Arizona Wins Week 1 Thriller over Miami!
By FM Robby Adamson
After Arizona’s week 1 match, Scorpion IM-elect Robby Adamson had one word to say, “Unreal.” Not since last year’s match against San Francisco has there been such a match where the score, in the matter of minutes, could have swung 3-1 in one direction or 1-3 in the other. Robby looks at Arizona’s first ever victory over the Miami Sharks as they extend their opening match record to 3-0 all-time.
The Arizona Scorpions won their third consecutive opening match, in their third year in the league, with a very exciting win over the always tough Miami Sharks. This match went back and forth and really no result would have surprised me. I watched in my usual agony, with fellow teammate Amanda Mateer, and tag-along Mackenize “Snack Attack and please don’t give me mono” Molner, as we I yelled at the computer screen while watching the games live on ICC. On paper, Miami had the stronger team with an average rating advantage of 2428 vs. 2398. Also, Miami had a lifetime 2-0 record against the Scorpions, and I am sorry to say killed us both times. But as they say, that’s why they play the games.
Congratulations are in order for Team Phoenix. Almost GM Rogelio Barcenilla nearly pulled a rabbit out of his hat only to fall in time pressure vs. USCL stud-GM Julio Becerra. IM Dionisio Aldama used his Cuban magic and created a mess that IM Blas Lugo was unable to figure out in time pressure. Meanwhile, IM Danny Rensch thoroughly outplayed Miami’s All Star NM Eric Rodriguez on the black side of a Catalan. Finally, Expert John Gurczak made his USCL debut a memorable one by clinching the match for the Scorpions with a draw on board 4 against the very strong FM Charles Galofre, to win the match 2.5-1.5. I will cover the games in the order that they finished.
Just as Rogelio’s game was about to end, Dionisio overcame a slight disadvantage, and perhaps sensing the team was in jeopardy declined a draw offer and obvious trade down of material and went for the win – and it paid off!! We found out after the match that the sound on the computers was turned off, so perhaps Dionisio (or John on board 4), never heard the draw offers being made!
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7 7.Re1 Bc5 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6 10.a4 h6 11.Na3 0–0 12.Be3 exd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.d5 Nxb3 15.Qxb3 Bxe3 16.Rxe3 c6= black has played well here and neutralized white’s opening advantage17.axb5 axb5 18.Rd1 cxd5 19.exd5 b4 20.Qxb4 Bxd5 21.Nd4 Qd7 22.h3 Rfb8 23.Qd2 Ra4 24.Qe2 Rab4 25.Re7 Qa4 black has an edge here, but somehow the knights gave white just enough to make it difficult for black to defend. 26.Nac2 Rxb2 27.Qd3 Rc8 28.Ne3 Bb3 29.Re1 g6 Now, white surprised the ICC kibitzers.
