Scorpions go 3-0 and are in First Place in the Western Division!
By NM Leo Martinez
Leo won blog of the week for this excellent recap of the Week 3 match. Hope you guys enjoy it!
Hello everyone! This is Leo Martinez here, former manager and player of the Arizona Scorpions, talking to you straight from the Big Easy, New Orleans, Louisiana! Being a manager just last season I have no problem taking a little time off from my schedule to report on another Scorpion win!
The Arizona Scorpions are flying high through the beginning of this season! After a 3.5-0.5 victory against the L.A. Vibe, the Scorpions move to 3-0 this season and are now in first place after San Francisco’s loss to Chicago. Although the final score was one of the most lopsided wins the Scorpions have had, the board by board matchups seemed like they were pretty evenly matched up. I really didn’t know what to think going into the match…board 1 seemed like a tossup. For board 2 Dionisio seemed to me to be a favorite but on the other hand he had black and of course he is always unpredictable. With a player like Danny Rensch on board 3 the Scorpions have to be confident but Tatev is never easy, especially with her solid French. Board 4 was a tossup for me as well.
|Arizona Scorpions||Los Angeles Vibe|
|IM Rogelio Barcenilla: 2583||1.0||0.0||GM Melikset Khachiyan: 2590|
|IM Dionisio Aldama: 2399||0.5||0.5||FM Joel Banawa: 2416|
|IM Daniel Rensch: 2471||1.0||0.0||WFM Tatev Abrahamyan: 2385|
|Amanda Mateer: 2135||1.0||0.0||NM Christian Tanaka: 2227|
|Avg Rating: 2397||Avg Rating: 2405|
|Arizona Total ——-||3.5||0.5||——- Los Angeles Total|
There was also the added element that although L.A. was strong, this was an expansion team with two (Tatev and Tanaka) of their players playing their first ever USCL match. The Scorpions went through this experience just two years ago and being new to the scene actually has a huge impact for some reason. I remember the first season the Scorpions struggled and they didn’t catch any breaks. It seems at least so far that we have “matured” from this somewhat. Anyways on to the games!
This matchup was interesting as Melik is very strong and although Rogelio is White he does not play a lot of chess anymore. Rogelio has been our rock on board 1 for the first two seasons and has in general done very well and held his own against mostly Grandmasters. In his first season he went 2.5/5 against 5 Grandmasters and led us through his solid play. However, he is also a fighter and has fought through many tough positions, beating Vinay Bhat last year from a lost position and almost coming back to beat GM Becerra in the first round of this season. With his 2-1 record (after this win) this season, beating GM Khachiyan and the strong FM Slava Mikhailuk, he has obviously started off this season hot. The competition on board 1 only gets harder but Rogelio has said before that he is not afraid of anyone and although he doesn’t play much anymore he is obviously still on his game.
This was Rogelio’s first white of the season and I am sure he was happy to use it against GM Khachiyan, who has played in the last 2 U.S. Championships.
Barcenilla,Rogelio (2583) – Khachiyan,Melik (2590) [A11]
US Chess League Arizona-L.A., 08.09.2010
1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg2 g6 5.b3 Bg7 6.Bb2 0–0 7.0–0 Qb6 8.Qc2
This was the position after Rogelio played 8. Qc2 and now Black made the interesting plan of playing …Bg4, …Bxf3 and then putting all his pawns on light squares with moves like …e6 and …h5. First Black wanted to get rid of his light squared bishop and then put all the rest of his pawns on the opposite color of his remaining bishop: the dark squared bishop. Afterwards Black had a really aesthetically pleasing pawn structure with pawns on b7, c6, d5, e6, f7, g6 and h5. Black has a very solid position with no weaknesses but White has the two bishops and is hoping eventually the game will open up and he will be able to use the bishops. In a few moves. White opened up the position the first chance he got with 14.cd, and 15.e4. 8…Bg4 9.d3 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 e6 11.Nc3 Nbd7 12.Bg2 h5 Now you can see the pawn structure crossing throughout the entire board from queenside to kingside. I’m not really sure what the idea of …h5 was but maybe Melik just wanted to keep the option open of one day playing …h4. Now White opens up the game immediately trying to take advantage of all Black’s pawn moves and opening up his bishops. 13.Na4 Qc7 14.cxd5 exd5 15.e4! Leaving the Queen on c7 a little awkward as White is now threatening to take on d5 and Black will not be able to take back with the pawn because of the pin on the c6 pawn. 15…Qd6 16.Rfe1 Threatening e5 immediately. 16…Rfe8 17.f4
