Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boston preps for playoffs with "practice" draw

Surely it was Boston Manager Matt Phelps' plan all along. Having secured the top spot in the East and the draw odds in the second round of the playoffs which comes with it, Phelps wanted to see if the Blitz could achieve a draw under tough circumstances. So he had his lower boards throw their games and put all the pressure up top. Christiansen and Kelleher came through giving Boston confidence that the Finals are easily in reach.

Plausible? Maybe not. How about this? Boston's plan to throw the match to Carolina and make an even bigger mess of the Eastern Division playoff race went awry when someone forget to tell LarryC he wasn't supposed to win.

Don't buy that either? I guess we'll have to default to the parity excuse. 2-0 above and 0-2 below -- not that unusual when two relatively evenly rated teams in the US Chess League match up against each other. As has been the pattern this year, Boston's opponents got out to the early lead.

It was time trouble which caught up with NM Riordan. After several weeks of excellent play with just minutes left on his clock, Charles finally succumbed to the never-ending march of time. He and FM Zaikov were playing a very interesting game in which White had a couple of pawns for the exchange. However, with the last few minutes winding down Charles starting making inaccuracies. Small ones at first, like avoiding the Queen trade on c4, led to a big one at the end and suddenly it was 1-0 Carolina.

NM Riordan-NM Zaikov after 24...Rc8
An interesting struggle before time took its toll

Vadim's game against NM Jones offers the best evidence for one of the above conspiracies. Who plays the Benoni and realistically expects to win!? White's position just kept getting better and Martirosov's counterplay never really materialized. Two games down and no points for Boston.

NM Jones-NM Martirosov after 1...c5
Evidence of a conspiracy?

Boston's comeback began with FM Kelleher who just decimated FM Hoekstra's Exchange Slav. It's a line I'm definitely going to remember as Black; White's moves seemed pretty natural but then all of a sudden Matt was lost.

FM Hoekstra-FM Kelleher after 12...Nc5
The Knight is heading for d3 with a big advantage

With the score at 2-1, GM Christiansen needed to win to secure the drawn match. However, the prospects were uncertain with most of the gallery claiming that his endgame was a draw. Larry seemed to have a nice attack going earlier in the game. However, it petered out and the best he could find was a pawn up rook ending. Someone who knows more about these things can tell us whether it was a theoretical win or draw. In any case, Christiansen played as though it was a won position and it wasn't obvious to me what Milman could have done better. Larry's win closed out the match at 2-2.

GM Christiansen-IM Milman after 45.Rxb5
Theoretically, a win or a draw?

Next week the Blitz close out the regular season against Baltimore. The Kingfishers are fighting to secure a playoff berth and will undoubtedly come ready to fight. What about Boston? Well, they do have a couple sources of motivation. Since they could very well meet Baltimore in the playoffs, the Blitz may not want to give them any confidence going in. Then, there's always the matter of choosing colors in the Finals. I'm not sure how much of an advantage that really is, but I suppose it's better to have it than not.

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