Week 7 Recap – Scorpions Sting SF Mechanics in Thriller!
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What a ridiculous, incredulous, and ludicrous (enough -ous’s?) back and forth encounter that I know I will never forget! I have followed the US Chess League since its inception and can honestly say I have never seen a crazier match than this week’s match between the San Francisco Mechanics and your beloved Arizona Scorpions. Fans of both teams and the USCL were treated to a back and forth affair that had the ICC kibitzers going nuts. This match easily could have finished 3.5-.5 in favor of the Arizona, or 3.5-.5 in favor of San Francisco. Click here for a preview of the match by Scorpion’s IM Mark Ginsburg. http://arizonascorpionchess.com/2009/10/week-7-match-preview/
Even though I am keenly aware that many matches come down to the end and the position often doesn’t mean a hill of beans, I am still amazed at what happens in these matches each week. Some players play well at the beginning of the match and lose the thread; some don’t wake up until they are in trouble; some don’t “get” playing online at all; some do better when they have a few seconds on their clock before they make a move and get the 30 second increment. I guess it is this uncertainty that makes the USCL so entertaining.
In the past three weeks, Arizona faced arguably one of the toughest three game schedules in USCL history (though in the USCL each week is so difficult). In Week 5, the Scorpions took on the two-time defending USCL Champions, the Dallas Destiny (tying them 2-2); in Week 6, Arizona defeated the previously undefeated New Jersey Knockouts; this week – week 7, AZ faced the San Francisco Mechanics, a team that seems to own the Western division and a team for which I have the ultimate respect. And for a bizarre yet funny non-chess video preview of the match click here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NsvwaowPHI Please don’t ask me what possessed Mark to even think of something so ridiculous.
Scorpion Players Awarded GM Title, IM Title, and NM Title!!
Before looking at the matches, I want to make special mention of some great accomplishments of some Scorpion players. First, congrats to now-GM Rogelio Barcenilla for being awarded the Grandmaster title at the FIDE Congress being held as we speak. Also kudos to now-IM Danny Rensch who was awarded the IM title at the latest Congress. Finally, Congratulations to National Master David Adelberg, who achieved the master title at the just completed 2009 LA Open. Congrats to Rogelio, Danny and David! And wouldn’t you know it, but all three were in action this week.
The games are covered in the order they finished to get a sense of what was going through each player’s mind.
Board 2 – IM John Donaldson vs. IM Dionisio Aldama
This was the first game to finish and for the most part was pretty uneventful. San Francisco played veteran IM John Donaldson on board 2 vs. AZ newcomer IM Dionisio Aldama. Donaldson had a small edge that black neutralized somewhat, and just when it looked like he could have grabbed the h-pawn in the ending with 32.Nxh7, and made it interesting, they repeated the position.
After further examination however, it appears black might trap the knight on h7, with 32…Ke8, 33. Nh8 Kf7. Fellow Scorpion, IM Mark Ginsburg, does not agree! He commented separately on how white could have converted this. With all that being said, white had no danger of losing in trying to win this because white has a timely Kd4, e4, e5 break, which appears equal. All in all, the correct result, and in this match, it was nice that something went according to form!!
Board 4 – NM Greg Young vs. NM!!! David Adelberg
This game was perhaps one of the stranger games I have seen in a long time, but again, nothing in the USCL should surprise you. Imagine a game where one side drops a piece in the opening, is lucky enough to get 3, albeit crappy, pawns for it, is dominated for the entire game, and just when it’s time to say curtains (that means “game over”), the other side misplays the endgame and loses. That’s exactly what happened this game. David completely outplayed his opponent, NM Greg Young, who definitely did not play one of his better games. As I watched this game, in between rantings from Greg’s coach, Michael Aigner, my thoughts were that Danny was probably going to draw, Rogelio was in trouble, and we would win on this board – this would lead to a tied match. Well that certainly did not happen – none of it!
Greg decided to forget his theory and tried to play an English Attack against the Kan. One problem – you can not do that! After Greg confused a line you play against the Taimanov and played it against the Kan, he fell into an elementary trap when David played 9…e5! followed by 10…d4 winning a piece.
After many good moves by David in converting a winning position, I think David’s nerves and his time pressure caused him to misplay the ending. Unfortunately he missed 48…Bd2! (see below) which wins after 49.Kg6 Bxa5 50.h6 e4 (or 50…Bc3 first, then e4), where the a-pawn runs home.
And as it happens so often to chess players, once you make one mistake, you get down on yourself (see below with Rogelio’s frustration in trying to win queen vs. rook), and you make another. David gave away the draw after 48…Kxc5 49.Kg6 e4 50.fe Kb5?. However, black draws with GM Alex Lenderman’s suggestion of 50…Kd6!
Even though David missed multiple chances to close the deal, we are gonna cut the Young Scorpion some slack. David has performed very well for the Scorpions and I know he will bounce back from this very minor disappointment.
So after this game, we were down 1.5-.5, and things did not appear to be going our way. Then the tables completely turned.
Board 2 – IM Danny Rensch vs. FM Daniel Naroditsky
Well you knew it had to happen sometime, but I did not expect it to come after seeing the pickle Danny got himself into. However, it’s great to see Danny get over the hump and win this, his first USCL victory ever! This victory is long overdue, especially since Danny threw away a winning endgame a few weeks ago against Seattle’s Michael Lee, and threw away multiple good positions last year. Perhaps we should have expected a win this week, since just last week, Danny managed to swindle SM Mackenzie Molner to a draw to score for the first time in USCL play. A win after a draw is the most logical result, right?
The game started innocently enough, and actually reached a solid position, something that is needed in team play. The only advantage the Scorpions had through the first 20 moves or so was a huge time advantage, though ultimately this did play into the Scorpion’s favor. Naroditsky probably did not expect Danny to play a Trompowsky, and ate up a significant amount of time on the clock wading through the opening moves. However, the youngster actually achieved a pretty solid game after being patient on the queenside and slowly pushing back Danny’s minor pieces.
I think Danny could have tried 26.Qc6 instead of 26.Bxf5, and tried for an edge, though I do admit it is probably just equal – it was just better than the game.
After 26.Bf5 ef 27.Rfc1 Rac8 (Mark Ginsburg suggested 27…Rfc8 instead to give the extra option of a4), black had fully equalized and of course tried for a win. Danny was kicking himself after the game for not playing a4 himself, and for allowing Daniel’s nice rook maneuver of 31…Rc4, and 32…a4 fixing the a3–pawn on a dark square which in effect separated white’s a-pawn and b-pawn. Naroditsky achieved a winning position and looked to be winning – white’s rook and knight are worse than Cleveland Brown’s QB Derek Anderson playing the entire game against the Bills last week and completing 2 passes out of 17 attempts! (somehow Cleveland won 6-3 over the hapless Buffalo Bills – new coach anyone?)
As so often happens in USCL play, everything comes down to the end, and the Scorpions’ newest IM spent more time on a few moves in the endgame than he spent for most of the rest of the game, and created some tricks that confused Naroditsky. ICC kibitzers were clamoring for white to resign, but Danny would have none of that! [Ed. Note: USCL players cannot see what spectators are saying. They could have been chatting "Larry... Larry..." for all Danny knew.] However, as it turns out, Danny bluffed Daniel as he missed several wins in a position that is very difficult to play in time pressure. Daniel decided to take the safe way out and with very little time on his clock and perhaps sensing that a draw would be good for the team (it was, considering that Bhat was better against Barcenilla), offered a draw – unfortunately it was too late when Danny capitalized with what one ICC kibitzer described as “surreal” – 63.Na1!!
The evil computer says 63.Nb4 leads to a easier win, but I have to admit, I am not sure most people would have found such a move OTB. After Naroditsky did not play the best defense, Danny converted when he won the b-pawn, played Kc2 and was set to advance his g-pawn (though he did miss a clean 66.Nc5+ followed by Rb3). Not the a game for the faint hearted! Nice job Danny!