This leaves Black slightly awkward dealing with the e5 threat again.17…d4? After this White is just winning. I’m not sure if this was a mouseslip or if Melik thought that the compensation was much greater than it actually turned out to be but after the obvious continuation of the next 4-5 moves it seems White is just winning. [Black was maybe slightly worse after 17...Ng4 but I think this might be one of the only moves to deal with the e5 threat and not hang something else. 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.h3 Nh6; On the other hand 17...dxe4 18.dxe4 Qc7 19.e5 looks really good for White. ] 18.e5 Nxe5 19.fxe5 Rxe5 20.Rxe5 Qxe5 21.Bf3! Ng4 22.Bxg4 hxg4 23.Nc5 Bh6 24.Ne4 Be3+ 25.Kh1 [25.Kg2 seems natural and should win pretty easy too.]25…f5 26.Qc4+ Kh7 27.Re1! fxe4
Here Black has one last trick that luckily Rogelio avoided.28.Qf7+! The only move to win. [It looks like 28.Rxe3? also should win but actually the position gets complicated and looks bad for White after 28...Qf5! 29.Re1 e3! and all of a sudden Black is winning because ...Qf3 followed by ...Qf2 is impossible to stop.] 28…Kh6 29.Rxe3 Qd6 30.Rxe4 Rf8 31.Bc1+ 1–0
This board 1 game seemed to be winning fairly early in the match and much earlier than the other three. A lot of times the trend of the other games is huge and can affect the other match games. So for example if Rogelio was losing the other three AZ boards might have to play a little more aggressively to make up for it. However, the opposite happened here where Rogelio was doing well so the other boards could just play and not be as pressured.
Board 2 featured new IM and chess stud Danny Rensch for the Arizona Scorpions and the very solid Tatev Abrahamyan who has been playing really well recently, particularly in the Women’s Championships. The first season on this team as manager I thought board 3 was our strongest board from the beginning and this was partly due to Danny. Although he struggled his first year I knew it was only a matter of time before he came around and luckily he is finally really playing well. He is now working for chess.com and you can hear more from him and his overall work in chess from his article by Elizabeth Vicary on her blog. The interview was fairly detailed and you can learn a lot about the personality behind the star by reading it! He also talks about his play in the league in the interview. Just click here to go there.
US Chess League AZ vs. L.A., 08.09.2010
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 0–0 8.Bd3 Nbc6 9.Bg5This is slightly unusual. Qa5 10.Ne2 Ng6 11.0–0 c4 12.Bxg6 fxg6 13.a4 Bd7 14.f3 Rf7 15.h4 Up to this point White had been blitzing out the game but from here on it seems he was going slower. Danny has prepared well for this game and his opening night win against Eric Rodriguez. Danny told me that if you put him on board 3 and he can beat anyone on that board. I mean there are a ton of good board 3 players but Danny, at his best, has to be one of the best. 15…Raf8 16.Bc1 Re8 17.Bd2 Ne7 18.Rfb1 b6 19.Nf4 Ref8 20.Nh3 planning Ng5 and h5 attacking the Black king. The Winawer is a complicated line of the french where Black has a long term advantage on the queenside and is usually pressuring on this side. Since this pressure is long term making most endgames at least fine for Black the onus is on White to attack the kingside and prove an advantage on that side of the board. Just watch this game: you will see both sides attacking the side they need to. In one sense it’s a race to see who can pin the other down. [20.Nxe6?? just sets White up in an impossible to get out of pin. 20...Re8 wins the knight next move.] 20…Nf5 Keeping the option open of playing …Bxa4 and …b5 winning a pawn. 21.Rb4 This stops …Bxa4 but allows …b5 and …ba4. which is maybe a little less flexible for Black. 21…b5 winning the white a-pawn but now White has the open b-file and he has some extra time to continue his attack on the kingside. This game is a perfect example of what happens in a lot of these Winawer French lines. Black wins the pawn on the queenside while White attacks the kingside. If White can breakthrough on the kingside then all that time winning the pawn on the queenside comes back to haunt Black. But if Black can defend then the passed a-pawn is really strong. 22.h5! gxh5 23.Qxh5 bxa4 [23...g6 24.Qg5 bxa4 25.Nf2 planning Nf2-g4 and popping into Nf6+.] 24.Ng5 g6 25.Qh3 Rg7 26.g4 Ne7
27.Kf2! Setting up taking over the h-file giving space for the rook on a1 to go to h1. 27…a3 28.Rh1 a2
29.Nxh7! If you could pick one good chess quality of Danny’s it would have to be his calculative ability. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Danny had seen the rest of the game at this point. [There's no turning back now because after 29.Ra1 trying to win the a-pawn with Rb2 runs into Qa3] 29…a1Q 30.Nxf8 Qxh1 [30...Q1a2 31.Qh8+ Kf7 32.Rh7 Rxh7 33. Nxh7 mates] 31.Qxh1 Bc8 32.Bg5! Nc6 33.Bf6 [33.Qh6 might be even better but I'm sure Danny had seen the end by now. ] 33…Kxf8 34.Qh8+ Rg8 35.Qh6+ Ke8 36.Qh7 Kf8 37.Rb8!
and Black resigned.[37.Rb8! Nxb8 38.Qe7#] 1–0
Board 2 was a match between two strong players that look for complications. This game was definitely no exception as there were multiple sacrifices throughout the game by both players. First White sacrificed a pawn, then black the exchange, then Black sacrificed his queen for some material. All for a draw! Well don’t worry it’s still a really fun game to look at.
