Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joel Johnson vs. Ilan Meerovich Recap by Joel Johnson

My Second USCL Match

In this week’s match against the Chicago Blaze, I find out that my opponent is scholastic chess star Ilan Meerovich. And, as in my last match, I start digging for information about my opponent.

The first bit of information comes from an old blog at:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ilan Meerovich

Ilan is 14 years old and highest rated player in Illinois for his age group, which also makes him one of the hot prospects for the future of US chess (USCF rating - 1972). He was the winner of numerous junior events and has also participated in The Internet Scholastic Chess Championship.

At this point, I know he is a very highly rated high school senior. Then, I check out his past games played in the U.S. Chess League. I notice that he won the two games that he played against higher rated opponents, which means that he is likely stronger than his posted rating. In both of his games, he played fairly wide open and aggressive. Below are the two games.

Meerovich,Ilan (2131) - Harper, Warren (2301) [E25]

US Chess League

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 c5 6.f3 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qd3 f5 9.e4 fxe4 10.fxe4 Ne7 11.Nf3 0–0 12.Be2 Nec6 13.0–0 Nd7 14.Be3 Qe7 15.e5 h6 16.Qg6 Qf7 17.Qg3 Qh5 18.Nh4 Qxe2 19.Bxh6 Rf7 20.Rxf7 Kxf7 21.Qxg7+ Ke8 22.Qg8+ Nf8 23.Qxf8+ Kd7 24.Qd6+ Ke8 25.Rf1 1–0

Meerovich,Ilan (2131) - Wheeler (FM), Jerry (2204) [E94]

US Chess League, 10/20/2008

1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 0–0 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0 Nbd7 8.d5 Nc5 9.Qc2 a5 10.Ne1 Ne8 11.f3 f5 12.Be3 b6 13.Nd3 Nf6 14.Nxc5 bxc5 15.a3 f4 16.Bf2 g5 17.b4 Nd7 18.bxc5 Nxc5 19.Na4 Nxa4 20.Qxa4 h5 21.c5 Bd7 22.c6 Bc8 23.Qd1 Rf6 24.Rb1 Rg6 25.h3 Bf6 26.Rb5 Qf8 27.Be1 Qg7 28.Rxa5 Rxa5 29.Bxa5 g4 30.fxg4 hxg4 31.Bxg4 Bxg4 32.hxg4 Rxg4 33.Qe2 Rh4 34.Qf3 Rg4 35.Rb1 Kf7 36.Rb7 1–0

Next step is to scan the internet for more games, and just like that I find this “youtube” video.

This game tells me that he has a rough time dealing with cramped positions. He loses to a weaker player because he is unable to deal with his opponent’s positional maneuvers. A very nice video put together by Matt Pullin.

Meerovich, Ilan (2066) - Pullin, Matt (1895) [D09]

2007 Illinois Open Internet Chess Club (5), 2007

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 Bf5 6.Nh4 Be6 7.Qa4 g5 8.Nf3 h6 9.Bg2 Qd7 10.Qb5 0–0–0 11.Nfd2 Bh3 12.Bxc6 Qxc6 13.Qxc6 bxc6 14.f4 Be7 15.Nf3 g4 16.Nfd2 d3 17.exd3 Bc5 18.Ke2 Ne7 19.Nb3 Bg2 20.Re1 Bf3+ 21.Kd2 Bf2 22.Rf1 Bd4 23.Na3 Nf5 24.Nc2 c5 25.Re1 h5 26.Ncxd4 cxd4 27.Kc2 h4 28.Nd2 hxg3 29.hxg3 Nxg3 30.Rg1 Ne2 31.Rf1 Rh1 32.Rxh1 Bxh1 33.Nf1 g3 34.Nxg3 Nxg3 35.Bd2 Rh8 36.Rg1 Rh3 37.Be1 Nf5 38.Rg8+ Kd7 39.Rf8 Rh7 40.b4 Bf3 41.a4 Ke7 42.Rc8 Kd7 43.Rf8 Ne3+ 44.Kd2 Rh2+ 45.Kc1 Rc2+ 46.Kb1 Re2 47.Bh4 Nd1 48.Rxf7+ Kc8 49.Rf8+ Kb7 50.Rd8 Nc3+ 51.Kc1 Rh2 52.Bg5 Rh1+ 53.Kd2 Rd1+ 54.Kc2 a5 55.bxa5 c5 56.f5 Rg1 57.Bd2 Bd1+ 58.Kb2 Rg2 59.Kc1 Bxa4 60.a6+ Ka7 0–1

The next game provides me with information about how he handles the Grand Prix attack, my normal line against the Sicilian. My feeling is that I should avoid this line, mainly because this is what he will likely expect based on all of my games that are “out there”.

