I’ve played a few games of chess over the past couple weeks, some of which went much better than others. Here’s a quick rundown of my games. The team recaps can be read on the Mechanics blog.
In Week 8, the SF Mechanics faced the Tennessee Tempo. With GM Jaan Ehlvest hired to play board 1, the Tempo are a much more dangerous team this year than in year’s past. Unfortunately for the Tempo, Ehlvest has only played in about half their matches, so they’ve struggled more when he’s away. With GM Patrick Wolff taking board 1 duties that week, I was on board 2 against FM Todd Andrews. The game can be replayed here.
The game was a 6.Qc2 Anti-Meran (As a side note, why didn’t Kramnik play this against Anand? It seems like it’d be more his style than the main line of the Meran) where I chose the 7…Nxg4 8.Rg1 f5 system. I hadn’t played this before, and didn’t prepare it for this game, but the last time I saw Todd play this system as White was from games in 1998, so I thought he might have something up his sleeve against my normal 7…h6 system. We reached the following position after 13…Bd7:
White now played the odd 14.Be1 – I think he wanted to stop 14…Nh4, which now runs into 15.Nxh4 Qxh4 16.f3, and maybe avoid an exchange of knight for bishop. Unfortunately, the bishop is misplaced a bit on e1 and clogs up some of the communication of his rooks. I also don’t have to rush with …Nh4 and can instead go about finishing my development and castling. I was more worried about 14.Bd3 or 14.Be2 at that point, as even if go after the h-pawn right away with 14…Nh4, after 15.Nxh4 Qxh4 16.Rdg1, I expected White to have adequate counterplay on the g-file and in the center.
In the game, though, I soon got to castle queenside when White was left without any obvious targets to attack. With my powerful knight on e4 and the ability to challenge the g-file, the center and kingside are generally in Black’s hands. Thus, Todd looked to attack on the queenside with 16.c5. The problem was that the attack was a bit slow to organize, and in the meantime, I was able to organize some serious threats myself. We reached the following position after some exchanges on the kingside:
I’m threatening to come in on g1, but Todd gave me a big gift here. 22.Rb3? walked right into 22…Nxc5 (thanks to the pin along the 4th rank), but I think White was already in trouble. I expected 22.Qb4, but then I planned 22…Rg1 23.Be2 (23.Rb3 still walks into 23…Nxc5! 24.Qxc5 Rxf1, when White is in huge trouble) Bc7 24.Rb3 Kd8!, simply sidestepping the attack. Black threatens 25…a5 to drive the queen from the defense of the bishop on e1, and meanwhile White’s pieces are strangely tied up on the b-file and in the center. After taking the exchange off his hands, I won in a few more moves. The team won the match as well, as although Patrick was ground down on board 1, we won the remaining boards to win by a score of 3-1.
In Week 9, we faced the 2007 USCL champion Dallas Destiny. They were in 3rd place in the Western Division, but present a very dangerous lineup. Like the Mechanics, they have a bit of a 3 or 4-headed monster for the first couple boards, followed by FM Igor Schneider and WFM Bayaraa Zorigt as their more regular boards 3 and 4. As in Week 8, I was on board 2, facing IM Davorin Kuljasevic. Davorin beat me in Miami in September, and he beat me last year in the league, so I was hoping that the third time was the charm. The game can be replayed here.
I got a clearly better position after the opening, but in trying to increase my advantage, I missed an important tactical shot after 15…Kg7.
I dropped the bishop back to g3 with 16.Bg3, overlooking that after 16…exd4 17.cxd4, Black has 17…c5! when the exchange sacrifice with 18.dxc5 Bxa1 19.Rxa1 Nxc4 20.Qxc4 is White’s best. White has definite compensation here, and actually I thought White was still slightly better, but I decided just to play 17.exd4 instead, thinking that preserved my advantage. It did, but not for reasons I understood. The next key position arose after 20…Qa5, hitting the a2-, c3-, and c5-pawns.
Instead of 21.Rxb7 Rxc5 22.Qb4!, when 23.Bd6 and 23.Bc7 are both threats, I played 21.Rb5, but after 21…Qa6 22.Qb4 Qxa2 23.Rxb7 Qd5, realized I had nothing. I was nominally up a pawn, but the c5-pawn was falling and the c3-pawn was not destined to live very long after that. With all the material on one side of the board, the game petered out to a draw. Had I won, we would have tied the match. IM David Pruess lost quickly to Schneider on board 3, while NM Nicholas Nip drew on board 4 against Zorigt. To close out the match, Josh Friedel saved a lost position to salvage a draw to bring the final score to 2.5-1.5 in Dallas’ favor.