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.