Velazquez, Kevin - Meerovich, Ilan (2100) [B23]

ICA High School Invitational

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.Bd3 d6 7.Nxd4 cxd4 8.Ne2 e5 9.0–0 Ne7 10.c3 Nc6 11.cxd4 Qb6 12.Kh1 Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Qxd4 14.Bb5+ Ke7 15.Qf3 f6 16.fxe5 dxe5 17.b3 Be6 18.Ba3+ Kf7 19.Rac1 Rac8 20.d3 a6 21.Bc4 Qd7 22.Qh3 b5 23.Bxe6+ Qxe6 24.Qe3 Rhd8 25.Bb2 Kg8 26.d4 exd4 27.Bxd4 Rxc1 28.Rxc1 Bh6 29.Qxh6 Rxd4 30.Qf4 Rxe4 31.Qb8+ Qe8 32.Qg3 Qe5 33.Rc8+ Kg7 34.Rc7+ Kh6 35.Qh3+ Kg5 36.Qg3+ Qxg3 37.hxg3 Re2 38.a4 bxa4 39.bxa4 Re4 40.Rxh7 Rxa4 41.Ra7 Kg4 42.Kh2 Ra5 43.Rg7 Rh5+ 44.Kg1 Rg5 45.Rf7 Rf5 46.Rg7 g5 47.Ra7 a5 48.Kh2 Rb5 49.Ra6 f5 50.Ra8 Kh5 51.Ra6 g4 52.Kg1 Rb1+ 53.Kf2 Ra1 54.Ke3 Kg5 55.Ke2 a4 56.Kf2 Ra3 57.Kf1 Rxg3 58.Rxa4 Rb3 59.Ra8 Rb4 60.Rf8 Rb1+ 61.Ke2 0–1

And this game reaffirms that he plays the Sicilian Defense regularly with Black against e4.

Menon, Gopal - Meerovich, Ilan (2100) [B78]

ICA High School Invitational

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0–0 8.Bb3 d6 9.f3 Bd7 10.Qd2 Ne5 11.0–0–0 Rb8 12.f4 Neg4 13.h3 Nxe3 14.Qxe3 Nh5 15.Rhf1 Nxf4 16.Rxf4 e5 17.Rxf7 Rxf7 18.Bxf7+ Kxf7 19.Ndb5 Bxb5 20.Nxb5 Bf8 21.Kb1 a6 22.Nc3 Kg7 23.Nd5 Be7 24.g3 Qd7 25.h4 h5 26.g4 hxg4 27.h5 gxh5 28.Qb3 Rf8 29.Ne3 Rf3 30.Nf5+ Qxf5 31.exf5 Rxb3 32.cxb3 Kf6 33.Kc2 Kxf5 34.Kd2 g3 35.Ke3 Kg4 36.Ke2 h4 37.Kf1 h3 0–1

Ok, so basically, I am dealing with an underrated young scholastic superstar looking to make a name for himself. He will likely play the Sicilian Defense and fully expects me to play the Grand Prix. And, like many young players, seems to have difficulty playing positionally. Based on this information, I decide that it is best to play a Closed Sicilian against him. The next step is to determine which line. I have played several types of lines in the past, as in the following games:

Johnson, Joel (2220) - Donaldson (IM), John (2468) [B20]

Joshua Tree Open Joshua Tree, CA (3), 02.06.2007

1.e4 c5 2.d3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.f4 d6 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.0–0 0–0 8.h3 b5 9.a4 b4 10.Nbd2 Bb7 11.Qe2 Nd7 12.Rb1 Rc8 13.b3 Nd4 14.Nxd4 cxd4 15.Nc4 Nb6 16.Bd2 Nxc4 17.dxc4 a5 18.f5 e6 19.fxe6 fxe6 20.Qg4 Qd7 21.h4 Rxf1+ 22.Rxf1 Rc5 23.Bh3 Re5 24.Bg2 Rc5 25.Bg5 Qe8 26.Bf6 h5 27.Qe2 Bxf6 28.Rxf6 Kg7 29.Rf2 Qe7 30.Qd2 e5 31.Qg5 Rc7 32.Kf1 Qxg5 33.hxg5 Rf7 34.Rxf7+ Kxf7 35.Ke2 Bc6 36.Kd3 Bb7 37.Bh3 Ke7 38.Bg2 Ba6 39.Bh3 ½–½

Johnson, Joel (2220) - Martinez, Leo (2200) [B25]

