A Wild Match
by IM David Pruess w/ annotations from GM Josh Friedel
In week four we had one of those wild matches where you have no idea if the team will win, lose, or draw. These matches usually crop up when individual games also have that characteristic, and this match definitely had two games that were pretty wild and intense.
The "better" one, for us, was GM Friedel's win over GM Akobian on board 1. Since they are a lot better than I am, and I am lazy, I'm not going to comment on that game-- I'll leave it to Josh to post some of his thoughts about the game, to make it intelligible for the reader.
However, I'll have a stab at the other "swing" game, which occured on board 3 between two of the U.S.' top junior players, Steven Zierk (SF) and Michael Lee (Sea). (with apologies to my teammate, who probably doesn't want people to see this game, or dwell on it).
Ouch! Looks like Steven really killed himself, under the false impression that h4-h5 was going to kill black. Maybe he never did a reality check and realized that he wasn't winning and should stop going for the kill. If he had, he probably had several opportunities there to back off and fight.
Now for my game. The game starts before the first move, it starts when we see pairings. Once I saw the pairings for the match, I was quickly able to ascertain that, once again, I would be SF's weak link this week. Our best matchup would probably be Yian on board 4, in whom I had plenty of confidence, and boards 1 and 3 were probably pretty close matchups, where we had white, but anything could happen. By the way, for anyone who is thinking Akobian is higher rated than Josh-- I know that! But Var only plays the French, and this meant that it was a perfectly good matchup for Josh.
So I figured, if I drew my game, we were pretty good favorites in the match. I could not find too many of my opponent's games, but I considered two main options: the black side of the French Defense advanced variation (which I consider a very poor opening for white) or the black side of e4 c5 Nf3 d6 Bb5+ (which I consider to give black very good chances at equality. Both openings fit my general objective of trying to achieve a position I was pretty comfortable with and where I could play relatively more solidly, and take on less losing chances.
Finally, here's how I chose between the two: the Bb5+ lines have a bit more theory than what I was intending to do with the advanced variation. There are also more piece trades within that opening theory, and the resulting structures have less tension. Thus, overall, that choice would be more drawish. I finally decided I would prefer to err on the side of preserving more winning chances for myself, and go with the French. I still felt I could play pretty solidly, and correctly, and keep the game balanced. Just that the tension would last longer in the game, which would give me chances to outplay my opponent.
Despite the desire to win playing some role in that decision, what you can see at the beginning of this game is me expecting to lose, and being very happy with any position that promises fair/equal chances.
When it was over, I was excited. I gave my teammates a victorious fist pump, and danced on home. By the time I got home, Josh had won the match, while Yian had made a valiant effort to add to his huge total score, but been forced to yield an eventual draw (a well-played game).
While I was writing this blog, and Josh was analyzing his game, it won Game of the Week! This is a contest which recognizes the best played/ most exciting/ most entertaining/ most important for standings game in that week's USCL play. Here is this apparently impressive game, with its author's own comments:
Well, I hope you found that as thrilling as it was. A wild match for us, that could easily have been won by Seattle, but went our way this time. Next week, we face the expansion team L.A. Vibe. It's the first California-California match. Look forward to it!