Sunday, August 29, 2010

Predictions for Seattle's Monday match

GUESS WHAT???? Seattle pulls out the *drumroll* DOUBLE FIDE-MASTER LINEUP. Which is definitely SCARY because it has more syllables than DOUBLE GRANDMASTER LINEUP, and more syllables than double IM lineup! w00t! Well, as for the actual matchups, Seattle definitely has a stronger lineup than last week.

IM Levon Altounian 2496 - FM Costin Cozianu 2557
FM Slava Mikhailuk 2431 - IM Rogelio Barcenilla 2583
FM Robby Adamson 2363 - WGM Katerina Rohonyan 2327
Michael Wang 2103 - NM Nick Thumpson 2183

Arizona 2406 - Seattle 2355

Again, Seattle is outrated, but Seattle managed to make their match against Chicago really close. Seattle Sluggers should have their chances this week again.

Board 1: IM Altounian - FM Costin Cozianu

Costin's really strong, and I'm quite surprised that he is not an IM or GM. Perhaps it's because there're hardly any norm events occuring near Seattle. If I remember correctly, Costin won the 2009 Washington Championship very cleanly, drawing Michael Lee and grinding down Howard Chen in a drawish endgame. As for IM Levon Altounian, he is certainly seems to be a solid player, so perhaps it is no surprise that Arizona does not have a GM on their roster! As a matter of fact, it seems that Levon's only loss in the USCL was to super GM Nakamura. I give Costin a slight edge and decent chances of winning, but I predict a draw.

Board 2: FM Slava Mikhailuk - IM Rogelio Barcenilla

Alright. Slava's outrated by, oh wow, 150 points. But judging by his USCL records, Slava always manages to pull out against significantly higher-rated opponents. Just look at his game against GM Shabalov.

HEY ROGER!, look at Slava's face:

Scared? Good. Slava wins this one. Board 2 goes to Seattle.

Board 3: FM Robby Adamson - WGM Katerina Rohonyan

I'm sure that Robby and Katerina are about equal strength. The match should be a sharp Sicilian, and the result could go either way. Ehhhhh, let's call it a draw. :D

Board 4: Michael Wang - NM Nick Thompson

Michael Wang's outrated by 100 points. However, I've played Michael several times before, and he's pretty tough fighter and could draw an NM. I'm sure he'll pull out this time. I predict a draw on board four.

Predicted overall match score: 2.5 - 1.5

YAHHH, Seattle all the way!

Friday, August 27, 2010

"The Winners Write History. The Losers...?"

HI! Most of you readers probably don’t know me. If so, I’ll just quickly introduce myself. I’m Alex Guo. I just recently turned 16, and I’m an incoming junior at Interlake High School. I play some tennis, though I’m mostly a chess player. My favorite chess quote is, “I like the moment when I crush a man’s ego”, famously said by Bobby Fischer. He was a queer one…

Now before I get into Seattle’s match up with Chicago, I’d like to make an interesting observation that NONE of the losing teams have really covered much about their matches. The losing teams would be Baltimore, Boston (poor guys…), Carolina, New Jersey, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, and of course, Seattle. Meanwhile, ALL of the winning teams have showed off quite a bit with their “inaugural win!” or “opening match victory!” or “woohoo!” etc. etc. whatever. Reading through the blog posts of the winning teams, looks as if each of them have actually annotated, to some degree, each of the match’s games, or at least discussed the processes of each game. The most I can say about “the losers” is perhaps the mention of the match score and one of the games. Thank you, Carolina, for at least posting and annotating a game which was won by one of your members, and kudos to Baltimore for at least posting the game of their top board…which they lost. As for the rest, make some effort to write about each week’s matches.

I just realized, Baltimore and Carolina both have had at least one pretty crappy year in the USCL. In 2008, Baltimore went 1.5 – 8.5, while Carolina went 2.0 – 8.0 last year in 2009. Maybe that’s why…

OK, Now, the match with Chicago. Yeah, we lost. The match score was 1.5 – 2.5, Chicago, but everybody else’s predictions were 1-3, so we beat expectations. As for how Seattle lost the match…to be frank, I’m not sure. The consensus was that Seattle would score something on boards 1 and 2, while “Mr. Undefeated” IM Young was supposed to tear apart Sinanan while NM Eric Rosen was supposed to take me down, like “a walk in the park” (thanks for the support, mUSCLe). But the bottom two boards were actually where we got ALL 1.5 of our points, while the top two boards sorta messed up (hem, hem). Let’s discuss the critical points of each game, in the order that they finished.

Board 3 NM Josh Sinanan – IM Angelo Young, ½ - ½

This game was a rather quick draw, through repetition. The following diagram is the resulting position. I don’t know much about the Queen’s gambit, though I’m assuming that Sinanan is following the book line, and besides, White seems to have plenty of compensation for the pawn, through Black’s fragile Queenside pawn structure, Black’s dark-square weaknesses on the K-side, White’s two bishops, and a strong center pawn. However, draw for board three is not a bad result.

Board 2: IM Felecan – FM Lee, 1-0

Guess what? Michael Lee goes to Interlake High School.

But as for the game…YEESH. Dropping a pawn…not good. The following diagram is after White’s 15.b3, protecting the extra c-pawn.

