Tag Archives: Dallas Destiny

Just Another – Ha ha ha ha – Laugher

Last year, when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the first time (they’d only won in their previous incarnation on the East Coast), the name of the game seemed to be “torture.” With an anemic offense and stellar pitching staff, the Giants made it a habit of making every game close. Often when it was an apparent blowout, they’d let the other team back in only to sneak out with a win in the end. This game was an (unplanned) homage to that spirit.

The full game can be replayed here (http://www.uschessleague.com/games/bercysbhat11.htm).

I saw that Bercys had played 3.Nf3 a bunch of times, but more recently he had been favoring 4.Qc2, so this didn’t come as a surprise. A welcome difference from my game with Shulman! Bercys repeated a line that he had played a few times before with 4…0-0 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Na6 7.c6.

(FEN: r1bq1rk1/pp1p1ppp/n1P1pn2/8/1bP5/2N2N2/PPQ1PPPP/R1B1KB1R b KQ - 0 7)

Morozevich introduced this move in 2008 against Ponomariov and won a miniature. He’s since played it a bunch of times with great results – 7/9 with 2900+ performance rating. Interestingly, the rest of the crowd hasn’t scored well with it – 50% and no performance rating bump for having the white pieces.

Anyways, I think there are two reasons behind the move: (1) it’s relatively new, which is already something these days;  and (2), it attempts to close the c-file as later on in the usual lines, the c4-pawn and Queen can be a bit exposed.

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Backing into the Playoffs

Yesterday was the last round of the 2009 USCL regular season. Going into the match, we were tied with the Arizona Scorpions for 2nd place in the Western Division, a full match point behind Seattle and a point ahead of Miami.

Our primary goal was to secure draw odds in at least the first round of the playoffs, and to do that, we needed one of the following scenarios to play out:

(1)   A win in our match, coupled with an Arizona loss and a Seattle loss would give us the 1st seed in the West, because while we’d be tied on game points, our opponent’s average rating was higher than Seattle’s.

(2)   A win or draw in our match, coupled with an Arizona loss and a Seattle draw or win, would give us the 2nd seed.

(3)   A draw in our match would give us 2nd place at best, and only if Arizona lost their match (again, our opponent’s average rating was higher than Arizona). If Arizona drew their match, then they’d have more game points than us, and so it wouldn’t get to the opponent’s average rating.

Dallas has traditionally been a pretty tough match for us, so we weren’t expecting a cakewalk. An hour or so into the match, it wasn’t really clear to me how we were doing.

My game wasn’t particularly interesting – Bercys surprised me with the Queen’s Gambit Declined. I had been expecting a King’s Indian, so this was a big departure from the norm. As it was, we repeated a game of mine against a British GM earlier this year for a little less than 20 moves. That game ended in a draw, and this one was headed for the same result. I played a bit too loosely on the kingside, but with a big time advantage, I wasn’t in too much trouble.

By the time it was clear that I wouldn’t have any winning chances on my board, our board 4 phenom, Yian Liou, beat WFM Zorigt on board 4 in a strange Dragon endgame. At that point, we were a little better on board 3 (Naroditsky was up the exchange, although I thought White had decent compensation) and clearly better on board 1 (where Wolff had turned around a dubious-looking opening into a big endgame advantage). I quickly offered a draw, and Bercys was kind enough to accept.

In this position after 23…Rb8 from Ludwig-Wolff, White is already in some trouble:

Ludwig - Wolff 1

White has to cover the b2-square, and so Ludwig played 24.Kc2. Wolff played 24…Ba6, threatening …Rb4 in some lines, so Ludwig covered that with 25.a3. Patrick then rerouted his knight nicely with 25…Na8!, heading for b6. This further inconvenienced White, who had to play 26.Na4 to cover the b6-square. With the e4-pawn no longer attacked, Black had a free hand to come in via the f-file with 26…Rf5!. With a series of jabs, White has been backed into a corner.

Wolff could have capped his effort off with a nice little tactic in the following position after 29.Rg4:

Ludwig - Wolff 2

Instead of 29…Bc8 (which maintains a clear plus, because 30.Rxe4 loses to 30…Bf5 31.Re7? Rc2#!), Black had 29…Nxd5+!, taking advantage of the fact the Bf1 has one less defender. After 30.cxd5 Bxf1 31.Rxe4 Bg2, White is toast – Black’s rooks and bishop are too active, and White’s king is too exposed.

On the plus side, at this point, Arizona had already gone down to Miami, so we were playing with house money in a sense as the 2nd seed was ours. However, the Seattle match was up for grabs, and if they lost, we would have liked to get at least 2.5 from our match to take the top seed!

Unfortunately for us, after some good defense from Ludwig and mistakes in mild time-pressure, Wolff found himself having to defend an exchange-down endgame.

Ludwig - Wolff 3

This was the final chance in my view for Black to try and save the game. Patrick played 48…Bh3, going after the c4-pawn. While it does win a pawn, it frees the d5-pawn for White and that is the more important factor. Black’s connected passers never became a factor and Ludwig pushed his d-pawn all the way. It seems to me that Black can try for a draw with either 48…Bc8 (forcing the rook to take the a7-pawn with Ra8xa7, while Black pushes on the kingside) or 48…Kf6 (centralizing the king, and again planning to push the kingside pawns).

