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.