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