Monday, October 01, 2007

Blitz disappointed with half-point performance

The Boston Blitz are on pace for their second excellent regular season in a row after drawing a match with Baltimore and retaining a full point lead in the US Chess League's Eastern Division. However, listening to an interview with a couple of their players, the dominant theme seems to be one of disappointment. They seem to believe that they ought to win every match and clearly aren't happy when they don't. This, by the way, is an excellent attitude for a professional team to have.

Last Wednesday's match was a perfect case in point. GM Christensen had GM Blehm on the ropes and, by his own admission, let him off the hook in both the middlegame and endgame. NM Martirosov had a nice game going, but after his flashy 16.Qxf7, the tactics didn't work out exactly as he planned and WGM Rohonyan almost managed to turn the tables. Rather than looking at the critical position here, why not watch the team's post-mortem of the game instead.

Only SM Sammour-Hasbun was able to score a full point for the Blitz. Jorge is beginning to establish a distinctive style in the USCL, again using up most of his time on the first ten or so moves of the game. This time his opponent, FM Enkhbat, followed suit -- first by arriving late for the game and then by playing the opening very slowly as well. When the tactics finally hit, starting with 22...Nxe5, Jorge saw the implications a few ply deeper than his opponent and was on the verge of coming out a piece ahead when Enkhbat resigned.

Enkhbat-Sammour-Hasbunafter 22.Nxe5

In the last game of the night to finish, Ilya Krasik needed a half point against WIM Batsettseg in order to secure a match victory for the Blitz. However, it was not to be. From this patzer's perspective, it looked like Black's position was getting difficult as early as move 20 and whether it was the best move or not, I liked the aesthetics of White's 22.Nf5. While Ilya didn't look definitively lost for much of the game, once the passed d-pawn got rolling, the end seemed in sight.

Batsettseg-Krasikafter 22.Nf5

A 2-2 draw with a tough division rival and sole ownership of first place -- most teams would have been satisfied, but not the Blitz.
When the 2007 schedule first came out, this week's match with San Francisco looked to be one of the stiffer tests for Boston. However, the Mechanics haven't been the same juggernaut they were last season, and currently find themselves in 3rd place in the West, a point behind Dallas. Perhaps one could argue that San Francisco needs this win more than Boston, but then again a loss for the Blitz could drop the home team out of sole possession of first place in the East.

Let's take a look at who the managers chose to man the boards this week (Boston has White on Boards 1 & 3):

GM Larry Christiansen: 2663 vs. GM Patrick Wolff: 2623
FM William Kelleher: 2383 vs. IM Vinay Bhat: 2465
NM Denys Shmelov: 2251 vs. IM John Donaldson: 2460
NM Chris Williams: 2175 vs. Gregory Young: 2043

It looks as though Boston will be facing an uphill battle on both the middle boards, while NM Williams should have a big edge on Board 4. Therefore, it would seem that GM Christiansen is going to need a win on Board 1 if the Blitz hope to score a full point.

This match was originally scheduled to take place on Monday night, but was mysteriously moved back to Wednesday sometime last week. In the absence of an explanation from the league, we can only assume that they didn't want to go head-to-head with this week's round of the 2007 Boylston Chess Club Championship.
It was barely audible at first -- a whisper, no less than a whisper, a murmur perhaps. We strained to hear what was being said, as a few others in the crowd began to join in. Slowly the volume rose and suddenly the words broke through.

"We want the bear. We want the bear. We want..."

Maybe he's not yet an exterminator, but apparently the Blitz have found a Canadian pest repellent. At last week's Miami Open, NM Chris Williams managed to draw with GM Charbonneau, which is at least as good as, and in some cases better than, the GMs on the Blitz have done against Pascal in league play. Now, all team manager Matt Phelps has to do is figure out how to change the rules so Chris can play on Board 1 or 2.

"...the bear. We want the bear."

BOOM! Immediately everyone went silent. What was that? BOOM! BOOM! We frantically scanned the crowd unsure whether or not to be frightened. BOOM! There he was, the infamous New Hampshirite with one of those marching band bass drums slung over his shoulders. BOOM! BOOM! The mood lightened and just as suddenly a new chant emerged.

"Chris is Awesome! Chris is Awesome! Chris is..."
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