Levon Altounian is a stong IM based in Tucson, Arizona. He is the head of the Arizona Chess for Schools which you can find out more by clicking here.
ARIZONA SCORPIONS VS Seattle Sluggers ( Week 7 )
Great match and a very tough victory by the Arizona team that propelled us to a 2nd place tie in the division! I feel relieved.
San Francisco is always a tough match for us having usually employed at least 1 GM (even though some of the line ups may include even 3 GMs). Here is what I approximately thought may happen. It was a pure guess based on only either knowing our players, their preferences, in some cases their opponents.
Board 1. I was not sure what Rogelio will play this time. Last time against Bhat he played an Exhange Rui Lopez. Got a weird game, lost a piece, instead of resigning played on and …. Drew!
Board 2. I had a feeling John will play the solid type of some nf3-c4 system and it was up to Aldama to decide which way to react. I was 99% sure it will be either Kings Indian, symmetrical or some Bogo_Indian version.
Board 3. With Danny I really had no real feeling. It could be his 1d4 2 Bg5, could be Torre attack or could be main line Sicilians.
Board 4. I had no time to check what Dallas player plays as White but I was sure whatever it will be, David will play his usual stuff he knows best.
This match was a bit of a tribute to tactical creativity of all players and the slight edge Arizonans have playing ICC type chess ( SF people might disagree though)
Board 1: BARCENILLA-BHAT
General Styles: Barcenilla- More active chess, Bhat- more “normal” chess
Theoretical Importance: 8
The Scotch Opening choice took me by complete surprise! I had looked at playing it myself and somehow was sure Bhat would play exactly what he played again Rogelio. I watched games of Kasparov in similar lines and I was astounded how I would always guess maybe only 10% of all his moves.I knew I would not like those positions as White so didn’t even try. Now, watching the game unfold exactly how I assumed it would unfold had it been my game, I had the pleasure of watching it all from a safe distance. If Barcenilla finds something (or had prepared something ) against the lesser known 8…Nb6 (favorite of many Russian 2700 players), then he knew something I didn’t know. If he got into trouble, then it would prove my feeling that the line of Scotch in the game is too weird for normal chess players to comprehend in a complete way. I didn’t like the 11 a4 and it seemed black got more than a good game. However, complications started, time pressure slowly crept in and I think Black somewhere missed a win. Having not found a win, Black chose to trade all off into a draw, but instead found himself in a slightly worse endgame. I was still sure it will end in a draw until White pawn got to the 7th rank. Then Bhat panicked. White had a much easier win (58 Bd7!) but chose a safe way out and by force got an Queen vs Rook ending. At that point Mark Ginsburg was touting how easy it is to win it for white but forgot a “tiny”detail: few months back, he himself didn’t win it against an IM at the Copper State 09.We were sure however, Rogelio will win easily as the rook was separated from the King. To my surprise the game kept going. All ended well though, as he found a way to win the rook without reaching the dreaded 50 move rule. Very good Blitz save and win by Barcenilla but his opening choices as White sometimes scare me!
Board 2: IM Donaldson-IM Aldama
General Styles: Donaldson- Super solid openings as White, Aldama- much less theory while compensating it by sharp tactics.
Theoretical Importance: 8
Opening: Kings Indian
As I mentioned, I was expecting Kings Indian in this game. However, John played a very interesting new move ( at least for me )-9 b3!!. It seems Black should have some Nf6 forced removal and Ra1 capture ( like N:d5 or Ne4 ) but the simple fact White played it and Black did nothing about it, convinced me in about 2 seconds there has to be nothing for Black. Aldama never misses such chances and John never blunders those. If that is the case, then the small advantage White obtained by switching to English structure from that line of KID should make all future attempts by Black to play this line a very unpleasant experience. However, White didn’t seem to be inclined to really push for a win, being happy to keep the slight edge.He probably had a win at the end but chickened out and repeated the position. Good Defense in a very unpleasant position by Aldama.
Board 3: FM Rensch-FM Naroditsky
General Styles: Rensch- very aggressive. Naroditsky- also very aggressive.
Theoretical Importance: 9
Opening: Bg5 Veresov.
From where I stood, the opening choice was hilarious. Danny plays as White a line that a 2100 Geary used against himself to obtain a winning game…. 5 moves or so later, using the most illogical looking move:6 a3!!??. Naroditsky played the in most logical way and I thought obtained a slight edge if had squeezed in some a7-a5 break. But the game became much more normal after both sides developed. What happens when 2 tactical guys get a boring position? Hint: no draw. As a result – White gets a totally losing position and then wins in a magical way! Mark was right again- Statistical Rensch proved milestones do happen. It was statistically impossible for him not to win a game. His first win for the Scorpion team and definitely not last!
Board 4: Young-Adelberg
General Styles: Young-active, Adelberg- more normal but still aggressive.
Theoretical Importance: 8
Opening: Sicilian Kan.
I was amazed as to why would David play Kan! The only reason could be to transpose to the English System lines ( Be3-0-0-0-g4 push ) ideas but keep the Bf8 open to jump to b4. I had seen many games of that sort from the Taimanov system ( Nc6 for Black- helping Master Vaishnav Aradhyula prepare for matches) and Najdorf ( d6 for Black) but I knew in Kan that system doesn’t work for White. But he has plenty of options ( just ask Leo to share his worn out Kan book!) So the only reason to play a whole new line was to get White to play the English attack and prove it wrong against Kan? Far fetched, impossible, White is not crazy. Turned out that is exactly what White did! I am not sure if the choice of the system was prepared at home by David (or his coach) completely or just by some guessing method or not, but it ended up EXACTLY how he planned, which was great to see. White was down a piece few moves later. I love when people can prepare for opponents and get exactly what they want. Controlling the uncontrollable ( the opponent’s mind) is a great feeling. Unfortunately, from a complete winning game the game drifted to more unclear and finally in some magical way White won from being down a whole piece from move 12 to 58!. I can imagine how bad it felt for black but that is the chess life. Things can turn bad sometimes. Part of growing up in chess is getting stuff like this- we all go through it.
Overall, somewhere 1 hour into a game:,Board one was in trouble, Board 2 also definitely in some trouble, Board 3- definitely in trouble and Board 4- definitely winning. The word “ definite” apparently doesn’t apply to these guys because none of it turned the way it was supposed to- much to the pleasure of all of the Arizona players and observers as we won the match. I still need to check how many gray and white hair though this match brought to the members such as Robby and Leo collectively!