Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Week 6 Recap by Levon Altounian

An incredible match. Who would prevail? A Scorpion sting a mechanical tool? Unfortunately as scorpions we could not stop the advancement of human technology with their Mechanic’s Institute Team. Before the match I was hoping we will narrowly win ( based on ratings and strengths on the boards but it was clear nothing will be too easy ) The teams were in my opinion approximately equally matched to start with and yet very quickly it was clear we are in trouble as a team. We tried to also work as a team on time management skills. It worked well as we were better or equal on clocks on every board. Alas, that didn’t help or maybe possibly hurt? Usually, in an equal match a team that gets a lucky break in just one game wins the match. We had 2 miracle saves in this match ( Barcenilla-Bhat and Naroditsky-Martinez ) and yet we still lost the match. I guess those things happen and we need learn from it and look forward to the next games.


I was very much looking forward to following a game of two very all-around strong IMs who despite their apparent chess differences employ similar chess concepts and techniques in majority of their games: i.e solid openings that lead to complicated but understandable middlegames and avoiding super popular lines that change evaluation from day to day and require being o the top of theoretical novelties. Therefore, I was not only surprised to see Rogelio play 1 e4 but to find out that following his strategy of choosing slightly off-beat systems (which is what he did in the game before against a strong GM Ehlvest with c7-c5 push in the opening ) he gave preference to a relatively unknown line I sometimes adopt in the exchange Rui ( 5 Nc3 ) myself. The game was turning out not only well for White ( apparently Bhat did not know the lines developed by a strong GM Yandemirov that sometimes go 40 moves long ) and therefore chose a relatively quiet way to develop, but White was getting a serious time advantage as well. White kept a small but stable advantage until he decided to go for decisive actions on the King side with f3-f4-f5 push. I would have probably played it in a safer way and go for the d5 outpost (such as using maneuvers Nc3-Nd5, Ne3-Nd5 or even Nf4-Nd5 ). However, if White didn’t play the extremely tempting 19 e4-e5?! and instead settled for going for the white squares ( moves like Nc3, Nd5 and even Kf3 look nice ), he would have kept the opening advantage and the outcome could have been very different. After that the position started looking a lot like the fire-proof systems of the Berlin system in the Rui Lopez where Black is extremely low on space but thanks to the power of 2 bishops, playing against White’s bad dark-squared Bishop, and some pawn breaks- stands well. From my own experience ( playing both colors in similar positions ) I found one funny rule that applies to many such positions: If neither side has anything good to do, whichever side looks better on superficial terms is actually ….. probably worse. That was the unfortunate case here too. About 15 moves from there White was in dire problems and to make matters worse, blundered a piece. Then came the time for true Rogelio magic (I had the unfortunate pleasure being the receiving side of those magical tricky saves in numerous blitz games I played with him over the years ). In a completely hopeless position, down a pure piece, White kept putting up a tenacious fight with 2 goals on his agenda: make Black think in time pressure and at the same time look for counter chances on the King side in any form possible. It worked extremely well, as Black got completely confused, missed numerous simple wins and at the end found himself with a textbook example of what happens when you have an extra Bishop and a pawn but are in a theoretically drawn endgame. Draw!


I was a bit nervous about this game, because even though I trust Mark’s experience and knowledge and in our last 2 encounters I myself run into a “ Ginsburg brick wall”, Pruess is very strong in tactical games and having White certainly aids that tendency. David chose a slightly incorrect opening as white ( hybrid of 2 Bg5 and Trompowsky Opening ) with a simple goal of transferring the weight of the game into the middlegame, where his tactical abilities can bear fruit and confuse Mark. In June of this year I watched him outplay in crazy complications the super tactician GM Hikaru Nakamura. Mark looked good for a while, having 2 bishop’s advantage in a more or less locked up position that looked like a mixture of French or Caro-Cann. However, in my opinion ( later shared by Robby ), Black’s 8…e3 was dubious as the desire to not let White get a strong center led to another problem: Exposed King in the Center.Black could either play it in a normal way ( 8…gf ) or go for complications that are about even : ( 8… ef!? 9 B:g7 Rg8! 10 gf R:g7 ) Black King on the E-file started getting in more and more trouble and basically got checkmated. Despite putting up a great resistance and creating what seemed like “maybe a counterplay chance ?”, the game was over on move 23 with White’s simple but pretty c6-c7 push. Black is losing a Queen in the final position and therefore resigned.


A disappointing game for all of us. I am sure no one was as unhappy as Danny though, as I know he was really going into this game with great concentration and desire to prove he is one of the best. We had 2 attacking players playing each other on this board in a moderately sharp line of the open Sicilian (Rauzer Attack). Considering Danny likes those positions, he is higher rated and is White, I had high hopes for us on this board.

I am no expert at this line ( long ago was considering playing it for Black but gave up ) but from what I remember in this somewhat popular (very popular 10 years ago ) line for Black, originally developed by Kramnik, white played the slightly offbreat 11 Kb1, which caught me by surprise ( usual lines are 11 e5 de 12 fe Bd7 ) or 11 Bd3. Danny’s next move 12 Qd2 was not the most popular either in the database( 12 h4 is more in line with what Danny would have liked maybe in this game) White presumably got what he wanted- a slightly better looking endgame, but I have a feeling those positions do not match Danny’s aggressive style of play. Some forced line, where White gets a King Side attack, or plays up an Exchange line, might be a better try (for those who want to find out what is the recent theory, search the position I mention above in some database and many games will pop up ) Black player, however, also does not like to dwell on small positional details ( I know Shankland too ) and immediately makes a mistake with b6? (the usual is Kf8 with a most likely outcome of an equalish ending- unless Danny had a secret weapon prepared there ). White missed his chance by not punishing black’s inaccuracy with 17 e5! ( and not Be2 transfering , like it happened in the game), where most likely Black had the choice of sacrificing a pawn on d6 and hoping to regain it back, or going for a very unpleasant French Pawn structure positions where in addition to having a “ Bad Bishop”, Black will also have problems with an exposed King ( 17 e5 fe 18 de d5 19 Be2 followed by possible Rf1, Rd4- Rg4, etc ). I also do not like White’s 20 e5 advance…Going for some Hedgehog squeeze might have given more practical chances for a win. In the resulting position Black has no problems. In what appeared to be an equal endgame later on, white got slowly outplayed and the last burst of aggressiveness with trying to create a Queen Side Passer was a little bit too late and there was no real hope at the end.


A heartbreaking opening blunder and a Super Save in the Endgame! I was watching the Boards 1 and 4 at the end, when we were losing the match already, having a weird feeling we might save some points on those boards and feeling sad that at the end that won’t matter for the Team score anyways. Leo knew the position after move 8 will likely to arise, had it prepared at home beforehand ( we had a conversation about it at 8 AM on Sunday! ) didn’t want to accept the pawn sac on e4 with (8...N:e4), which I think is possible though dangerous ( granted, Naroditsky played it as White before and according to Leo and Robby, it is dangerous , but Fritz still likes it for Black ) and prepared the safe alternative with 8…Nc5, which I liked too at our preparation session. Unfortunately he didn’t prepare against all White possible moves on it ( using Fritz in complicated games like this is the safest path ) and the 9 Qe2 caught him by surprise. Black chose the worst option of all – Nf:e4?? (safe way would be Be7, a5 or even Ba6 while Nc:e4 would lead to an edge for Black with a very cool tactical line which I would not be surprised at all if White would fall for: (10…Nc:e4! 11 Ne5 Qd5 12 N:e4 N:e4 13 Bf4 Nc3!! 14 B:d5 N:e2!+ 15 Kg2 B:d5+ and White can safely resign). One correct move was the real difference between a win and a sure loss. Instead, in the game White was winning immediately with 14 Bf4, or by the pretty 14 Qc6+ Ke7 15 N:e6!! but the way he played was winning too as it was a safe way and he is up couple of pawns in a simple and boring endgame. The rest of the game was an example of how in losing positions to never give up, no matter who you play or how bad it is, create problems for the opponent on every step of the way and hope for a miracle, fatique, time pressure or simply bad technique by the opponent ( It is amazing how some great players can play below their level in winning positions ) White missed a win probably on every move until his last mistake with 43 g4??(King advance to the King side was still a relatively easy win). Leo then defended it perfectly and White had to agree for a draw. One more miracle Draw!

Considering my horrible technique from last week against Milman when I not only missed few wins but actually a CheckMate in 2, I feel not as bad as finally some games went in our way ( in terms of good saves- boards 1 and 4 )- unfortunately those were in games that did not matter for the team anymore. Next few matches will prove crucial for us in terms of qualifying for the Play-offs. Good luck Scorpions!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week 6 Predictions by Robby Adamson

A very quick look at Week 6

Monday Matches:

AZ over San Francisco 2.5-1.5 (Isnt a Scorpion more threatening than a Mechanic? Go Scorpions!

Seattle over NY 3-1 (2 GMs (Nakaserper) is greater than 1 GM (Fedorowicz) Therefore Seattle wins)

Wednesday Matches:

Carolina ties Queens 2-2 (Carolina may win this one, especially because of Queens' weaker than usual lineup)

NJ over Baltimore 2.5-1.5 (NJ is loaded and will show their stuff against a struggling Baltimore team)

Boston over Philly 2.5-1.5 (Philly has a chance here if Kudrin can defeat Jorge, if not, turn out the lights on the Inventors, and say "Hello Phillies")

Miami ties Chicago 2-2 (This should be a very competitive match – both teams need it)

Tennessee over Dallas 2.5-1.5 (TN really has a great chance to win this match, given the great success of the Ehlvesanator.

Until next week....

Week 6 Preview of SF Match by Robby Adamson

Arizona squares off against what is probably going to be the the Scorpions toughest match so far. San Francisco is loaded and has underrated players on every board.

Board 1 - IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2560) - IM Vinay Bhat (2481)

Rogelio finally gets to play white, after facing 2 strong GMs (Ehlvest and Stripunsky) with black. This time he will face off against GM-elect Vinay Bhat. If Rogelio can pull out a win, the Scorpions have a great chance.

Board 2 - IM David Pruess (2479) - Mark Ginsburg (2410)

Youth vs. veteran IM. Expect fireworks here, as David is especially proficient in tactical positions and is not afraid to mix it up. Mark will do his 70's version of defend!

Board 3 - FM Danny Rensch (2411)- FM Sam Shankland (2364)

Again, a battle of two players who love to mix it up. Expect a decisive result for someone in this game.

Board 4 - FM Daniel Naroditsky (2321) - NM Leo Martinez (2209)

Finally, Manager Leo Martinez takes a break from his manager duties and squares off against ultra-stud young Daniel Naroditsky in an appealing fourth board match-up. Daniel continues to get better and better with every tournament (He is almost 200 points higher rated than the rating being used for this year). The key to victory for Arizona however is that Leo is at least a foot taller than Daniel - that has to count for something. In all seriousness, Leo is anxious to bounce back from his first so-so effort in Week 3 against Queens.

Scorpion nation, please rise!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week 5 Recap by Danny Rensch

Here is Danny's analysis of the Week 5 match with the Carolina Cobras (For Mark Ginsburg's recap click here):

Levon Altounian vs. Lev Milman
U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona

Honestly I found this game hard to read for the majority of the opening and middle game. I would venture to guess that Levon got what he wanted: A position with a slight pull that offers Black very limited ability to change the structure and make it wild. However, as a spectator I was worried about Levon’s time disadvantage throughout. I will admit that I myself have something to learn about Increment Based Time Controls and how this affects both time management and preparation. I especially feel that way after watching Levon (and Robby last week against Andrews) trail a significant amount on time for the majority of the game, but still increase their advantages comfortably to eventually achieve clearly winning positions. This was the case in Levon’s game and after the move 46.Bb5, it seemed to be only a matter of technique for Levon, especially when I considered that Lev Milman was now the player down on time. Unfortunately however, we started to see some of the effects of converting a winning, but complicated position, “on line”. I think I am in the majority with my feelings that Levon would never have missed a mate in two (available to him after Black played Qh6 on move 56) in a live game. Obviously Kramnik missed mate in one not too long ago, so I guess it happens, but needless to say, not winning this game was a tough break for the Scorpions!

