Monday, September 27, 2010
New York > Miami
2.5-1.5, split on the bottom boards but...NY has an edge on top two.
3-1, same as above. (Editor: Carolina has pulled draws recently. Wouldn't be surprised if they did it again)
philadelphia ? chicago - could go either way, I'd go with chicago if I had to. (Editor: Unfortunately Seattle needs Chicago to lose. So I'm gonna call a win for Philadelphia)
NE sweeps STL.
Shankland is good. (Editor: this is the disadvantage of hiring kick-ass players.)
LA = manhattan,
I don't know. (Editor: Call a win for manhattan. Seattle needs LA to mess up somehow).
boston > san fran
2.5-1.5 I'm hoping this happens. looking strong on 1+2. (Editor: Boston's been a strong contender recently.)
No comments for the game on Seattle. Better not to tempt fate.
2.5-1.5 solid on all boards. that's too bad, though (Editor: true dat)
Thanks to Michael Lee for sharing his thoughts!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Well, helloooo 0-4 record for the Monday Match Predictions. That's right. All of my predictions were dead wrong.
- Nor'easters - Inventors: I predicted a draw, but the Nor'easters won.
- Cobras - Applesauce: I predicted Applesauce to win, but it ended in a draw.
- Archbishops - Destiny: I predicted St. Louis to win. Again, it ended in a draw.
- Chicago - Scorpians: I predicted it to be a draw. But wow, the Scorpians actually lost this one.
Well, certainly the probabilities are right. For Monday, 50% of the matches were drawn, albeit only through the game-losing blunders by Cobra's NM Agner and Archbishop's FM Eckert, while my coin flipping system gives draws a 50% chance of occuring.
Can you see what's wrong with the following picture? Don't worry if it doesn't strike you immediately at first. Frankly, it's really quite hard to find.
That's right. I'm sure you must've seen it: the coin I used, was the state quarter of North Dakota.
An apparently innocent decision to draw the first quarter out of my backpack has had a shockingly killer effect on my predicting record. And besides, WHO THE HECK LIVES IN NORTH DAKOTA ANYWAYS?? The people of North Dakota has been granted too much power in predicting matches. It's time to put an end to this outrage.
THE WASHINGTON STATE QUARTER!
Since we are in Washington (or at least I am), why not use Washington's state quarter? Novel idea! So here we go, predicting the matches yet again, but this time, changing the coin to the Washington state quarter
New Jersey Knockouts - Boston Blitz
Two strong teams from the East are pitted against each other. New Jersey has the edge on board three, while the Blitz have the edge on board 4. Should be a tight match, but this time the Blitz will prevail over the New Jersey Knockouts.
Baltimore Kingfishers - New York Knights
Close match ups on boards 1 and 4. New York has the rating advantage on board 2 while the Kingfishers has an advantaeg on board 3. Another very close match, and the match will hover at a draw.
Miami Sharks - Seattle Sluggers
Huh, I wonder why Serper hasn't debuted yet? Our top two boards are struggling, and we could really use his help. Michael Lee is getting his first white in a long time, while Slava's gonna hold down the fort on board 1 against GM Julio Becerra. The Sluggers have a very slight rating advantage on boards 3 and 4, but they certainly won't be gimmes. Expect another close match, but this time, Seattle wins!!!! (Yes, I actually did flip the coin.)
San Francisco Mechanics - Los Angeles Vibe
The first CA vs CA team in USCL history! SF has brought out their two young guns while the Vibe puts a 2300 (really?) on first board. It almost like a lineup that you'd expect only from the Carolina Cobras. Clearly, SF is favored to win, though the coin flip is a draw. Hmm, I wonder whether that'll actually happen?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Because of evident flaws in my system, changes are being made to predict the monday matches. For last week's Wednesday matches, I got only 50% of the results correct, which was because my system did not take into account the draw factor mainly because draws don't happen that often.
The Original: flip the state quarter of North Dakota once. The team with the white colors gets heads; the team with the black colors gets tails. The coin flip is used for all four matches.
The New: flip the state quarter of North Dakota twice! If heads and tails come up, its a draw. If heads comes up twice, the team with the white colors is predicted to win. If tails comes up twice, the team with the black colors is predicted to win.
The Math: draws are now expected to occur 50% of the time, and a decisive result will occur 50% of the time. The probabilities make sense, because 50% of the Week 4 matches ended in draws.
Onto the flip:
Nor'easters - Philadelphia Inventors
Strength coming from the bottom boards means that Nor'easters will be favored to win this match. But a draw is predicted.
Carolina Cobras - Manhattan Applesauce
Once again, the Cobras are underdogs, but last week they managed to draw the New Jersey Knockouts. However, the coin likes Applesauce's chances better. Applesauce wins.
St. Louis Archbishops - Dallas Destiny
After two magical seasons, the Dallas Destiny is struggling this year. Good thing St. Louis doesn't have their three GMs out, this time going for a more balanced lineup. Maybe their fourth board will actually go for the win this time. The coin flip goes to... the St. Louis Archbishops.
Chicago Blaze - Arizona Scorpians
Arizona Scorpians go for their fifth win against the Blaze, while the Blaze are looking for a win after last week's loss to the Vibe. Can they do it? Looks like neither team will get their wish. A draw is expected.
If I am totally off the mark for the Monday matches, a different system will be used to predict the Wednesday matches.
If you think my system for prediction is GREAT and ACCURATE!, please comment. Support would be wonderful.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Unfortunately, a 50% prediction rate also means that my method predicted the Seattle - SF match correctly. Despite having a higher average rating, Seattle gets upset by San Francisco. Incidentally, this week seems to be the week of the upsets.
- Ron Simpson's upset over Gulko
- Cobras gets their first break, this time against the New Jersey Knockouts
- St. Louis's Fourth Board gets their first 0.5 point of the season
- Michael, though getting his sixth black game and a pretty bad losing streak, gets his first win (good for you, brothuh!)
- Pruess upsets FM Cozianu
...and Friedel upsets Akobian. Just as in week 1, Seattle's upper boards lost.
Seattle has been on a pretty unlucky streak so far. Anyone else notice the string of blunders in the Sluggers' matches?
- Week 1: Michael Lee blunders a pawn to Felecan (so it started with you...FM Lee)
- Week 2: Michael Wang drops a pawn to Nick Thompson, and later, Slava gives up a clearly drawn position (albeit, forced by the team situation)
- Week 3: I blunder two pawns. Katerina drops a piece. By the luckiest of circumstances, Seattle wins.
- and Week 4: FM Cozianu blunders an exchange.
Honestly. I'm not sure blunders happen that often to the other teams. But despite the blunders, all four matches have been pretty darn close. Which is, in a way, a good thing. Despite the blunders, the Sluggers can still make their opponents fight every inch of the way towards the win. Of course, now the blunders just need to go away.
Board 2: FM Cozianu - IM Pruess, 0-1
The first game to finish was board 2. In an French Advanced, Pruess plays the rarely seen line, 3...b6!?, leading to interesting play. Seems like you can play practically any variation in the French. Thereafter, a relatively normal French ensued.
A normal French pawn structure except for the queenside pawns. Black will seek counterplay on the queenside, probably taking aim at White's b2-pawn so as to undermine support for c3. White's plan should be to generate kingside counterplay through a pawn demnonstration, or to seize and hold d4 as an outpost for his pieces. With both objectives in mind, the right idea was probably 18.g4, to drive away Black's KN and then Be3, to exchange the dark-square bishops so as to firmly plant a knight on d4 (as a side note, this plan could have been implemented earlier, when instead of 16.Bf4, White should continue 16.Rd1, g4, and then Be3). In addition, the exchange of dark-square bishops would either bring black's pawn to b6, closing the b-file, or undermine the isolated a-pawn.
Instead, Costin played 18.c4?!, to which 18...Nb4! comes as a strong reply because Black now has the possibility of putting a strong knight on d5. c4 also loosens up the q-side pawns, and consequently, Pruess managed to rev up tremendous queenside pressure, to soon reach the following position
Black clearly has the better position, because of all his piece activity on the queenside, while White's on the kingside is lightyears behind. Pruess played 23...Nc2, and Costin tried 24.Ra4?, dropping the b-pawn but trying to give Black a hard time converting his better position. Of course, 24.Ra2 is an alternative, but things already look a bit desperate for Costin. A slight inaccuracy a few moves later hastened the end.
People shouldn't interpret this one game to mean that FM Cozianu is a terrible player. Mistakes near the end were due to Costin's 15-minute late arrival, so Costin can play much better than he has this week.
Board 3: FM Zierk - FM Michael LEE 0 - 1
YAHHHH, YOU ROCK MICHAEL! Finally, a win :)
For this game against Zierk, Michael deviated from his usual Sicilian and selected the sharp Dragon. Michael deviated from mainstream Dragon early on, with ...Qb6?! instead of the more usual ideas such as ...a6 to get the b-pawn moving.
Zierk responds 10.Nf5, followed by Nxg7. Following the weakening of the dark squares, Zierk launches the bayonet h4-h5, while also castling queenside. The game naturally turned into a sharp middlegame with both sides coming close to each other throats.
In the above sharp position, Michael should play 19...Bc4, with a sharp middlegame position that will most likely end in a perpetual. Instead, Michael played 19...Be6?, allowing Zierk's reply 20.hxg6, when Black cannot capture with the f-pawn because he hangs the Bishop, or with the h-pawn because of Qh2, leading to mate on the h-file or substantial material loss. After 20...Qa1 21.Kd2 Qxb2 it was Zierk's turn to return the favor:
Although my computer suggests 22.Na4, simply Rdb1 would be enough for a win, forcing the liquidation of queens into a winning endgame for Zierk, which he usually converts convincingly. Amazingly, Zierk blundered away the game with 22.Qh2?? Looks like Zierk forgot Qh2 wasn't a check? Michael slams down 22...Rfd8 (check) 23.Nd5 cxd5 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.e5!? Qd4+ and after a couple of checks played by Michael, the game was all over.
About time you got a win, Michael!
With Board 2 and 3 finished, there remained Michael Wang and Akobian.
Board 4: Wang - NM Liou, 0.5 - 0.5
In response to 1...e5 against the English, Wang went into a Botvinnik, which is a worse version than the KID because now Black's bad bishop is outside of the pawn chain. However, Yian exchanged his knight for Wang's bishop, allowing Wang doubled e-pawns, which is, in my opinion, good for White because the e3-pawn covers the previously weak d4-square, and could later support d3-d4.
Black is obviously preparing for the break d5. To prevent it, there is the interesting 18.Nd5!?, just stopping the idea right in its tracks. Another possibility is 18.Qh5, which will provoke 18...f6 when Wang will finally have something to play for on the Kingside. 19.g4 and g5 will follow, to undermine Black's kingside.
Instead, Wang played 18.b5. I'm not too sure what the idea behind this was...after 18...d5 19.bxc6 bxc6 20.cxd5 cxd5 21.exd5 Nxd5 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Bxd5 Qxd5, Black clearly has the better game, because of his possession of the d-file and a legit weakness to work against, in the d3-pawn. Liou ended with a pawn up in a rook endgame, but despite being under a minute for the rest of the game, Wang was able to prevent Liou from converting the win, thus securing a draw on board 4 for Seattle. Nice job Michael!
Now for the Game of the Week.
Board 1: GM Friedel - GM Akobian
Ya know, I think that the Game of the Week prize is a JINX. It is pretty well documented that the finalists in the Game of the Week contest almost always do badly in the week following their victory. I remember last year a funny series when the winner of the GOTW beat the winner of the previous GOTW, and that happened several times in a row. Even this year, Yury Shulman was the winner of the first GOTW, and then the winner of the second GOTW Felecan beat Shulman. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. Hmmm, maybe that's why I played like crap in the match against Miami? Anyways, more GOTWs should be given to Arizona then!
Maybe the "GOTW jinx" explains why Akobian lost to Friedel. Perhaps it was unfortunate that he placed in Week 3 GOTW.
At any rate, Board 1 was the critical game for this week's match. Akobian got the worst end of a complicated French. For such a hugely complex game, I'm not going to pretend like I know everything that's going on, so I'll only present the most interesting and critical positions of the game with brief comments.
In a Ngf3 Tarrasch (versus the more commonly seen Ne2 line), Akobian ran his a-pawn down the board, which Friedel decided to ignore.
In the game, Akobian played 12...c4, which is in hindsight, may not be the best move, since it later became hard for Akobian to drum up queenside counterplay versus White's kingside pawn storm. Thus, my hunch is that 12...cxd4 would be better, because it opens up more lines on the queenside.
Akobian won back the a-pawn, and shuttled his king over to b8. Nevertheless, Friedel launched a pawn storm on the kingside.
Initially, I thought that White had a great game, because White has a raging kingside initiative. But as I look at the above position again, it seems that Black should be able to hold the position. White's a-pawn is sticking out like a sore thumb, and Friedel's kingside attack, though menacing, is also double-edged, because the attack opens up lines that lead directly to the White king.
In the game, Akobian played 29...Nf8, moving the knight back to where it was a move ago, leading to a loss of time. Later in the game, the knight on f8 didn't have that much to do, so 29...Nb6 should be considered, in a bid for a queenside initiative in response to White's attack on the kingside.
As lines opened up on the kingside, tactics started emerging. Black's pawn structure is in shambles.
Akobian played 36...Ne6 in the game, which invites White to chomp on all of Black's weak pawns. I think that 36...Ne6 might have cost the game. A better alternative might be 36...Qd7 and forcing White to allocate resources to attack the f-pawn further. So if 37.Qh3, then 37...Ng6, striking at White's own weaknesses. Eventually, Black will of course capture White's a-pawn.
After 36...Ne6, Friedel got the better of the tactics. After Akobian let Friedel have both of his f-pawns, Friedel suddenly got two passed pawns. In the tactical portion of the game, this would be extremely significant, as White could now sac his rook and get away with it, because both of his pawns would be on the sixth rank, and unstoppable.
By now, Black is already lost. As the course of the game shows, 44...Rxf7 was not possible. As for 44...Qxc3 45.Qf3 Qxf3 46.Kxf3 Rxf7 Whtie is obviously winning the endgame.
So the big question: where did Akobian go wrong? I think that Akobian made the correct strategic decisions, but at one point let his opponents take both of his f-pawns, thus giving White an important card: the passed pawns. In the ensuing tactics, the passed pawns was the ultimate factor in tipping the balance in favor of Friedel---and San Francisco.
Of course, if you have a different opinion, comment on this post!
Tough match, tough luck. At a 1-3 record, the Sluggers aren't off to the greatest start they've had so far. As a 5-5 record is the minimum for qualification for playoffs, Seattle's going to have to do some serious buttkicking for the rest of the season, but I wouldn't put it beyond us.
As for my prediction method, please welcome...
DA COIN! Or to put it more precisely, the state quarter of North Dakota. Yah, it's kinda random, but seriously, it was the first coin I found in my backpack, so why not?
As highlighted by the matches on Wednesday, there is an evident flaw in my system. I only flipped the coin once, with heads being the team with the white color, and tails being the team with the black color. Initially, I ruled out the possibility of draws because they really don't occur that often. A modification shall be released for Monday match predictions.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
One of these weeks, I'm gonna predict a 0-4 sweep against Seattle, just to see how things turn out :D
But this week, Seattle's looks ready to crush San Francisco. Just like last week, Seattle outrated the opponents on all boards except board 4, and last week, Seattle actually won. This week should be no different.
Board 1: GM Friedel - GM Akobian
Akobian had a great debut against a top USCL player, but this week he has the black pieces. Most bloggers think the Panda can draw Akobian, and while I certainly agree, I think it's fair to say that Akobian has the better chances in this game. Once again, Akobian is going to win, and lead the charge for Seattle.