Master Trek (ASU) Tempe, AZ (2), 16.06.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.f4 d6 6.d3 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Kh1 Rb8 10.a4 a6 11.Qe1 Nd4 12.Qf2 Nec6 13.g4 (An aggressive move aimed at opening up Black's kingside.) 13...f5 14.gxf5 gxf5 15.Rg1 (The Rook belongs on the open g-file.) 15...Kh8 16.Be3 b5 17.axb5 axb5 18.Nd1 (The move is designed to relocate the Knight closer to the kingside, while chasing the Black Knight on d4 from its' outpost.) 18...Bd7 19.c3 Nxf3 20.Bxf3 Qf6 21.Qg2 (Increasing the pressure along the g-file and the h1–a8 diagonal.) 21...Ne7 22.Ra7 Rbd8 23.e5! (Black has major issues. The c-Pawn is a problem, as well as, the d4-h8 diagonal.) 23...dxe5 24.fxe5 Qxe5? (Black needed to try 24. ... Qf7 25. Bh5 Bc6 26. Bxf7 Bxg2+ 27. Rxg2 Rxf7 28. Bxc5 Bf8 29. d4 f4 30. Nf2, even though White is in full control of the game.) 25.Bxc5! (The Black Queen is tied down defending the checkmate on g7.) 25...Qf6 26.Qxg7+! Qxg7 27.Rxg7 1–0

Next, I look at other Closed Sicilian lines and I am drawn to the two following games.

In this game, Robert Hess outplays a young Rob Robson in a line that was popular in the 80s. In particular, former World Champion Anatoly Karpov loved playing this line.

Robert Hess (2412) - Ray Robson (2293) [B25]

US Championships Stillwater USA (Round 3), 05/17/2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Bd2 Rb8 10.Rb1 b5 11.a3 a5 12.a4 b4 13.Nb5 Nd4 14.c4 Nec6 15.Be3 Nxf3+ 16.Bxf3 Ba6 17.Re1 Qd7 18.Bg2 Rfe8 19.Kh1 Rbd8 20.Qf3 Bb7 21.Qf2 Qc8 22.Rbd1 Ba6 23.e5 dxe5 24.Bxc5 exf4 25.gxf4 Bxb5 26.axb5 Bd4 27.Bxd4 Nxd4 28.b6 Qc5 29.b7 f6 30.Re4 Nb3 31.Qe1 Kf7 32.d4 Qb6 33.c5 Qc7 34.Qe3 a4 35.f5 gxf5 36.Qh6 Kg8 37.Rg1 Kh8 38.Qxf6+ Qg7 39.Rxe6 Qxf6 40.Rxf6 Nxd4 41.c6 Re7 42.Rd6 1–0

In the next game, I really like this type of position that Fedorov gets against the former World Champ and decide that if I can refine White’s play, I believe that I can make this line work out well. And, with the help of student, Jerry Snitselaar, we tear apart this game and determine ways to improve upon White’s play. We conclude this preparation a half an hour before game time and after a couple of quick reviews and a “head butt”, I am ready to conquer!

Alexei Fedorov (2575) - Garry Kasparov (2849) [B20]

Corus Wijk aan Zee NED (2), 14.01.2001

1.e4 c5 2.d3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.f4 d6 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.0–0 0–0 8.h3 b5 9.g4 a5 10.f5 b4 11.Qe1 Ba6 12.Qh4 c4 13.Bh6 cxd3 14.cxd3 Bxd3 15.Re1 Bxh6 16.Qxh6 Qb6+ 17.Kh1 Ne5 18.Nbd2 Rac8 19.Ng5 Rc2 20.Rf1 Bxf1 21.Rxf1 Rfc8 22.fxg6 hxg6 23.Nb3 Rxg2 24.Kxg2 Rc2+ 25.Kg3 Qe3+ 0–1

As for the match itself, we were on the verge of elimination, with our backs against the wall. We needed to trounce these guys to remain in contention and we did just that!! Here are the three favorable decisive games from the match:

GM Nikola Mitkov - CHC (2601) – IM Rogelio Barcenilla - ARZ (2560) [C28] ICC 60 30 u

Internet Chess Club, 10/22/2008, Board 1

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nge2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.0–0 Nxc3 8.Nxc3 0–0 9.f4 Na5 10.Bb3 Nxb3 11.axb3 exf4 12.Bxf4 Qd4+ 13.Kh1 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qxc3 15.Ra4 b5 16.Re4 Qc6 17.Re7 Bh3 18.Qd2 Rac8 19.Be5 f6 20.Bd4 Rce8 21.Rfe1 Rxe7 22.Rxe7 Rd8 23.Bxa7 Ra8 24.Bg1 Ra2 25.Re2 Bg4 26.Rf2 h5 27.b4 Kf7 28.d4 Rb2 29.d5 Qd6 30.h3 Bd7 31.Qd1 Qxb4 32.Qxh5+ Kg8 33.Qe2 Rb1 34.Qe3 Rd1 35.c3 Qb1 36.Rd2 Re1 37.Re2 Rf1 38.Kh2 Qf5 39.Qd4 Rf4 40.Qa7 Rf3 41.Re3 Rxe3 42.Bxe3 Qe5+ 43.Kg1 Qxc3 44.Bf4 b4 45.d6 b3 46.Qa8+ Kh7 47.Qe4+ f5 48.Qe7 Qd4+ 49.Be3 Qa4 50.Bc1 Qd4+ 51.Kh2 Qxd6+ 52.Qxd6 cxd6 53.Kg3 g5 54.Kf2 Kg6 55.g3 f4 56.gxf4 gxf4 57.Kf3 Kf5 58.Bb2 Bc6+ 59.Kf2 Ke4 60.h4 Kd3 61.h5 Kc2 62.h6 Be4 White resigns 0–1

IM Mark Ginsburg - ARZ (2410) – IM Jan van de Mortel - CHC (2460) [B76] ICC 60 30 u Internet Chess Club, 10/22/2008, Board 2

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0–0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0–0–0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.Nd5 Bxd5 13.exd5 Rfc8 14.Rc1 Qd7 15.g4 b5 16.c4 Qb7 17.h4 bxc4 18.Bxc4 Rc7 19.b3 Rac8 20.Qb2 h5 21.gxh5 Nxh5 22.Bxg7 Nxg7 23.h5 Rxc4 24.Rxc4 Rxc4 25.bxc4 Qxb2+ 26.Kxb2 gxh5 27.Kb3 Kh7 28.Kb4 Kg6 29.Kb5 Nf5 30.Ka6 Ne3 31.Kxa7 Nxc4 32.a4 e6 33.Ka6 Kg5 34.Kb5 exd5 35.a5 Nxa5 36.Kxa5 h4 37.Kb4 Kf4 38.Rxh4+ Kxf3 39.Kc3 f5 40.Kd2 f4 41.Rh6 Kg2 42.Rg6+ Kf3 43.Rxd6 Ke4 44.Ke2 f3+ 45.Kf2 d4 46.Rd8 d3 47.Rd7 Black resigns 1–0

NM Joel Johnson - ARZ (2211) – Ilan Meerovich - CHC (2131) [B20]

ICC 60 30 u Internet Chess Club, 10/22/2008, Board 3

1.e4 d6 (No need to panic. I am sure that he wants to play a Sicilian and this move does not change my opinion of that fact.) 2.d3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.f4 0–0 6.Nf3 c5 (Ah, yes, all is well now.) 7.0–0 Nc6 8.h3 d5 (Even though this is the best move in the position for Black, I felt comfortable playing against this line. The move that I spent the most time on here was 8. ... b5.) 9.e5 Nd7 10.c3 e6 (Even though this is a solid move, I was happy to see it. Practically speaking, it seemed better for him to counter with 10. ... Nb6 and 11. ... Bf5. Part of the problem with e6 is that Black has to play very precise to avoid having his Bishop on c8 becoming locked out of the game.) 11.Na3 a6 12.Nc2 b5 13.d4 c4 (Black continues to play moves that make it more and more difficult to fre his locked in light-squared Bishop on c8. And, even though it would appear that the situation is a wash because of my locked in dark-squared Bishop on c1, I plan on making kingside Pawn advances that will provide my Bishop with some real future value.) 14.Qe1 (My goal now is to secure the queenside, then turn my full attention to building up a kingside attack.) 14...a5 15.a3 Rb8 16.Kh1 Qe7 17.Bd2 Rb6 18.g4 Ndb8 19.Qg3 b4 20.axb4 axb4 21.Ne3 bxc3 22.bxc3 f5 23.exf6 Bxf6 24.Rae1 Qc7 25.Ne5 Nxe5 26.fxe5 Bg7 27.Rxf8+ Bxf8 28.Rf1 Rb2? (I had expected him to play 28. ... Bg7, after which I had planned on playing g5, followed by Ng4 and Nf6 with a growing advantage.) 29.Qf4 (My intention is to play Nd5! on the next move, but it is also very good here. One of the lines I was looking at here was 29. ... Bg7 30. Nd5! ed5 31. Bd5 Kh8 32. Qf8!! Bf8 33. Kg7 Rg8#.) 29...Qe7 30.Nxd5 exd5 31.Bxd5+ Black resigns (All moves lead to checkmate, for example: 31. ... Be6 32. Be6 Kh8 33. Qf8 Qf8 34. Rf8 Kg7 35. Rg8#; 31. ... Kh8 32. Qf8 Qf8 33. Rf8 Kg7 34. Rg8#; 31. ... Kg7 32. Qh6 Kh8 33. Rf8 Qf8 34. Qf8#) 1–0

And, one last time, my first US Chess League game:

Joel Johnson - ARZ (2211) - FM John Bick - TEN (2249) [C30]