Oleg Zaikov vs. Mark Ginsburg U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona

Viewing the game live, I had a much better feel for the position than I did in Levon’s game. Mark’s opening choice was something I have played before, and it was therefore more familiar to me. I felt he handled the position very well even after Zaikov’s rare choice of 9.g3. Technically, 9.g3 has been played before (one time according to my database) but the question is whether or not Zaikov was really prepared for this “new idea and approach” to the position, or if he just didn’t quite know the line that well. My guess is the former, but judging by his time-management, maybe he did make the whole thing up over the board. Who knows? With that perspective in mind (the one where we assume Zaikov prepared this line with 9.g3) I have to give Oleg credit for his choice and even his lash out move 16.f4!?. The position remained unclear for sometime, but from a practical perspective: A young underdog against an experienced International Master; Zaikov did exactly what he needed to do to win. He applied pressure. Despite Mark’s accurate defense (and Mark did do a good job dealing with the tactics and shooting down tricks), once time pressure began to play a role, Mark blundered and lost immediately. This was obviously a critical game and even in hindsight, I don’t think Mark could have played much better (some small improvements to the defense might have been 23…Re8 or even the aggressive 23…Qxa3) but over all Zaikov “won” the game more than Mark “lost it”. Taking the “unbiased Rybka approach” you might say “well, if Mark had only played 31…Rg6 instead of 31…Qd1+?? He would have most likely drawn”. Although that is true, given the circumstances of Mark’s time pressure and Zaikov’s attacking chances, unless Mark was going to take the draw right then, it was still going to be a hard game for Black. Mark will avenge himself this week against David Pruess of the San Francisco Auto Mechanics or whatever!

Robby Adamson vs. Ron Simpson U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona

Despite my previous accusations, Ron is not related to Bart or Homer in any way…J In all seriousness though; this game was another tough break for the Scorps. Robby was the favorite in this game and he had White. After taking Ned Flanders bad advice, Mr. Simpson chose the dubious 7…Bg4?! (Which I guess is hard to call dubious given that no other move helps the line anyway). My guess: Ron was planning on a repeat of the game Gufeld-Balinas, Las Vegas U.S. Senior Cup 1995 which although reads 1-0 in the database, was a wild and crazy affair in which Black had really good attacking chances. Robby made the right decision with 8.Bd5, but he should have captured on c6 and gone into the game quoted above with 10. Nxe5 instead of 10.d4. Then, even if White doesn’t want the complications that occur after 14.Nd2 and 15.Qxg7, 14.f4 (Rybka) seems to give White a slight pull. Nonetheless, after Robby missed this opportunity out of the opening it still seemed as though his “veteran savvy” might pull off a surprising win in the rook ending (Lord knows he should know something about them by now). Although it doesn’t seem to offer much, in a practical sense I think Robby needed to play more actively with a move like 43. Rb8, although I must admit as long as Mr. Simpson doesn’t stray too far from Springfield he should be fine. In the end it wasn’t destined to be for Robz to get the win, and he settled on a draw after 76 moves of fighting.

Craig Jones vs. Warren Harper U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona

I personally had a lot of anticipation in this game as I knew that Warren’s first two showings in the League were not a good example of his true strength. (Let’s hope the same is so for me this week against Shankland right.) Curiously enough in this game, Craig played 9.g3 just as Zaikov played 9.g3 against Ginsburg: Coincidence? I think NOT! I am on to Carolina’s little game, and whoever plays them next week should look into this little 9.g3 shenanigan! Anyway, a typical Queen’s Indian was reached and they followed the game Sjodahl-Wessman Sundsvall 1989, until Craig varied with 16.dxc6. It is unclear whether or not that move was an improvement for Craig, and it seems to me that at that point Black already has a comfortable position. Warren’s defense, as his kingside became open, was impressive until the blunder 33…Rxd5? (33.Qe7 keeps an edge as White can’t capture the f7-pawn without getting mated on f1.) After that Craig had a clear advantage, but then “old faithful” time pressure set in and Craig trapped his own knight with 40.Kf2?! and 41. Ne7? (40.Ne7 immediately was much better). The finish was certainly entertaining (don’t you just love when the bishop dominates the knight). Warren wins a nice game.


Although some good things happened in this match, the Scorpions definitely let one slip away. An extra half a point on anyone of the top 3 boards would have done it, but hindsight is always 20-20. I liked our aggressiveness as well as our “will to push on” in games like Robby’s. Let’s go get em’ against San Fran and hope for the best!! Go Scorpion Nation…

Friday, September 26, 2008

Week 5 Games

Thank you to the players for providing the annotated games and to our sponsor, SACA, for posting them.

Visit the games archive at

Week 5 Pictures - Thank you Amanda!

Please be sure thank all the individual contributors who help make the Arizona Scorpion team a success. Thanks to Amanda Mateer for providing the following photos and comments.

Arizona Chess for Schools sponsors the Arizona Scorpions!

Arizona Chess for Schools has become a sponsor for the Arizona Scorpions! This brings the number of sponsors of our team to 4 and adds another chess institution from Arizona in support of our state team! Go Scorpions! Below you learn more about this very new and interesting organization.

Arizona Chess For Schools

Arizona Chess For Schools was founded in 2005 by International Master Levon Altounian.

Our primary goal is to provide quality chess education in Arizona, and Tucson in particular, through a wide range of services. Whether you are looking for a chess instructor or need help starting a chess club, we are here to help. Our mission is to help people achieve their chess goals regardless of their chess rating, ability, age or experience is. Chess is not only one of the most fascinating games ever but one that helps develop extremely useful traits in both children and adults. We are also proud to be the organizers of the widely successful Anaconda Chess Camps and Western Alliance Summer Chess Camps. Our staff is composed of 12 qualified instructors who enjoy being a part of our chess community.

Some of our general services include:
● Providing individual and group lessons
● Organizing or promoting chess clubs.
● Organizing rated chess tournaments.
● Providing chess lectures, simultaneous exhibitions, and presentations.

For more information, please contact International Master Levon Altounian at (520) 891-3632 or

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Pictures from Week 4!

Week 4 Games

Thank you to the players for providing the annotated games and to our sponsor, SACA, for posting them.

Visit the games archive at

New Scorpion Player!

