Thursday, October 27, 2005

Good luck, but not enough of it

Last night in US Chess League Week 9 action, the Boston Blitz defeated the Philadelphia Masterminds 3-1 in a match which easily could have gone the other way. On several boards Caissa chose to look favorably on the Blitz. In the end, however, her kindness was not unlimited as Baltimore upset Eastern Division Champions New York thereby eliminating Boston's post- season hopes.

The match started normally enough with GM Christiansen defeating FM Rogers rather straightforwardly. He won a pawn and then traded down to a winning King and Pawn endgame. Meanwhile on Board 3, NM Riordan was taking his Rook on an interesting tour of the center of the board. At one point it found itself on e5 "protected" by its own pawn on d4. Surely it was suffering from a case of Knight-envy.

The game continued; some pieces were traded off. Then in an ostensibly equal position (it's possible one side or the other had some advantage, but no one was clearly winning), NM Wilson had a mouseslip leaving his Bishop to be taken on b3 rather than reaching his intended c2. Riordan snapped the piece off and while the game continued on for awhile, the outcome was never in doubt.

"No takeback", you ask, like the Friedel incident in Week 3? Apparently not. On the ICC, Commissioner Shahade noted that Philadelphia as a team had decided that they would neither offer nor ask for mouseslip takebacks regardless of the circumstances. According to Greg, in an earlier match the Masterminds refused to offer a takeback in a case which was obviously unintentional. This time they paid the price for a similar mistake. If nothing else, you have to give them credit for being consistent.

At the same time, this incident highlights an issue that the league will need to address before next season. It doesn't seem appropriate that individual teams can establish their own (different) rules related to mouseslips. There ought to be a uniform policy set down by the league. Whether it's no takebacks at any time or takebacks allowed under certain verifiable conditions, I'm not sure. But it ought to be a league rule, not a team/individual decision.

The Blitz won the match on Board 4 when FM Baczynskyj completely imploded in what had to be a clearly winning position against Ilya Krasik. Within just a few moves, Baczynskyj went from up an exchange with an attack on Krasik's open King to resignation. Caissa's presence next to Black was unmistakable, though Krasik's 41...Qf3+! was a nice shot that many of us might have missed.

In the last game to finish, IM Friedel lost to IM Costigan. Josh went pawn grabbing on b2 with his Queen and almost got it trapped when Costigan sacrificed a piece. However, Josh found a counter-sacrifice to save her Majesty. In the next tactical skirmish, Black played a capture which superficially looked like it would win two pieces for a Rook. But White had some further tactics which resulted in a position with Costigan having the exchange for two passed pawns. It certainly didn't seem that Josh should lose the ensuing endgame (in fact, he might have had winning chances with the passers), but he did. Costigan's technique at the end wasn't as sharp as possible (some commenters had a little fun when Fritz pointed out that Richard missed a mate in 23), but it was sufficient.

A good win for the Blitz, but unfortunately the team's celebratory mood was somewhat diminished when they learned of Baltimore's win. While there was disappointment over losing their chance to make the playoffs, there was also recognition that they had not played well enough all season to expect another outcome. As Ilya Krasik said (paraphrasing) "A team that only wins two matches doesn't deserve to make the playoffs."

Next week the Blitz will be playing for pride and for giving Baltimore a taste of what they are in for next season.

No comments: