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.

1 comment:

s higgins said...

Extremely impressive performance this week by the Scorpions! The Scorpions are a team whose strength lies in their lower boards (compared to teams who play 2600 and 2700+ GMs on their top board and occasionally another GM on board 2). But by going 2-0 on boards 1 and 2 this week, the Scorpions showed that they are up to the challenge of defeating higher-rated competition on the top boards!

Congrats to Rogelio and Mark for their impressive wins this week, as well as to Joel for his decisive victory on board 4. Also congrats to Danny for his impressive performance last weekend at the Western States in Reno, NV.