In any case, the result of this game was a moot point as Seattle held on for a draw. Thus, we took 2nd place in the Western Division, behind Seattle and ahead of Arizona and Miami. After winning the division in 2005 and 2006, we’ve taken 2nd place the past 3 years. Our best regular season record of 8.5/10 however has gone untouched, as both Seattle and New Jersey fell just short of the mark this year.

Next week, we’ll face the Scorpions with draw odds (they’ll choose the color they want on board 1 tonight). We have a 1-1 record against them historically.

End of the road for the for Mechanics

In other November chess news, the SF Mechanics were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the defending champion Dallas Destiny. We lost the match by a score of 2.5-1.5, after I lost the final game as black to my apparent nemesis – IM Davorin Kuljasevic.

After stumbling in the last two weeks of the regular season, we dropped to the #2 seed and faced the #3 seed Destiny with black on boards 2 and 4 (by Dallas’ choice). This made sense as Kuljasevic and Zorigt are both clearly stronger with the white pieces, while Zivanic is tough to beat on board with either color. Still, we liked our chances as IM Sam Shankland was back from the World Youth (fresh off tying for first and automatically getting the IM title!), as was FM Daniel Naroditsky.

On boards 1 and 3, we probably went in with small advantages (Josh and Sam both out-rated their opponents by a bit and had the white pieces), while on board 4, Naroditsky vastly out-rated Zorigt, so despite having the black pieces, was probably a small favorite. While Kuljasevic is still only an IM, he’s higher rated than me by USCF and FIDE standards, and with the white pieces, was also probably somewhat of a small favorite going in.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite play out as we had hoped. On board 4, Danya got slaughtered when he failed to find a good plan after a dozen or so moves of a King’s Indian. He fought on for a while, but the result was not in doubt for a while. On board 3, Sam seemed to get a clear advantage out of the opening, but then after a couple inaccuracies, was probably only about equal. However, the complications had taken a lot of time off Schneider’s clock, and that cost Igor later on as he blundered the game away. On board 1, Josh was maybe a little worse out of the opening, but he came back to be a little better. However, a small mistake or two gave up any hope of an advantage, and the players agreed to a draw.

That left me defending as black against Davorin. The opening was a small surprise (the 6.e3 Slav, rather than the main-line 6.Ne5 Slav he normally plays), but I got a reasonable position from the opening. The game can be replayed here.

I wasn’t especially familiar with the resulting middlegame, though, and I spent some time coming up with a good plan. However, I lashed out with 22…g5?!, hoping to kick the knight away before it got to the nice d3-square (from where it could hop into c5). This created a hook for White to attack, which Davorin figured out with the very nice 24.Rf1! Instead of 22…g5?!, I could have simply sat tight, as White doesn’t have a real weakness to attack. Black is passive, but his position remains super solid.

After 24.Rf1, we were not too far apart on the clock, but the position was clearly better for White. I played what I think is the only good defensive idea for Black in that position with 28…g5 and 29…Qh7, as otherwise, Black has no communication between the kingside and queenside. The position looked dangerous for me, but the hasty 33.Nh5 threw away White’s gains after 33…Qg6. By the time I played 39…Ng6, I thought I was close to being out of the woods, and was only down a minute or two on the clock.

But the position was still dangerous, as my king was still exposed on h8. 40…R8c3? was the first mistake, as Black had a host of better moves, the simplest being 40….R1c3. After 41.Rdg3 Rxg3 (as in the game), Black has a rook on c8 instead of c1, which makes a huge difference. For one, the rook is not a target on c8 (as it is on c1, where White always is threatening Qd2, hitting c1 and h6). Secondly, the rook on c8 can swing over to the kingside to help out on defense, say to the g8-square. Anyways, after 40…R8c3, the game slipped away and Davorin put me away nicely. The game garnered him Game of the Week honors for the playoffs.

The loss also meant that the book was closed on the 2008 season for the Mechanics. I finished the season with 4.5/8 (2.0/4 on board 1, 2.5/4 on board 2), my worst performance in 4 years in the league. Still, I guess I out-performed my rating, playing at a clip of 2558 FIDE. Over the previous 3 seasons, I scored 12/16 with a performance rating of about 2662 FIDE. Sam was the star of the team on board 3, scoring a massive 7.5/9.

Strangely enough, my score against Kuljasevic is a dismal 0.5/4 since I first faced him in the USCL in 2007. I’ve lost all 3 times as black, and only drew as white. He’s a strong player, and still improving rapidly (he’s up to 2530 or 2540 FIDE now), but I can take some solace in the fact that I’ve achieved decent positions against him only to screw them up later on. The last two people I remember to have such massive scores against me in the first 3 or 4 games were Jordy Mont-Reynaud and Dmitry Zilberstein, and I can happily say that I turned those negative scores around against them. After losing 4 times to Dima (3 times as black), I have scored an undefeated 5.0/6, with wins in my last 4 games. Against Jordy, I went 7.0/10 after struggling to put a full point on the board at first. Hopefully I can say the same thing about Davorin in a couple years!

Dallas has since went on to beat the top seed Miami Sharks, and will now face off against the Boston Blitz in a rematch of the 2007 Finals. As in 2007, I expect Dallas to come out on top of this match.

Here and there – the USCL

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.