IM Levon Altounian goes over the Scorpion Openings in the Scorpion-Destiny USCL Match!

Oct 2, 2009, 12:55 PM |

You can see more about the Scorpions from their blog. You can also see more about IM Levon Altounian and his work on chess from his website.




Very interesting match where each game was very hard fought and emotionally complicated.

I guessed the approximate direction of boards 1 and 4 but not the boards 2 and 3. At the end, we ended up drawing the match trailing 1:2 and needing a win on board 1. At the end we got it when Black resigned…. In a drawn position! There is some justice after all for Scorpions.

Since I had no clue what the games were going to look like, Here are the thoughts I had.

Board 1. Alejandro gets some space edge, Bart holds it as usually he does and the game goes into a deep endgame. After it- no clue what happens but as Leo had put it “GM with white- definite favorite”

Board 2. I was curious what Barcenilla will play as Black on 1 d4.He rarely shifted from his beloved Kings Indian and I expected some Kings Indian- Main line or Side line.

Board 3. Didn’t have a chance to see what Robby’s opponent plays but I knew both will play main line of … something!

Board 4. Sharp game of a main line Sicilian or a side line by white if she decided not to get into Sicilians after Adelberg won very nicely in round 1 for the Scorpions. It showed he understands those types well.

Board 1: GM Ramirez-IM Bartholomew

General Styles: Ramirez- active in the opening as White, looks for stable edge or good plan.Likes having extra space. Bartolomew- likes solid games, doesn’t mind a bit passive versions if nothing “hangs”

Theoretical Importance:  8

Novelty: 6

Precision: 9

Opening: Slav

I honestly thought it may be 4 e3 Slav by Alejandro. Opening choice of lines and sublines was fun for me to watch. I was smiling the whole time! I didn’t expect him to play the 4 Qc2 line I often play myself and faced as Black in the last match against Baltimore! Bart plays the line…. Alejandro played against me himself when I was White. He responds to Black.. the same way I played it as White and not the way Baltimore Enkhbat played against me. Thank you guys!!Alejandro got a tiny edge, it seemed to evaporate somewhere in the early middlegame, reappear when White squeezed Black on the Queen side and almost disappear when Black correctly traded 2 Minor pieces for a Rook. I have a feeling Black could play for a central break with e5 instead of the b5.However, even then it looks like Black rooks were very strong. This is exactly when I think the small strength difference showed up. About 10 moves later White was undeniably better but it was hard to win. Good accomplishment from “unclear”. The end was very strange… It seems like in time pressure Black just committed suicide, and when White “ proved” it by Bb5- Black immediately resigned. I didn’t think of it much until watching the other games when someone shouted Black resigned in a draw position. I went back thinking maybe Black could sac the rooks and get stalemate? Nope, no Stalemate. I was about to type in the kibitz whoever is shouting that is on some unlawful medicine when I realized it is one of the most unlikely perpetual checks I have ever seen! One rook can check White’s king to the eternity without any other seemingly required help from other pieces. Would have been REALLY sad to end this game in a draw, the match in a loss and see chances of the team almost completely evaporate. Very good game by Alejandro overall.

Board 2: IM Bercys- IM Barcenilla

General Styles: Bercys- more positional opening but more tactical chess after it.Barcenilla- very deep knowledge of openings and the mixed style.

Theoretical Importance:  3

Novelty: 2

Precision: 6

Opening: Kings Indian/ Benoni

Very strange opening by Rogelio and a very weird choice of Bishop retreat (Bh6- Bg7? ). It almost was like “I’ll give you a weak pawn or may even win it, so defend it! No? Ok, you called my bluff- lets go back to normal”. White chose the “Russian” system against the Benoni, which turned out to be one of the main reasons why that move order is less played on the top level. It is true that winning the pawn ( B:e3 f3 R:e3 ) is extremely dangerous, but playing a solid style. If my memory serves me right, Kamsky himself held those as Black successfully before. For interested people I would suggest looking at games of GM Art. Minasian- he loves those as Black and plays some very interesting concepts.The rest of the game went under “ I give you 2 moves and then play chess- can I beat you then?” Unfortunately, the answer this time was “no!” Bercie pressured Barcie and won nicely. Rogelio never got to show his great blitz skills. Unfortunate opening disaster.

Board 3: FM Adamson-FM Kiewra

General Styles: Adamson- main line theoretician with active opening choices. Kiewra- more solid choices ( at least from what I saw )

Theoretical Importance:  9

Novelty: 7

Precision: 8

Opening: Sicilian Dragon+

This was a game that I both understood and not really understood. Opening choice was a regular Main line Dragon. Robby opted for the safer system and Black played the safest system on that system! Few rounds before GM Kritz won very nicely against GM Kudrin in a similar type game where Black wanted to make things complicated. In this game it seemed both knew the safest theory possible: White gets a nice looking small edge and Black gets a very nice looking…..possible defense. I would especially draw reader’s attention to how White secured the King’s safety ( Nd5!, Kb1, Rc1!? ) idea together with attacking Black’s King ( h4-g4-Bh3!-Bg4!). I am not sure I understood Robby’s choice of not trading Queens and winning the e7 important pawn however. Once he refused trading queens with me with the accompanying phrase I still remember “It is still a morning, I have not yet had breakfast, I am not trading Queens”. I am yet to discover the underlying meaning of that phrase! Maybe something like that was going on too. It seemed to me he declined it on several occasions, each time with winning a pawn. I might be wrong and I am not using a computer to help me judge those things. After things got traded, the worst was over for Black and White was the one barely keeping equality. As long as White kept queens, he would be OK, as the activity of pieces would compensate for a Bad bishop. However, queens came off and the game quickly went downhill. I had mentioned in my interview that this game was the most important game of the match, and it turned out to be exactly that. Rough game and tough choices.


Board 4: WFM Zorigt-Adelberg

General Styles: Zorigt- tough and aggressive, Adelberg- young, active and booked up.

Theoretical Importance:  7

Novelty: 6

Precision: 9

Opening: Sicilian Najdorf

Great game by Adelberg! What was interesting is that I discovered a trait in most boards 3 and 4 for this round. Each time one side would try to “improve” on theory or maybe confuse the opponent by playing not best moves. Most of the times it miserably failed, and this was a perfect example of it. While Adelberg is playing the normal theory of Sicilian, white decided to mix ideas. Playing English attack mixed with Rauzer and Polugaevsky system. Sounds complicated? It is! And usually trying to play things better than the best brains of last 100 years have collaborated and agreed on, backfires. It is not to say she tried a horrible idea- the concept of Bg5 then coming back to e3, while making Black make certain moves such as nc6 or 0-0 is known and interesting. But it didn’t work out in this game as she planned. David’s very smart and timely exchange sac on c3 gave him the initiative. It might be bad for white already or maybe she missed some chances but the end position proves why Sicilian as Black is so dangerous, fun to play and complicated. The final position deserves a diagram.


Overall, very fun and very tough and educational match I am sure everyone enjoyed and learned from. I am just glad it ended in a draw.