ICC 75 30 u United States Chess League, 09/17/2008, Board 4

1.f4 e5 2.e4 Bc5 (At this point, I just sat and twiddled my thumbs for five or six minutes. Much like playing poker online, you need to create the illusion that you were somewhat taken aback by his bet (move), 2. ... Bc5 and needed time to come up with a response.) 3.Qh5! (The surprise move! From this point forward, Black's clock starts seriously ticking and ticking. It is obvious that I have blindsided him and now, everything related to this game is in my favor.) 3...Nc6 4.fxe5 g6 5.Qe2 (As in my key game, P Buecker - M Maier, I like placing the Queen here instead of Qf3, which happens in many of the other sample games.) 5...Nd4 (Here, John plays the move that I had just finished looking at, prior to the start of play. Not that it mattered because my preparation has resulted in a huge time advantage already and a great idea of how to proceed.) 6.Qd3 Qe7 7.c3 Nc6 8.Qg3 (I have reached the position that I wanted, when I decided to play this line.) 8...d6 (In several of the sample games, Black frequently employed the move, Bxg1 to avoid losing the tempo after White plays 9. d4 attacking the Black Bishop. The extra tempo is important to Black's defensive chances.) 9.d4 Bb6 10.Bb5 (At this point in the game, I really want to play Bg5, but I can see that Black will respond with f6, and the eventual capture of my e-Pawn on e4. So, by playing 10. Bb5 first, I am threatening to win his Knight on c6 with the move d5 and on the eventual Qxe4+, I will be able to get all my pieces developed without blocking in this Bishop, say after the move Ne2.) 10...Bd7 11.Bg5 f6 12.exf6 Qxe4+ 13.Ne2 Ne5? (This is a desperate attempt by Black to complicate the position. However, I routinely play complicated games and have no problems sifting through everything.) 14.Nd2 (This is the key move to refuting Black's 13. ... Ne5?. The point is Black has no place good to relocate his Queen. On 14. ... Qf5, White wins after 15. Rf1, 16. f7+, and 17. fxg8(Q)+. On 14. ... Qc2, White wins by playing 15. Rc1 Qxb2 16. Rb1 Qxa2 17. dxe5. And, on 14. ... Qd5:) 14...Qd5 15.c4! (Black wanted to capture my Bishop on b5 in response to me grabbing his Knight on e5 and should I decide to snatch the Bishop on d7, he would simply recapture with his Knight on e5. The move c4 foils Black's plan by protecting the White Bishop on b5 and leaving Black's Knight on e5 hanging.) 15...Nd3+ (Black is still trying to hold onto his piece.) 16.Qxd3 Qxg5 17.f7+! (This move wins the piece for good.) 17...Kxf7 18.Bxd7 Nf6 19.0–0 Rad8 20.Ne4 Black resigns 1–0

And, with one week to go, as I understand it, we can make the playoffs if we beat Seattle next week by at least a 3-1 score and Chicago loses to Dallas (a distinct possibility, as Dallas is one of the better teams).

Lastly, I am an alternate on the team, and according to the rules, I am ineligible to play any more games for the team (see below). So, it looks like I will have a perfect 2-0 record for the team this year! Hopefully, I will be able to play a larger role on the team next year. Go Scorpions!!

US Chess League

E. Alternate Rules

1. Two players of any rating can be declared as alternates by each team before the season.

2. Each of these players may play at most two games, and a combined total of at most three games.

3. Alternates are not eligible to compete in the postseason (semi-exception in E6 though).

4. The main intent of the alternate spots is to give each team an extra degree of flexibility. As such, the alternates should really be local players who will generally fill in during extreme circumstances (though teams can use them whenever they see fit). For example, naming a GM from the other side of the country who is scheduled to be in your city for a tournament would not be considered in the spirit of the alternate system. In general, any GM or IM alternate will need to reside in reasonable locale to the team in question to be allowed as an alternate. The League has the right to declare ANY alternate who is felt not to be in the spirit of the system as ineligible.

5. Once the alternates are named, and your season begins, they can only be replaced by a player who lives approximately within 100 miles of your playing site. Once an alternate has played a game, they cannot be replaced on the alternate list under any circumstances. Any team replacing an alternate who hasn't played a game yet during in the season must comply with the same rules that are used to replace someone on the main roster, in that they must be either rated U2400 or within 50 points of the player they are replacing.

6. For teams wishing to switch players on the main roster with those who are alternates after the season begins, or simply wanting to switch an alternate to the main roster, this is how it works. Regardless of which of the three below scenarios this switch or replacement follows, this change must also fall under the rule of general replacing outlined in A7.

(a) Assuming neither player has played a game, teams may switch a main player and alternate with no penalty (i.e. this does not require the use of one of their two allowed replacements).

(b) If the alternate has already played a game, then when moving them to the main roster, the player they replace is removed from the roster entirely (i.e. cannot switch to an alternate spot). The team effectively loses that alternate spot, and this, unlike (a), does require the use of one of the teams' two replacements.

(c) If the main player has already played a game and the alternate has not, then once again the main player is removed from the roster entirely, but in this situation, the team is permitted to replace that alternate (following the rule mentioned in E5, but again they cannot be replaced with the main player who's place they are taking). This also does use up one of the teams' two allowed replacements.

