Honestly I found this game hard to read for the majority of the opening and middle game. I would venture to guess that Levon got what he wanted: A position with a slight pull that offers Black very limited ability to change the structure and make it wild. However, as a spectator I was worried about Levon’s time disadvantage throughout. I will admit that I myself have something to learn about Increment Based Time Controls and how this affects both time management and preparation. I especially feel that way after watching Levon (and Robby last week against Andrews) trail a significant amount on time for the majority of the game, but still increase their advantages comfortably to eventually achieve clearly winning positions. This was the case in Levon’s game and after the move 46.Bb5, it seemed to be only a matter of technique for Levon, especially when I considered that Lev Milman was now the player down on time. Unfortunately however, we started to see some of the effects of converting a winning, but complicated position, “on line”. I think I am in the majority with my feelings that Levon would never have missed a mate in two (available to him after Black played Qh6 on move 56) in a live game. Obviously Kramnik missed mate in one not too long ago, so I guess it happens, but needless to say, not winning this game was a tough break for the Scorpions!
Oleg Zaikov vs. Mark Ginsburg U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona
Viewing the game live, I had a much better feel for the position than I did in Levon’s game. Mark’s opening choice was something I have played before, and it was therefore more familiar to me. I felt he handled the position very well even after Zaikov’s rare choice of 9.g3. Technically, 9.g3 has been played before (one time according to my database) but the question is whether or not Zaikov was really prepared for this “new idea and approach” to the position, or if he just didn’t quite know the line that well. My guess is the former, but judging by his time-management, maybe he did make the whole thing up over the board. Who knows? With that perspective in mind (the one where we assume Zaikov prepared this line with 9.g3) I have to give Oleg credit for his choice and even his lash out move 16.f4!?. The position remained unclear for sometime, but from a practical perspective: A young underdog against an experienced International Master; Zaikov did exactly what he needed to do to win. He applied pressure. Despite Mark’s accurate defense (and Mark did do a good job dealing with the tactics and shooting down tricks), once time pressure began to play a role, Mark blundered and lost immediately. This was obviously a critical game and even in hindsight, I don’t think Mark could have played much better (some small improvements to the defense might have been 23…Re8 or even the aggressive 23…Qxa3) but over all Zaikov “won” the game more than Mark “lost it”. Taking the “unbiased Rybka approach” you might say “well, if Mark had only played 31…Rg6 instead of 31…Qd1+?? He would have most likely drawn”. Although that is true, given the circumstances of Mark’s time pressure and Zaikov’s attacking chances, unless Mark was going to take the draw right then, it was still going to be a hard game for Black. Mark will avenge himself this week against David Pruess of the San Francisco Auto Mechanics or whatever!
Robby Adamson vs. Ron Simpson U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona
Despite my previous accusations, Ron is not related to Bart or Homer in any way…J In all seriousness though; this game was another tough break for the Scorps. Robby was the favorite in this game and he had White. After taking Ned Flanders bad advice, Mr. Simpson chose the dubious 7…Bg4?! (Which I guess is hard to call dubious given that no other move helps the line anyway). My guess: Ron was planning on a repeat of the game Gufeld-Balinas, Las Vegas U.S. Senior Cup 1995 which although reads 1-0 in the database, was a wild and crazy affair in which Black had really good attacking chances. Robby made the right decision with 8.Bd5, but he should have captured on c6 and gone into the game quoted above with 10. Nxe5 instead of 10.d4. Then, even if White doesn’t want the complications that occur after 14.Nd2 and 15.Qxg7, 14.f4 (Rybka) seems to give White a slight pull. Nonetheless, after Robby missed this opportunity out of the opening it still seemed as though his “veteran savvy” might pull off a surprising win in the rook ending (Lord knows he should know something about them by now). Although it doesn’t seem to offer much, in a practical sense I think Robby needed to play more actively with a move like 43. Rb8, although I must admit as long as Mr. Simpson doesn’t stray too far from Springfield he should be fine. In the end it wasn’t destined to be for Robz to get the win, and he settled on a draw after 76 moves of fighting.
Craig Jones vs. Warren Harper U.S. Chess League Week #5 Carolina vs. Arizona
I personally had a lot of anticipation in this game as I knew that Warren’s first two showings in the League were not a good example of his true strength. (Let’s hope the same is so for me this week against Shankland right.) Curiously enough in this game, Craig played 9.g3 just as Zaikov played 9.g3 against Ginsburg: Coincidence? I think NOT! I am on to Carolina’s little game, and whoever plays them next week should look into this little 9.g3 shenanigan! Anyway, a typical Queen’s Indian was reached and they followed the game Sjodahl-Wessman Sundsvall 1989, until Craig varied with 16.dxc6. It is unclear whether or not that move was an improvement for Craig, and it seems to me that at that point Black already has a comfortable position. Warren’s defense, as his kingside became open, was impressive until the blunder 33…Rxd5? (33.Qe7 keeps an edge as White can’t capture the f7-pawn without getting mated on f1.) After that Craig had a clear advantage, but then “old faithful” time pressure set in and Craig trapped his own knight with 40.Kf2?! and 41. Ne7? (40.Ne7 immediately was much better). The finish was certainly entertaining (don’t you just love when the bishop dominates the knight). Warren wins a nice game.
Although some good things happened in this match, the Scorpions definitely let one slip away. An extra half a point on anyone of the top 3 boards would have done it, but hindsight is always 20-20. I liked our aggressiveness as well as our “will to push on” in games like Robby’s. Let’s go get em’ against San Fran and hope for the best!! Go Scorpion Nation…