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Friday, November 7, 2008

2008 Results

Week 1 - (W) - Chicago Blaze 2.5-1.5
(Games) (Pictures) (Recap)
Week 2 - (L) - Dallas Destiny 1.0-3.0
(Pictures) (Recap)
Week 3 - (L) - Queens Pioneers 1.0-3.0
(Recap)
Week 4 - (W) - Tennessee Tempo 2.5-1.5
(Games) (Pictures) (Recap)
Week 5 - (D) - Carolina Cobras 2.0-2.0
(Games) (Pictures) (Recap)
Week 6 - (L) - San Francisco Mechanics 1.0-3.0
(Recap)
Week 7 - (L) - Miami Sharks 0.5-3.5

Week 8 - (L) - Seattle Sluggers 1.5-2.5

Week 9 - (W) - Chicago Blaze 3.0-1.0

Week 10 - (W) - Seattle Sluggers 2.5-1.5

Final Record: 4 wins - 1 draw - 5 losses; Tied for 4th place

Click here for the full season schedule

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scorpions Barely Miss Playoffs!

Well that was close! We missed the playoffs in our first year by the narrowest of margins tying for 4th place (four teams make the playoffs in each division) only to lose on tiebreaks by 1/2 point. You can see below that we lost on the first set of tiebreaks (Game Points) to Seattle by 1/2 point.

WESTERN DIVISION W
L
Game
Points

Opp Avg Rating
Opps Record
# - Miami7.03.0 26.5/40 (66%)
2407
47.5-38.5 (55%)
@ - San Francisco6.5
3.5
23.5/40 (59%)

2404
46.5-39.5 (54%)
@ - Dallas 6.53.5
21.0/40 (53%)

2409
46.5-39.5 (54%)
@ - Seattle4.5
5.5
18.0/40 (45%)

2400
42.5-43.5 (49%)
X- Arizona4.5
5.5
17.5/40 (44%)

2398
48.5-37.5 (56%)
X - Chicago4.0
6.0
19.5/40 (49%)

2392
42.0-44.0 (49%)
X - Tennessee4.06.016.5/40 (41%)
2398
41.5-44.5 (48%)
(Opponent Record Column only counts match results against other teams,
and will only be calculated once all of the week's matches have completed.)


However, to win our last two matches against Chicago and Seattle and to come so close to the playoffs is only stronger motivation to make it next year! As has been the case all year everyone on the team was devastated with the result but also pointed out how many improvements can be made for next year.

Okay let's get on the games from the final week! It might seem that we lost this match from my comments but actually we seemed to be dominating throughout. This match was actually a rematch of Week 8 when we played Seattle as well. The only difference was that instead of GM Hikaru Nakamura 2749(2700 FIDE) playing board 1 for Seattle they had GM Gregory Serper 2592 who is of course very strong but better for us. Serper would be playing IM Levon Altounian 2535, our number 1 board for our Tucson team, who has done very solidly overall this season. Everyone else for Seattle and Arizona was the same so we would see some rematches from this earlier match, but with colors reversed. So for example, FM Robby Adamson 2377 would play WGM Katerina Rohonyan 2336 but with White this time. IM Mark Ginsburg 2410 would play FM Slava Mikhailuk 2437 but with Black. And NM Warren Harper 2351 would play NM Michael Lee 2314 again, this time with Black.

We needed Chicago to lose and we needed to win by a score of 3-1 to make the playoffs. I was confident Chicago was an underdog as they didn't put up their best lineup against the defending champions, Dallas Destiny. As predicted they lost 2.5-1.5. Winning 3-1 against Seattle was going to be tougher. Winning a match in general is tough but winning 3-1 is obviously even harder. I told the whole team, including Lev, to go for a win as getting 3 points was the goal.




Arizona Scorpions


Seattle Sluggers
IM Levon Altounian: 25350.5
0.5
GM Gregory Serper: 2592
IM Mark Ginsburg: 24100.0
1.0
FM Slava Mikhailuk: 2437
FM Robby Adamson: 23771.0
0.0
WGM Katerina Rohonyan: 2336
NM Warren Harper: 23511.0
0.0
NM Michael Lee: 2314
Avg Rating: 2418


