Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Washington Class Championships

Congratulations to Josh Sinanan and Michael Lee for tying for 1st! Hopefully one of them will post a tournament report on this blog soon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sluggers vs. Miami in playoffs

Last night the Sluggers lost to Miami 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 and so ended their third season and second entry into the playoffs. It was a typical example of how the season has gone for the Sluggers. a disjointed struggle.

Having won the Western division the Miami squad was heavily favored to advance, mostly because they had draw odds. What it boiled down to was that no matter how the double GM lineup did for Seattle the Sluggers were likely to struggle on the bottom two boards. The first point in the scenario didn't materialize and the second likely shouldn't have.

Serper's game was the one that went closer to expectation than the others. Playing 1.c4 and 2.g3 as he did when he arrived on the international scene Serper played the Botvinnik formation against Lopez' King's Indian setup. Serper showed his expertise in rubbing out any Black play while playing a textbook king side assault with pieces. A very fine technical game. On fourth board Andy May ended up in a side line of the Max Lange / Scotch Gambit as White. I doubt Andy knows this, but the Max Lange was all the rage in the Northwest for about 4 years in the mid 70's. For my part, I was surprised to find that the players followed a recommendation from GM Dzindzichashvilli up to move 14. Kd2 where the GM claims a slight advantage for White. It might be that a GM can play the White position for an advantage after 14. Kd2, but I would be more likely to seek play with 14. d4 as 14...Nxf3 15.Bxf3 activates the Bishop, keeps a slight space edge and works to make something of the exposed Black King. For example 14.d4 Nxf3+ 15. Bxf3 a6 16. Nc7 Rb8 17. Nd5+ with 0-0 and Re1 on the cards looks good. As the course of the game went Andy seemed to go completely passive and ended up in a completely passive position. After giving up his h-pawn to get some activity the roof just came down on Andy. Michael Lee on board 3 was slated to have the toughest time. His opponent Perea is still a bit of a mystery as far as just how strong he is. Michael played a main line of the Kings Indian and followed accepted theory for quite a while. Michael ended up a pawn to the good, but without realistic winning chances. Before the match if anyone had said that Seattle would get 1 1/2 out of the lower 3 boards most people would think the chances of a Slugger victory quite good. Well, here is where the typical Sluggers scenario comes into play. Nakamura played the Breyer defense in the Ruy Lopez against Becerra and achieved a reasonable position. My feeling is that this was a bit of an odd choice as Becerra plays the Lopez from both sides and isn't going to find many problems in it that are outside his realm and considering the number of different defenses Nakamura could play there might have been a more pointed choice. Still the real shocker came just into the middlegame when Nakamura gave up a piece for 2 pawns. There might be some deep underlying nugget that we all missed, but it would seem that it was deep enough that Naka missed it too. This was almost like handing a point to Miami. I would say it was disappointing, but the circumstances and sequence just left it bewildering. As I said, very typical of the Sluggers play this season. One final point is that the first board encounter was basically played out before any of the other players had escaped the opening. This is important because the other 3 Sluggers really pulled up their socks and made a run at the Sharks. I would like to congratulate Serper, Lee and May for showing the heart that seemed missing from the Sluggers for parts of the season and thank them for confirming that there is a lot of fight in the players representing Seattle.

So, no more Sluggers this year. It is possible that the rest of the playoffs will be exciting as the finalists from last year Dallas and Boston now face the 2 surprise division winners Miami and Carolina. I can't say that I really like any of these teams, but I would expect Dallas to do well.

So, til next season. See Ya!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Western Division semi: Miami vs. Sluggers

“No matter how often you are defeated, you are born to victory” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s playoff time in the USCL and Monday we see the fun begin. The Sluggers come into the playoffs on a 2 match losing streak, the first team to make the playoffs with a sub 500 season record. They face a red hot Miami Shark squad that was able to win the Western Division in the final regular season match. The Sharks have a solid lineup led by two time league MVP Julio Becerra, plus they will have draw odds. Not an easy task for the Sluggers. There isn’t a pundit around that will pick the Sluggers to win the match and I am not one to break ranks. What I will do is describe how the Sluggers can win.

The draw odds add a peculiar dynamic to the match. On its face this would seem to suggest that each of the Sluggers players must play to win, while each of the Sharks will play to draw. Such a scenario would benefit the Sluggers, I feel, because it is easier to play for a win from the start than a draw. I doubt that any of the participants will fall into such thinking, so it is a simple matter that Seattle can’t tie the match. They have to win it. In a previous post I offered a scenario in which the Sluggers would have chances to defeat the Sharks, but I was unaware of Nakamura’s availability at that time. With Nakamura available the Sluggers can use the double GM lineup and improve their odds. The reason for this is simple; in my previous review of the match I felt it imperative that Seattle not lose with Black on boards 1 and 3, with Nakamura they are possibly a favorite to win on 1 with Black. If that does happen then the Sluggers just have to find 1.5 more points. Serper was defeated by Lopez in Week 1 of the season, but Gregory had Black in that game. I feel certain that Lopez will have some special preparation for Serper’s lines in the Kings Indian, but even so Serper is likely a favorite. Board 3 is tough for Seattle as Perea is just the type to give Lee trouble. I speculated that the best way to play against Perea, at least in a team event, was to sit tight and see what he can create. Michael is still a young player and it will most likely be difficult for him to play tight. That said, any score that Seattle gets on this board is gravy. On 4th board Andy May faces Prilleltensky. My impression is that Prilleltensky has altered his approach as he played the Sicilian in the past, but in 2 league contests this year played 1.e4 e5 and then the Rubinstein French as Black. If Andy can resolve himself to play in a determined manner rather than any kind of all out style, I think he will do very well.

So, my scenario is 2.5 points out of boards 1,2 and 4. Now for a bit of thinking. You know what made Miami so much better this year? The bottom 3 boards aren’t watching Becerra and relying on him so much. My opinion is that Bruci Lopez coming back to Miami from Baltimore shifted that dynamic and it has worked great for them. So, just speculating here, what happens if boards 1 and 2 tilt towards the Sluggers early? Perea might not be too disturbed, but putting him in a must win situation will be interesting. The situation on board 4 could be even more up in the air as Prilleltensky might be in a pressure situation. This is the kind of thing where team dynamics come into focus and Seattle will have to make the most of it.

Ok, that is it for me. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed and watch the action on Monday!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Look ahead, look side to side, look down?

A friend challenged me to prove that chess was a “real” sport. After spouting out the usual spiel about chess he simply told me to state a sports cliché that applied to chess. “Win or go home!” I blurted out, only to realize that the USCL teams were staying home whether they won or not. “You’re only as good as your last game” , didn’t seem correct considering how the Sluggers tumbled into this years playoffs. “You gotta take them one at a time”! Aha!! There was my cliché. “No” my friend shook his head, “that’s not a sports cliché, that’s what a divorced woman tells her lawyer”.

“Finding a way to win” is my cliché for the Sluggers. Getting into the playoffs was something of a victory for the Sluggers to start with, considering they lost their final two matches, yet exiting without so much as a whimper would still be disappointing. Once it was certain that they were in the playoffs it didn’t really matter which team they were going to face, the Sluggers were going to be underdogs and search for a formula to succeed in a do or die match. First off the Sluggers need an idea of how they are going to win a match, where the points are coming from. Second, they have to be prepared for that goal. Last, they have to believe that “they” can get it done. These points alone won’t win any match, but they will get the Sluggers into a situation where they have a fair chance to win.