The strong International Master Nikolay Andrianov has joined the Arizona Scorpions replacing IM Dionisio Aldama. Andrianov is well known by top chess players as someone with a great deal of chess knowledge and has consistently done well against top players in the past.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 5 Preview By Leo Martinez -- Arizona Scorpions vs. Carolina Cobras

Week 5 is underway for the Scorpions on Wednesday with a match against the Carolina Cobras. This is a match that had caught my eye from the beginning of the season as my good friend Craig Jones is the manager and usual 4th board for the Cobras. Craig used to live and coach in Tucson for a long time but moved to North Carolina 6 years ago. I have had many talks with Craig about the league and about other teams in the league as well as our respective teams. Now our teams will have to face each other!

Carolina is a team that many expected to finish last in the Eastern Conference but have surprised some people with a 2-2 record from the first four matches with an especially impressive 4-0 win last week versus the struggling New York Knights. Being a clash of teams with 2-2 records in opposite divisions this becomes a very important match for each team as the middle of the season approaches.

Let's look at the lineups for each team (Photos by Amanda Mateer and James Martin):

Board 1
IM Levon Altounian 2535 vs. IM Lev Milman 2502

This is a very interesting matchup pitting two strong International Masters against one another. These two have played once before in the 2005 US Championships a while back that ended in a draw. However, considering Levon's strength playing White and Milman's impressive win last week against GM Shabalov this game should be anything but peaceful.

Board 2
FM Oleg Zaikov 2376 vs. IM Mark Ginsburg 2410

Another close match of an experienced International Master that has been on the scene for a couple decades versus a strong college student that has done well in the US Chess League in the past. Although Oleg has generally played the most and done best on board 3 in past seasons he does have strong wins over IM Justin Sarkar and FM Todd Andrews on board 2 this season.

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson 2377 vs. FM Ron Simpson 2346

Both of these players have played board 3 most of the season and both come off wins for their respective teams with Robby defeating FM Todd Andrews to help Arizona beat Tennessee and Ron Simpson beating IM Jay Bonin of New York. This is also the first season for both players as Ron Simpson is a new addition to the Cobras. Both are aggressively minded which should create a lot of fireworks!

Board 4
NM Craig Jones 2320 vs. NM Warren Harper 2350

Like all the others, rating wise this matchup is very close. Warren will have a chance to avenge his previous losses in the league while also playing his toughest competitor yet in Craig Jones. Craig comes off a very nice win against WFM Iryna Zenyuk of New York. These two fourth boards are both very strong and pit two of the highest rated 4th boards in the league against one another.

As you can see all four of these games are very close in rating and strength and literally anything is possible. Check out the match live at the University of Arizona, Cesar Chavez Building (5th Floor) 1110 E James E. Rogers Way Tucson, AZ or on ICC at 6:00 PM AZ time. Go Scorpions !

Week 5 Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

Lets take a quick look at Week 5 - my predictions will be brief.
For Monday matches -

1. Queens vs. NY Knights

I am calling the upset here (upset because Queens is the lone 4-0 team) - NY will overcome last week's debacle and prevail over Queens 2.5-1.5

2. Miami vs. Tennessee

Winless Tennessee, riding the Ehlvest wave, will bounce back and win their first match. 2.5-1.5

For Wednesday matches -

3. Philly - New Jersey

NJ trots out an obnoxious 2484 rating advantage, and proves its worth 3-1 (again, if Philly has any chance Kudrin has to beat Benjamin).

4. Baltimore vs. Chicago

No GM this time for Baltimore = no victory. Chicago wins this one 2.5-1.5, though 3-1would not surprise me.

5. San Francisco - Boston

Easily the best match of the night. GM-Elect Vinay Bhat against LarryC will be an exciting one. Shankland - Esserman should be a tactical slugfest between 2 of the hottest players over this past summer. I am going to predict 2-2 tie.

6. Seattle - Dallas

This loses a little bit of luster because Seattle is not using 2 GM lineup but still this looks like an interesting match. Seattle has a chance to upset the champs but I am going to wimp out here and call this a tie 2-2.

7. Arizona - Carolina

Do you even have to ask what I think? Arizona wins 2.5-1.5.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pictures! More Coming!

Here's two photos from the celebration after the team victory from Week 4. From left to right is Joel Johnson, Robby Adamson, Mark Ginsburg, and Rogelio Barcenilla. In the back you can see that we are in the building for Abstrax, one of our sponsors.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week 4 Recap by Amanda Mateer

This week, the Arizona Scorpions faced off against the Tennessee Tempo in our biggest nail-biter of the season to date. In a match-up that everyone knew would be close, the Scorpions were able to hold off the Tempo, even with the successful debut of GM Jaan Ehlvest on Board 1. Arizona stood at 1-2 while Tennessee was at 0.5-2.5, and
both teams were looking for a convincing win to put them back in the middle of the standings; luckily, the Scorpions were the team to walk away with the win.

For the first three matches, the Scorpions have struggled on Board 4, a board in which they typically have a comfortable rating advantage walking in. Having only scored 0.5 out of 3 on Board 4, it was clear a nice game by hard-to-prepare-for alternate NM Joel Johnson (2211) against the Tempo’s FM John Bick (2249) (NM Joel Johnson (ARZ) vs FM John Bick (TEN) 1-0) would put the Scorpions back on track. Joel played an aggressive King’s Gambit with 3. Qh5, and black’s passive play and uncoordinated pieces left him in danger very early on. After 13 ...Ne5?, Joel played the pretty 14. Nd2!, forcing the win of a piece. By move 20, the game was over, and the Scorpions had finally scored a victory on Board 4.

Even with this nice game, the match was nowhere close to over. IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2560) was hanging on with the black pieces in a King’s Indian against Tennessee’s newly acquired GM Jaan Ehlvest (2668). Rogelio offered a draw on move 25, but Ehlvest declined, keeping the pressure and about a 20 minute time advantage. His decision to continue pressing worked, and left with under 2 minutes after 37 …Qh5 against Ehlvest’s 26 minutes, Rogelio faltered and played 38 …Nf6?, going on to lose the game on move 41. Instead 38...Bd4! gave Rogelio some chances to save the game, although the position is still very complicated. You can see the whole game by clicking on GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0.