Avg Rating: 2420
Arizona Total ------- 2.5
1.5
------- Seattle Total

Board 4 NM Michael Lee (SEA) vs NM Warren Harper (ARZ) 0-1

This game was very important and matched two strong 4th boards against each other, both over the 2300 rating mark. Although Warren had lost his first two games this season he ended up winning his last three games, beating Michael Lee twice, if you include this game. In these three games he was playing three 2300s beating all of them. This game really showed that Warren can really mix it up and really went after Michael Lee from the beginning. I remember that Warren had a test on Thursday but really wanted to play and decided finally to play. However, due to this he didn't have much time to prep so me and him prepped the 1/2 hour before the match against the almost definite 1. c4, 2. g3, 3. Nc3 setups that Michael Lee always plays. Once Lev showed up, 15 minutes before the match, he got into the preparation also which helped a lot. So 5 minutes before the game Warren went into a corner and was looking up games with this ...f5 system that can be seen in the game. Not ideal but it worked! We had looked at positions very similar to what happened in the game and went over some ideas such as ...Qe8 and ...Qh5 and also ...c6 and ...d5 in some positions. The setup seemed right since we needed a win and Michael Lee had lost to this ...f5 setup earlier in the season to Emory Tate. I wasn't 100% sure about 9...Nf5, thinking 9...Qh5 was most natural but the idea is interesting. I've kind of learned this season that Warren doesn't really think like me when it comes to chess but his ideas usually work anyways! The game really turned wild when White decided to castle long with 17. gxf4 and 18. 0-0-0. I thought maybe 18. Rg1 was a better try but already I kind of like Black. This is one of those positions where Black can push but has to be a little careful of overextending. Maybe one place that White can think about an improvement is 20. h3!? when after 20...dxe4 21 Bxe4 White will take on g4 next and he finally has something to work with. At least the play is completely centered around the kingside. I haven't really looked at it too deeply but it seems logical. After this Warren really played nicely activating his pieces to the
maximum and after 29...Qe3 (diagram) the game seemed basically over.

The next game to finish was on board 1.
Board 1 IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 1/2-1/2

This game was pretty interesting as it seemed that both players knew that a draw was most likely outcome but neither was really shying away from complications. Lev was another person that didn't really have much time to p

repare for the game, coaching non-stop throughout the week and having a young girl, but with White Lev is strong and very tough to beat. I relayed this game for a while and could see that Levon was really into it. We talked about his game for a while afterward and he said he was looking for complications at a number of points, playing 7. Nxc6!? bxc6 8. c4 instead of the

normal and more timid 7. Nb3 followed by a later c4 with a most likely draw.

12...Rac8 was slightly strange and after 13. e4 the game seemed to be at a critical point. White

won a pawn after 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. ed5 cd5 16. cd5 but after 16...Bd4! 17. Rac1 e5! Black had a

lot of compensation with his two bishops and pressure on the c3 knight. Although both of these players are at least a couple of levels above me I will do my best to point out a couple areas of interest.

Maybe one area of interest was 19. b3!? (diagram) followed by either Ne4 or Ne2. At least this gets rid of the pressure on b2 and the c3 knight. However this continuation looks more dangerous as White has some loose pieces. After 19. Kh1 the game seemed to forceably peter out to a draw and after 22. fe5 Qe5 23 Rfe1 Bc3 24. Re5 Bd2 25 Rc6 Rfc8 26 Rc7 Rc7 it was pretty obvious the game was going to end in a draw.

The next two games were FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) vs IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) on board 2 and FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs WGM Katerina Rohonyan (SEA) on board 3. We needed 1.5/2 in order to get to the magic number of 3 points in order to make the playoffs. Robby's game was prepared up to move 17 and both players blitzed out these moves very quickly. However, as seems to happen a lot both players made up for this time by spending a lot of time on the next couple of moves.

I was pretty confident in Robby's chances but after 30...Rc3 (diagram) I slowly changed my mind as it is unclear where White can really breakthrough while if White wastes time Black will quickly get a lot of play with ...Kg7-f6-e5 and ...f5-f4 ideas putting pressure on White. However, just one move after thinking this Robby was winning! White played 31. Rb4 and Black played 31...Rd7? (31...Kxg7 looks natural with the idea that after 32. Rb6 Black plays 32...a5 33. Rb5 Rec7) completely changing the game as White wins the pawn on e4 with 32. Rxe4!. After this Black's pressure and space advantage are completely gone and the d5 pawn is weak. Although it seemed like at certain points Robby's technique could have been better the win was never really in doubt.
At the same time Mark's game was going on and he was also doing well. All we needed was a draw on this board, based on Robby's games turn of events. However, Mark didn't know this and was still playing the game out. You can see all of his annotations to his game and his thought process during the match on his blog at http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/the-fabulous-00s-uscl-week-10/ . Although he had a couple of draws or more clear cut moves with 1-2 minutes on the clock this is tough. Unfortunately, he ended up losing it in a rook vs. pawn endgame.

This was a tough match and to get to that magic number of 3 points was not possible this time. However, with all we've learned from this first season and the obvious mistakes we made throughout the season, learning on our way, there is no real doubt in my mind that we will be improved and more ready next season. I want to also say a quick thank you to all of those who helped the Arizona Scorpions throughout the season (in no specific order):

all of the players on the team who took a large chunk out of their schedule in order to play, Alan Anderson, Sean Higgins, John LaLonde, Amanda Mateer, Pasha Savine, Jean Hoffman, Sam Hoffman, Jon Cox, Ben Marmont, Kevin Zhang, Danny Rensch, Robby Adamson, Satheesh Aradhyula, Jim Blackwood, Levon Altounian, Rogelio Barcenilla, James Martin. I am sure I missed some people but thank you to you also! I also want to thank our sponsors: Abstrax, SACA, ACFI, Checkmate Chess Instruction, and the University of Arizona. Thank you!