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.