Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week 7 Results/Review

Manhattan Applesauce vs. Baltimore Kingfishers 2.5-1.5
GM Alex Stripunsky (2659) - GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) 0-1
IM Lev Milman (2501) - GM Larry Kaufman (2452) 1-0
IM Eli Vovsha (2539) - FM Ralph Zimmer (2279) 1-0
James Black (2102) - NM Adithya Balasubramanian (2255) 0.5-0.5

The Manhattan Applesauce defeated the Baltimore Kingfishers by the score 2.5-1.5, keeping the Eastern Division Playoff Race going for at least another couple weeks. The match featured a few hiccups, including two takebacks for Manhattan and a complete network (wireless and LAN) outage for Baltimore around 10:30 PM! Thankfully, the outage lasted less than five minutes, but coincidentally, it (re)asks the question of what is to be done if the network did not come back up, which was the topic of conversation on ICC channel 129 about half an hour before the outage when New York also had trouble with their connection. Phone relay; Adjournment; Restart at a later date; Agreed Draw; Adjudication; Forfeiture?! Any reader preferences/suggestions? Meanwhile, let's get back to the games:

This Board 2 rematch (with colors reversed) saw a relatively long theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit: Semi-Slav played between GM Larry Kaufman and IM Lev Milman. 13... b5 has only been played twice before with wins for white in both games, but the real novelty was 15... gxf6 (15... Nxf6 likely leads to a Rook+Pawn for Bishop+Knight imbalance). IM Lev Milman was down approximately 50 minutes when he tried to open up the diagonals for his bishops with 17... f5?!

GM Larry Kaufman - IM Lev Milman, Position 1

White should have responded with 18. Qd2 (or Qd3) fxe4 19. Qxd6 Qxd6 20. Rxd6 exf3 21. Bb5 Ne5 22. Nxc5 and white is better due to his iniative and more active rooks. However, the game continued: 18. e5 Nxe5 19. Qxf5 Nxf3+?! (19... Ng6 seems safer) 20. gxf3? (missing Black's defense played in the game; 20. Bxf3 +/= as white has the Qg5+ Kh8 Qf6+ maneuver) Bxh2+ 21. Kh1? (Wanting to clear the g-file for Rg1+ Bxg1 Rxg1+, but still missing black's next move; 21. Kg2 supporting f3 was safer) Qe5! 22. Qg4+ Kh8 23. Bd3 c4? (Black is still better, but after 23... f5, there is nothing white can do to get at the black king.)

GM Larry Kaufman - IM Lev Milman, Position 2

White could have fought much longer for a draw with 24. Bxh7! Black must be careful as 24... Kxh7? (24... Qf4 =/+) runs into 25. Qh4+ Kg8 26. Rg1+! Bxg1 27. Rxg1+ Qg7 28. Rxg7+ Kxg7 and white is slightly better since black's rooks are not yet active. Instead, play went 24. Bxc4 Rg8 25. Qh3 Rg5 26. Rd3 Rag8 and GM Larry Kaufman resigned with his king under heavy fire. This was the first game to finish and a big setback for Baltimore as it was a loss with white.

The next game to finish began with a surprise! I expected a Reti/KIA on Board 1, but instead, it appeared (albeit a different variation) on the Board 4 game between NM Adithya Balasubramanian and James Black. The novelty was 10. Nh4 (10. Qc2 [+1 =4 for white], b4 [+1]). White went on the offensive early and pressed against Black's kingside. However, Black allowed the opening of the g-file and actually seemed to get better use of it as he doubled his rooks quickly. A takeback occurred when 24... Bd4 was played instead of the obviously intended Bxe3. The advantage then slipped once white was allowed to play the Bg4-Bf5 manuever. White could have capitalized on this advantage after 32... Qe7:

NM Adithya Balasubramanian - James Black, Position 1

33. Qg4! Qf8 34. Qg3 Qg7 35. Qh2! (35. Qxe5 Rg6 is +/=) Qf8 36. Qxe5 Qd8 37. Bg4 (important to answer Ng7 with Rd1) Qe7 38. Rf1 Kg7 39. Bf5 Qd8 40. Bxh7 (+/-). Instead, NM Balasubramanian played 33. Qh2 (right idea, but black now has a defense) Nf8! 34. Qg3 Ng6 35. Qg5 Rd6 and the players traded into a Rook and Pawn endgame that was eventually drawn. Baltimore would now need a draw and win to tie the match or two wins for a victory.