Still…I reckon Black has a decent chance of a comeback. Opposite-side castled positions are VERY sharp, and pawns are often sacked in the name of opening lines against the king (see the classic game Lasker – Steinitz, some random year and some random game of a random World Championship match, for a good example. Actually, I change my mind about letting you search for it yourself. ). Strategy for both sides can be summed up as: “The one who gets there the firstest with the mostest…wins.” In other words, open up lines ASAP and get your pieces there as fast as possible. Ignore the other side’s attack as much as possible, so that your attack gets going faster.

That said, I think something along the lines of 15…b5 is called for. B5 opens up files against the White King and threatens …b4, severely undermining the e4-pawn. 16.Qd6 simply lets Black win back the pawn. 16.Qd6 bc4 17.Qxc6 is a dream for Black’s Queenside attack, and there should be enough to dream up against the White King.
However, Michael launched a piece attack, failed to open up sufficient lines, and in my humble opinion, 16…h5 was a drastic error because it allows White to open up lines quickly. So…Lee goes down in less than 30 moves.

Board 4: NM Eric Rosen – “I don’t have a title” Alex Guo, 0 – 1

FYI: I played this game.

As Seattle went into the match as the chief underdog (now that I think about it, of all the USCL teams, Seattle had the weakest lineup in terms of Avg. rating), I put an aggressive spin on a normally placid French game. So Black had a rather unusual pawn structure, significantly raising the risks but heyyyy, better chances of winning for Seattle!!! I’d say that the first critical moment came with my exchange sacrifice:

(diagram, after I played …Rd5)

I’m still not too sure if it is sound. Anybody reading this post, what’re your thoughts? Feel free to comment. I’ll just say that White could probably pull off a win with very precise play, but Black also had plenty of counterplay to keep White on his toes for quite a while. Makes sense with the overall match strategy, to complicate the game so that Seattle has a better chance of pulling out. The next critical moment:

(diagram, after 26…b4)

Black has a very strong Q-side attack going. Black is aiming to sac a pawn with the object of increased piece activity or a strong protected passed pawn at b3. Meanwhile, it is not completely clear what White is going to do on the K-side. The N and Q are tied to the d-pawn, while moving the dark-squared bishop can unleash Black’s e6-bishop against the h3-pawn. The only reasonable plan would be to either infiltrate the lower ranks, or to push the passed h-pawn down the board. The first plan of infiltration doesn’t work too well, as Black can lift the king and get the rook out of the way, and then there’s nothing left to do. As for pushing the h-pawn, that would weaken White’s K-side, and is still a very long ways from fruition. Black clearly has the initiative.

Eric played the disastrous 27.ab4, letting Black’s knight get to d3, in which case Black clearly has enough compensation for the exchange and should be fine.

27.ab4 Nxb4 28.Rxa4 Nd3 29.Qd2 Bb4 30.Qe3 Kd7 31.Rg2 Be7

Black is pressuring the b2-pawn, while letting the Black bishop keep events in check on the K-side. Now 32.Ne1?? (yes, it deserves two of those swiggly lines), allows the no-brainer move 32…Nxf4 33.Qxf4 Rh4 34.Qf2 f4! HUGE pressure on h3 35.Ra3

Black to move and win a queen

Answer: click on link, and then click on the 35th move.

With that, Seattle moves to 1.5 – 1.5.

Board 1: FM Slava Mikhailuk – GM Dmitry Gurevich, 0-1

Slava. Yes, Seattle’s hitman, although I attribute most of his success to his rather intimidating photo: By the time I finished my game, Slava was at the following position:

(diagram, after 29…Rd2)
GM Gurevich plays the stunner …Rd2! Nice! I should mention that I have the utmost respect for Gurevich as a Leningrad Dutch guru, but nice move! Still, the position afterwards was really unclear. However I COMPLETELY disagree with NM Konstantin Kavutsky that Gurevich cleanly converted a “positional advantage.” Slava certainly has plenty to play for. At several moments after 29…Rd2, the game could have easily swung either way. Although Gurevich managed to hold on, kudos to Slava for creating sufficient complications against a veteran and famous opponent to have given Seattle a very decent chance to have won the match, despite putting forth the weakest lineup of the week.

Oh well. Next week, Seattle’s gonna have some big guns, so we’ll have a much better shot at winning the match, while the Scorpians could use some GMs.

And lets get some more teams posting commentary. If the psychological impact of the loss was that bad, then the Seattle Sluggers extends their condolences. Otherwise, show some spirit!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seattle Sluggers Qualifier

This year, we decided to do something new. We offered up a roster spot to someone in the community. Our 1st Annual Seattle Sluggers Qualifier. Winner gets a spot on the roster, and at least one game during the season. Why did we do this? There is just too much young talent to choose from. Its hard to choose from all of these great up and coming players. So we invited a bunch of players, 1850+ and under the age of 18 to come play a small tournament to determine who our 10th member is. We even had an elementary school kid show up, and Rolend Feng, who's 9 years old, scored a respectable 2.0/4. I have a feeling he will be showing up on the roster sooner or later. Anyways, going to the last round, Vishnu Warrier was leading with a 3.0/3, however he met up with a insurmountable challenge. Facing him was young Michael Wang, fresh off of a week of soaking up chess wisdom from the GM Yasser Seirawin as part of United States Chess School. Michael showed no mercy and won the final spot on our roster. Now, with our roster complete, we will look forward to our first match-up with Chicago, on the 23rd.