Being on the Team
By NM Nick Thompson
Playing board 4 for the Arizona Scorpions against the Seattle Sluggers was my first game in the USCL. Despite the pressure of playing on the team for the first time, my game against Michael Wang was an exciting experience. Originally I had been preparing to play Alex Guo, but luckily for me Michael Wang also happens to play the English (it would have been disappointing if all my preparation had gone to waste). During the 2 hour drive to Tucson from Mesa I couldn’t help but feel anxious for my first game. Going into the match I knew it would be a hard fight due to the fact that Wang is a strong up and coming player, but I kept my thoughts on playing the best chess I could for the sake of the team. Naturally I was overjoyed when our team won the match, but just getting the opportunity to play with such a supportive and skillful team is a wonderful experience.
Now onto some analysis!
The first 16 moves of our game have been seen in 3 different games: Suat Atalik (2592) – Vokarev (2502) 2008, Gimenez (2047) – Felgaer (2574) 2007, and Spiridonov (2381) – Roos (2285) 2005; so both of us were not playing anything brand new. After 16. Rab8, Wang made the dubious move 17. Bxd4 which gave me a slight advantage.
His equalizing alternatives were 17. Bf3, and 17. Be4 which keeps the important bishop. Although we both were playing theoretically until move 16, I had prepared this far and had acquired a sizable time advantage of about 40 minutes after move 17. Following 17. Bxd4 I spent some time and decided to play 17. … Rxb7 because the bishop seemed far more important than the knight and the retreat squares for the knight appeared undesirable. Wang continued with 18. Rb1 to gain time on my queen, however, I think this move was slightly inaccurate because my queen didn’t want to remain on the b5 square anyway. I retreated my queen to a6 (18. … Qa6) in order to keep an eye on c4 and lend protection to my rook. Sadly, after 19. Nc4, I followed his inaccuracy with a blunder of my own that allowed him to equalize by playing 19. … Rxb1 20.Qxb1 Bxc4 21. dxc4 Qxc4. Instead I should have played 19. … Rd8 20. Rxb7 Qxb7 21. Qa1 Bh3 winning the exchange, although the game would have been far from over.
Skipping ahead to move 24. Qc1, this is where I spent a good portion of my remaining to decide on 24. … Qxe2. According to a certain fish, every other move is almost dead equal so it seems like it was the right way to go. After 24. … Qxe2 my opponent made the fatal mistake25. Qxc7 that allows 25. … Rd1 which wins the white a-pawn (26. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 27. Kg2 Qd5+ 28. Kg1 Bxa3) and creates an outside passed pawn. After a trade down into this ending (with both of us at approximately five minutes), I needed to watch for perpetual checks and push my a-pawn as fast as possible. Despite being down, Wang still put up a tough fight and applied the pressure. In somewhat of a time scramble, I managed to force a queen and bishop trade in such a way that allowed my pawn to queen one tempo ahead of being caught. Overall Wang played a solid game and remained resilient all the way to the end and I hope to play him again in the future. Arizona vs Seattle was a stirring match up and I wish them the best in the league.