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!