Before I go on my rant about the match I want to thank some people that have basically kept the Scorpions functioning this season and don’t get any credit at all. In no order at all Jon Shacter, John LaLonde, Amanda Mateer, Ben Marmont, Satheesh Aradhyula, and Alan Anderson. I can’t really thanks these people enough as they help the team tremendously and never complain about it. Without these people there would not be a team from AZ.
Anyways on to the match.
Unfortunately the Arizona Scorpions lost their last match against the Baltimore Kingfishers. This was a very close match. Just like the Seattle match versus Arizona a couple breaks here or there and this could have easily been our victory. But we will have to go ahead and learn from it instead. This was our “weakest” lineup that we have had all year however we felt that we were at least solid on every board. When we saw the Baltimore lineup we were confident that this was going to be a very close match up. However, our team is fully confident that the remainder of the season is going to see a rise of the Scorpions! Stay tuned for new lineups and new players added to play to the team in the weeks ahead!
This game was probably the most boring of the group so I will deal with it first! Levon prepared some for Enkhbat since he almost exclusively plays 1. d4 in the league. He had told me that he was going to play a Slav and a very solid line occurred where Black had a very solid structure while White had the big center. However, Black was ready to hit the center at any moment and after 10…Bh5 he is getting ready to play …Bg6 and attack e4 again. The game started to get a little more exciting after 13. d5 c5 14. de6 Qe6 15. Ng5 Qc6 16. Nd5!?. Although this doesn’t seem like it works as an aggressive attempt it did seem to exchange a lot of the pieces that were left on the board with two sets of minor pieces coming off. After 22…c4 it seemed that Black could not be worse but it is tough to convert that to a victory. Although Black has a more mobile pawn majority White has his counter chances as well. In the end, although Levon fought it out until he could not anymore the position just petered out to a draw.
This was the second game done of the match. This was one game that affected the rest of the match I thought as Mark seemed to be in trouble the entire game. When one board is in trouble and down a pawn (although I guess he got some play out of it at some point) the other boards of course usually look at that and decide if they have to be more aggressive or not on their board. However, Mark did very well after he lost a pawn and immediately got at least some play for his pieces. This saying is mentioned a lot but I will say it again. A lot of times when you are in a cramped position and your pieces are not functioning, when you lose a pawn your pieces open up and you have more room for your pieces. That is what happened to Mark’s game. He lost a pawn but all of a sudden he got the a-file, he got holes for his knight on e5 and c5 and he was able to attack with his bishop on g4. This maybe was not enough but it definitely made the game more dynamic and interesting.
This game was crazy the whole way through. At one point Robby said he was +5 ahead if he played the right move. The game started with a long theoretical line of the Sozin Sicilian. I thought that 18. Bc5 was kind of suspect and after that White was just going for broke on the kingside sacrificing the exchange for play. He did have some play and for most of the game I had no idea what was going on. However, if you look at it for more time than I had (because I was still playing) you had to see that White’s rook was definitely misplaced on h4 and unless White mates his king can become weak as well. One top of this, I think one of Robby’s better chess qualities is defending tough positions and this was the case here as well. However, Robby was unable to find the wins for him in this case and instead chose to trade down into a opposite colored bishops ending where he was up material but could not break through.
So this was a pretty tough game for me as I had a very tough decision to make on move 24 where Black basically offered a draw by repeating. Black had no other choices there as he had to repeat the position or his position would be lost. So the game was pretty early and I didn’t know what to do. I could take the draw or go into some crazy complications where the position is not clear at all. If this was some normal tournament I think this would have been a much easier decision but in this team setting you have to look at how you’re going to help win as a team rather than think about your own game. I thought that Mark’s game looked very bad as he lost a pawn with White in about 20 moves. Robby’s position looked crazy and unless I analyzed it for awhile there was no way I was going to be able to make a definitive decision. And Levon’s game was not at all clear either. I honestly thought it could be any result. Therefore based on the fact that Mark was losing and the other boards were completely unclear I thought I had to go for a win here. However, perhaps I should have just decided on this by spending a couple of minutes rather than spending like 10-15 like I did in the game. It is impossible to calculate everything in that position so better would have been just to decide quickly. Anyways on to the game!
I can’t really agree with some of Mark’s analysis that he has in his column. I mean some of the Bg6 lines look good at first but Black has a lot of resources and can play …Ra7 after Bg6 in many lines. For example at one point he suggested instead of 19 Bf5 to play 19 Bg6 Black can play 19…fe3 20. fe3 Ra7 there is still some play in the position. To look at a computer and spit out what it says is pretty easy…to actually play and analyze it during a game is another thing.
According to Alejandro 24. a4! was winning after 24…fe3 25 fe3 and due to the threats of 26 ab5 and 26 Qd7 it is tough to hold Black’s position. In this case moves such as …Ra7 can just get met by axb5 with Black having to defend both the King side and the Queen side. I saw these types of lines but didn’t see the 24. a4! move. So I had to pick something else and I decided to play 24. Nb6? which in the end looks bad if Black played the correct continuation. After 29…Qg6! 30. Qc6 f3 31. g3 Qe6! 32. Kh1 and now 32…Kf7!, also given by Alejandro, Black wins. However, neither one of us saw this continuation and after 32. Qc8+ the position was not at clear. Of course after 33…Qh3 34. Rg1 Qxh2 doesn’t work as my queen can interpose the checkmate at h3. After 34…e3 35. fe3 Qc2 36 Rg1 the position was still completely unclear even though the computer is still loving it for White. However one move later I am just lost. After 36…Rh6 I can either play 37. h4 or 37. h3 and only one really works. After 37. h4? was played in the game I am just losing after 37…f2 38. Rgf1 Qe4 39 Kh2 Rxh4+! followed by …Be5 with mate coming. Of course if 37. h3 there is no …Rxh4 trick and the game continues with White having an advantage. This still would have been difficult to defend but this would definitely have given me chances to win. After the game continuation the game is just over and the rest was just easy technique.
A really tough match as I thought boards 3 and 4 were definitely better if not winning at certain points and somehow we didn’t even get a full point out of these two games. In the end, you have to give credit to Baltimore for fighting hard. However the Scorpions will continue to fight in the remaining matches and we fully expect to do well! With 6 matches to go until the season’s end there are still a lot more fighting chess left!