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.