30.Ndf5!? a good practical decison even though the analysis bears out that black has enough to hold the balance [30.Nxb3 Rxb3 31.Qxd6 Qc6 32.Qf4] 30…Bc2? [30...Qf4 this looked much more natural and probably holds] 31.Nxh6+ now white wins 31…Kg7 32.Qxd6 Rc6 33.Rxf7+ Kxh6 34.Qf8+ Kg5 35.g3 Rb4 36.Nxc2 Re4 37.Rxe4 Qxe4 38.h4+ Kg4 39.Kh2 Rxc2 40.Rxf6 Qh1+ 41.Kxh1 Kh3 42.Qa3 g5 43.g4+ Black resigns1–0
This was one of the more interesting games of the match for what happened near the end when unfortunately Rogelio had no time to figure out a very complicated endgame. The game started innocently enough with a Ruy Lopez, where Becerra got some initiative with 18.f4, and a king-side attack with 24.Qh6. Just as the ICC kibitzers were ready to bury black, Rogelio got dirty finding 26…g4 and when Becerra played Rxg4+, his rook was out of play. So what appeared to be a very bad position for Rogelio, surprisingly turned into his favor, after 32…Ng7, which threatened the disgusting Nh5 trapping white’s rook. Becerra went into a long think, and went for broke with 33.h5 followed by Rf1, and rook lift. There is no way of knowing if Becerra saw all of what followed but check out these complications after move 37!! Just disgusting.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.a4 Bb7 8.d3 d6 9.Nc3 b4 10.Ne2 0–0 11.a5 Na7 12.Ng3 c5 13.Nf5 Bc8 14.N3h4 white has his usual slight edge, but black should have sufficient resources to defend 14…Ne8 15.Nxe7+ Qxe7 16.Qh5 Be6 17.Nf5 Qc7 18.f4! Bxb3 19.cxb3 Nc6 20.Rf3 g6 21.Rg3 f6 [21...Nd4 white still has the edge here but I do not see anything concrete here] 22.Qh4
white has a nice pull here and black must defend for a while 22…Nd4 23.Nxd4 cxd4 24.f5 g5 25.Qh6 black looks to be in trouble here but after a mistake by Becerra, black seizes the initiative! 25…Rf7 26.h4 g4 27.Rxg4+ [27.Qh5 is much better because white can take on g4 with the queen; otherwise white's rook does not become awkwardly placed on g4 and be effectively 3 moves away from coming back to f1 or f2.] 27…Kh8 28.Qd2 Rc8 29.Kh2 Qc2 [29...d5 30.exd5 Qc5=] 30.Qxc2 Rxc2 31.Bh6 Rfc7 32.Rf1
Ng7! a very cool move – threatening Nh5, and white’s g4 rook is trapped!! 33.h5 here we go – white does not have much of a choice 33…Rxb2?? [33...Nxh5 34.Rf3=] 34.Rf3?? back to back mistakes – sometimes in chess you focus on 1 side of the board and you forget about the other side. Here, black’s rook on c7 is doing double duty, guarding the c-file and the g7-knight. 34.Rc1 wins on the spot! 34…Nxh5 35.Rh3 forced 35…Rxb3 36.Rxh5 Rxd3 37.Bf8 [37.Rh3 Rxh3+ 38.gxh3 b3 39.Rg2 Rb7 who knows what's happening here - very hard to assess] 37…b3 38.Rh6 Rf7 39.Bxd6
39…b2?? Rogelio falters at the wrong time. Had he found 39…Rg7, it would have been a different game [39...Rg7 40.Rgh4!! I doubt Becerra finds this move given the time constraints, but there is no way he saw this when he played 34. Rf3 40...b2 41.Rxf6 Rxg2+ forced 42.Kxg2 b1Q 43.Rf8+ Kg7 44.Rg4+ Kh6 45.Rh4+ Kg7 (45...Kg5?? 46.Be7#)46.Rg4+ with a draw by repitition] 40.Rxf6 Rxf6 41.Bxe5 h5 42.Bxf6+ Kh7 43.Rg7+ Kh6 44.Rb7 Rd2 45.Rb8 Black resigns 1–0
Danny played like a true pro this game. This was by far the cleanest victory he has had in the USCL. After a disastrous first year in the USCL, Danny vindicated himself last year, and this game put up an A+ performance. Danny played a line he has never played before but obviously had done his homework in learning this line. Danny waded through the complications nicely and was instrumental in giving the Scorpions a 2-1 lead! Congrats Danny!
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 b5 a very provocative line, and I would expect nothing less from Danny!. More typical is 5…a6 6.a4 c6 7.0–0 Bb7 8.Ne5 Nd5 9.b3 cxb3 10.Qxb3 b4 11.a5 white has compensation here – but black is not bad off here 11…Be7 12.Bd2 this seems wrong to me – seems like white should have his rook on d1 and bishop on e3 or f4, after playing e4 himself 12…Ba6 13.Re1 0–0 14.e4 Nf6 15.Bxb4 Qxd4 16.Bxe7 [16.Bc3 surprisingly, this is better than the game because of the extensive trades that result 16...Qd8 17.Nd2 white has compensation here but it is hard for black to complain] 16…Qxa1 17.Bxf8 Qxe5!