Facing Miami right now is no easy feat. They are a team that has found it’s rhythm and has been rolling. In such a situation the players on a team are hampered by questions of inaccuracy or failure, they simply follow what seems to be correct. This is a great advantage for any team that enjoys it. The Sluggers must realize that they aren’t facing a vastly more talented or experienced team, they are facing a group of players that don’t think they can lose. It is exactly that “don’t think they can lose” attitude the Sluggers have to take advantage of. I am pretty certain Miami will want White on the odd numbered boards as Becerra on first is their best player and Osmany Perea on third has been the engine for them recently. Becerra is one of the very best players in the league. A couple of important points though; Serper has done pretty well against him in league games and Becerra has been the recipient of a couple of gifts in recent matches. So, he is not infallible. Perea with White plays an unpretentious style that aims to let the opponent make mistakes, so the key to playing him is to sit tight and make him try to come across the board. Board two is most likely going to be Bruci Lopez and fourth Matan Prilleltensky. I would expect Lopez on board 2 as he has been there during this run for Miami. He plays an active style seeks out complications. If I was Eddie Chang I would call up Eric Tangborn and ask him if he remembers a game Eric had against Bill Schill in the Washington Junior back in 1976 and if Eric has that game score tell him to study it and be prepared to play the White side. Ok, just kidding, I really doubt Eric has any 30 year old game scores. Prilleltensky is a rookie who has done well in the matches he played and seems a natural player. The bottom line for the Sluggers is this: they have very good chances of not losing on first board and have to find a way to not lose on third. If Miami wins on third board the Sluggers have to win 2 games with White which would be extremely difficult. We will have to wait and see what lineups are posted.

Now let’s talk a little about the other playoff matchups. If people were surprised that Miami won the West then they must be proclaiming the end of the world with Carolina coming out on top. The Cobras were shuffled back into the Eastern Division this year with the expansion and took top honors. They face a resurgent New York Knights team that was left for dead after the Sluggers beat them in week 6. I was one of the earliest advocates of the Cobras chances to make the playoffs, but I suspect school is out. Carolina might pick up a point on second board if Krush over presses or doesn’t take Zaikov seriously, but I don’t see a place where they can win a second game. So, they have to pick up 2 draws on the other 3 boards. It is a funny thing, but the Knights don’t have to worry about losing they have to worry about drawing. That works really well for them. The Queens – Boston match has taken on a “Family Feud” aspect with all the talk emanating between Krasik and Lenderman. As a straight match between teams I would pick Boston, but there are those pesky draw odds. We all know that the Boston boys are real full of themselves, but this might just be too much. The other match in the West is San Francisco and Dallas, the past two USCL champions. My natural inclination is to say that whichever team wins a game first wins the match, but SF has draw odds. That works to their advantage if games are drawn. I think it helps Dallas as they can slowly play for a point and be ready to take advantage of any overly aggressive overture by one of the Mechanics. This is a stylistic problem, reminiscent of Lasker – Capablanca St. Petersburg 1914.

Finally a personnel reflection. There has been some chatter about East coast bias in the league and I would like to weigh in on this. I read Ilya Krasik’s latest gem and must say how wonderful it must be to learn how to write by using “The National Enquirer” read and play. A truly fine piece of creative non fiction that is well worth the effort it takes to discern its true meaning, really. My only problem is that I thought it was better to write in a slightly more modern style, less “Tarzan see insult, Tarzan not like insult”. I am not condemning his style. No, not at all. I am upset that none of the East Coast elite were of a mind to let me know that I should communicate with them in this style. You know, shorter words, fewer sentences, more grunts highlighted by grunts! Yeah, that’s it. With all the clamor that this received from the folks back East I feel empowered to try and descend, I mean ascend, to that level. Oh I can’t do it, there must be some genetic deal with those guys. Thanks

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I am reminded of a quote that a very good friend once gave me. “This isn’t the edge of the Earth” he said, “but you can see it from here”. That is how I feel about the Sluggers this morning. They didn’t really back into the playoffs as much as they kind of fell in. At the start of the evening everyone was well aware that all Seattle had to do was avoid losing by 3-1 and they were almost certainly going to make the playoffs. Well, they avoided 3 – 1. Barely. The final score Arizona 2 ½ - Seattle 1 ½ got the Sluggers into the playoffs and avoided the fate of missing out in the last round that befell them last year. Yeah, you definitely can see it from here.

To start out I think we simply must send out a big commendation to the Arizona team. The task they faced last night wasn’t impossible, but the degree of difficulty had Olympic gymnastic judges shaking their heads. The Scorpions came out and didn’t think twice about it, putting their best effort into it. I want to say that this is the kind of competition that makes the USCL fun. So, thank you for the great match and good luck next year to Arizona.

Next, we come to the hero of the day. Slava Mikhailuk was the only Seattle player to win last night and that is what got Seattle into the playoffs. Of course, he has been the real heart of the Sluggers in the second half of the season, winning in each of the final 4 regular season matches. Considering that Seattle finished ahead of Arizona by ½ of a game point, basiclly one fewer draw, that score of 4/4 looks huge. Of course their isn’t any place for such things in the USCL MVP race, but it seems to me that this stat alone makes Slava the MVP of the Sluggers. Last night Slava faced Mark Ginsburg for the second time. In a line that is alleged to offer White no advantage Slava directed play to a prolonged endgame. This worked out as it became more evident that a draw wouldn’t do for team considerations. I am certainly not the player to question whether IM Ginsburg felt compelled to advance the Q-side pawns or overestimated his chances with a bishop versus knight, but either way it worked to give Mikhailuk chances. My feeling is that there was a chance in the rook and pawn ending , maybe 52 …Rb1+ to try and help the Black K get over, yet it never materialized. Certainly IM Ginsburg will provide in depth analysis on his blog. The end result was a fairly direct rook versus one pawn end that the Seattle player won.

Serper on board one gave up a pawn in the late opening to acquire the 2 B’s. Both players played steadily enough to end up with a split point. Rohonyan achieved quite a reasonable position. Then when sitting tight with 30… Kg7 and the idea of 31.Rb4 Rcc7 32. Rb6 Re6 would likely have kept things in place she blundered with 30… Rc3 31.Rb4 Rd7 32.Rxe4. Adamson showed fine technique in picking up the point for Arizona. On board 4 Michael Lee had White against Warren Harper. Lee was confronted with the line 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5 that had led to his loss in the Chicago match. This had to be something he might have expected as it would have been a standard bit of prep for any opponent. The line that Michael followed was rather timid and directionless, which suggests to me that he was caught unprepared for a repeat of the line. The game turned into a model of play for Black in the opening and Lee never seemed to get out of the water, losing an ending a bit later.

The Sluggers were successful in avoiding the abyss again. Playoffs begin and Seattle gets the Miami Sharks, winners of the Western Division. I will be posting some thoughts on that a bit later.

Monday, October 27, 2008

USCL WEEK 10: Sluggers vs. Arizona

Ah how time flies. It seems like only yesterday that the Sluggers missed a chance to make the playoffs by the slimmest of threads. Yes, it was a year ago that the Seattle squad lost to Miami in a win or go home match and were a mere perpetual check from making the playoffs. So, the 4 weeks ago that I was nervous about the Sluggers schedule really does seem like history at hand. Honestly, if you had told me that we could jump ahead to this match, skipping all the drama of the past 4 weeks, with Seattle just a couple of points from the playoffs I wouldn’t have taken it. My thinking is that the Sluggers had plenty of chances to pad their playoff chance and whether they make it or not the fun has been in the ride. So, everybody have your ticket ready as we are about to go through the loop de loop.

The Sluggers face the Arizona Scorpions this week, the same team they faced 2 weeks ago. This isn’t quite the same scenario as last year. If Seattle wins they are in the playoffs, a tie might get them in. Arizona has to win the match 3 – 1 and get some help to get in, so it is a bit more complicated. There is only one difference in the squads from the meeting 2 weeks ago, Gregory Serper is playing board 1 for the Sluggers instead of Nakamura. It doesn’t seem likely that Serper will lose here, even with Black. He faces IM Levon Altounian. Altounian is a very good player, but doesn’t look to have the style to beat Serper if Gregory plays solid. This is actually a small benefit for Arizona as they lost on this board last time. Board 2 is a rematch of Mikhailuk and Ginsburg which the Seattle side won last time. To a lot of players (old codgers) this will be quite interesting as their styles have some similarities. Adamson has White this time against Rohonyan. Last time this game was a draw and Adamson probably missed a much stronger continuation, probably winning. On board 4 Michael Lee faces Warren Harper again. Last time Harper won a fine game as Michael seemed to go stiff and fall over. So, not a lot of lineup changes to discuss.

On the surface Arizona fans have a couple of things to be happy about. Altounian is facing less of a force and Adamson will be looking more closely for his chances. That narrowest of winning margins that Seattle had last time doesn’t seem to be quite so visible. Still, Seattle followers shouldn’t despair in the face of this. First off, I would think that Michael Lee will give a better performance with the White pieces on board 4. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rohonyan pushes a superior effort. Biggest of all is that Arizona knows they have to win 3 – 1 to have a chance of making the playoffs. This means they have a little extra to think about in their moves. If Seattle can keep even with the Black pieces and give the even numbered boards a chance to pick something up I believe Seattle will win the match.

Of course, this Friday is Halloween and we all know that spooky stuff happens then. Last year’s match with Miami was on Halloween. So, Sluggers fans tune in and think positive thoughts.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

USCL Week 9: Sluggers vs. Tempo recap

In Troy two figures came forth to warn of the Greek horse. Cassandra had been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but also the curse that no one would believe her. Laocoon was a priest who warned that he saw no reason to trust a gift from the Greeks. It is fabled that the end of Troy was contrived from a statue made of wood, but more form the avarice of men. I stake no claim to heredity form either Cassandra or Laocoon, as my experiences with the Greek gods has afforded no privileges. There is sincerity in my words though, as I was truly suspicious of events.

Last night the Sluggers were muffled by Tennessee for the first time 2 ½ - 1 ½ . To be certain the Tennessee lineup has become quite a bit stiffer with GM Ehlvest on board 1, though it felt like the Sluggers should retain an edge. Well, there isn’t much else to do than to congratulate Tennessee and reflect on events to try and better ourselves.

Board 1 was the clash of GM Serper and GM Ehlvest. A typical type of Grunfeld where White had more space. Black didn’t have to press and could just work to hold things. Not a GM draw by any means. Board 2 was the one bright spot for the Sluggers. Mikhailuk took the Black pieces versus IM Burnett. Burnett is an experienced player and must have known what line Mikhailuk would play, so I suspect that there was a bit of homework here. If it was, it didn’t get a good grade as Black’s trumps in the particular Sicilian (2 B’s and center pawns) seemed to work a lot better than any attacking ideas White had. Slava just worked his position to a win.

Board 3 was a surprise as Josh Sinanen manned board 3 instead of Katerina Rohonyan. Josh is a fine player, but I think not as experienced as Rohonyan. Facing Todd Andrews of Tennessee Josh played the English 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Qa4+ I don’t know if 5.Qa4+ has a history, but I also am not sure of the point. In short order the structure c3 and e4 for White with c5 for Black was reached with Queens exchanged on b6, leaving Black a half open file with the doubled b-pawns. It seems to me that Josh rushed to exchange White squared B’s with the idea of using the white squares later, but I might have given more thought to keeping them a while and seeing how Black would employ that boy on c8. Anyway, I can understand and appreciate Josh’s idea. The execution was unfortunate. I think it is imperative for White to keep a Knight on the board as it is the piece most able to get something from the bad Black pawns on the Q-side. I would have gone so far as to retreat the Nc4 back to d2 and then shot f4 up to boot the Ne5 and returned to c4. As it was, Josh ended up defending on the Q-side. Andrews is a solid experienced player and made the most of his opportunity to get the point.

Board 4 had John Bick for Tennessee against John Readey for the Sluggers. I have to confess that when I gave my opinion on the whole match I failed to remember that these two had played with the same colors in the first meeting. It is to Readeys credit that he played the King’s Indian again as it would have been easy to slide to some other defense thinking it better to try and catch the opponent off guard. So, it went into a fashionable line of the Samisch Kings Indian. It appears that Readey took a wrong approach fundamentally as he exchanged Queens early in the opening. Black is giving up space and time to try to activate pieces and exchanging Queens early greatly lessens the effect of activity. Bick slowly took control and when a White rook landed on the seventh it was very difficult. Black’s position just imploded.

So, a loss in the penultimate round. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that Arizona beat Chicago, so the Sluggers remained in 4th slot, the final playoff spot. The bad news is, Arizona beat Chicago and so is now in the hunt for a playoff spot, the same Arizona team the Sluggers face next week. I think it is fair to expect that the Sluggers will come prepared for that match because a Chicago victory over Dallas would mean a Sluggers tie with Arizona might send Chicago into the playoffs.

Ok, no dismay, no uncertainty, no despair. We all have to keep up the positive thoughts… The Sluggers can win next week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

USCL Week9: Sluggers and Tempo

Ah, another week another obstacle to hurdle. To be fair, the Sluggers did kind of put this one out there on their own. This week they face the Tempo of Tennessee. The Sluggers drew their last match with Tennessee which was a bit of a disappointment for many followers. I remember making a comment about how ratings wouldn’t do the Sluggers any good, that it took determination to win. That is what I will find interesting this time around, the Sluggers have a much clearer picture of what they need to do to get into the playoffs and that should give them focus.

Serper has White on board one versus Ehlvest, I wonder if these two have ever played previously? Ehlvest has been cleaning up in his USCL engagements so far, but I don’t think he will climb over a determined Serper. Second board will be a spot to watch as Mikhailuk has Black against IM Ron Burnett. Slava has had 2 very good games in a row which should be a great sign for Seattle, but Burnett has a pointy kind of sharp style that has cause Slava some problems in the past. WGM Rohonyan plays board 3 again, this time against FM Todd Andrews. Andrews has had some terrible luck in the USCL, but against Dallas he got a bit of payback. Let’s hope it doesn’t keep up for him. John Readey has Black in an unfamiliar position on board 4 and his opponent is John Bick. Usually this would be seen as a big plus for Seattle because Readey has been on 3rd board and doing ok. If there is a hitch it is that Bick play’s 1.d4 a lot and the last time Readey saw that in a USCL match he kind of got ground down. Bick seems to like either the regular Averbach line or 5.Bg5 directly.

Ok, if you are a fan of the Sluggers this match should scare you. They have pulled themselves back up into the race and are facing a lower ranked team. They have white on boards 1 and 3, have a player on board 4 who is experienced at a higher board and have more to play for. In chess complacency is the state a player falls into when they become convinced that enough factors away from the board are in their favor that they don’t need to concentrate on factors at the board. In teams this is even more difficult because results on any or all of the boards may affect the players approach. My opinion is that Seattle has been a bit susceptible to this. That makes this a wee bit tenuous for Sluggers faithful.

I would tell the Sluggers that if they need to think about one of the factors I listed it would be the last one, they are playing for a playoff spot. None of the matchups is so wide in playing strength that either team can point to it and form their team strategy around it. Seattle is not likely to win this match with the White pieces, but the players of Black have a tendency and a history of doing more than expected. For Tennessee to win this they have to get a big push from Burnett.

The tension builds with every passing week.

And now for our Freudian Slip of the week, lets see what the USCL put out for us

Seattle Sluggers (4.5-3.5) vs Tennessee Tempo (2.0-6.0)

All Time Series Record (San Francisco leads 3.5-0.5)

Starts at 9:00 PM ET Time Control - Game 75 with 30 second increment

Uh, Greg... I realize the whole west coast seems like one big resort, but come on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

USCL Rd. 8: recap Sluggers vs. Arizona

Remember Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" ? Baby steps! The Sluggers pulled out an important victory tonight versus the Arizona Scorpions. The win propelled the Seattle squad into 4th place in the West division with Chicago losing to Queens.

On first board Nakamura displayed the technique of a strong GM. Once again he opened with 1.g3 as White, possibly an homage to NW legend GM Duncan Suttles or just a way to avoid a lot of prep time, and got a fair position with the 2 B's. Altounian seemed to have gotten some activity when he doubled on the d-file with 27...Red6 but just 3 moves later the Black king's residence was a teetering mess. Some nice tactics finished the day.

Board 2 was a real clash as Dr. Ginsburg for Arizona has been a theory buff for nearly 30 years (just look at his website), while Mikhailuk will get 10 moves out and start to think. In this case Slava was simply aiming to win by one means... captures. Ginsburg got an advantage in development for a pawn, then went for some tactics by letting the e4 pawn be exchanged for f7. I think, my opinion here, is that Ginsburg didn't play 18. Rfe1 because he felt he had to win the game for his team, so either didn't like the endgame prospects or was more optimistic about middlegame chances. It turned out that Black had a little glue, got stuff together and ended up winning with a little counter attack.

Katerina Rohonyan's debut on board 3 for the Sluggers was a fine effort. Basically the opening was a bit of shadow boxing, then an exchange of N's on d5 set the stage for Black to make some noise on the K-side while White vaposized the c7 and b7 pawns. The end was fairly quick as White couldn't defend the h-file, but could chase the Black king with checks. A draw worked for the Sluggers in this case.

On Board 4 Warren Harper won a nice game for the Scorpions. Michael Lee seemed to shuffle his pieces with no real aim. Michael is young and seems to get bogged down in positions where a static position in the center has been established. Games like this have a spooky quality as you can almost hear the Black player thinking "ok, this is a good square for this piece, I will put it there" and then when it is his move again "that was a good square, but that piece is now needed on the other side of the board". It's like a lack of direction. Hopefully Michael will work on this sort of position as it is likely to crop up in the league for him again.

Ok, so the Sluggers have gotten back into the playoff race. I would like to say a couple of words here about that. 2 weeks ago I posted on Arun Sharma's blog that I thought the Sluggers were ranked too high. The counter to my thinking was that the Sluggers remaining schedule was the easiest in the league. My response was that basing a teams "strength" on its schedule was utter nonsense if not disrespectful to the teams on that schedule. No response to that. This past week I posted again on the power rankings, pointing out that Arun was now talking about the Sluggers having a hard time getting into the playoffs. That went unanswered, probably because I made a comment about the Mechanics. The comments that I have heard from the "fans" out there is that I am a lose cannon and that I was saying a couple of weeks ago that the Sluggers wouldn't make the playoffs. Sluggers followers, this is my part in this.

First of all I am a lose cannon. Too much of the league is goody goody, use the right words, don't say things that might not be popular crap. That is just not me. At no point did I say "the Sluggers won't make the playoffs" and more importantly I never thought that. Second, about that "say the right things" stuff... well it is all fine and good for everybody else to tip toe around, but a titled player comes out and makes an accusation against the Sluggers ... well folks that is all fine and good. The league don't care, you know those guys back east "really don't much like us hill folk" if you know what I mean. So, am I just gonna walk by and watch the guy point fingers. Two words, first one rhymes with "swell" and the second one is 'no'. I didn't stand for it. (Note to people who are reading this from other teams or who might be league commissioner, close you eyes now kiddies cause this might get messy). Then everybody's feelings got hurt and I am such a "lose cannon" and I don't consider all the people out there. Here is what I think: This league is supposed to be entertaining and if you are reading this you are entertained. You folks who are entertained are the people I answer to. If you think that I am so out of line with my approach, you let me know... no Mr. anonymous you don't get to vote. Here's the deal. I will put a message on the NW Chess message board tomorrow morning (assuming I get enough sleep to remember) and it will ask people to respond. Whether you like my stuff or think I should just go away you better respond. This way, Mr. Anono"myass" doesn't his nose dented. I don't see this as a problem for the league or for the Sluggers, so please come on and let us all know.

Ok, I am out of breath. ttyl

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

USCL Week 8: Sluggers vs. Arizona

Matchups. That is what everybody looks at. How a specific player performs against another. Captains or managers look for chances to get a player they think has a big plus against another, whether that plus by a playing style or past history. Matchups. All the sideline jockeys talk about matchups, such and such will happen on board one and that will be significant. It’s true, sort of.

Week 8 of the USCL is upon us and the Sluggers are facing the first year Arizona Scorpions. The matchup look here is simple; the Sluggers got a little embarrassed last week while the Scorpions have been smacked two weeks in a row. So, both teams are looking to get turned around this week. Who has the intestinal fortitude to do it? That’s the question.

Nakamura will be White on board 1 against Altounian. This should be a clear plus for Seattle. Second board is Mikhailuk Black versus IM Ginsburg. This will be an interesting match because there is a similarity in approach. Neither player is likely to take big chances and the game will move to a late middlegame situation. This one could be determined more by the clock’s hands than the players (ok, digital clocks don’t have hands, but you know what I mean). On 3rd board WGM Katerina Rohonyan makes her Slugger debut against Robby Adamson. Checking some databases this looks like it will be a French defense, either a Winawer or MacCutcheon, with each player defending their favored side. At fourth board Michael Lee has black against Warren Harper. Each of the teenagers has had good and bad moments in the league, so it could be just a matter of who is more determined.