The Board 3 encounter between IM Eli Vovsha and FM Ralph Zimmer was a Scandinavian Defense. IM Eli Vovsha played the novelty 8. Be3 (8. Be2 [+1 =1 -1], Nh4 [+2 for white], Bd3 [+1]). Both players spent their time developing pieces until black decided to open the center with 15... e5. After 15. a3 exd4 16. Bxd4 Bxc3?! (16... Bc5 breaking up white's bishop pair was better) and here:

IM Eli Vovsha - FM Ralph Zimmer, Position 1

White apparently typed "bc3" and the server took with the b-pawn. IM Vovsha intended to take with the Bishop but would have needed to capitalize the B for the command. Originally, I mistakenly thought he had capitalized it, and then, the server prioritized pawns over bishops, but an ICC admin assured that capitalization does work, and I have since tested that it does. In any case, another takeback was granted by the league. Once that was fixed, IM Vovsha slowly increased his advantage, playing against black's weak a-pawn and c-pawn. FM Zimmer played on, looking for any chance at a perpetual check with just Queens and Pawns on the board. However, none were to be found and he resigned when it was clear white could force a queen-trade and then promote a pawn. Thus, Manhattan was guaranteed the match victory with at least 2.5 points.

Finally, the Board 1 rematch (with colors reversed) of GM Stripunsky and GM Erenburg began with another surprise as GM Erenburg played the rare 3... a6 in a Caro-Kann: Two Knights variation. However, it was GM Stripunsky who played the novelty 6. Nf4 (6. d3 [=1 -1 for white], c3 [+1], Ng3 [-1]). Early play revolved around the e5-pawn, but soon black changed targets by placing pressure on the long h1-a8 diagonal. Black seemed to have all the play as white's knights were reduced to blockers on the diagonal. The most interesting point of the game came when GM Erenburg played the rank-clearing move 32... f6!?, leaving the knight en prise on f5, but threatening a rook invasion of the h-file.

GM Alex Stripunsky - GM Sergey Erenburg, Position 1

Perhaps GM Stripunsky's best chance was to accept the sacrifice and try to complicate the position as GM Erenburg had only 5 minutes at this point. One line (see game viewer below) runs: 33. gxf5 Rch7 36. Rd2 Rh3 35. Nd6!? Qd7 36. Qxh3 Rxh3 37. Rc2 Bb7 38. fxe6 (38. exf6 gxf5! {only move to stay -/+}) Qxe6 39. exf6!? {when} Rh1+! (39... Qxd6 40. Re8+ Ka7 41. f7 Qd5 42. f8=Q Qh5 43. Ra8+! Ba8 44. Rc7+ Bb7 45. Rxb7+ Kxb7 46. Qf7+ {White gives perpetual check along the a4-g8 diagonal}; 39... Qxf6 40. Re8+ Ka7 41. Nb5+ Ka6 42. Nc7+ {Knight gives perpetual check}) {is the only move that keeps the advantage for black} 40. Kxh1 Qxe1+ {as the g2-knight is pinned} 41. Kh2 Qe6 {-/+}.

Later, GM Erenburg could probably have ended the game faster with 34... Rh1+ 35. Kf2 R1h3 (white still has some counter play with 36. Qxh3 Rxh3 37. f7 Rh8 38. Rh1 Rf8 39. gxf5 Qxf5 40. Rh7), but since he was low on time, he chose the safer 34... Qd7 and eventually converted the win in the endgame with two extra pawns. Although the match was already decided in Manhattan's favor by the time this game finished, the victory gave Baltimore some extra cushion in the first tie-break in case the playoff race comes down to that as a decider.

However, the Baltimore Kingfishers will certainly try to make it unnecessary in the coming weeks! See you next week when the Philadelphia Inventors are the matchup.

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