Monday, September 14, 2009
The next chapter of the Sharks-Mechanics story will be written Wednesday night, as we take on the most successful team in USCL regular season history. Along with Dallas-Boston, this is one of the big games to watch this week. With that, I'll hand it over to my friend Brian.
Guest Prediction: Brian Goldstein
The Miami Sharks have a very interesting matchup this week, playing one of the heavier hitters in the league, The San Francisco Mechanics. I have actually visited the mechanics chess club and it is a lovely club that boasts a number of strong players and is run impeccably by team captain, John Donaldson. I wanted to take some time and analyze a few matches and perhaps make a few predictions regarding the outcome of this match.
The first match is GM Becerra vs GM Friedel. This is a relatively key matchup as both players are extremely strong, but I have to go with the experience here and give my prediction to Becerra. Don't get me wrong, Josh is a great guy and definitely an extremely talented player, but his previous results versus Becerra I believe are sub par and Becerra is coming off an extremely strong performance at the Miami Open and Florida State Championship, winning clear first.
The Second match is FM Lopez vs GM Kraai. I don't really have any first hand experience versus GM Kraai, but Bruci has been playing extremely strong as of late, and Kraai from previous weeks looks slightly sloppy. I would like to say that a draw here would be most probable, but I expect Kraai to bounce back from his poor performance as of late and pull through here. I believe this match to be the decisive one and the result will most likely sway the entire match. If Bruci is able to hold a draw, the sharks will most likely pull this week out.
The third match is IM Lugo versus IM Shankland. I know Sam played a poor last round versus GM Gonzalez at the Miami Open, but he is an extremely talented young player. I expect Sam to pull this one out. Blas is a great guy, but he has a family and a business which must come before chess, so he will definitely be rusty. I have to give this match to the younger, sharper Shankland.
The final match between NM Alvarez and FM Liou is another influential game on this entire match. I expect Ernesto to stick to his guns this game, he has been on somewhat of a tear of late coming off a spectacular Miami Open. His style of play, once extremely uncompromising and not totally sound has developed into one more balanced yet still extremely dangerous. I think Ernesto will ride his high and pull of the victory.
So, all in all, I think this match will most likely be split 2-2 but I have to give favor to our sharks as a slight favorite because I believe the matches on boards 1 and 4 are extremely favorable for them. If Bruci can pull off a draw, the sharks I believe will take this match. I look forward to watching the match and seeing how I do. Best of luck to both teams!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Lopez vs Van de Mortel, USCL Week 2
Annotated by Matan Prilleltensky
In Week 2, Bruci Lopez continued his good start to the season with an attacking win over Chicago IM Jan van de Mortel. I'm quite out of my depth commenting on a game between such strong players so I'll try not to say too much! Any mistakes are the fault of the free version of Fritz (5.32) that I'm using.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 O-O 12. Nc2 Bg5 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 15. Bc4 Rb8 16. Ra2
"This move frequently transposes to 16. b3; the advantage of 16. Ra2 is that in some lines, White can advance b4 in one go. As a general rule, however, plans with b4 are a bit too simple to try and gain the advantage, since they eliminate the a-pawn which is one of Black's main weaknesses, and thus reduce the number of threats Black has to deal with. On the plus side, of course, the move does create a passed pawn." - IM John Cox.
Black's plan is to open the f-file with f5. The question is whether to prepare it with g6 or make the Pawn break a move sooner and recapture with a piece.
"Without ... g6, 17. h4 would only weaken White's Kingside" - GMs Kolev and Nedev.
"17. h4 is pointless before g6 is played." - IM John Cox.
Luckily for the Miami Sharks, chess is a game of moves, not opinions! This Kingside thrust fits Bruci's aggressive style, and he was able to cause his opponent problems in the resulting positions.
17... Bh6 18. Qe2
The late GM Karen Asrian played differently here against Alexander Khalifman: (18. Nce3 Bxe3 19. Nxe3 Ne7 20. b3 f5 21. exf5 Nxf5 22. Nxf5 Bxf5 23. O-O Be4 24. Bd5 Bxd5 25. Qxd5 Qxh4 26. Qxd6 Qf6 =)
18... f5 19. exf5 Bxf5 20. g4 Bxc2 21. Qxc2 g6
This seems to justify h4 by giving White a target on the Kingside. I'd be surprised if it wasn't a mistake. (21... Bf4 looks much more natural and is the standard way to meet an h4+g4 plan from White in some other Sveshnikov lines. Black looks totally fine here.)
22. g5 Bg7 23. Qe4 Rf5
Black offers an interesting exchange sacrifice which I think Bruci was right to decline.
(24. Ne3 Ne7 25. Nxf5 gxf5 would see Black take over the initiative.)
24... Rxg5 25. hxg6
I think White is better in light of Black's exposed King. However, Black plays very well in the next ten moves while White seems to lose control of the position.
25... h6 26. Ne3 Ne7 27. Bf7 Rb6 28. Rxa5 Rxb2 29. Ra8 Rb8 30. Rxb8 Qxb8 31. Qh4 Qb1+ 32. Kd2 Qb2+ 33. Nc2 Rg2 34. Ra1
I'm not sure where White dissipated his advantage; all of his moves looked fine to me. In any case, this tricky position should peter out to equality (34. Bd5 Rxf2+ 35. Qxf2 Nxd5 36. Rh3 e4 37. Qf7 Bxc3+ 38. Rxc3 Qxc3+ 39. Kc1 Qg7 also looks like a draw), but...
34... Nxg6 35. Ra8+ Nf8?
This lets White execute a nice finish. Black may have rejected 35... Kh7 because it would lead to a perpetual. Extrapolating from the ICC clocks, I think Becerra had already won his game, and Recio had won or was winning. This would mean Van de Mortel had to win to keep his team in the match. So, it's possible 35... Nf8 was "forced" under the circumstances, rather than being a blunder. It's also possible that Van de Mortel planned to play this way in advance, and blitzed out Nf8 since the alternative (drawing the game) was not acceptable. This is all complete guesswork, with apologies to both players!
36. Rxf8+! Bxf8 37. Qf6+ Kh7 38. Bd5!
Very nice! Black is defenseless.
38... Rg7 39. Qxf8 Rc7 40. Be4#
Ok, I'm the first to admit this blog has been pretty inactive! But I'm going to try to show signs of life every week, as well as get some players and guest bloggers to share their thoughts.
The Miami Sharks return to USCL action with another strong team this year. Because of some rating and roster changes, our two most successful lineups from last year (Becerra-Lopez-low 2300-Rodriguez, Becerra-Lopez-Perea-Prilleltensky) are unavailable this time around. Osmany Perea will be especially missed on Board 3; he was a nightmare pairing for our opponents. I (Matan) will also feature much less; if I play at all, it will be as an alternate.
However, we have been strengthened with some new faces: NM Ernesto Alvarez and expert Miguel Recio are USCL newcomers, while IM Alejandro Moreno Roman returns after his absence last year. Our spine from last year (Two-time MVP Becerra+Bruci Lopez) is still intact, and IMs Marcel Martinez and Blas Lugo add considerable strength and flexibility. This year's Sharks definitely have the potential to win a USCL Championship.
Happily, my optimism was borne out by our start to the season: The Sharks are 2-0, with wins over defending champion Dallas and Chicago. Soon (hopefully before the next match!) I'll discuss the Week 2 win.