Friday, September 7, 2007

Sluggers Rebound in Week 2

The Seattle Sluggers captured there first match victory of the 2007 season with a dominating performance against Miami. A last-minute substitution on Miami's board 4 seemed to give the Sluggers a clear edge on the bottom boards going into the match. Loyal Sluggers fan Drayton Harrison, who was on site at the Chess4Life Center, recorded his observations and posted them on the NW Chess Forum:

Board 1: Becerra played g3/Bg2 against Serper's Kan Sicilian and quickly lost or sacrificed his e4-pawn. Serper took the pawn and spent a lot of time on the clock, eventually reaching a possibly-winning rook endgame before accidentally repeating the position 3 times. 62...Rh5 63. b3 Rg5 would have put white in zugzwang, according to Serper. At least this game secured a team victory, while the board 2 game was still in doubt.

Board 2:
This game started late, although Tangborn was ready to play. Martinez did not have a penalty on the clock. Consequently this game was the last to finish. In the symmetrical English, the advantage shifted back and forth several times (both sides missed opportunities, for example check out white's 41st and 45th moves, and black's 50th, 52nd, 55th and 56th moves) until the end, Tangborn saving the game with 57.Bf1!!, followed by Martinez losing a piece with 57...Be5??. The players commented that Martinez must have been under a lot of pressure to salvage a point for honor after the Miami team had been defeated.

Board 3:
In contrast to the prediction from this forum, Espino played 1.d4, giving Mikhailuk a perfect opportunity to show off his mastery of the isolated queen's pawn in the Tarrasch Defense. White never managed to stop black's initiative and resigned on move 49. There was plenty of time left on the clocks, but no time left on the chessboard, as it was checkmate in 2 more moves. (So much for holding out longer in a team match.)

Board 4:
Sinanan, playing white against Mederos, also found himself in the Symmetrical English. Instead of fiddling around on the flank with a3/Rb1/b4, he seized the center with 7.d4 and established the Maroczy bind with 9.e4. His superior central position allowed him to prepare a kingside attack, but when his opponent floundered about for lack of space, he changed plans, won the exchange, traded queens and won another piece. (Looks like Mederos, not Sinanan, needs that lesson from Schill...)

This was an important get-back-on-track match for the Sluggers after a disappointing loss to Boston in week 1. Perhaps most relieved was team manager Eddie Chang, who sweated the games from L.A., where he was out of town on family business. Next week the Sluggers take on Tennessee, where they hope to build on this week's victory.

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