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!


fpawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fpawn said...

"Considering Danny likes those positions, he is higher rated and is White, I had high hopes for us on this board."

With all due respect to a strong player and a great person, Daniel Rensch was NOT the higher rated player in this week's pairing. Perhaps he was more experienced, but he was most certainly lower rated especially in FIDE. Rensch = 2410 USCF, 2354 FIDE. Shankland = 2425 USCF, 2436 FIDE. Perhaps Arizona failed to calculate that Shankland is up an impressive 150 points USCF and FIDE since January.

I dare say this slip gave San Francisco just the motivation it needed to win the match. You may have noticed that when Shankland won, the momentum began to shift towards the Arizona players. Unfortunately, they were already down 1-0, soon to be 2-0, and losing on the other two boards.

Anonymous said...

yo that shiz was wack. we aint ha nun uv ahh good playas. mecks b goin down like puris hilton infrunt uv a camera next time this goes down.

s higgins said...

impressive saves on boards 1 and 4 by Rogelio and Leo, we just need to get off to a better start next time

John said...

Amazing save by Leo this past week. Good tenacious defense.