Week 3 Recap
GM Robert Hess from New York, and fan of the Arizona Scorpions, chimes in about the tough Week 3 loss to the Seattle Sluggers. Robert finished 2nd overall at the 2009 U.S. Championship, second only to GM Hikaru Nakamura, who happens to play for the Scorpions Week 3 opponent, Seattle. The Scorpions are very appreciative of Robert’s support and thoughts about the Scorpions. You can also check out a week 4 recap at the Scorpion's blog which will be written shortly.
This week’s matchup was quite disappointing. A few nights before the match vs. the Seattle Sluggers, Robby Adamson and I were chit-chatting on ICC and I told him that I really did not like the Scorpions’ chances. I thought Hikaru would take board 1 with no problem; board 2 I did not know much about; board 3 I thought would be a decisive result; and board 4 I assumed a draw. Let’s look at the boards individually to see what happened…
White tried to avoid major complications right from the start. It seemed Barcenilla wanted to simply trade off pieces and make a draw. Nakamura, however, would have none of this. Once again Nakamura strayed away from his real openings, playing 1…b6. This opening choice turned out well, as he reached immediate equality. 11. Nb5 was a nice attempt to shake things up, however, blacks response 11…e5 provoked complications. White should have attempted 12. Nxe5 Bxe5 13. Bxc6+ Bxc6 14. Bxe5 Nxb5 15. Bxh8 f6 with an extremely complicated position. To see SuperGM analysis, check out U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura’s blog.
White wasted moves 16-19 with queen moves and let black overtake the c-file. Eventually, Hikaru won a pawn and finished the game pretty cleanly. 0-1
Even though I am no theory monkey, and in fact, far from it, I believe Mikhailuk severely misplayed the opening in this game. Playing both c4 and e4 severely weakened the dark squares and trading black’s light squared bishop only helped Ginsburg. Rc1 is a suspicious move – white typically gathers forces on the queenside, opening up the light squared bishop with b2-b4-b5 ideas. By the time b5 was played, it was not too effective as the white rook was not on the open file to penetrate b7, and black had already done the strong maneuver Nf6-d7-c5. 24. Bf2 lost a pawn, but so too did 24. Qg4 after Qxg4 25. hxg4 Nxf4 26. Bxf4 Rxf4…followed by Be5, g5). After winning a pawn, Ginsburg consolidated his material advantage before trading down into an opposite colored bishop and rook ending. Fortunately for black, the white king had limited scope and the past d-pawn proved too valuable. A relatively one-sided affair. 0-1
I did not know Danny the Tool played 1.d4. I always thought he played 1.e4, but maybe he has been learning new openings as of late. Regardless, he seemed to pick the right opening choice with the Trompowsky. Instead of allowing Lee to enter a complex opening (and I can attest to the fact that Lee is a strong player – he drew me with black at the North American Open in December 2008, where he was beating me), Danny took the reins of the position. White followed the usual plan developing pieces, castling queenside, etc., gaining a decent advantage based on pawn structure. Lee got too hasty, thinking he had won a pawn when in fact white wins two for the price of that one. With a pawn in hand, Rensch immediately blundered. 41. a4 was much better than 41.N7xf5 – the pawn is not going anywhere and is lost anyways, so white had to first protect his king. Though the position remained unclear, black did not seem to be worse for long. Lee ended up breaking through on the queenside, setting up a mating net and Rensch succumbed to the pressure. Black won a game that white most likely should have done no worse than draw. 0-1
This was the most important game of the match. Before the match began, I thought that this would be the make-or-break game. Martinez played very well, obtaining easy equality in a hedgehog structure. He pushed 19…d5 at a great time, opening up the center. However, after 25. Qxa6, Leo misplayed with 25…Nxf3? After spending 27 of his remaining 36 minutes, Martinez made the wrong move. Instead, 25…Ra8 26. Qxb6 Rxa2 27. Re2 Bc5 28. Qb5 Rxb2 29. Rxb2 Qxd4 30. Qe8+ Bf8 31. Qe6+ Kh8 32. Re2 h6! And it seems black is much better, though I have not checked with a computer and could potentially be wrong. Unfortunately, after the mistake the game fizzled out into a repetition, thus ending in a draw. 1/2-1/2.
Honestly, I knew (as most people probably assumed) that board 1 was going Seattle’s way. Boards 2+3 were trickier, as I thought most likely the result would be 1-1 on these two boards, though I was not sure who would have what result (two draws seemed most likely at the time). I do not know anything about Sinanan, but I do know that Leo is a very capable player. He beat me a few years ago at Robby’s solid Western Invitational Chess Camp. Knowing Leo’s ability, I thought he could beat anyone on board 4, but a draw was still a fine result.
Overall, the match was hard fought from both sides. This is easily noticeable by 3 black wins. This is somewhat strange for strong chess play, but with both teams trying to make a move to get to the top of their conference, every point counts. Aside from board 1 where Hikaru dominated (it seemed psychologically from move one), all the other Scorpions had very strong positions. This match could have easily gone to the Scorpions, but let us congratulate the Sluggers and move on. Baltimore is up next week. Let’s hope the Scorpions can find some sting and rebound then.