Sometimes you have to state the obvious. Looking just at matchups Arizona does not have an answer for the strength disparity on board 1. That would suggest that Seattle is a favorite. Arizona is likely looking for some advantage on the bottom two boards, hoping to get good performances there to counter the board 1 situation. I would think that a new face on board 3 works for Seattle as there will be the natural desire to impress the new team.. Board 4 is where a lot of this could be settled as Lee could win or lose without incident. Matchups, Seattle will do well if they have good players on the Black pieces to deal with the matchups Arizona is looking to use.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reply to the Mechanics

I shake my head. There are things that seem to exist, like mirages in the sand. Yet, unlike mirages these images have supporting evidence that make them impossible to deny. In my world though, these things have no place, no haven to rest in or sanctuary to give them comfort. Such things appear in the words of my esteemed fellow USCL bloggers, whose words flow from their hands like the river of dreams. I wonder where the words come from? I don't know.

Just in this past week we have seen one of the bloggers upset with Carolina because they didn't do as he expected, he worked it out in his mind that a player should have won but lost instead and the bloggers whole world is upside down? WHAT!!! Ok, players get there feelings hurt because of, uh, the air conditioning is too loud. LIVE WITH IT! I see that Arun can't really explain what the power rankings are measuring. Ok, I kind of suspected that. Of course, we all have to sympathize with Arun as he is getting threats from one of the team captains. I don't really know any of the participants in this episode, but you gotta think somebody was using the extremely recessed parts of their mind for that one. Oh, none of the pickers chose Dallas to beat Philly, despite the fact that Dallas was tied for first in the west and Philly has been playing like mud (uh, do you think their captain has my phone number? Nah!!! couldn't be that lucky). I mean, this
is worse than trying to keep up with a daytime drama. "Oh did you see the look that the Boston player made when the WIM moved the knight?" This is silliness. But, not the end.

I see that the Mechanics have weighed in.


Let’s see, Bhat’s first assertion is that the match was rescheduled due to weather and the arrival of a baby, later in a reply to Chris there is mention that Mr. Bhat expected Seattle wouldn’t field a team and finally he states “ a match had been moved to avert what I saw as a no-show”. Wow, it’s true the longest road is the one to the truth. When the match did happen there was Serper on second… oh wait, it was patently unfair for Seattle to have the same lineup. I seem to note they didn’t have the same lineup. Boy, this is just the stuff of cold war novels, those clever Sluggers covertly passing false information in order to get, Slava on second board! Very devious.

I will now fess up to what could be my part in this. I made light of the possibility that the Mechanics possibly achieved greater success because they were forced to drop their first board. At some level you have to see the logic in this, I mean it be curious if a team achieved a better result without their top player than they might have with him. So, if Wolff plays and Nakamura defeats him while Bhat wins from Mikhailuk the split is the same as what resulted in the actual match. Mr. Bhat, is it really so bad to win by 3 – 1? No, I didn’t think so. Further, Mr. Wolff’s replacement could hardly have been more uncertain; the Mechanics have IM Friedel, IM Preuss, IM Zilberstein, but they ended with IM Donaldson. It would certainly not have been so beneficial to Seattle to have that change. Was it such a successful ruse that you need to proclaim how lucky the Mechanics were to win, unless you are much less confident in your teammates? Very curious.

My final take (not edited because I have no “official” standing). What do I take away from this? The titled players are all taking this very seriously, which is certainly good for the level of chess, maybe a bit too seriously. This last affair clearly indicates that one of the teams doesn’t view the rest of the league as colleagues, that the idea of sportsmanship has devolved to getting in sharp accusations at others in the league and that the camaraderie many observers thought was common among titled players is merely one of those illusions. The people involved that don’t play are certainly having a lot of fun with it, but the enjoyment will dissipate if the level of “gamesmanship” is allowed to extend to such levels. I will formally apologize to the Mechanics for any comments they took as offensive, if they so wish, as I feel that is my responsibility. However, I will not simply ignore this egregious breach of sportsmanship as one players opinion or “take”. I would hope that the league or the commissioner would help to shed some light on this as currently it is nothing more than “he said” without any “she said”. Whatever the facts are around this match or the results of the games, this incident became a large black eye on the league because of Mr. Bhat’s comments.

Thank You.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mechanics vs. Sluggers recap

What is the difference between the bus and the airplane? Taking the plane gets you to your destination and whole lot quicker, but you still have issues with cost and checked baggage. Bus trips take longer and it is a bit harder to sleep, yet the scenery can make up for some of that. Well, the Sluggers are looking at the bus trip right now, and it will be a long ride. Last nights match against San Francisco was a detour out of the airport.

There was something amiss with the match even before it started. It was scheduled to take place on Monday, but was postponed. Then the pairings on the top two boards abruptly changed as Patrick Wolff and Gregory Serper were pulled from the lineups.
This turned out to be a push, at least on paper. Really this turned out to be an excellent swap for the Mechanics. Nakamura seems to have some kind of vexation with Bhat and it worked to the Mechanics advantage as Bhat won a fine game. On second board Mikhailuk faced Donaldson with the former wearing the older player down. The top two boards were thus a split. I certainly don’t think that Seattle would have done better with Serper on second board, a win there is a win. I am perplexed though considering the consequences of Wolff playing Nakamura and Serper, with White, against Bhat? Is it possible that not playing a GM helped the Mechanics?

Board 3 was for me the most interesting game. I think that Readey equalized with the Black pieces and even missed more in the middlegame. At move 35 I think that Ne3 by Readey might have born fruit. White can’t allow Nc2, so must oppose on the c-file. With one pair of rooks off the Ne3 goes to f5 to remind White of the h4 pawn, combined with the Bg7 I feel Black will have plenty of chances to gain a full point. Andy May on board four appeared to just be outplayed from the opening. To me this appears to be another example of “team” play. Nakamura had been a rock for the Sluggers, but when his game went astray the other players were left to fight for better scores.

After losing to the Mechanics 3-1 last night the Sluggers have virtually no chance of winning the division. They still have good chances of making the playoffs with the last 3 matches against the teams below them in the West. Now all there matches are “playoff” scenarios. For the Sluggers to get to the Finals they will have to win the rest of the regular season and then likely face the top 2 teams in the conference playoffs, likely Dallas and SF again. This is not going to be an easy trip, but I did see a lot of fight in the Sluggers last night and that is a good step for them.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

USCL Rd. 7: Mechanics vs. Sluggers

I knew this week was going to be kind of short notice, that kind of thing happens when you are looking at the calendar to find the next paid holiday and accidentally see that the USCL is playing on Monday night. Lots to say, so let's not waste any more blog.

To start, I need to say that the tribute to Eddie was well deserved. Of course, I did embellish because of my own style of egocentric writing. The Sluggers deserved to win, are very deserving of congratulations and we should all appreciate how Eddie stood up for his team. Yet, it still had that flavor to it that causes doubt instead of removing it. Think about it, the Knights are just playing in a funk, Seattle played the "Jumbo" lineup with Nakamura and Serper plus got a great performance on 4th board, but in the end the Sluggers avoided a tie due to one false move in extra time by an old man. This is not a great sign, especially when the arch nemesis is next up. Everybody be honest now, with Nakamura playing we all expected a victory while remaining conscious of the past history of these two teams and there was nearly an amazing addition to the script between these sides ( for those not sure what I am talking about, it seems Bonin might have missed a winning continuation in his endgame). So, for me at least the Sluggers have passed one hurdle with plenty more ahead.