Board 2: FM Cozianu - IM Pruess
you might as well roll the dice to predict which opening Pruess is going to play, though last time Pruess picked the King's Gambit and didn't do too well. Pruess is a tricky player, but Cozianu's a solid player. Cozianu has the better chances for a win, particularly given that he has the white pieces, and loves playing white. Cozianu takes this one for Seattle.
Board 3: FM Zierk - FM Michael LEE
Both are rather strong players, but Zierk has been showing greater tournament activity than Lee in the past few months. Hopefully Michael has stepped up his game and is ready to win one, after having lost his last four USCL games. Incidentally, he's had the last five games with the black pieces, and this time he's again having the black pieces!
Then again, I've personally faced Zierk in Denker, and he gave me plenty of chances, while Lee is a much tougher nut to crack. I predict a draw on board 3.
Board 4: Michael Wang - NM Yian Liou
These two youngsters have met in the recent US Chess School in Seattle, so this won't be the first time they played chess against each other. Wang will come with his English against Liou's KID/Leningrad. Wang should look out for a K-side attack, but I think he'll be able to hold his own against Yian. Another draw for Seattle.
Seattle wins, 3-1.
As for the rest of the matches... I've come up with a technologically innovative solution for predicting matches. Results of the experiment will be released after match results come out.
Boston - Noreasters, Noreasters win
NJ - Carolina, New Jersey wins
LA Vibe - da Blaze, The Vibe wins
(by the way, what kind of a name is "Blaze"? Why name the team after the Chicago Fire, which screwed Chicago over?)
Oh, one last thing. I tested the solution with Seattle's match today. Claims SF is gonna win, and now I'm beginning to doubt whether I've really come up with a reliable tool for predicting.
If you have an idea of what the "technologically innovative solution" is, comment below!
Friday, September 10, 2010
First win! though obviously not without some major tussles along the way. Aside from Akobian's smooth and impressive win over Becerra, the bottom boards faced major issues. Oh wait, that includes me. Well, yah, I guess I was losing? lol, ok, I was dead lost. For most of the game I actually thought I was dead lost, but after Perez failed to find the few killer moves, my position proved to be surprisingly resilient.
But first, the shocker
Board 3: WGM Rohonyan - FM Charles Galofre, 0 - 1
Katerina loses, and very early in the match.
Really, an unfortunate blunder, and I was told that Rxg7 was played quickly, but Rohonyan should've been more than a little suspicious since this is early in the opening and Galofre, a respectable 2300, probably doesn't make opening blunders much. After 10...Qf6, fatally forking Nf3 and Rg7, FM Galofre cleaned up board 3. As usual, an early loss placed pressure on the other three boards to perform up to par, in order to equalize the match.
Next up, Akobian's debut.
Board 1: GM Akobian - GM Becerra, 1 - 0
Akobian's debut against one of the most successful GMs in the USCL started out in a Grunfeld sideline. The line that Akobian chose doesn't give White much: just a miniscule advantage that Akobian would have to nurse patiently in an endgame.
After the exchange of Queens, Akobian had a Queenside pawn majority, greater space, and pressure along the a-file. Akobian is planning to double up rooks along the a-file and prepare b4-b5, with strong Q-side pressure. Becerra lashed out with 16...e5?, which must certainly be dubious because 17.d5 gets White a center passed pawn with tempi. In fact, Black might even already be on the brink of losing. 17...Nb8 18.Nd2! Nice maneuver, swinging the White Knight over to d6, and later backing up the knight with c3-c4-c5. Black can't stop it with 18...b5, because of 19.Bxb5. The strong knight and eventually, strong center passed pawn was enough for Akobian to pull off win. For Becerra, the following position was the beginning of the end:
White's crushing, and Black has hardly any counterplay. Akobian equalizes the match, bringing up the match score to 1 - 1.
Although the match between Seattle and Miami was now equal, many Seattle players (and probably Miamians as well) had good reasons to feel pessimistic about Seattle's chances.
Board 4: Guo - NM Perez
"I thought we were going to be 0-3!" said FM Costin Cozianu after the match, "because of him!"
Haha, well, thanks for the comment, though I'm glad we're not 0-3 either! Though Costin might've felt hopeless about the way things were going in the match (remember, Rohonyan's also in a bad situation), he certainly wasn't the only one. I, for one, felt awfulllll
In the opening stage, Perez deviated from mainstream Winawer into a Winawer exchange (exd5 after Black's Bb4), and then he reeled off a dozen moves off his prep. If it wasn't all prep, then it certainly seemed like it, since he ended up with 65 minutes (the game started with 60), while I started with 25 minutes down the toilet. After making several inaccuracies in the transition between opening and middlegame, Perez set up a battery down the e-file and obtained the better position. Then...
AHMG adjfaoarg;aiehgko;jjl;kfjgakfao;wrhingbl.znkfb;ouhao;wrg, a blunder, and g4 actually 'forces' the White Queen where it wants to go! In the above position, Perez plays the no-brainer 21.Qxf5, and I left down two pawns in a freaking endgame (of all the kinds of middlegame positions I could've had), to try to fight back. Morever, I was down on time, with my clock now below 5 minutes, and Perez's sitting at a comfortable 20+ minutes.
Really, playing a game on two hours of sleep just doesn't work out. Hit by a combination of procrastination and IB's bludgeon Extended Essay, I almost had to drag out an all-nighter. OK, not the best thing to have before a critical match, I guess...
White probably had plenty of ways to win. For those readers who really want to know, just use Rybka or Fritz, and it'll probably pop out a few precise moves before Black's ready to resign. The right idea was probably to just DITCH the Q-side pawns and to get the K-side passers moving. Later, after White's King got to d3, just h3, to stop all of Black's ideas with saccing the h-pawn, and then White could try to slowly grind out the endgame.
Then came what was probably White's first critical mistake. Simply 38. h3, preventing Black's h3, and Black will have to hope that his queenside bind and active rook will be enough. 38.Rh7?! Rg5 seizing control of the semi-open file, and eventually obtaining the second-rank, thus allowing Black to hold the balance. 39.Bc1?! White has an interesting idea in mind, but too bad it doesn't work...By the way, Perez is under a minute around here, I think. 39...Rxg2 40.a4 Nd6 41.Bf4 Nc4! Black now has perpetual check with the knight via the squares b2 and d1. By now, it's a draw fosho.
42.Rxc7 Ka6 43.Rd7 followed by perpetual would be best, but now Perez tries to grasp again the win he almost had... 43.Rxc4??, not only did it cost the game, but also the match. Afterwards, I was able to slowly grind Perez down in an endgame.
In a clearly winning position, the first mistake often quickly leads to a series of mistake, and thus turning a won position into a losing position very fast. Perez, you have my full respect for coming so. dang. close.; best of luck in your future games and chess career.
With that, Seattle pulls back from the jaws of defeat. It's 2-1.
Last, but not least, Costin Cozianu.
Board 4: FM Martinez - FM Cozianu
Marcel started out with a tame line of the Ruy Lopez, opting for the quiet d3 over the sharper c3. Cozianu begins a mad rush to push the b-pawn to b3.
White returns the favor with a center break: 20.d4 exd4 21.Nxd4 Nxd4 22.Bxd4 Bf6! Cozianu should get rid of the bad bishop. 23.Qd2 Be5 with a tough middlegame battle ahead for both players.
Skipping down to the endgame, Marcel was now pushing for the win against Cozianu, as my game managed to get turned around.
White's better pawn structure, preferable minor piece, and more active king ensured him the better chances for a win. However, not all was to be, as he blundered with 60.Bd5? Nb4 61.Rxd4 Rc5 62.Ke4 f5! 63.Kxf4 Nxd5, and Cozianu's extra piece assured the team of at least a draw, and with that the match.
OK, the match definitely didn't go smoothly. To be sure, we were faced with markedly lower chances right out of the gate with Katerina's loss. luckily, mistakes on the part of Marcel and Perez enabled Seattle to turn around the match. To celebrate, the team headed down to Applebee's for food. Nothing's perfect without food!
Good luck to Miami next week, facing St. Louis, who is brandishing their GMs once again, and probably a proud fourth board as well. Next week, Seattle is facing longtime arch rivals San Francisco, a chess power house for sure.
Seattle all the way!
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Board 4: Michael Wang - NM Nick Thompson, 0-1
Wang's game was the first to finish. In an endgame where Black was slightly better because of his more active pieces and queenside pawns, Wang misjudged 24.Qc1, and after 24...Qxe2 25.Qxc7 Rd1! 26.Qc8 Kf7 27.Rxd1 Qxd1 28.Kg2 black is simply winning the endgame. Nick Thompson cleanly converted the win.
Wang's result was very important, as it put the onus on the other three Sluggers to win.Board 1: IM Altounian - FM Cozianu, 0.5 - 0.5
What began as a normal Slav quickly turned into something else that was quite bizarre! One move that I cannot fathom is Costin's 12...Ra7. The idea is to move the Queen behind the rook, bringing tremendous power to the a-file, which is actually, at the moment, completely useless. The result of Costin's rook/queen on a7/a8 was what I thought a tremendous misuse of the major pieces, and they were caged up for about 10 moves when they finally (kinda) broke free. Altounian played logical positional moves and gained an enormous positional and material advantage, but Costin held on tenaciously, to reach the following position:
In this position, Levon was impatient, and played 36.Nc5?!, leading to the exchange of the important White knight and inadvertantly giving Black control of the open file, thus giving Costin the draw. Another reason why Nc5 was a mistake is simply because "Every rook endgame is drawish" ~Tarrasch, so Levon should have kept the minor pieces on in order to maximize imbalance. A better move was 36.Rdd4, and then h4, f4, b3, to lock the pawn structures, and to carefully prepare an eventual e4.
Given Costin's scary-looking position in the middlegame, I'm sure he was happy to get a draw!
Board 2: FM Mikhailuk - IM Barcenilla, 0-1
Slava played an early e4 in the English, giving Black a good version of the Botvinnik because Black did not have a pawn on e5. So unfortunately, Black managed to equalize with relative ease. However, Slava disrupted Barcenilla's mojo and played the crazy 17.e5!
Objectively, at least according to the computer, the position is actually equal, but it greatly complicates matters. After a series of skirmishes, Slava played a very controversial pawn sac.
The knight move loses a pawn, but afterwards the game could now easily go either way. The decision was probably made because by now, Michael Wang lost and Costin's game was a draw at best, so Slava had to give it his best shot. Even afterwards, the position became a drawish opposite-colored bishop position, but Rohonyan's game was petering out to a draw, so Slava tried to go for the win with some very dubious moves, and lost, but his go-for-broke strategy was justified by the match situation.
Board 3: FM Adamson - WGM Rohonyan, 0.5 - 0.5
The last game to finish, though the match result was already long decided in Arizona's favor after Slava's loss. Perhaps the most memorable moment was the following position:
White's turn to move, Robby actually had a chance to completely turn the tables! Although, by a positional evaluation, Black is better because of a central pawn majority and the two bishops, White is able to hold the position because of the central positions of the two knights as well as the two rooks. Seattle's best chance to equalize the match was on board three, where Katerina almost managed to win.
However, simply 45.Nf5! and White is clearly winning. Instead, Robby went 45.Rd2, and after a long endgame battle, the game ended peacefully.
So, Seattle is clearly off to a pretty rocky start, since luck was not on our side in two fairly close matches. Kudos to Chicago for managing to draw their match against a TRIPLE-GM lineup, and Arizona certainly does not need to worry about a GM-less roster. Fortunately, there's still another 8 weeks. Next week Seattle faces Miami, the only other team in the West division with a two-game losing streak. Let's see who breaks it!