miami Sharks. Arizona has struggled against the Sharks the previous two seasons going 0-2 but were able to secure their first victory against them in week 1. Being the #1 seed Arizona will once again receive draw odds this match. Since Miami is seeded 2 seeds below Arizona, Arizona also got to chose which color they wanted. Arizona chose White on boards 1 + 3 and will have black one boards 2 + 4.
Arizona Scorpions(7-4) vs. Miami Sharks (6.5-4.5)
Arizona Receives Draw Odds
All Time Series Record: Miami leads 2-1
|IM Levon Altounian 2496
||GM Julio Becerra 2628
|GM Rogelio Barcenilla 2583
||GM Renier Gonzalez 2540
|FM Robby Adamson 2363
||FM Marcel Martinez 2475
|Nick Thompson 2183
||Nicholas Rosenthal 2047
|Avg. Rating 2406
||Avg. Rating 2423
Board 1 - IM Altounian vs. GM Becerra
Lev is going to have his hands full this match going up against USCL stud and league MVP Julio Becerra. Lev is having a strong season thus far with a +1 score and a performance rating above 2600. Lev will have white this game so his chances to score seem pretty good. Lev will want to control the game right from the start and keep things simple against the tactical Becerra. I don’t have any record of these two every playing before so it is going to be interesting to see how the game will go. I am going to predict Lev will continue his solidness this season and secure the draw for Arizona.
Board 2 - GM Gonzalez vs. GM Barcenilla
Gonzalez and Barcenilla are both having ok seasons performing just a bit under their indicated ratings. Gonzalez seems pretty predictable so this game will likely be some kind of Ruy Lopez, the same opening Becerra and Barcenilla played during week 1. Barcenilla will want to get back on the winning track and although he has black I am going to predict that he wins this match.
Board 3 - FM Adamson vs. FM Martinez
Both players are having great seasons so far with Robby being +2 and Martinez being +4 and scoring 4.5 pts in his last 5 matches. Robby was the hero last week for Arizona and he will be looking to build off of the momentum. These two have played once before with opposite colors in the 2004 U.S. Championship so its hard to say what opening will be played. I think Robby will have a slight advantage the whole game but the it will eventually sizzle out into a draw.
Board 4 – Rosenthal vs. NM Thompson
Board 4 will feature two rising stars that are having above average season thus far. Rosenthal is coming off of 2 consecutive wins versus higher rated opposition including a miniature against FM Shankar last week. Nick has played well so far scoring two wins with black both versus Michael Wang in convincing fashion. These two have never played before and this board will be key for both teams. I am going to predict that a Sicilian of some sort will occur and in the end Nick will pull through with the win after Rosenthal overpushes the position.
Overall this will be an exciting match that can go either way but I think the Scorpions will come through with a 3-1 victory and advance to their first ever USCL Championship. The match is going to be at Abstrax in Phoenix at 7:00 P.M.