Just prior to writing this I checked the USCL website and noted the lineups. It is pretty much open knowledge that the Mechanics are taking this one seriously, playing Wolff and Bhat on the top two boards. If anything good can be drawn out of this it is that Nakamura seems as dangerous with Black and Serper plays more confidentaly with White. The Sluggers can feel good about those matchups, but it is the other two boards that we should scrutinize. Board 3 had Shankland with White facing Readey, then bottom is May going against Naroditsky. Third board should be quite interesting as there is a contrast in styles which lends itself to decisive results. Both players have had solid results without anything spectacular. Fourth board has a whole other dynamic as Naroditsky has been a real strength for the Mechanics and May is just beginning to get any kind of a name in the league. In the NY match it appeared that Andy had done some homework on a specific opening line, if that is true this would be an excellent opportunity as Naroditsky is likely to have plenty of games available for research. If I was the SF captain/manager I would pull Naroditsky aside and tell him to play slow easy chess, just to see if May can make anything happen on his own. Problem with that is these are both youngsters and can't really control themselves to that extent.

This match is quite important. If the Mechanics win they can try to sprint for home, whereas a Seattle victory throws the playoff scenarios spinning. More than that, it is a matchup of rivals, bringing a little more zing to the result. I would not expect more than one draw in the match, which sounds like Seattle has to win on the outside boards to get the match. If they get anything more than a draw on the inside it is gravy. The Mechanics might aim to make it a match of the two boards where they seem stronger, second and fourth, but they have black on those boards. In the end, this appears to be a match about will and who has the stronger will.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tribute to Zeus

" All a man can betray is his conscience" Under Western Eyes - Joseph Conrad

Here I am dear readers, before you with nothing but my conscience to keep the cold chill off. I made a small agreement with Eddie Chang and herein lies the payment. On Monday evening the Seattle Sluggers defeated the New York Knights by a score of 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 , which was certainly not the score I would have expected. Eddie did a great job of guiding his charges to a victory, the first ever for the Sluggers against the New Yorkers. I think that we in Seattle can join together joyfully in any defeat inflicted on the evil hordes coming from "The Big Apple" by our hometown boys. This was an exceptional victory for the Sluggers as they seemed to have a plan for victory and followed it to the letter. I have no doubt that Eddie had spent long countless hours divining every possible way his players could achieve the smallest of advantages. He then revealed the fruits of his work to the Sluggers with such immense confidence that they couldn't help but feel as though the match was theirs for the taking. Armed with this knowledge they fell into battle with their vile foes. There was nothing more for Eddie to do but follow the preordained sequences with his eyes as they played out on the boards before him. Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Chang... the name roles off the tongue, does it not! From the moment that Eddie was able to determine the lineup he would have to face New York there was no doubt in his mind of the outcome and in the end there was no doubt at all. Congratulations to the Sluggers is more than due, but for Eddie mere congratulations would pale as the rose does when the wind blows cold. I know this, for I had seen into the hearts of the Knights and knew what they expected. They had experienced only Seattle teams that were thrown together like the garments of a vagabond, players capable but without direction. On Monday the Knights felt the breath of another team, a team with fire in their hearts and malice in their souls. Fire and malice that Eddie brought them. Eddie did more than coach, much much more. He instilled the idea of victory in his players. We should all salute Eddie. Hail Eddie, Hail Eddie, Hail Eddie......

Recap: New York versus Sluggers USCL Rd. 6

Good Morning folks, doesn't the morning seem brighter than normal? Probably because the Sluggers shrugged off the monkey last night and defeated the New York Knights, a team that had between then in every previous meeting. Doesn't the air smell a little sweeter?

The first board matchup between Fedorowicz and Nakamura was surprisingly the first to finish. Playing the Pauslen/Kann Sicilian with some of that very modernistic piece development Nakamura gained a position with plenty of play. The Fed went for a pretty direct attack aimed at h7 or g7 and evenutally got there. Eventually is the operative word. Nakamura had established enough of an advantage on the q-side that giveing up the h7 pawn to exchange some active White pieces was a bargain and the action snapped over to stuff west of the d-file. A very nice win. (I had flashbacks to games I lost like that many eons ago to John Boy).

Second board was Serper versus Krush and frankly I was in for an immmediate surprise as I didn't think Krush ever played the King's Indian. Both sides treatment was very interesting, but Black eventually fanagled and advantage. I would not doubt that Serper might have missed a chance later, but Krush's pursuit of victory was quite exemplary.

Andy May on board 4 either had a prepared novelty or just dreamt it up over the board. In a line that had been a side pocket for Caro players since the mid seventies May calmly took the material offered and kept his King safe. Very nice job

Board 3 was a bit of a concern as Jay Bonin has been an all star. Milat shoved out the Grunfeld and landed in one of the queenless middlegames that has become a standard for the opening. Bonin showed why he has a reputation and kept pressing for the victory, missing his best chance just at the end. The split point brought victory to the Sluggers.

So, a little bit of good luck for a change. Of course there was a good effort by the players. It's like that old saying I just made up " Good Luck follows good work like Saturday follows Friday". (Hey, don't like it... you try making this stuff up!)

Good day and good luck to the Sluggers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recap: Dallas versus Sluggers in Rd. 5

Another example of how close the Sluggers can play. As a theme, a small advantage was the focus last night. Michael Lee acquired an advantage in the form of active rooks and displayed excellent skill in turning it into two pawns, then victory. Slava aimed for an endgame where his outside passed pawn would be an advantage, but it ended up being only enough to draw. The first board game appeared to be headed into a middlegame contest with an IQP when it took a sharp turn into an ending. That became a bishop’s of opposite color where the players looked to spend more time convincing themselves they could win. So, only Readey’s game was left. It looked like John was working to keep a solid position and didn’t achieve much form the opening. Slowly Bartholomew outplayed him to get to a better ending and a win. A tie match was a common expectation and that’s what we got.

I said on the message board that the Sluggers needed a win to keep realistic playoff hopes alive. That was a bit of an exaggeration, but it doesn’t look great for them. The next 2 Mondays the Sluggers face New York, a team they have had zero luck against, and then the West leading Mechanics. There might be a little pull for the Sluggers against the Mechanics based on the rivalry, but they will need more than some emotional push. The rest of the schedule sees Arizona twice wrapped around a match with Tennessee. As much as I would like to say that the schedule favors them, it just doesn’t. We aren’t entirely sure how good Arizona is and the first match with the Tempo ended in a tie. The Sluggers are not out of the playoffs today, but they have a pretty rough road to get there. There is a bright spot that they hold their fate in their own hands.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

USCL Rd. 5: Versus the Dallas Destiny

Week 5 of USCL play sees the Sluggers facing off with the defending champion Dallas squad. As these two teams have been in the playoff picture for the past two years and their matches always seem to be close this has taken a bit of a rivalry flavor. More importantly this season the match appears to be a do or die affair for the Sluggers. With the slow start they got off to they have been relegated to the bottom of a 3 way tie for 3rd in the West, while the Destiny are in second. A loss by the Sluggers will make getting to the playoffs a real climb. Splitting the match won't help that much. So, this paints a scene of necessity.

Dallas is a unique team. Their squad are all college aged, working their way up type players. They have a simple approach; keep all 4 games close, get one player to win and draw the rest. They are not adverse to tying some matches. My impression is that the strength of their players is relatively closer from top board to bottom than any other team. That means that if you aim to defeat them by winning on the top boards you have to be concerned about the bottom. It seems to me that Seattle might be just the team to give them trouble. With 2 tough GM's on top the Sluggers could win a game and put the pressure on the other boards. The big thing is who do the Sluggers put on 3 and 4? Of course, availability is a big question. I would think that you want to put the two players who are most likely to hold down there. That would be the formula I would take.

A quick note on last Wednesday's matches. What happened between New Jersy and Boston is a good example of team tactics and psychology. I don't know if Benjamin had some home cooking ready or Christiansen just blundered, but Boston seeing their first board lost in under 10 moves was a disaster. I suspect that it rubbed off on second board more than any, but still the Blitz players didn't change their mental outlook and got beat. The Carolina - New York match was another surprise. The Knights are having a rough season and this just added to it. In that match it appeared that events on the top two boards provided extra confidence to the entire Cobra lineup and they just went with the momentum. It got me to thinking that if the Sluggers could pull this one out and get more enthusiasm going they could still go all the way!

Last thought: this Monday Queens plays New York. The Pioneers are the only perfect team left and have proven a bit of a surprise. What concerns me is that they will be fielding a squad with 3 2500+ players this Monday. I know, you think I am crying like some kid in the schoolyard. But think about it, they are stretching the spirit of the rules here and once that happens there is no going back. Precedent will be set and teams will be looking for any way to push those boundaries. If this becomes standard my hunch is that it will not be a good thing for the USCL.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

USCL Rd. 4 : versus Chicago Blaze

The Sluggers got their first win of the season against the expansion Chicago Blaze. At the start of the season it looked like this might be an easy match for the Seattle team, but the first 3 weeks of the season had seen the Sluggers being the Struggles and the Chicago team being an upstart willing to fight. Well, the Blaze kept fighting in this match, but Seattle found its bearings.

Nakamura moved to 2-0 for this season with a win over GM Mitkov. Mitkov gave up a piece on move 12 in order to strip away the defense of Nakamura's king, but Naka had a clever reply that deflected the play away from his g3 square. It turned into a running battle with the Seattle player securing the point. Serper returned to days of his youth by playing the black side of an Old Indian. Equality turned out to be an easy objective for Serper. What followed was a lot of hand waving as each side tried to convince the other into committing an inexactitude. Draw in the end with K and 2 N versus K and 1 N. Michael Lee made his season debut on board three versus the veteran Emory Tate. This turned into a contest of little tactics which didn't see either side get much. My feeling is that Lee pushed too hard to win this and didn't realize the trouble that could be found. In the end Tate outplayed his young opponent in a bishop ending. Andy May made his overall USCL debut with a victory to get the Sluggers the match. Andy just took the pawns and kept going. Pretty easy game, isn't it Andy?

A win is a win and the Sluggers needed this one. Now a long week to get ready for the Dallas Destiny, defending USCL champions. Let's keep our fingers crossed for this one.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

USCL Rd. 3 Versus New Jersey

You gotta have a good strong stomach to be a Sluggers fan, the ups and downs can really get to you. The only game that didn't seem to go up and down a couple of times was Eric's game on board two. I don't know enough about the Bogo Indian to make any claims, but Black seemed to have a position missing a leg out of the opening. Still, Eric hung in there. Gulko is a veteran GM who just wore him down. The board one game started out very tamely, Nakamura paying some tribute to past NW greats by lunging forward with 1.g3. It turned into something from a 1950's B movie when the Black minor pieces and queen started draping themselves on the d-file. White worked his way out and then with just a minute bit of ooomph got a jump start to win some pawns on the K-side. That turned out to be enough. Readey was outrated by 100 points, but you wouldn't have known it. Black adopted a passive stance in the opening, zipped out to snag a pawn, labored the way back to being only passive. Then in a fit of frenzy Black made a rush to try to get active, with the Q side still at home, and ran into a solid beam in the center of the board. Time was a bit of a factor here as it seemed to be in all the games. Black looked to be grovelling when a perpetual appeared. Fourth board was typical of the Modern Benoni where it seems people just play crazy. Pawn down, pawn up. There were certainly some moves I didn't expect. In the end the player who was material ahead took the repetition. Very strange.

Most of the predictions were for a NJ victory, so the Sluggers should look at this in a positive light. Still, no victories after 3 rounds is not where they expected to be. They will have a short week, next Monday they are scheduled to face the expansion Chicago Blaze who are at 1.5 / 1.5 coming off a 3-0 (?) win over the Tennessee Tempo. Round 5 will see the Sluggers up against the defending champs Dallas. Could be an interesting couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tennessee - Seattle

Whoa! That was a match. I think my comments about ratings not being a big factor and playing with motivation being a bit more of a factor. The match with Tennessee showed it.

First off, I want to describe "Slugger-vision". At about the 90 minute mark I stopped skipping between games and put all for of them up at the same time. This was really cool, all the white clocks ticking, all the Sluggers clocks ticking, all the black players clocks running, all the Sluggers clocks running, multiple moves all at once drawing my eyes to and fro. Really kind of fun. Oh, did I mention the Sluggers clocks running? Serper was the first one into the time abyss, he had only 17 minutes left after about 12 moves. The Slava kind of wandered into the shortage of time followed by Lee. It was a bit unnerving when all their clocks were going and it didn't look like any moves were on tap. Just too crazy.

Serper played the Sicilian, sac'd a b-pawn for 2 B's, 2 center pawns and 3 open Q side files. Andrews put up some resistence, but once the B's started humming it was too difficult for White. Lee's game was quite interesting. Wheeler defended the English opening with the English defense 1...b6 and had the opportunity to play Bxf3 in the opening when it would leave White with doubled f pawns and d4 weak. I think this might have been a better choice than going into the Hedgehog, as Lee marshaled his forces very accurately, snatched the b6 pawn and was able to navigate some tactics to get to the winning ending. Readey played the Black side of the Samisch Kings Indian and just got squeezed. Mihkailuk - Bereolos was the most fascinating game as a cat and mouse affair turned into a duel of weak pawns, white's on b6 and black's on c5. Slava seemed to get the kind of thing he wanted, but short of time made a dangerous decision to avoid a Queen exchange. Bereolos was able to swing his forces over to the f file and get a winning attack. So, 2-2 tie. Better than a loss, but still not a win. The Sluggers seem to be kind of a hit and miss bunch, when they go strong they play as well as any team and when they are off almost anything can happen.

Ok, until next itme.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Season Opener

Suddenly it's that time of year again -- and the Sluggers are playing their first match of the season. The pre-match buzz had us as slight favorites over Miami (esp. as Beccarra wasn't playing), but we knew it'd be a tough match.

Lugo,Blas (2393) - Readey,John (2296) [B07]USCL, 27.08.2008

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 Nf6

This was my first time playing Blas, but from my brief review of his games, I could see he had
a straight forward attacking style. I'm not surprised he goes into one of the sharpest lines against the Pirc.

5.f3 c6 6.Qd2 Qa5

I swing my Queen out to discourage q-side castling, but...

7.0-0-0 b5 8.Kb1 b4 9.Nce2 Nbd7 10.Nc1 Rb8 11.h4 h5 12.Nh3 Ba6?

I was having a tough time getting focused in this game. There was a lot of commotion due to problems with the computers and such. My last move doesn't look best.

13.Nb3 Qa4

Here I thought White had a simple line to a clear edge: 14.e5 dxe5 15.dxe5 Nd5 16.e6 fxe6 17.Bxa6 Qxa6 18.Nf4+/-. I was relieved when he played:

14.Bd3 Bxd3 15.cxd3?! Qb5 16.Nf2 a5 17.g4 0-0

I thought Black was doing fine here.