Note that if a team switches an alternate to the main roster, any games that player has already played still count towards the three total allowed for alternates. Also, when an alternate moves to the main roster they must play at least two regular season games AFTER being added to the main roster (i.e. at least two games as a non-alternate) to be allowed to compete in the playoffs; this is done since we don't want teams putting an alternate on the main roster during the final week, realizing that player might be more useful than some other in the postseason.

Anybody see a loophole? Robby, you are the lawyer!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Recap of Weeks 7, 8, and 9

Here is the recap of the last three matches of the Scorpions. Week 9 is reviewed by Robby Adamson and Weeks 7 and 8 by Leo Martinez. Please also check out Mark Ginsburg's blog for his thoughts on the match at

Week 9 Chicago Blaze vs Arizona Scorpions

The Arizona Scorpions played their best match of the year in downing the playoff contending Chicago Blaze, by a surprising 3-1 score. This marks the second time this year that Arizona defeated the Chicago Blaze, as they previously won their first match of the USCL season 2.5-1.5.

With the win, Arizona can do the unthinkable - make the playoffs with a victory over the Seattle Sluggers next week by a score of at least 3-1, and hope that Dallas tops Chicago. Although this scenario requires some good fortune, the Scorpions will go out and do their best and whatever happens, happens.

Board 1 - GM Mitkov - IM Rogelio Barcenilla 0 -1

It was great to see Rogelio Barcenilla play an outstanding game with the black pieces and defeat GM Mitkov. In a game that featured opposite colored bishops, a rook and queen each from virtually the late opening/early middle game, Rogelio untangled somewhat and was able to achieve a favorable game. Although he might have missed an easier win in the queen and bishop ending, Rogelio found the very powerful g5! in the opposite colored bishop ending. While several ICC kibitzers were claiming draw, Rogelio kept his chances alive, by creating 3 passed pawns (2 is not enough in the game because the d and b pawns are too close to each other). Congrats Rogelio on your first win! I would also add that Rogelio has faced all GMs thus far - Alex Stripunsky, Jan Ehlvest, Vinay Bhat, Julio Becerra, and Nikola Mitkov - and has an even score (win versus Mitkov, loss vs. Ehlvest, and rest draws. Very impressive!

Board 2 - IM Mark Ginsburg - IM Jan Van de Mortel 1-0

While I was happy with Rogelio's first win, I was even more happy with IM Mark Ginsburg's win, his first this year, with a solid win over IM Jan Van de Mortel. Mark has taken a lot of criticism this year, but it really is a different skill to play over the internet than over the board. Until you play in this environment, you can not appreciate the pressure and differing environment. In any event, Jan is a noted Dragon expert, but Mark, to my surprise, busted out 1.e4 and went straight into the Open Sicilian! Mark got a slight edge and was able to force Jan to sacrifice the exchange when he was unable to make much progress on the queenside. Mark carefully played the endgame which was more complicated than it looked and netted the full point.

Board 3 - IM Emory Tate - FM Danny Rensch 1-0

Although Danny has not played well this year in the USCL, he did just have a fantastic performance in Reno this past weekend at the Western States Open where he defeated 2 GMs, Alexander Ivanov and Alexander Yermolinsky. Unfortunately his success this past weekend did not translate to his game this week, as he was outplayed by the unusually patient IM Emory Tate in a Hedgehog. Danny fought hard once he got a bad position but it was simply not to be.

Board 4 - NM Joel Johnson - Ilan Meerovich 1-0

Did we make a mistake by not playing Joel more often this year? This week Joel crushed his opponent in what turned into a Closed Sicilian, from a Pirc Defense. Black mistakenly locked up the center with c4, after which Joel got a great game, and crashed through on the kingside, with an eventual obvious sacrifice on d5! Joel moved to 2-0 on the season. Nice job again Joel!

Wish us luck next week in our last match of the season against the Seattle Sluggers.

Week 8 Seattle Sluggers vs Arizona Scorpions

So another loss for the Scorpions this week unfortunately. Seattle is of course tough as GM Hikaru Nakamura, with his 2742 rating, overshadows almost everyone on 1st board in the entire league and puts pressure on boards 2-4 to win. However, this match could have easily been drawn despite strong play at times by both Robby and Warren.

Board 1
GM Hikaru Nakamura vs. IM Levon Altounian
This was a tough match but I remember Lev saying before the match that he was happy about one thing: he didn't have to prepare to much because Hikaru plays basically everything. He said something like he would've had to prepare for e4, d4, c4, g3, Nf3, and b3 all on move 1. The game seemed to go pretty smoothly and Levon didn't seem to have a lot of problems. One moment that was strange was after 11 Ne3 Rfe8 White didn't take the free pawn with 12 Bd7 Nd7 13 ed5 cd5 14 Nd5. I'm not really sure what Hikaru saw but Lev was very nervous about this option. Probably Hikaru wanted to just keep the game more under control and solid and use his time advantage. Maybe one improvement is 16...Ng5 with the idea of 17. Bg2 Bb4 and trading off White's two bishops. After 16...Nd4 of the game White's plan of Bg2, f4, and e5 activating the light squared bishop seemed to strong.