Objectively this best and allows black to complete his development 18.Qa3 Nbd7 19.Bd6 Qd4 black has a slight edge here 20.Nc3 Ng4! 21.Nd1 Nde5! 22.h3 Nc4 23.Qc3 Qxd6[23...Qxc3 24.Nxc3 Nxf2 25.Kxf2 Nxd6 26.e5 Nc4 27.Bxc6 Rb8 black is winning here]24.hxg4 e5 25.Bf1 Qd4 26.Bxc4 Bxc4 27.Qb4 Bb5 28.Qb1 Rd8 29.Ne3 Bd3 30.Qc1 g6 no need to hurry – black takes time out to stop Nf5 and give himself a flight square31.Qxc6 Bxe4 32.Qc7 Rd7 33.Qc8+ Kg7 34.g5 Bb7 35.Qc2 Qb4 36.Ra1 Rd2 37.Qb1 Rb2 38.Qf1 Qe4 39.Qh3 Rxf2 40.Rd1 h5 41.gxh6+ Kh7 42.Rf1 Rxf1+ 43.Nxf1 Qd4+White resigns 0–1
So with the match 2-1 in Arizona’s favor, John Gurczak had the task of being outranked by almost 200 points playing up against FM Charles Galofre and needing to manage his first game of the USCL in a calm manner. John admitted to me after the game that he felt very nervous going in – but he hung in there nicely. He also admitted to me that he felt really great after the match was over and in fact “felt much better than two weeks ago when he had lost to [former AZ Scorpions member] Joel Johnson for the seventh consecutive time. In this game, John played his patented Exchange Slav but instead of the usual Nf3, Bf4, e3 setup, he played 5.Bg5. Galofre played the very interesting and natural pawn sacrifice of 8…e3. Even though white’s position began to look intolerable, even to the half-closed eye, Rybka never turns the tables and says black was better. But of course in the USCL, and in regular tournament games, what the computer says is best isn’t always the relevant factor. The human element is huge in chess, and in the USCL, it is critical. Just look at how certain games this week ended, both in ridiculous fashion. Wolff – Wang and Bapat – Blackare perfect examples.
So after John achieved a very ugly looking position, it was time for black to find he best way to take advantage of some inaccuracies played by white. Surprisingly, this is not an easy task. Galofre opted for Rh6-g6 rook lift but John defended very actively with Qa4, Qb5, maneuver, and trading queens on c5. This helped white defend.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Nxe4 dxe4 7.a3 Qd5 8.Bh4 e3 9.fxe3 Nc6 10.Nf3 Bf5 11.Rc1 e6 12.Rg1 h5 13.Rc3 Bd6 14.Bg3 Bxg3+ 15.hxg3 Qd6 16.Kf2 Rh6 17.Qa4 Kf8 18.Qb5 Rg6 19.Qc5 Rd8 20.Nd2 e5 21.d5 Qxc5 22.Rxc5 Ne7 23.e4 Bg4 24.e3 Nc8 25.Bd3 Rf6+ 26.Ke1 Rb6 27.b4 Nd6 28.Nc4 Nxc4 29.Bxc4 Ke7 30.Be2 Rg6 31.Bxg4 Rxg4 32.Kf2 Rxe4 33.Rc7+ Rd7 34.Rgc1 Kd6 35.Rxd7+ Kxd7 36.Kf3 f5 37.Rh1 g6 38.Rc1 Rg4 39.Rc5 e4+ 40.Kf2 h4 41.gxh4 Rxh4 42.Rb5 b6 43.a4 Rh8 44.Kg3 g5 45.a5 Rb8 46.d6 Ke6 47.d7 Rf8 48.axb6 axb6 49.Rxb6+ Kxd7 50.Rg6 f4+ Game drawn by mutual agreement ½–½
Congrats to the Scorpions for a great effort. Root us on next week when we face off against Seattle!!