Winning the Battle, But Not the War, Yet...
The Scorpions vs Mechanics match Monday night was as important a match as any in the Arizona Scorpions brief history as a US Chess League team. Arizona had only beaten San Francisco once before our 2.5-1.5 victory last night (a very topsy-turvy affair last year that could have ended in any result), San Francisco is still considered by many to be the strongest team in the Western Division, and my “Stingers” were ousted by the Mechanics in the first round of the USCL Playoffs last year. (Mainly because of a dismal performance against GM Vinay Bhat on board 2 by some idiot…) Putting aside what this match meant for our team and the league though, the focus of my article today is to shed some light on what my own experience was before, during, and after the game(s).
For me personally, going up against my close friend and “partner in crime” IM David Pruess was a nerve racking affair. Not only when I figured I might lose my job if I beat my boss – just kidding... I hope :) – but also because David and I have developed a very good relationship with each other over the past few years, and I consider him to be one of my closer friends. We work together to “take over the world one chess game at a time” everyday with Chess.com, so putting aside our daily duties to focus on destroying each other was a slightly awkward task.
The tension was building a little more with everyday, following our weekly Chess.com/TV Show: Pardon Our Blunders (a chess “sports talk” show where David and I debate on the most exciting news and “blunders” of the chess world that week). In last week's show, David and I made a friendly wager that if the other person's team wins the West, the other will have to purchase a custom made jersey with the other team's logo and player's name on the back (which we agreed was a better decision for our social/home lives then buzzing a symbol of the opponent’s team into our hair).
The lineups were announced on Friday, October 1st, but in all honesty, I guessed that neither of us would spend very much time prepping for the match (knowing what our weekends were like). I did take some time to “go through the motions” – making sure I was ready for any improvements David might try from our last game at the Berkeley International in 2008, as well as review a few critical English Attack variations against the Najdorf.
But other than that, I figured there wouldn't be anything outside of the norm: just some good old fashioned “crazy man” chess that David and I are both known for... So, when David busted out 1...c6, I was like “no fair! You prepared!!” I had to keep my nerves and try my best to anticipate his unexpected preparation...
I knew then that whatever he had worked on, it would certainly go deeper than anything I was ready for. I decided not to play the only thing I had ever played (good thinking, right?) and venture into the sharp variations of the Caro-Advanced. In all fairness, I teach most of my students the Advanced (instead of my personal weapon: The Panov) so it wasn't like I was totally in the dark. However, after an early deviation from the “main line roads” by David (5...Be4), and my “less then stellar” response of 6.Rh3, it was clear that we were both on our own. In the words of two of my favorite partners in crime: “Game on Wayne... Game on Garth...”, here we go:
In summary, I may have emerged victorious from this game... My team may have won the battle.... But the war is far from over... Who will wear the other man's jersey in the end remains the big question, right!? I have no further predictions. Since neither of our teams is currently leading the west, perhaps I should put some focus into our next opponent: The Chicago Blaze!
Anyway, good talk, good team, and good game David-Bear!