Board 2
IM Mark Ginsburg - IM Slava Mikhailuk

This game was wild from the very beginning to the very end. I was commenting on the game and thought White was doing well but the position is more complicated than it seems. I am going to refer you to his analysis at his blog:
for Mark's own analysis of the game.

Board 3
WGM Katerina Rohonyan - FM Robby Adamson
This game was pretty wild despite pieces getting traded. Robby switched up his openings from the Benko to the 2 Knights Tango after Rohonyan suprised him with 1. d4. This switch seemed to work out really well as he got a strong initative and seemed to be doing really well after 18...f5. With Black threatening both ...f4 and ...Rf6 moves I thought White's position was looking dangerous. After 19...Rf6? White seemed to just save himself after 21 Rc8!. After 19...f4 I'm not sure how White saves himself really. After for example 20. Qxb7 Rae8 looks winning while also 20. Qe7 Rf6 21 Rc7 Rg6 looks over. Seattle dodged a bullet with that as Rohonyan saved the game a couple moves later with a 3 fold repitition.

Board 4
NM Warren Harper - NM Michael Lee
This was a very nice game by Warren Harper as he continues to show his strength after his bad season start. He has now beaten two 2300's in his last two games after losing to lower rated players earlier in the season. In this game the position became pretty closed early on and after that Warren seemed to think that 10...0-0-0 was completely wrong after the game. After this it is easy for White to attack on the Queenside while to attack the White king is completely unclear. The whole rest of the game after move 10 White seemed to build up on the Queenside while Black just maneuvered around not really doing or acheiving anything. A nice game by Warren!

Week 7 Arizona Scorpions vs Miami Sharks

Well in hindsight this match looks better than it did when it was played. Losing 3.5-0.5 is pretty tough but after this match Miami went on to beat Dallas by 3.5-0.5 and beat New Jersey by 3-1. Both of those teams are very strong and Miami is now in 2nd place in the West. This was a match where at one point I got up from my game and looked at all the games and I didn't think there was one game that I worried about. Once time trouble hit the tide switched though.

Board 1
IM Rogelio Barcenilla vs GM Julio Becerra
This was another Exchange Ruy for Rogelio and he seemed to play it better than against GM Bhat this time. However, at one point it seemed clear that Becerra knew the opening and the plans very well and was blitzing out moves like 16...Rh7 and 17...Be7 and 18...Bd8. Black didn't seem to have to many problems throughout the game but neither did White really. White used a completely different plan than the game against GM Bhat in playing to use the d5 square and playing his knights to e3 and c3 and later playing Ncd5. However, due to the two bishops a draw seemed the most likely result and occured not to long later.

Board 2
FM Osmany Perea vs FM Danny Rensch
This game also looked promising to me after 15 moves or so. Black seemed to have a solid Benoni type position without the light squared bishop which is sometimes his problem piece. The critical moment of the game according to Danny after the game was on move 21 where he could have played either 21...Ng4 or 21...Nxd5. 21...Nxd5 looks best and most obvious but Danny was afraid of complications like 22 ed5 Qe1 23 Nxd6 Re7 24 Nde4 or something similar. Even after the move played in the game Black seemed alright and after 30 Nxh5 can play 30...de5 with a crazy game still. Unfortunately after 30...gh5 played in the game Black went down quickly.

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson vs FM Charles Galofre
This opening of this game has an interesting story. Robby prepared for a while for the Berlin that he knew was coming but still wasn't sure what to do when we got ready to take the trip to Phoenix. He had like 3 options and he wasn't sure which one was best and thought they were equal. I suggested some line I saw in some magazine and he liked it as it was playable and also little known. So after some preparation he basically just used the prep on the drive there. Anyways he seemed to have the slightly better game after 21 Bf4 and then just went for the throat with 22 Nxg6. Unfortunately this sacrifice was less clear than it looked and Galofre defended pretty well it seemed. So this was another game that seemed to turn after getting a good position.

Board 4
NM Eric Rodriguez vs NM Leo Martinez
This was a painful game in that I had a one move win of a Queen that I missed. On move 37 I remember I expected 37 Nc8 which I think is the best move and when he played 37 Rc8 I was surprised and just blitzed out 37...Nxc8 38 Qxc8 Bf8 believing my opponent completely. However White has 39 Nc4! there winning the game on the spot. What me and my opponent completely overlooked in time pressure was that simply 38...Re8+ is check and wins the Queen and the game on the spot. At least this game didn't affect the entire match but was another disappointing game that started out well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chess Park hosts Match with Sluggers!

Grandmasters duke it out at the United States Chess League tournament this Wednesday – and Chesspark members have the best seats in the house.