Board 1 – GM Rogelio Barcenilla vs. GM Vinay Bhat
With the match tied at 1.5-1.5, everything hinged on this game. Rogelio has been experimenting a lot lately with white and he decided again to play 1.e4, though he did not repeat the Exchange Ruy he used against Vinay last year. Like last year, Vinay played very well for most of the game but the “clincher” was never obvious. Vinay is never one to stray away from complications and I think secretly likes living on the edge. Well, this game was just nuts. Analyzing this game after the match with Rogelio showed a lot of stuff that I thought was very difficult to find. To the naked eye, this was just a very unbalanced game that seemed a little safer for Vinay. It was a shame someone had to lose this game as it seemed to be uneven throughout. Let’s take a look.
The game took on a very sharp flavor when Rogelio decided to try his luck with the Scotch, and Vinay chose the less common but underrated 8…Nb6 (8…Ba6 is more common). Rogelio did not play the line correctly and looked to be in a little bit of trouble in the following position.
White’s pieces are better placed and he has more activity but it was hard for me during the game to justify how black was not going to break through with c4 at some point and blow open the queenside, while at the same time his king was much safer. In the game white only broke through when he played f5, which did not seem that dangerous, and was done out of a matter of necessity, given Bhat’s strong attack on the queenside.
Fellow Scorpion player, IM Mark Ginsburg was clamoring for the impatient and direct 19…c4, though I must confess I don’t see the nail in the coffin.
I thought Vinay would have had a better chance if he had not had his queen stuck on g7, though it’s hard to argue with the position he got. After lots of strange maneuvers, especially Rogelio’s 26. Rg4!?!, Vinay regrouped and played what the crowd was clamoring for – 27…c4, which seemed very dangerous. At this point, both players were down to 1-2 minutes each, so you can excuse each side for missing some opportunities.
Vinay missed such an opportunity – again impossible to find in time pressure – when he could have “parted with the lady” and played 33…Qxe4! – yes I cheated and used the computer to find this sexy move.
After the queen sac, 34.Be4 Bc4+ 35.Ka3 Be6! 36.Rf3+ Kg8 37.Bd2 Ba1!! and white is gonna be forced to take all the stuff off with 38.Qb3 which leads to an easy win for black.
After missing this opportunity to achieve stardom and win GOTW, there did not appear to be a clear win, though it seemed “Rogo” was in big trouble.
After the queens were traded, Rogo managed to achieve the following position, where it appeared he had the only chances to win with a passed c-pawn, and then of course the ICC kibitzers could not contain themselves that this would turn into a rook and bishop vs. rook.
With best play, this is drawn. But again both players were under time pressure for many moves. After some inaccuracies, white finally achieved…..
Rogo told me after the game that he was kicking himself for missing 58.Bd7 Rc7 59.Kc7 h2 60.Bc6 h1=Q 61.Rh1 Bh1 62.Bh1 with a winning endgame! Instead he played a line that wins too, but he failed to find the hammer.
Eventually, the players reached a Queen vs. Rook ending, something that is very difficult to hold against a computer, but something that is fairly easy to win against a human. After trapping Vinay’s king on white’s kingside, and failing to find the win, and with the 50 move rule coming into play, Rogelio missed yet another win with a simple 1 mover that both sides overlooked – 77.Qb5+. Such is the USCL and it can happen to anyone, trust me.
With 10 moves or so to go before move 50, Rogelio achieved the following position forcing Vinay to resign because he was going to lose his rook.
All in all, a very hard fought and topsy turvy affair. After not catching some breaks earlier this year and what seemed all of last year, the Scorpions got their fair share of breaks in this match, something the Scorpions will gladly accept. The Scorpions are now tied for 2nd place in the Western division, and have more game points than the other teams they are tied with, Miami and San Francisco. With 3 weeks to go in the season, expect more exciting matches! Root us on against Chicago next Monday night!