18.Bh6 Kh7?!

This was actually my last chance for a4. I didn't play it because I was hopping to gang up on the d4 pawn without White have time to play Nb3-c1-e2. But the N on e2 actually lets me get an effective central break in: 18...a4 19.Nc1 Kh7 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Rdg1 Rh8 22.gxh5 Nxh5 23.Rg5 Qb6 24.Ne2 e5-/+.

19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.gxh5 Nxh5 21.Rdg1 Qb6

a4 is now too late, White breaks through on the k-side: 21...a4?? 22.Rg5 Qb6 23.Rxh5 gxh5 24.Qg5+ Kh7 25.Qxh5+ Kg7 26.Rg1+ Kf6 27.Qh6 mate. So I have to drop the a5 pawn. Well at least I have the open a-file.

22.Rg5 Rh8 23.Rxa5 Ra8 24.Rxa8 Rxa8 25.Ng4 Nf8 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.Rg1 Qa7

I'm trying to attack a2 and at the same time keep d4 under observation, but just as I played this I realized White had 28. Qxh5 gxh5 29. Nf6+! Kg8 30. Rg8 mate! After the game I showed this line to Serper whose non-plused reaction was: "Why take the Queen? There's no threat". Indeed after: 28.Qxh5 Qxa2+ 29.Kc2 Ra3! 30.Nc1 Rc3+ 31.Kd1 Qxb2 Black's attack crashes through.

28. Kc2 Ne6 29.Ne3 Nxd4+ 30.Nxd4 Qxd4 31.Nf5 b3+??

I quickly threw the b3 move in. My thinking was that it couldn't hurt to cut off the b3 square for the White King. But I missed the cunning: 31...Qc5+ 32.Kb3 (otherwise I take the rook with check) Ra3+! 33.bxa3 Qc3+ 34.Ka4 Qxa3 mate.

32.axb3 Qc5+ 33.Kd2 Qf2+ 34.Kc3 Qc5+ 35.Kd2 Qf2+ 36.Kc3 Qc5+ 37.Kd2 Qf2+

At this point I took a quick look at the other games, and the match seemed pretty level, so I took the safe course of securing a draw. Black could play on with 37... Ra7 when the situation is...unclear.


After this game finished I was shocked to see the games on the other 3 boards quickly deteriorate. In the next 10 minutes Serper, Tangborn, and Sinannan had to resign. Not the best day for the sluggers!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Round 1 : Miami vs. Seattle

I had a running commentary going, but decided to abandon it for a couple of reasons. First, I came in late, basically getting home and mowing lawn. Second, this USCL is the weirdist thing because at the end I don't know if anything I wrote is relevant. So, I will just go with a quick wrap up

Board 1 appeared quite positive for Serper from the time I got in. He had a Knight on d4 and looked like he was going to dictate the pace of the game. I don't know if time shortness affected his play, but the position just switched from being completely in Black's control to a total grip for White. It seems to me that Serper played too quickly on the K-side (25...h5) without taking some precautions on the other side. A fine performance from Lopez

Board 2 Tangborn looked to be building a solid advantage, but slowly. Martinez found a continuation to create some complications, Eric came out with two minors for a rook and the Black heavy pieces buzzing around the d-file. I think somewhere Eric lost the thread as the next time Black had 3 passed pawns to go with the rook and White had no targets.

Board 3 This seemed to start out as a flashback 40 years to games played in the Northwest by a certain BC player who became a 3 volume legend. Then, Readey castled and it turned into a race. Funny enough Lugo snatched a Q-side pawn in passing, found a pretty good attacking theme only to have Readey respond with a very nice rearguard defense

Board 4 Sinanan played the White side of a Slav. The pieces were arranged ok, but White had a knight that couldn't find a really effective square. Both sides seemed to shuffle pieces for a while and then White pushed forward with f5 and then e5. This all happened without any proper preparation and lost a pawn. I suspect that the match situation affected Josh after that as the White Knight was just knocked off the board without a wimper.

A 3 1/2 - 1/2 loss! Ouch! I don't think anyone saw that coming. The funny thing is that the Sluggers appeared to be doing ok on the boards they lost on and then suddenly all of them went up in flames. It was like a total collapse. Very irregular.

I have said this before and guess it bares repeating. The Sluggers sometimes try to play a little too "finely". There is one thing that has become apparent about the USCL, you have to take the play to your opponent. There aren't many games where one player just outclasses another, so bringing the fight to the opponent tends to bring some advantage. When they can do that consistently it will make them much more of a contender than adding one GM or two.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 1st and looking for the USCL

Hiya, Hiya, Hiya. Hope all the readers have had a good summer, especially the 4 days of summer we have had here in the Pacific Northwest. We have had some colder than normal weather, but that has nothing to do with your ... SEATTLE SLUGGERS!!

We are about 8 weeks away from the start of the season and there hasn't been any news about the Sluggers, at not in my ears. This is the time for the fans to start talking about what could get the Sluggers into the playoffs and over the hump. New players? Better matchups? Brighter lights? What do you think would help? Personally, I don't know if any new players on the books or maybe there is some lower player that is going to turn into a big surprise, but I have lots of ideas. Here's one: a contest for the fans where the fans guess the final score of that weeks match and as a tiebreak the total number of moves in all 4 games and the winner is the one closest to the actual number without going over, prize is a Sluggers cap or shirt! Here's another: a couple of times a season have special home matches where there is a guest team captain... somebody like Shaun Alexander (ok, he left but you get the idea... somebody who is kinda into chess and has a bit of a name). How about this: the Sluggers have had some trouble with internet connections in there early matches, so why not have a couple of warm ups? My idea is to get 4 of the Sluggers, probably only one of the titled players at a times, and play a match over the net with a local high school or junior team? You could get the juniors a location in some school, they all are wired nowadays, and just have a friendly warm up? Certainly isn't the worst idea I have ever had.

Ok, without knowing who the players are going to be we can take a quick look at the schedule. Here is a quick peak

-New Jersey
-New York
-San Francisco

This is an interesting schedule. Start out with a rematch of last year's week 10 match that got the Miami Sharks into the playoffs and ended the Sluggers season, then the Tempo who I suspect will be better this year, a likely tough match with New Jersey and a week 4 face up with expansion Chicago. All of these matches could be hard but, if the Sluggers can get through that point without any major accidents they are likely to be in contention for first place, Dallas plays SF and Boston while the Mechanics have a match with New York. The middle 3 are the gauntlet with the New York Knights, a team the Sluggers have struggled mightily against, between matches with division rivals Destiny and Mechanics. The last 3 matches will either be a sprint as the Sluggers have a playoff chance in their control or a forced march with them checking the scoreboard for some help. We have no real idea how good the Arizona team will be, but expansion teams seem to lose poise the later in the season it gets. It doesn't seem to me that there is anything to complain about in this schedule, except maybe an extra match with Miami (payback you know). The odd thing is that the schedule looks like 7 - 3, but with a little luck one way could be 8 1/2 - 1 1/2 or the other way to 5 and 5. I will say 7 1/2 out of 10 and into the playoffs.

Well, that is my initial take on this. As I hear more I will share with you dear readers. Don't forget to go to the Wachess bulletin board and talk up the Sluggers!!!