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.

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