US Chess League AZ vs. L.A., 08.09.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 I play the Benoni also so I am always happy to see Dionisio play it. He actually has a good record with it beating even former Scorpion and fellow chess stud GM Alejandro Ramirez, even though this was a good number of years ago. The Benoni is one of the sharpest responses to 1. d4 so it is perfect for a person like Dionisio who strives for crazy positions, almost to the point where he is willing to take a worse position if he can get something complicated. 6.Nf3 g6 7.h3 Bg7 [I play the line 7...a6 8.a4 Qe7 stopping e4. But I think this is the second most popular response.] 8.e4 0–0 9.Bd3 a6 10.a4 Re8 11.0–0 Nbd7 12.Re1 Rb8 13.Bf4 Qc7 The Black Queen can go either here or go to e7. Both moves have their positives but more usual is to either keep it on d8 or play it to e7. Whenever the Black queen comes to the c7 square like this game the common, but not only, response is to take advantage of the Queen’s position and put White’s rook on c1 and play for a quick b4.Of course Banawa knew this and played this continuation a couple of moves later. If nothing else it makes for a crazy game! 14.Nd2 [Most natural to me seems to be 14.Rc1! Nh5 15.Bh2 Ne5 16.Be2 followed by b4. Maybe this is similar to the game but I like it more for White.] 14…Ne5 15.Be2 h6 16.Rc1 g5 17.Bg3 Bd7
18.b4! Highlighting the awkwardness of the Black Queen. cxb4 19.Nb5 Qb6 20.a5! Qxa5 21.Nxd6 Ba4 22.Nb3 Qd8 23.Nxe8 Nxe8
Here Black has a pawn and a knight for a rook but after White’s next move the game swings to Whites favor for a couple moves. 24.Qd2! Bxb3 25.Qxb4 Bxd5 26.Red1 Nc6 And here we have the critical position.
27.Rxc6? After playing really well the whole game Banawa finally makes a huge mistake letting Dionisio back in the game. [After 27.Qe1! my buddy Rybka says White is winning. A lot of pieces seem to be hanging...the rook on b8 and the bishop on d5.] 27…Bxc6 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.e5 Nc7 30.Qb6 Rc8 [Maybe even better is 30...Rd7 31.Bg4 Ne6 and Black looks good here. Black is fine trading off White's light squared bishop because now the dark squared bishop is not as good.] 31.Bc4 Ne6 32.f3 Bf8 33.Kh2 Bc5 34.Qb1 Re8 35.Qf5 Bf8 36.Bd3 Bg7 37.h4 a5 38.hxg5 hxg5 39.Bf2 Rd8 40.f4 gxf4 41.Bh4 Rxd3! 42.Qxd3 Bxe5 43.Qf5 Bc7 44.Kh1 a4 45.Be7 Bb6 46.Qg4+ Kh7 47.Bf6 Kh6 48.Kh2 Be4 49.Qg8 [49.Bg7+ Nxg7 (49...Kh7 50.Be5)50.Qxf4+ Kg6 51.Qxe4+ f5 52.Qxb7 Bd4 53.Qc6+ Bf6 54.Qxa4+-] 49…Bg6 50.Qa8 Bf5 51.Qxb7 Kg6 52.Be5 Bd4 53.Bd6 Bc5 54.Bxc5 Nxc5 55.Qc6+ Ne6 56.Qxa4 Kf6 57.Qc6 Bg6
Now this looks like a draw but at this point Arizona was leading 3–0 so the result of this game didn’t mean anything to the match. However, Banawa decided to play it out for a while and test Dionisio. 58.Kg1 Kg5 59.Kf2 Kg4 60.Qd5 Bf5 61.Qe5 Bg6 62.Qe2+ Kf5 63.Qb5+ Kg4 64.Qe5 Bf5 65.Qc3 Kg5 66.Ke2 Bg6 67.Kd2 Kg4 68.Qh3+ Kg5 69.Kc3 Bf5 70.Qf3 Bg4 71.Qf2 Bf5 72.Qf3 Bg4 ½–½
US Chess League AZ vs. L.A., 08.09.2010
Amanda has improved a ton since last season and in reality is a different player. This game only proves this as she plays a sound and complete game against a master. This gives the Scorpions another strong weapon on board 4. Board 4 has been one of our strongest boards this season with a 2.5/3 score so far. The Scorpions have used 3 different board fours this season as well with one more to go in strong NM David Adelberg who could pop up in future matches and was one of our stars last season. Anyways Amanda travelled to Phoenix to play this one and Im sure was ready to fight. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.Bg2 e5 7.Nf3 d4 8.0–0 [8.Nxe5?? Qa5+] 8…Nc6 9.Nbd2?! White should attack the center early as now he just lacks space in the middle and is being pushed back. It just shows that in my database after 9. Nbd2 out of 7 games with this move Black scored 5.5/7. [The main move is to attack the center immediately with 9.e3 Be7 10.exd4 exd4 11.Bf4 Be6 and Black does well from this position but at least White has some space to work with.] 9…Be7 10.a3 a5 11.b3[There is one game in the database with 11.Qc2 0–0 12.Nh4 aiming for Nf5 which looks interesting.] 11…0–0 12.Qc2 I’m guessing the idea of this move is to stop …Bf5 moves but Black can get around that with the game continuation with …Bg4-Bh5-Bg6 12…Bg4 13.h3? This seems to just invite the bishop to come to g6. I mean Black might have played …Bh5 anyways next turn without this push to bring the bishop to g6. [Maybe just 13.Bb2 Bh5 and actually I still prefer Black.] 13…Bh5 14.Re1 If you look now the move e3 is much harder to get in for White as Black has moves like …d3 and …e4 that White always has to think about. If White can’t break this pawn structure in the center than Black will have a lot more space the whole game and will eventually find a way to break through. 14…Bg6 15.Qa2 Nh5! with the idea of …f5 and taking up more center! Black is just pushing and pushing and White has no real breakthrough to get in. 16.Nh2 f5! 17.Bd5+ Kh8 18.Bb2 Bf6 [Another possibility is 18...e4 trapping the bishop. Next Black can play ...Nf6 getting rid of White's bishop and also protecting his center. ] 19.Rad1 Qc7 20.Ndf1 Rad8 21.Qa1 Qb6 22.Qa2 e4!
White is almost in zugzwang here and is running out of good moves for his pieces, even though there have been almost no trades! Black completely dominates almost every single white piece.23.e3
23…Be5 I actually like this slow approach, not forcing anything but of course Rybka finds an easy way to force things. [Rybka is all about 23...dxe3! 24.Nxe3 Bxb2 25.Qxb2 f4! and I gotta admit after seeing the end of this Black is breaking through on the kingside.] 24.f4 this move definitely not expected but at this point White has to breakthrough or he will get squeezed. [Maybe something like 24.Bxc6 bxc6 25.exd4 Bxd4 26.Bxd4 Rxd4 27.Rxd4 Qxd4 28.Qd2 and Black is still better but maybe not as much as Amanda would've wanted.] 24…dxe3 [24...exf3 also works too as g3 hangs.] 25.Kh1 Bd4 26.Kg2 Nf6 27.Bxc6 bxc6 28.Bxd4 Rxd4 29.Rxd4 Qxd4 30.Nxe3 Qc3!
Another good move by Amanda. 31.Qc2?? Of course this just loses a rook. I’m not sure what went on here but Christian was in heavy time trouble and was fighting back the whole game and finally he misses something big. [31.Re2 Rd8 32.Nhf1 Rd3 and Black is much better here but there is still a little bit of game to go, especially since both players were in time trouble.]31…Qxe1 At this point I was going crazy in my room knowing that we won this match too and were going to be 3–0 to start the season. Not only that but that Amanda had played a really good game without any real mistakes at all. 32.Nhf1 Rd8 33.g4 Rd3 Christian could easily resign at any point here of course and I’m sure he would if it wasn’t a team event but he fights it out until there was literally no hope. 34.b4 axb4 35.axb4 Qxb4 36.Qf2 fxg4 37.hxg4 Bf7 38.f5 Rb3 39.Kh3 Bxc4 40.g5 Bxf1+ 41.Kh4 Nd5 42.f6 Rxe3 43.fxg7+ Kxg7 44.Qxf1 Qe1+ 45.Qxe1 Rxe1 and finally Christian resigned giving us a 3–0 to start the match while we waited to see how Dionisio did in his game. 0–1
Overall a really strong match! So now Board 4 is 2.5/3, board 3 is 2.5/3 and board 2 is 2.5/3 for the season. Board 1 is doing great as well with 1.5/3. It seems, at least so far, that everyone is playing well and our momentum keeps us going.
Hopefully they can keep it up and make sure to watch that they can next week against the Dallas Destiny.