Tag Archives: Tennessee Tempo

Booking Our Ticket for the Playoffs – Part 2 of a Weeks 8 and 9 Recap in the USCL

On Monday, the SF Mechanics faced off against the Tennessee Tempo. The Tempo have 2 GMs on their roster (Jaan Ehlvest and Alex Shabalov), but I guess neither one was available for this match, and as a result, the Tempo lineup had a much lower average rating than normal. Still, the games aren’t played on paper, and even though we outrated them by almost 150 USCF points at the moment, it was not an easy match.

My own game was the first to finish. I had the black pieces against FM Todd Andrews, who I last faced in the 2008 USCL season (see the post and my annotations here). In that one, Andrews played 1.d4 and the game went into a Semi-Slav. This time around, he played 1.e4, and the game plodded along the normal Closed Lopez lines. The full game can be seen here.

Andrews - Bhat 2009 1

Instead of my usual Graf Variation of the Chigorin (with 9…Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Nd7), I played 9…Nd7 10.d4 Bf6, to get to the position above. I’m not quite sure what this is called, but I’ve seen it labeled as the Karpov System in some places, so I’ll go with that. I have played it before, against GMs Friedel and Becerra, but it’s not my main line of defense in the Lopez. Andrews may have been a bit surprised by it and responded with 11.Qd3!? in the above position. White’s dilemma is that the d4-pawn is under serious pressure, so the usual maneuver of Nb1-d2-f1 isn’t available just yet. If White doesn’t want to commit to d4-d5 just yet, then he can either go with 11.a4 (the main line), 11.a3 (Becerra’s choice against me), and 11.Be3 (guarding the pawn, but allowing …Na5 and …Nc4 with tempo). Andrews’ Queen move tries to solve that d4-pawn problem in a novel fashion. I decided to take the game into more traditional Chigorin waters with 11…Na5 12.Bc2 c5 13.d5. After some maneuvers, we reached the following position:

Andrews - Bhat 2009 2

White has just played 17.Qd3-d1, getting the queen out of the way of …c5-c4 advances while waiting to see what Black does. I decided to go with 17…a5, avoiding the (more) natural 17…c4 because after 18.Be3, Black doesn’t have the c4-square for his knight. After 18…Nc5 19.Qd2 then, White is ready to play Bh6 and try and make some inroads on the kingside. However, after 17…a5, 18.Be3 (or 18.Bd2) can be met quite easily with 18…Nc4, when White’s best would be admit he has nothing and retreat with 19.Bc1. I kept with my plan of avoiding …c4 to get to the following position:

Andrews - Bhat 2009 3

I just played 19…Bc8-d7, developing the bishop and guarding the potentially weak b5-pawn. At this point, White should really be trying to claim some squares. White played 20.Ng4?, which in a way is already the decisive mistake. Strange to say that, but after 20…Qh4!, Black is threatening 21…f5 (now the h6-square is under Black’s control). The game continued 21.Ne3 c4!, with a  clear advantage to Black. It’s a bit odd to have a c4-b5-a4 pawn structure, but Black has now staked out serious territory on the queenside. The knights and Bc2 are stuck preventing …f5, but this leaves the rest of White’s queenside without any prospects. White tried 22.Qf3 Nc5, but felt that he had to play 23.a3, irrevocably weakening the b3-square. I was planning to play …a3 myself if given the chance, since after 24.bxa3, White’s queenside both weak and immobilized. The bishop on c1 can’t move anywhere good without losing the a3-pawn (and the rest of his queenside would be very weak). Thus, Black has a free hand to play …Nb6-c8-e7, supporting the …f5 advance.

Instead of 20.Ng4, White had to play 20.b3, taking the c4-square and some queenside space before it’s too late. After 20…axb3 21.axb3, Black has the a-file, but it’s not especially amazing at the moment. Meanwhile …c4 can be met with b4, keeping Black’s knights from any nice central squares.

The game after 20.Ng4 Qh4! 21.Ne3 c4 didn’t go particularly well for White, as he was powerless to stop …f5. I slowly built up the advance and diverted all my pieces to the kingside, and once that side of the board was opened, the curtain fell pretty quickly.

As for the other games, on board 3, Danya was pretty much always a bit better, but not quite enough to win the game. On board 4, though, we thought we had a good matchup. However, David Justice took out the higher-rated Yian Liou in a pretty solid effort to bring things to a tie at 1.5 points apiece.

That meant it was all down to GM Patrick Wolff on board 1 against IM Ron Burnett. Burnett isn’t so high rated now, but he’s been a solid player for a long time. He was at least equal for most of the game, but as time pressure loomed, he fell victim to some nice knight hops:

Wolff - Burnett

White just played 33.Nc6-b4, aiming for the hole on d5. After 33…Re5 34.Nd5, Black blundered with 34…Qc5?. Wolff quickly responded with 35.Rxg6+! fxg6 36.Nf6+, forking king and rook. After 37.Nxd7, White was forking queen and rook to go up an exchange! Wolff finished the game off to take us to a 2.5 – 1.5 match victory.

Special thanks to Payam for bringing drinks and pastries to the match for us! After watching the NJ Knockouts sweep a powerful Boston team with the help of some donuts, I figure we could do worse than to copy them.

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.