The match was now tied at 1-1, and Tennessee’s hopes to score at least a draw in the match were renewed. IM Mark Ginsburg (2410) had been pushing with a small edge with white against IM Ron Burnett (2412). However, Mark went a little astray with 21. Qc7?!, leading to exchanges that did not really improve White’s position. In an unclear endgame, Black made a few inaccuracies and after 40 …Kg5, Mark missed the pretty 41. Rhg1!, giving him some winning chances. After this, 41...Bxd4 is impossible due to 42. Rxd4 Rxg1 43. Nh3+. If in the final position White had gone 41. Nxd5 Rd6 42. Ne3 like many people thought was winning for White (because of the line 42...Rgxd4 43. Rg1+ Kf6 44. Rxd4 Rxd4 45. Rxg7!) then Black has 42...Rf4+! first followed by 43...Bxd4 with an unclear game. Upon noticing Robby’s position on Board 3 looked much better, Mark played out the perpetual and on move 44, the game ended in a draw. You can follow this at IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) vs IM Ron Burnett (TEN) 1/2-1/2.

The final game between FM Robby Adamson (2377) and FM Todd Andrews (2350) (FM Todd Andrews (TEN) vs FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) 0-1) proved to be the decisive factor in the match. Andrews made an interesting opening choice with white, playing the Stonewall and making the move 8. dxc5, an odd idea in this opening. Robby played a strong middlegame and was left better heading into the endgame, even though he was, as usual, severely down on time. He played 35 …Re4, where 35 …Re2 left him with a much more decisive advantage. In a 2 rook, 3 pawns for each side endgame, it was unclear if Robby would be able to still win the game, even though White’s pawns were much weaker and White’s time advantage had vanished. ICC kibitzers were torn about Robby’s winning chances, but Robby was able to showcase his spectacular endgame-in-time-trouble technique and finish off Andrews.

Back at 50% with their 2.5-1.5 victory against the Tennessee Tempo, the Scorpions will have a chance to regain their plus score next week against the Carolina Cobras. The location of the match will be announced soon – be sure to catch the games live in person or on ICC at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, September 24th!

Week 4 Review of Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

Let's look quickly to see how I did on my predictions. I think I did pretty well overall but of course the league always has surprises.

Monday Matches -

Baltimore Kingfishers vs Queens Pioneers Queens won 3-1, I predicted 2.5-1.5

2. Seattle Sluggers vs Chicago Blaze Seattle won 2.5-1.5, I predicted the same

I was correct in predicting who won both of these matches, though I did think Baltimore would fare a little better. This easily could have been a 3.5/4 match had Vovsha accepted the draw offered or perhaps even won in a game where he was clearly pressing.

Although Tate took care of business against the youngster Michael Lee, Chicago did not fare that well on the other boards. I have not analyzed Mitkov's interesting game against Nakamura, but it seemed to be very complex, where Hikaru excels, even if the computer analysis might beat otherwise. Remember, computer analysis is not really relevant in a lot of these games because you are dealing with humans!

3. New Jersey Knockouts vs Boston Blitz New Jersey won 3-1, I predicted a tie

I didnt see this coming at all. I thought Esserman was a lock to win given his current hot streak, but I didnt see the other 3 games ending in such disasterous fashion for Boston. LarryC may not have had his ice coffee before the game - the only possible explanation for losing a piece and having to sac his Q. Boards 2 and 3 pressed given the match situation and it just didnt work out.

4. Carolina Cobras vs New York Knights Carolina won 4-0, I predicted tie 2-2

The Surprise of the 2008 Season. If anyone saw this coming, I want to know who they are, their social security number, and their hottest stock tip. A 4-0 sweep is a very uncommon occurrence no matter who the losing team is, and completely unexpected given the usual strength of the NY team. Congrats to Carolina (our next opponent). NY should bounce back from this forgettable performance though they need to start putting wins together in the East division.

FYI: Did you know that Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are 2-0?? Say it aint so. I fully expect AZ to lay their usual egg now that they are playing a real team (Redskins).

5. Dallas Destiny vs Miami Sharks Dallas won 2.5-1.5, I predicted a tie

The games here looked very competitive. Dallas continues to impress, this time beating USCL guru Becerra, while the other games all ended in fighting draws.

6. Philadelphia Inventors vs San Francisco Mechanics San Francisco won 3.5-0.5, I predicted SF wins 3-1

Youth was served with wins on boards 3 and 4 from Shanky and Danky. Kudrin never had a chance for any real edge against Wolff, and thus, there went Philly's chances. On a brighter note my Phillies have a good chance to make the playoffs.

7. Tennessee Tempo vs Arizona Scorpions Arizona won 2.5-1.5, I predicted the same

Congrats to my Scorpions. We defeated a tough Tempo team by a close margin. Kudos for Joel Johnson's excellent surprise against FM John Bick, as well as IM Rogelio Barcenilla, even though he lost, for facing 2 strong GMs back to back weeks with black, this week Jan Ehlvest (thanks for black- is it time for my root canal?).
Until next week!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week 4 Preview by NM Leo Martinez

This week we play the Tennessee Tempo which has characteristically been the worst team in the league. However this year they have brought GM Jan Ehlvest on their team and the first match that he is playing is this week!

Board 1 GM Jan Ehlvest 2668 vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla 2560

Although Jan Ehlvest is a strong new addition to the Tempo the very strong IM Rogelio Barcenilla is back on top board ensuring this to be a great match up. Rogelio showed last week just how strong, despite not having played for a while, he really is by outplaying GM Alex Stripunsky and having an advantage for most of the latter stages of the game despite drawing in the end. How Ehlvest plays this year on ICC after not playing in the league for two years is anyone's guess but this should definitely be the board to watch!

Board 2 IM Mark Ginsburg 2410 vs. IM Ron Burnett 2412

This match up is a very tight in terms of rating and also in terms of strength. Both players are veterans and have been playing consistently in the U.S. for many years. This is the first time that Ron Burnett has played on board 2, usually playing board 1. I am sure that Mark wants to prove himself as a very strong player with White after last week's game against IM Alex Lenderman.