This Wednesday, October 15, at 6:30pm (MST), chess fans at every level can log on to to watch the Chesspark-sponsored Arizona Scorpions take on the Seattle Sluggers in this riveting USCL event. All Chesspark members are welcome – and newcomers can join simply by signing for a free membership, or the $4/month PRO option, which comes with hosted tournaments, speed chess and other perqs. Click to see lineup.

PRO Chesspark members will be invited to an exclusive, post-game Q&A session with Scorpions teammates. "The hope is that this brush with greatness will involve our PRO members on a deep level and inspire them to improve their games," says Jean Hoffman, manager of popular web-based chess communities, and

"Prepare to be dazzled," says Hoffman, referring to the USCL's legendary Grandmasters and International Masters, including Seattle Slugger Hikaru Nakamura – one of the world's highest ranked players. He'll be playing in Wednesday's lineup along with other superstars.

"Sponsoring [this event] is a great way to expose our PRO members to that 'Master mentality,'" says Hoffman, who also recently arranged to have Chesspark PRO member tournaments hosted by International Master Attila Turzo on an ongoing basis. is a leading Internet Chess community built on an innovative communications platform that combines Jabber Instant Messaging (XMPP) and a flexible, rich web-based Ajax client. Chesspark has hosted over 5 million games and welcomed over 450,000 members to the community since October 2006. Members compete in tournaments, create profiles and join social groups, chat in public and private chat rooms, and have access not only to standard chess but also variants including Chess960, Atomic, Crazy House and Losers. Exhibitions by high-rated players and private lessons from masters enable students and novices to improve their skills. was inspired by the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF), a non-profit fusing music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and non-violence. The HHCF hosts celebrity chess benefits where underserved youth play chess for educational scholarships and engage cultural icons from various backgrounds. will donate a portion of revenues to HHCF to fund scholarships. WuChess gear, including branded game sets and apparel, is available at

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week 7 Matchup vs Miami Sharks by Leo Martinez

The Arizona Scorpions play the Miami Sharks this Wednesday in a key matchup for playoff contention this year. Both teams, as well as Chicago, are all very close to each other in standing and every match at this point is important. This match, like all of them, is very close in rating and strength and will all come down to the up and down swings of every match in the US Chess League.

Arizona Scorpions vs Miami Sharks

Board 1
IM Rogelio Barcenilla 2560 vs. GM Julio Becerra 2640

This matches up the two time MVP versus a very strong IM that had an incredible save last week in time trouble. With Rogelio having White and getting his form back this should be a very close matchup.

Board 2
FM Osmany Perea 2453 vs. FM Danny Rensch 2411
Perea has had a solid record in the league beating Irina Krush while drawing the rest of his games while Danny will try to break this undefeated streak. Looking at smoe of Perea's games it looks like he is not afraid to mix it up which will make this an interesting game as Danny doesn't avoid complications either.

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson 2377 vs. FM Charles Galofre 2326

Robby has done very good in the league with a +2 record and with White he should have good chances against FM Galofre. However, based on rating and strength this could be anyone's game.

Board 4
NM Eric Rodriguez 2242 vs. NM Leo Martinez 2209
Eric Rodriguez is 4-1 in the league so far and has played extremely well to get there beating several masters, seemingly easily. However, he lost against Naroditsky earlier this season in a strange game. Like most matches this will be a crucial game.

Look for the games live on ICC at 6:00PM or visit the site for commentary on the games LIVE at the Abstrax Building, 2222 S. Dobson Rd, Suite 500 (Building 5), Mesa AZ 85202.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 7 Predictions by Robby Adamson

A quick look at the matchups for Week 7.

Monday Matchups:

1. Boston Blitz vs New York Knights

Boston bounces back to beat NY - Boston wins 2.5-1.5.

2. Queens Pioneers vs New Jersey Knockouts

NJ hands Queens its 2nd loss in a row. Gulko on 2nd board is a bigger edge for NJ than Lenderman on 3rd vs Ippolito. NJ knocks out Queens 2.5-1.5.

3. Tennessee Tempo vs Chicago Blaze

I picked Tennessee to win 2 straight weeks, but without Ehlvest, Chicago wins 3-1.

4. San Francisco Mechanics vs Seattle Sluggers

Big match for Seattle with the G-Double Lineup. Going safe here, Seattle and San Fran battle to a tie 2-2.

Wednesday Matchups:

5. Baltimore Kingfishers vs Carolina Cobras

Carolina can put a stamp on their playoff ticket with a win - it doesnt happen this week. Yes, another tie match. Baltimore and Carolina fight to a 2-2 tie.

6. Dallas Destiny vs Philadelphia Inventors

Dallas faces a tough lineup this week against a Philly team that might creep back into playoff contention, and draws Philly 2-2. In much better and more exciting news, the Phillies beat Milwaukee!

7. Arizona Scorpions vs Miami Sharks

AZ wins 2.5-1.5. Go Scorpions!