Sean Higgins Recaps the Scorpions win against the Knockouts

Oct 9, 2009, 8:20 PM |

Sean Higgins, former member of Catalina Foothills National Chess Team, current Tulane student and Tucson native takes a break from his very busy activities and obsessions with doing 10 activities at once to examine all the action from the very exciting and highly anticipated Scorpions-Knockouts Week 6 match-up. Coming into this match New Jersey was a perfect 5-0 in league play while at 2-3 Arizona needed a win.

Scorpions win a thriller! Defeat undefeated Knockouts!

But before we get to the action, let’s take a quick look at what happened last week in the US Chess League:

For those of you who missed last week’s excitement, Arizona drew a thriller when Dallas IM John “Johnny B” Bartholomew hit resign before he could notice a rare one-rook perpetual against the Scorpions’ GM Alejandro “Reaaaaally?” Ramirez.

Meanwhile, in the East, the NJ Knockouts moved to 5-0. The NJ Jets could not pull off the same feat of staying undefeated in the NFL on Sunday, leading me to predict in a comment that Dirty Jersey would also come up short in Week 6 of the USCL. Well, the main reasons I made the prediction were an AZ edge on board 4 and a disbelief that GM Joel Benjamin would reel in a full point with black against Jandi on board 1 to lead the Knockouts to the first 6-0 start in USCL history.

The week in USCL blogging was also exciting: FM Elliot “Did I really send that text message last night?” Liu took a break from going to playboy-themed parties at Stanford to recap Arizona’s match, IM-elect Danny “Why did the Suns trade for Shaq?” Rensch proscribed a cure for the post-norm blues, and IM Mark “Fritz likes the Cordell!” Ginsburg continued his Opening of the Week Column. Meanwhile, GM Joel Benjamin wrote his mid-season thoughts on every team in the USCL. His only thoughts on Arizona were that we blog a lot.

So back to this week:

GM Ramirez – GM Benjamin

The critical point in the match was a GOTW worthy win from Alejandro “Roses are a great way to tell a girl that you like her” Ramirez, who wasn’t handing out any roses today. From a sliiiight edge in the ending he was able to convert with

34.Rxg6!! hxg6 35. f5! gxf5 36.h4! If you don’t see why this combo would have won after 36…Kd7 37. h5 Ke7 headed to f7, ask Leo, who was the first person to whisper the winning move 34.Rxg6 on ICC. (To quote Alejandro, “the idea is that after 37…Ke7 White has

38. Bd4! cutting off all the squares from the knight and if 38…c5 then 39. h6 queens the pawn. If 38…Kf7 then White can trap the knight with 39. b3! and the pawn endgame is lost after 39…c5 40. ba4 cd4 41. ab5 where White queens his b-pawn while the White king is able to stop the Black pawns in time.” Of course Alejandro had to see all of this ahead of time on move 34 with very little time on the clock! –LM)

IM Dean Ippolito – GM-Elect Rogelio Barcenilla

Board 2 was the cleanest game of the match, with Rogelio “RoBa” Barcenilla reminding us all why he just earned his 3rd GM norm and controlling the game against IM Dean Ippolito from about move 12 on. After 14.Nxe6 by white, Black was all too active. 22…dxe5 gives black a clear edge,

where 26.b4 later would have been met by 26…exf4! And while RoBa certainly played with precision, this game is not quite as GOTW worthy as Jandi’s board 1 victory if we take into account Joel Benjamin’s recent suggestion that GOTW judges take into account a “difficulty factor”; Dean Ippolito didn’t put up too much of a fight against RoBa’s outstanding play.

IM-Elect Danny Rensch – SM Mackenize Molner

But the match can’t be won just by two stellar performances on the top boards! IM-Elect Danny “There is no Spoon” Rensch weaseled his way out of some potential trouble on Board 3 to hold the draw against FM Mackenzie “I don’t need to sleep the night before to beat you” Molner. (True story…I’ve seen Mac play as well as ever on close to zero hours of sleep). Rensch’s king was stuck in the center and his a-pawn was a definite target, but after 22.Qxa6 Rxa6 23.Bc4 Ra5 24.Bxd6 he seemed to be slowly but surely clarifying things.

After 38. Re1! (threatening to invade with the rook and attack the Black King) Rhe2 39. Re2 Re2 40.Bxc5 a draw looked likely, and once the bishops came off the board we had a textbook drawn rook ending.

Sean ”I want the record to show I paid Matan” Finn – David Adelberg.

David “Talented Tween” Adelberg also got himself out of trouble to draw on board 4. After 17.Na4!,

Jersey’s Sean “Why’d you cut your hair man?” Finn looked like he had established a significant advantage that he continued to solidify in the upcoming moves.

After the interesting 22.Rc4!? (maybe actually ?! — I liked 22.Nxd7+ Rxd7 23.Rh3, hunting the h-pawn and giving white a slight edge), the talented tween played accurately by giving the exchange back with 22…dxc4 23.Nxd7+ Rxd7, leading to an approximately equal position.

The most important factor for Arizona in taking down the 5-0 Knockouts this week, in my opinion, was controlling the clock. Arizona controlled the clock on every board, and this can be especially important in faster time controls. I don’t think Arizona has ever controlled the clock on every board before like they did this week. This became an important factor: when Ramirez needed time to find 34.Rxg6 winning, he had that time; when Rensch-Molner got messy, Danny had time to find accurate clarifications and dig himself out of a little bit of a hole; and when pawns started to bleed on both sides in Finn-Adelberg, David had the time he needed to stay calm and calculate.

After such a successful week, I only have one suggestion for the Scorpions. We should start doing play-by-play updates like NJ has been doing! For example, at 10:06 pm the Knockouts tweeted (and posted on their blog, because let’s be honest I don’t have a Twitter account): “The room has more tension tonight than usual. Perhaps it is the fast time control. Perhaps it is the chance to make USCL history and go 6-0. Perhaps it is the fact that there are NO DONUTS.”