Mechanics Grind out a Win in Round 1 of the USCL
by FM Andy Lee
It took last year’s Mechanics squad eight weeks to win a match – this year’s group got the ball rolling in week one with a convincing 3-1 victory over Los Angeles.
Team captain John Donaldson took no chances, sending out the killer kid lineup in round one that clocks in at an average rating of 2452. A strong move, but I was worried about the plan if we lost or drew the match – there’s no stronger lineup to go to in week two to recover!
Fortunately, the kids (plus GM Vinay Bhat, no longer a kid, although once America’s youngest master) lived up to their ratings, and then some. The games started without too many glitches, although we were pretty excited for a minute when Danya’s game on board two went 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 Resigns. That threat on the e-pawn is just too strong! Of course computer problems were the culprit, and the game was soon resumed, although Danya managed to grind out a win from what was a pretty drawish position most of the way - here's a link to the complete game.
Vinay likes playing with a physical board next to the laptop, and his long absence from tournament chess showed when he set up the board with a dark square in the right-hand corner. It’s quite odd to see a light-squared King’s Indian bishop on g7! Fortunately it didn’t seem to affect his play too much, although he was generally dissatisfied with forgetting his opening prep in a line he’d played a number of times before. Neither side had too much to play for, and the game was quickly drawn - you can see the game here.
The move of the match (and the margin of victory) belongs to Siddharth Banik on board four. Banik’s queenside attack got started much more quickly than white’s kingside play, and he came crashing through with Qa3, earning him some a chance for Game of the Week and kudos from his team, although his opponent’s lack of tenacious defense makes him an outside shot as of this writing. You may have seen the final position already, but this nice tactic deserves another diagram:
Board three was a slow affair at first, with some interesting tactics at the end. Yian was worried that he was worse once black got in c4 and Nd7-c5-d3 but he kept calm and defended nicely. It turns out that he would have been basically winning is he had played Qb8 instead of Qa8 from the diagrammed position:
The point is that black's knight and king are both poorly placed, but to take advantage white must creep in a little closer with the queen. If, for example, the players played similarly to the actual game, 42 Qb8 Kg7 43 Kg2 Qb6 44 Nxc4 Qb1, white would have Qc7+ rather than having to play Qc8, saving an essential tempo and leaving him with some real winning chances. Instead, black found a nice temporary knight sacrifice to hold the draw.
Check us out next week as we try to get out winning streak to two matches against a tough Arizona squad on Wednesday night!