Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blitz ride tactical oversight to another win

While most of us are taught not to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, it's going to be hard for many class players not to take at least a bit of solace from the fact that even experienced Masters can make absolute howlers now and then. One such blunder by Philadelphia's FM Rogers turned a tight US Chess League match between the Masterminds and the Blitz into a relatively easy win for Boston.

Continuing this season's trend, the Blitz let their opponents take the early lead. On Board 2, IM Costigan played a strange set-up against FM Winer's e6-Sicilian involving b3 and Bd3 (perhaps it might be called the hybrid Kopec/Queenside Fianchetto variation?). After weakening the dark squares around his King, failing to break a pin and getting his minor pieces lined up on the d-file facing doubled rooks, Winer fell victim to a nice combination/mating attack.

Further up the line, Philadelphia's newest player FM Smith was no match for GM Perelshteyn. Facing the King's Indian, Eugene won a key central pawn (a d-pawn of the passed variety), traded down into an ending and pushed the passer right down his opponents throat -- a remarkably efficient display.

With the match tied at 1-1, the outcomes on the lower boards would prove decisive. On Board 4, NM Martirosov countered NM Wilson with the Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld. Vadim managed to win a pawn and trade down to a Rook and Bishops of opposite colors ending. However, before the whispers of "MVP" could reach an audible level, the Rooks were exchanged and the game petered out into a dead draw. Perhaps Martirosov might have taken more risks by keeping the Rooks on if things had not been going so well on Board 3 by this time?

And so, we've arrived at the game which undoubtedly left Philadelphia fans scratching their heads. An Accelerated Dragon (by transposition), NM Riordan seemed to be building a nice initiative around move 15. However, he didn't seem to be able to do much with it and by move 25, he may have been better but not decisively so. In the meantime, Charles had managed to get into significant time trouble with about two minutes remaining for the rest of the game (plus, importantly, a 30 second increment per move). All the talk in the gallery was about how Riordan often gets into time pressure before finishing off his opponents. One kibitzer claimed it was an intentional strategy on his part.

Intentional or not, time may well have played a role in what happened next. Perhaps FM Rogers was trying to keep the pressure on Charles by moving quickly himself or maybe he just had a moment of tactical blindness. In any case, with 30...Rf6 he sacrificed a Knight for a checkmate that wasn't there. Riordan took the piece, defended the mate threat, dispatched his opponent and won the match for Boston 2.5-1.5. This outcome was certainly a disappointment for the Masterminds who otherwise had very good chances to at least draw the match.

For the Blitz the win brings them to 4-0 for the season, now two match wins ahead of their nearest competitors in the Eastern Division. Next week they look to continue their winning streak against the Carolina Cobras.

No comments: