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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.”

6 comments:

Robby said...

Great job on the article Sean. Not bad for dodging a hurricane!

We had a good chance to win the match against Dallas and we will try to do better next time. We actually played the games pretty well I thought.

Mark Ginsburg said...

I have to correct the previous post.

"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."

Let's play this over slowwwly to get a sense of how it went.

First of all, 10...g6 is "OK" - not bad. It's actually quite solid and black will get activity after 11. Bd3 or 11. Be2.
Rensch's move, 11. Bg5, is not better or worse than the other bishop moves, but black is fine.

After 11...Bg7 12. f4, the move 12...O-O is perfectly fine for black.

Bartholomew's move, 12...d5?!, is inferior and very risky because the BK is not castled. We will see why shortly.

The game went on

13. O-O-O h6 14.cxd5 cxd5 15.Bb5+ c6 and now white threw it all away with 16. Nxd5?? and black won easily after 16...Nxd5 17. Rxd5 O-O! and white has too many pieces hanging. This variation is easy for someone like Bartholomew to find and it's impossible to say what white missed without an interview.

That's too bad, because a move white was considering, 16. Rxd5!, is not bad for him. Black's best is to lose his queen on purpose, 16...hxg5! 17. Bxc6+ Qxc6 18. Rd8+ Kxd8 19. Qxc6 Bd7 and play continues with white perhaps holding a small edge but the entire game lays ahead. The chance black would find this is high because 16...O-O? is just bad: 17. Rd6 Qf5 18. Bxc6 and white has a huge edge. Nevertheless, 16. Rxd5! justifies white's opening treatment, or more accurately meets black's dubious 12...d5?! very well.

Mark Ginsburg said...

An addendum/correction.

after white's best try 16. Rxd5!? black has more defenses than I originally thought. The game is level and actually almost a forced draw.

First of all, 16...O-O 17. Rd6 Qf5 18. Bxc6 isn't as good for white as I thought. Black can play 18...hxg5 19. Bxa8 Nxa8 20. Qxa8 Qxf4+ with a balanced game.

Secondly, black can play 16...Nxd5 17. Nxd5 O-O 18. Ne7+ Kh8 19. Bc4 Qg4 and once again it is balanced but very sharp. Note here white can choose to head for a complete draw with 20. Nxc8 hxg5! 21. Nd6! Qxf4+ 22. Qxf4 gxf4 23. Nxf7+ with an immediate draw. Note that in this line 20...Raxc8? is weaker: 21. Be7! Rfe8 22. Bd6 with a huge bind.


The conclusion is that Bartholomew's 12...d5 is really !? not ?! because white's combo leads to a draw and a draw, after all, is a success for black.

s higgins said...

A lot of nice analysis from Mark. However, I'm not sure what he "corrected", he just gave a more in-depth look than I had space to do.

Note that I didn't call Bartholomew's 10...g6 "bad" -- I called it "a passive approach" which it definitely is.

16.Rxd5 is indeed very interesting, and I didn't have time to analyze it in-depth. Props to Mark for posting analysis that we can all look over.

Mark Ginsburg said...

Here's my take.

A. 10...g6 is surprisingly good. Black gets great play after 12...O-O.
So it seems to be at least as good as other black tries and black gets juicy activity in all lines.

After Bart's 12...d5, less strong only in the sense that that white can make a draw right away,

B. 15.Bb5+ pretty much forced and then...

B1. 16. Rxd5 seems to be equal whereas 16. Nxd5 loses to the game continuation.


The only correction was correcting the notion that dice were rolled with 15. Bb5+ : it's the opposite, curiously enough a drawing continuation. It was just coupled to a faulty follow-up.

Mark Ginsburg said...

Here's an analogously 'funny' game where I similarly went crazy trying to swing for the fences too soon.

M. Ginsburg - IM Erik Pedersen (DEN)

ECI Sas Van Gent, Holland August 1978

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nxc3 9. Qb3!

9…e6 10. bxc3 Bd7!?

11. d5??! THEORETICAL LEMON, TL.

12…Na5 12. dxe6 My “amazing point.”

12…fxe6! Oh. He had that? I had “expected” 12…Nxb3?? 13. exf7+ Ke7 14. Bg5+ Kd6 15. Rd1+ Nd4 16. Bxd8 Rxd8 17. Nxd4 and I win easily. A very naive “junior” assessment.

And I went on to lose an ending after 13. Qd1 Bg7?; however black could have played 13. Qd1 Nxc4! 14. Qd4 Ba4!! and wins right away. Imagine that happening in a team game with pitying glances from the teammates!