Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Matches

There is no question that watching a US Chess League match live online is a far different experience than reviewing the results and games the next day. Consider last Wednesday's matchup between the Boston Blitz and the Carolina Cobras. The Thursday morning quarterback checks the website and thinks, "Ho-hum. The two GMs won their games and Krasik had a nice attacking win to secure the match. No real surprises here. Let's see who we are going to beat next week." But Blitz fans who watched the match live on the ICC, listened to the commentary on, checked out Globular's aborted live blogging report, and read the kibitzers comments had a significantly more stressful experience.

It all began after IM Milman played 20.Qxh7 against GM Christiansen. On, GM Akobian said something to the effect of, "All Milman has to do is push his h-pawn down to the eighth rank and he wins. That will take him 5 moves, so that's how long Larry has to breakthrough on the Queenside. And I don't see how he can do that." The kibitzers were throwing out lines indicating that an immediate a3 or b3 wasn't going to achieve much. Then one suggested d5 saying, "It's probably the best option in a bad situation." Was Christiansen actually in trouble? I checked out Globular's Blog:

Larry just made me feel better by admitting while outside for a smoke that "It's a wild one. I don't understand what's going on."

Larry doesn't know what's going on?! My god, could he actually be losing? Well, it's not the end of world. Remember when he lost to Charbonneau and the rest of team won all their games? It could happen again.

So I checked out the other boards. GM Perelshteyn had the two bishops and was looking fine against FM Hoekstra. Vadim's position looked tough against NM Jones, but it was still early. On Board 4, Ilya's opponent was trying to make the case that development isn't as important as everyone says -- after 12.Nc4, NM Kirby had only one piece not on the first rank and he used his next three moves to get his Knight from e8 to a6!

Then on Board 2 the following moves were played: 30...Ne2+ 31.Kh1 Ng3+ 32.Kg1 Ne2+. Had Eugene fallen into a perpetual? What if the Blitz only get a half point from the top boards? Krasik looked fine, but Martirosov had long term problems -- bad bishop vs. good knight -- and White's outpost on d5 was unassailable. Could Boston actually lose this match after I'd gone out on a limb in my earlier post? How were those words going taste on the way down?

Thankfully, none of these fears came true. Perelshteyn continued the game with 33.Kf2 and while 35...Qd2+ looked scary to me, Eugene had everything under control and won the ending with his passed d-pawn. Milman couldn't find Akobian's 5-move winning plan (I wonder if Varuzhan could have if he was sitting in front of the White pieces?) and eventually Larry's attack broke through. It was 2-0 for the Blitz on the top boards, just like everyone had expected before the match began.

Krasik sealed the Cobras fate by punishing Kirby for his lack of development. An attack on the Kingside yielded the exchange and then several pawns. The Queens came off and Black's position was easily resignable. But Kirby played on, so Ilya traded off all the remaining pieces, including giving back the exchange to reach a King and Pawn ending any 1300 player could have won (even while playing online poker at the same time). Still, Kirby played on. Commissioner Shahade commented that surely "Krasik will complain about his opponent not resigning such a position." I'm going to save Ilya the trouble:

NM Kirby, there's no picture of you on the USCL website so I can't tell if you are actually ten years old. If you are, at least that would explain why you played the end of the game as if you were in a scholastic tournament and couldn't know for sure whether your opponent knew how to mate with King and Queen (yes, I know the game didn't actually get quite that far, but between two masters the end position in this game is essentially no different). Let's show some respect for your opponent, and for the game, next time.

On Board 3, Martirosov hung on for quite awhile and even looked to be making some headway on the Kingside. However, it was inevitable that an endgame would be reached and White's superior piece and position would prevail.

The Blitz won 3-1 and moved to 5-0 for the season. It was quite an exciting match to watch even if the result seemed predictable the next day.

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