Board 3 FM Todd Andrews 2350 vs FM Robby Adamson 2377

This match up is another very close match up between players that are very close in strength and rating. Robby has a good record in the league out of his first two games with 1.5/2 so far and looks to further the trend by playing the always complicated and dangerous Todd Andrews. Look for a fight in this game as Todd with White always brings crazy games.

Board 4 NM Joel Johnson 2211 vs. NM John Bick 2249

This pits the U.S. Senior Champion of 2007 versus a very strong master making two strong 4th boards. Although Bick lost last week it was clearly a case of trying too hard for team reasons and this game cannot be seen as showing his true strength. This game is also the introduction of a new player to the Scorpions in Joel Johnson who will test his strength and experience in his first game in the US Chess League.

Week 4 Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

Week 3 didnt go too hot, as my Scorpions lost a tough one and I didnt predict very well. This is much tougher than it looks! Lets take a look at each match and see if I can do better. Please note that since I am picking the Scorpions to win every match we play, if the team wins, my predictions will improve!

1. Baltimore Kingfishers vs Queens Pioneers

Tough Matchup for Baltimore. If they are to have a chance, GM Blehm needs a win especially with white, and Zimmer needs to come up big against ultra-hot Parker Zhao. Lenderman on board 2 gives Queens the ultimate edge and thus moves Queens to 4-0. Queens wins 2.5-1.5.

2. Seattle Sluggers vs Chicago Blaze

Shouldnt a 2 GM lineup be illegal? The same could be said when Chicago puts an IM, Angelo Young, on board 4 - something they choose not to do, figuring they needed a GM to play Naka. Nakamura has the edge with white, nice record against Mitkov, etc. Jan has his hands full with Serper, though he is facing him with the white pieces. I am really interested to see board 3 encounter with young and improving Michael Lee, and Emory "I am the World" (expletives omitted) Tate. Seattle wins 2.5-1.5

3. New Jersey Knockouts vs Boston Blitz

Nice matchup between American GM's Joel Benjamin and LarryC, and a clash in style (a decisive result could mean victory for their team). Esserman on board 4 borders on criminal given his incredible performance in Miami last weekend. Close matchups on boards 2 and 3. Hard call here, but I will go with Boston 2.5-1.5 in a very close match.

4. Carolina Cobras vs New York Knights

Depression in NY was averted as the Knights won their first match last week. Meanwhile, on the home front, the Yankees wont make the playoffs, the Knicks cant seem to play any defense at all and may not win the division unless Patrick Ewing comes out of retirement, and the Jets (ok some NY fans are only Giants fans) couldnt beat Brady-less New England - NE with Brady would have won by 40. Carolina will make this close and could pull upset and tie, but the smart pick is the NY Knights give NY something to celebrate and win 2.5-1.5.

5. Dallas Destiny vs Miami Sharks

A sexy matchup here - Dallas seemingly has 8 IM's on the roster, and this week they play Kuljasevic against super MVP Becerra on board 1. Bart will do his best to shuffle against Marcel Martinez in what should be a slugfest. Board 3 and 4 are both close matchs. I will take the easy way out here and predict a draw 2-2.

6. Philadelphia Inventors vs San Francisco Mechanics

An obnoxious rating advantage for SF. If Philly has a chance, Kudrin needs to win, something that is possible given Wolff's inactivity. I have to go with the youth of Shanky and Danky. SF wins 3-1.

7. Tennessee Tempo vs Arizona Scorpions

We all hoped Ehlvest would be Elvis here and not play against us, but Rogelio is a tough cookie. AZ is also pleased to welcome NM Joel Johnson to the team. Even though we are underdogs overall, I can't pick against my team - AZ wins 2.5-1.5. Go Scorpions!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

SACA, ACFI, and Abstrax all support the Scorpions! by NM Leo Martinez

Southern Arizona Chess Association (SACA) and the
Arizona Chess Federation, Inc. (ACFI)
have both generously sponsored the Arizona Scorpions during this season adding to the idea that this team is a part of the Arizona community. The mission of both of these non-profit organizations is to promote chess in Arizona and this sponsorship ideally fits the Scorpions. Many of the players on the Scorpions are well entrenched in Arizona Chess and its expansion and have been a part of these organization for years.

The corporation Abstrax has also generously offered an incredible site for playing in the Phoenix area. The playing site for a team is just as important as everything else and we could not have imagined any better than this site in week 3. We will again be using this site in Week 4 against the Tennessee Tempo so everyone should come out and watch! The address is 2222 S. Dobson Rd, Suite 500 (Building 5), Mesa AZ 85202.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 3 Recap by Ben Marmont

The Scorpions this week faced the undefeated Queens Pioneers. Queens were coming off a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Knockouts, whereas our Scorpions had lost the previous week in heartbreaking fashion to the defending champion Dallas Destiny. This match was a good opportunity to regain some momentum.

GM Alex Stripunsky (2608)- IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2560)

On Board 1 IM Rogelio Barcenilla made his debut for the Scorpions against GM Alexander Stripunsky. Stripunsky is a regular in American open tournaments and Barcenilla, though probably of GM-strength, is a very rare visitor in competitive play. Barcenilla was black and defended against the Ruy Lopez. He threatened the Marshall Gambit with 7…0-0, and Stripunsky avoided it with 8.d4, transposing into Closed Ruy Lopez without h3. Stripunsky played the rare 14.Bg5!? and Rogelio made the first new move of the game with 15…h6N. Barcenilla’s position seemed to be promising, in fact after Stripunsky’s 26.Qe4?! he is clearly better. Unfortunately Rogelio rushed his position with 39…e3?!, throwing away his winning chances. Instead 39…Bf8! With the idea of …Bh6 leaves Black clearly better. The game petered out to a draw after Rogelio’s inaccuracy.

IM Mark Ginsburg (2410)- IM Alex Lenderman (2463)

Board 2 saw IM Mark Ginsburg battled against IM Alex Lenderman. Lenderman had started off very well this season, winning both his games, and Mark had managed a win-clinching draw in the Scorpions first match of the season against the Chicago Blaze. Mark had white in this game and played his usual English opening, to which Lenderman countered with the Wedberg Variation, aka the Botvinnik System. The game went very normally in the opening until Ginsburg thought he was Emory Tate and started playing weird moves like 18.Kh1 and 19.f3 which leave a strange impression. Then Mark screwed up with 20.Bc3?!, when 20…f5 would have been awkward for white. Instead Lenderman played 20…Nec6 when white is only slightly worse. Unfortunately Mark’s position was tough to defend and he ended up blundering with 33.Qg3? when Lenderman’s 33…Nd4 just wins. Ginsburg resigned a few moves later. Sadly a one sided game.

NM Parker Zhao (2236) - FM Danny Rensch (2411)

On Board 3 FM Danny Rensch took on young phenom Parker Zhao. Danny had a significant rating advantage, but due to the fact that Zhao is having good results and is more active than Danny, this game would not be easy. Danny had black and the game was a slightly strange 6.g3 Najdorf in which black played 7…Be6 rather than the normal 7…Be7. Black’s position has perfectly fine out of the opening, it was just a normal position in which white is fighting for the d5-square but black has his queenside play. However Danny made an inaccuracy with his 21…Qc6?! instead of 21…Rxc3 which leads to a murky position. After 21…Qc6?! black loses the exchange for very little. It was really looking bad for Danny until Zhao played 33.f3?! after which black is fine and then 35.Ng2?! when black has the advantage due to his center pawns! Unfortunately Danny missed the best continuation and played 39…Qxc2+?! which leads to a draw instead of 39…Re6 which retained his winning chances. Danny’s 40…Be5 was also not that great, as 40…exf3 is easier. 42…Nf2+? was the real nail the coffin though because 42…d3, even though black is down a rook(!), draws because white can’t stop the center pawns and has to force a perpetual. Black’s position was hopeless after 42…Nf2+? and even though he fought valiantly Danny had to resign 32 moves later.

NM Leo Martinez (2208) - Benjamin Katz (2110)

Board 4 saw team manager and master Leo Martinez take on Benjamin Katz. Leo had a 100 point rating advantage, but this game would be no easy task. Leo was white and the Katz played the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Leo had a really good position out of the opening, but played 16.a4 after which black is completely fine. 16.Qd3, the slower approach, would have kept white’s advantage. Leo then messed up with 28.b4, where 28.h3 was needed to hold the balance. Katz then proceeded to outplay Leo and was even winning in the final position when he offered a draw, which Leo of course accepted.

The Scorpions are now 1-2 on the year with this 3-1 loss to Queens. Next week they face the mighty Tennessee Tempo, who have GM Jaan Ehlvest on their team. Will he make his debut against our Scorpions? Will the Scorpions get back on track with a victory? There is only one way to find out, and that is to watch next week’s match on Wednesday at 6:00 MST!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week 3 Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

Now that the US Chess League is in full swing, I am going to give my predictions for the matches. This should be an interesting exercise. Without further ado, here are my Week 3 predictions (unfortunately I am too late for Monday ones):

New York Knights vs Philadelphia Inventors

NY Knights are a talented team, way too talented to start the season 0-3. They will find a way to win their first match. NY wins 2.5-1.5.

Carolina Cobras vs Baltimore Kingfishers

Both teams need a win here. I give an extremely slight edge to Baltimore here, but it wont be enough. I see a tie here, 2-2.

Chicago Blaze vs Tennessee Tempo

GM Mitkov makes his debut for Chicago. This will be closer than most people think. I give Chicago a small edge here, by 2.5-1.5 margin, though it will not surprise me if Tennessee ties or even pulls the upset.

Queens Pioneers vs Arizona Scorpions

I am not picking against my beloved team. AZ plays a solid match and wins in a squeaker, 2.5-1.5. Go Scorpions!

Seattle Sluggers vs New Jersey Knockouts

The best match of the night! I have gone back and forth on this one in my mind. Nakamura should win, especially with the white pieces. However, Joel is a tough cookie and Naka did not fare well in the USCL last year. I expect Naka will come in with a renewed attitude for his new team. Gulko, a sick 2nd board, should win on 2nd board and so it comes down to board 3 and 4. I gotta go with Mackenzie Molner having a small edge on board 3, with a tossup on 4th, and therefore I will pick NJ 2.5-1.5.

Root us on, this time from Mesa!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week 3 Preview vs. Queens by FM Robby Adamson

The Arizona Scorpions look to bounce back from a tough Week 2 loss to the Dallas Destiny when they face off against the undefeated Queens Pioneers (2-0). This week's match will be played in Mesa at 2222 S. Dobson Road Suite 504 (Building 5), complements of John Lalonde, who has generously donated the use of his business for this week's match, as well as for future matches held in the area.

With the new playing venue also comes the USCL debut of 2 accomplished Arizona players, International Master Rogelio Barcenilla and National Master and Team Manager Leo Martinez. For those who do not know Rogelio, he is a strong International Master from the Phillippines, who is easily GM strength (I believe he has 2 GM norms) and is rated 2560. Rogelio does not get to play much anymore (which is why he does not have the GM title), but he is a very strong player with both colors.

Leo Martinez (a Junior at the University of Arizona) is our 4th board this week, and in the day was a very accomplished scholastic player. Leo won the K-8 National Championship in 2000 (FM Danny Rensch won the K-9 National Championship the same year - AZ dominance), and won numerous State Titles as an individual as well as for St Gregory High School. Recently, Leo cracked master with a fantastic victory against fellow-Scorpion IM Dionisio Aldama.

Onto the specifics of the match (Scorpions players in bold).

Board 1 - GM Alexander Stripunsky (2664) - IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2560)

This marks Stripunsky's 2008 debut as well, and I expect him to come after Rogelio, knowing they have a decent rating advantage on this board. Stripunsky, who finished 2nd in the 2004 US Championship behind GM Hikaru Nakamura, is also the team's manager. Expect an exciting game!

Board 2 - IM Mark Ginsburg (2414) - IM Alex Lenderman (2463)

This should be a very interesting match. I somewhat wish Mark was black so Alex could show off his knowledge of the Smith Morra Gambit, for which Alex recently did some videos on for ICC, against Mark "Theory Expert from the 1980s" Ginsburg. Maybe both can agree that Mark will play a Smith Morra against Alex!

I am quite familiar with Alex as he was on the powerhouse Edward R. Murrow team, which gave the team I coach, Catalina Foothills High School, a run for their money in High School Nationals from 2005-2007, something I personally will never forget. Special Note: Alex won the 2005 World Youth Championship for Under 16 years old, and is currently rated over 2500 USCF.

Board 3 - NM Parker Zhao (2227) - FM Danny Rensch (2411)

Parker, who is coached by Stripunsky, has improved dramatically in the last 6 months, recently cracking 2300 USCF. Last month he scored his first IM norm in the New England Masters. Danny will look to bounce back after last week's disappointing loss, this time with the black pieces.

Board 4 - NM Leo Martinez (2222)- Benjamin Katz (2101)

Benjamin Katz was a hero for Queens in Week 2 where he scored a minature victory against New Jersey's NM Victor Shen. Leo will get a break from his management duties and try to give the Scorpions some production from 4th board.

Come by the Phoenix location to support the Arizona Scorpions. We expect there to be some spectators and some live commentary on the games.

Week 2 Photos - Courtesy of Amanda Mateer

Here are a few photos from the Week 2 match against the Dallas Destiny. Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blast from the Past!

Hello Everyone!
Here's an old photo. See if you can match him to one of our players! Shouldn't be too hard. Good luck!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm blogging while running from a hurricane by Sean Higgins

Being chased out of New Orleans by the vicious Hurricane Gustav couldn't even stop me from catching all the action as the Arizona Scorpions took on the Dallas Destiny in Week 2! After our mayor issued a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, I fled to Tuscaloosa. But I quickly started to feel a little stir-crazy in a small town that revolves around Alabama football. I took a Greyhound bus to St. Louis on Wednesday to visit family and got hooked up to the internet just in time to watch the Scorpions take on the Destiny. Here's my report on the action:

After winning a nail-biter in Week 1, the Arizona Scorpions fell short last night against the defending champion Dallas Destiny. Arizona lost the match 1-3, and the team now has a season record of 1-1 following Week 1’s 2.5-1.5 win over the Chicago Blaze.

In the USCL Season Opener on August 25, the Scorpion’s victory started with an early hiccup when NM Warren Harper lost to his lower-rated opponent on Board 4, a game in which he did not play at his usual strength. That game was quickly made up for, however, when FM Robby Adamson overcame severe time pressure to execute the win over NM Jon Burgess. Then, IM Levon Altounian gave the Scorpions the lead with a beautiful win over IM Jan Van de Mortel—a game which took bronze in the Game of the Week competition. To secure the match, Arizona IM Mark Ginsburg held a draw against Chicago IM-Elect Mehmed Pasalic.

Week 2 started with a different kind of hiccup: internet access at the intended playing site went down, and the team had to relocate at the last minute to a local fan’s house. As a result, the Scorpions started the round late and some players lost time on their clocks before making the first move.

Before long, Board 1 ended in a bloodless draw. Dallas IM Drasko Boskovic made no effort to push for a win with the white pieces against Altounian. After trading queens on move 11, the two strong IMs agreed to a draw in 18 moves. You can see the entire game by clicking IM Drasko Boskovic (DAL) vs IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) 1/2-1/2

On Board 2, FM Daniel Rensch (ARZ) vs IM John Bartholomew (DAL) 0-1, FM Danny Rensch lost a reckless game to the Destiny’s IM John Bartholomew, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas. The Destiny is made up of players from UTD, a school which is known for being a dominant powerhouse on the college chess circuit.

Out of the opening, Rensch must have been happy with his position; it came from the familiar Scotch and Bartholomew chose a passive approach with 10...g6. More active would have been 10...d5 (see Oral-Sokolov 2002), 10...Ba6 (see Kasparov-Adams 1999), or 10...Bb4 (see J.Polgar-Piket 1995). However, Rensch faltered with 13.0-0-0, when 13.cxd5 would have allowed him to hold on to a slight advantage due to his better pawn structure.

After his first falter, Rensch rolled the dice with 15.Bb5+ and 16.Nxd5 which made the game complicated but turned out to be a bad choice. He did win a pawn out of the combination, but at the cost of leaving three of his pieces en prix, his king open, and his a2-pawn under fire. Six moves later, Bartholomew won a full piece and the game.

The Destiny sealed the match in NM Warren Harper (ARZ) vs WFM Bayaraa Zorigt (DAL) 0-1 after Dallas WFM Bayaraa Zorigt, a USCL All-Star last year, defeated Harper on Board 4. Harper played another sub-par game, clearly not playing at the level that he usually does. A couple of moves from his game were especially uncharacteristic—29.Na2 left the knight out of play for the entire game and 32.g5 is an obvious mistake. Instead 32.gxh5 would have left white worse but still breathing.

In a game that no longer mattered for the match, FM Igor Schneider (DAL) vs FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) 1/2-1/2, Adamson took a draw with FM Igor Schneider on move 37 in a level endgame. Adamson chose the slightly off-beat 3...Nc6 against the Tarrasch Variation of the French, and found himself in a worse position—especially after white forced 22...Ng7. However, white did not play as aggressively as he should have and Adamson was able to equalize shortly after.

As the Scorpions continue to battle to the playoffs, an important factor for the team will be the performance of their fourth board. The team needs to complement excellent performances on the top boards like Altounian’s Week 1 win with full points from the bottom boards, which is where the Scorpions have a distinct rating advantage. As USCL Commissioner Greg Shahade said, “If [Harper] starts to pick things up...Arizona’s gonna be a very powerful team.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Predictions for Tomorrow's Match

There have been four predictions on the Arizona Scorpions-Dallas Destiny match tomorrow so far.

You can see Arun Sharma's prediction at:

You can see Bioniclime's prediction at:

You can see Ron Young's prediction at:

You can see Ed Scimia's prediction at:

All the predictions are fairly supportive of the Scorpions with all four of the predictors having Arizona winning 2.5-1.5. Unfortunately, this does not mean anything and the ups and downs of a match in this league are highly unpredictable as can be seen from the first match. However, we will know for sure tomorrow at 6:00 PM AZ Time! Make sure to tune in! Also make sure to check the blog after the match for pictures, video and analysis of games from the match!

By the way make sure to vote on the poll to the right. The person with the most votes I will try to to get to wear a suit the next time they are playing!