Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Live Blogging: Boston Blitz vs. Queens Pioneers

It's time for live blogging coverage of the Boston Blitz, here at BCC Weblog. Tonight, Boston faces off against the Queens Pioneers, one of two new US Chess League expansion teams this season. For the Blitz, it's an opportunity to stay atop the Eastern Division standings after last week's narrow win against Seattle. The Pioneers are looking for their first match win, having drawn with the expansion New Jersey Knockouts in last week's Monday night action.

The prognosticators (Arun, JG, and Ron) all have things going Boston's way tonight, and all by the same score -- 2.5-1.5. I figure the Blitz ought to be good for 1.5 points on the top boards. Therefore, they'll need to find one more point on Boards 3 & 4, both of which look to be competitive matchups. So tonight, we'll probably see just how under-rated NM Shmelov really is and which version (2005 or 2006) of Ilya Krasik shows up this year. As JG put it:
...he's pretty inconsistent so basically are we seeing a Krasik that can play on Wednesday or normal Krasik? I'll give it a 50/50...
No less of an inside source than the official Boston Blitz website claims that Ilya is likely to be one of the key story lines of the night:
Ilya has been a permanent fixture in the Blitz lineup for the last couple of years, being a big part of the Eastern Conference Championship winning team, although this year his time may be limited due to the arrival of Chris Williams.... This week though will be about him and his game, and it's time for him to show that should things start going wrong at the bottom of the board order, that he can step in and still do a job.
The other big story tonight is the USCL debut of top players on both teams -- SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun on Board 2 for the Blitz and GM Ildar Ibragimov on Board 1 for the Pioneers. Further, three quarters of the Queens lineup will be playing in their first league match this evening.

The games will begin shortly, so let's take a moment for a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to Week 2 USCL action, featuring the Boston Blitz and Queens Pioneers. It looks like everything is in order, so let's head out to the boards on the ICC.
7:20 pm : Sorry, blogger managed to crash right after 7 p.m., but we're back now.

Let's take a look at the openings. Christiansen is playing the white side of a Queen's Indian with the somewhat unusual move 5.Qb3. Board 2 is a standard Ruy Lopez through six moves. Shmelov is facing the Nimzo-Indian on Board 3. White played an early f3 and later Black opened up the center with f6. We're at move 11, and while I don't know if this is theory, it sure looks like White better get his King out of the center soon. Over on Board 4, we've got a King's Indian with Krasik playing black. Let's see how things develop.

7:30 pm: By the way, if you don't have access to the ICC, the Boston Blitz website is broadcasting the moves on Board 2.

7:38 pm: I guess the Blitz like the move b5 when playing Black. Both Jorge and Ilya played the move at almost the exact same time.

7:40 pm: On Board 1, Black's white squares on the queenside look weak to me (though I'm sure the GM must know what's he doing). Can LarryC take advantage?

Shmelov looks like he's untangling a bit on Board 3 (after 14.Be5), but I'm not sure where his King is going to go. Black's Qg5 might be menacing.

7:55 pm: So far, Queens is winning the time battle. They are ahead on the clock on every board. On Board 3, Critelli has over 30 minutes more than Shmelov. LarryC has used 15 minutes more than his opponent.

8:11 pm: Krasik just exchanged pawns on c4 to open the b-file for his rook. Now he's trying to breakup White's center with 14...d5. I'm not sure how to the assess the position at this point. But I don't see that White is threatening anything in particular, and it seems that Ilya is trying to dictate the play.

8:18 pm: Let's try to assess where the Blitz stand on the other boards (keeping in mind that it's me -- and not a "real" chess player -- making the assessments). I like Christiansen's position on Board 1 after 11.b4. He's gained a lot of space on the queenside and Black's pieces look a little cramped.

On Board 2, after 11 moves, we have one of those slow maneuvering Ruy's. Neither player has a piece or a pawn (!) past their own fourth rank. I guess I'll call it equal for now.

After 20 moves on Board 3, I'm a bit concerned for Denys. While he's managed to develop and get his King castled, his queenside pawns are weak and Black has a great outpost for his Knight on c4.

8:30 pm: Some pictures from tonight's match are already posted at the Boston Blitz website.

8:38 pm: Christiansen has managed to lock down the light squares on the queenside, but in the interim, Ibragimov has started shifting his minor pieces to the kingside.

I don't like Krasik's c7-pawn with White's Rc1 bearing down on it. On the other hand, he's found an active post for his bishop on b5.

Critelli is giving up the big time advantage he had over Shmelov. I guess he's not sure how to best press his advantage (assuming he has one).

8:55 pm: The ChessFM commentators don't like Krasik's position at all. They think Black's pieces don't coordinate too well and claimed that White "doesn't have any weaknesses." I guess we'll have to wait and see.

9:00 pm: There are still no pieces in enemy territory on Board 2, but Sammour-Hasbun is down to 26 minutes only 13 moves into the game. Maybe he prefers to play blitz?

Larry's got 34 minutes left and Ilya, 28. Time still seems to be the Pioneers' friend.

9:14 pm: Larry has a great diagonal for his g2-bishop and right now Black's Nd5 is pinned to his Ra8. As compensation, Ildar may be able to work on White's IQP at some point.

Krasik is still trying to find some counterplay, but now he is under 17 minutes.

Denys might be offering a repetition on Board 3 with the maneuver Ng3-f5-g3. I doubt Critelli will go for it.

9:25 pm: Suddenly Board 2 is getting interesting. Kleiman just left his Knight hanging on h4 (it may have been lost, or close to it, anyways) for an attack against f7. Can Jorge take it and survive or does he need to defend f7 first?

9:28 pm: Larry has an extra a-pawn and he's managed to push it down to a7. It looks really powerful in conjunction with that bishop on g2. Perhaps the GM matchup is going Boston's way.

9:33 pm: Krasik is giving up the exchange for a pawn. Shmelov still seems to be struggling.

Wow! Sammour-Hasbun's Bf6 defends f7 and attacks the loose Knight again -- but now he's down to 12 minutes.

9:39 pm: Now Board 4 is exploding in tactics. Coleman didn't take the exchange immediately and instead attacked Ilya's Ne5 with f4. In response, Krasik gave up his other rook for the knight on b2 in order to setup a double rook and queen fork with Nd3. I'm not sure who's going to come out on top when the complications resolve.

9:44 pm: Kleiman gave up his knight on Board 2 but in compensation he opened up Black's king position and has strong Knight on f5. Jorge is going to need to find some good defensive moves to survive the upcoming attack.

9:47 pm: I think Krasik might be busted. It looks like he can get one exchange back, but not two.

Shmelov is offering up his a-pawn for some kingside play. It better come fast since if Critelli takes the pawn, his passed a-pawn will have a clear path to promotion -- he didn't take it.

Larry traded his bishop for the Knight on d5. What's the follow-up?

9:56 pm: Every player for the Blitz is under 10 minutes.

10:00 pm: Jorge is either winning or he's about to be mated (how's that for a helpful comment?). Krasik might not be busted after all. Perhaps he ends up with a passed pawn in compensation for the exchange. Larry's advantage on the queenside seems to be dissolving and Board 3 seems up in the air.

In summary, at this point, I have no idea what the final score of this match will be.

10:12 pm: The ChessFM guys just reviewed Board 4 and they think Krasik has great compensation for the exchange. Can Ilya pull out another crazy game?

10:18 pm: Time Check! Larry 5:43, Jorge 2:30, Denys 5:04, Ilya 0:56. Thankfully, they're playing with a 30 second increment.

10:23 pm: Things are moving fast now -- hard to keep up. Ildar gave up the exchange for two passers on the queenside. Jorge looks like he might beat off Jake's attack. Denys still seems to be holding his own. Ilya's got his passer down to d3.

10:35 pm: Sammour-Hasbun is now up a rook and White's attack isn't going anywhere. I think we can give this point to the Blitz. The other three boards are still unclear.

10:37 pm: Now Critelli is offering the repetition. Will Shmelov take the draw?

10:41: Ildar just gave up his Queen for two rooks. So Larry will have a Queen for Rook, Knight and Pawn. No, wait! Ildar has resigned. 1-0 Blitz.

10:45 pm: Board 2 is over also. Jorge secures another point and Boston now leads 2-0. Where will the winning point come from?

10:48 pm: I have to wonder why Denys didn't take the repetition when he had it. It would have won the match for Boston. Maybe, he didn't realize Larry was about to win?

Krasik just resigned, so it's up to Shmelov. Hopefully passing up the draw won't come to haunt the Blitz. Boston now leads 2-1.

10:58 pm: Mouse slip!!! Critelli just played Qe7?? and Denys snapped it off with Bxe7. Will it stand?

11:01 pm: It looks like it's over. ICC says that Critelli forfeited on time. Wow! What an end to this match. Denys had a long defense ahead of him to hold a draw after he had forgone a repetition earlier that would have won the match. Instead, in mutual time trouble, his opponent handed him a gift and the Blitz, the match.

Beyond this surprise ending, the story of the match has to be GM Christiansen's big win on Board 1. The analysts will have to give it a going over, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a big vote getter for Game of the Week.

As for the other stories we were following, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun acquitted himself well in his first USCL outing. He won material, staved off the kingside attack, and won rather easily in the end. As for Ilya Krasik, while he lost his game, he gave the fans a vintage Krasik performance -- an exciting tactical slugfest that was unclear for quite awhile. Even when it looked like he was cooked, he continued to find resources. It will be interesting to see what improvements are unearthed during the post-mortem.

So that's it ... the Blitz will hold on to at least a share of the Eastern Division lead with tonight's 3-1 win over the Queens Pioneers. Next week, they face that pesky team from Philadelphia with the new name.

Goodnight everybody.

Disclaimer: BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

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