Monday, October 08, 2007

Kill 'em with a smile

One week I compliment the team for their heightened sense of competitive professionalism, and the next they choose to eschew a lineup advantage in order to compete for the US Chess League's 2007 Miss Congeniality Award.
Boston Blitz webmaster Chris Bird explains:
The [Blitz-Mechanics match] this week was originally scheduled for Monday but was moved to Wednesday at the request of the San Francisco team, primarily due to various of their team members playing in the Miami Open Tournament this past weekend. To show sportsmanship (something that some teams in the league feel the Blitz don't do), and in the interest of fair play, the Boston Blitz agreed to this request, despite two of their top players, GM Eugene Perelshteyn and Jorge Sammour-Hasbun [being] unavailable on the rearranged day.
Fair play? This gesture went well beyond fair play. The Blitz agreed to diminish the strength of their lineup in order to enable their opponent to strengthen theirs. Just imagine what fans would be saying if Boston had lost the match.

But, of course, they didn't lose. Instead, the Blitz defeated last year's Champions 2.5-1.5 and will now be known around the league as the friendly, caring team that still beats you to a pulp. Are they lucky, or are they really this good? I'd just as soon play it safe. So, if during the playoffs, one of their opponents asks for a similar favor, I'd suggest that Manager Matt Phelps ask himself one simple question, "What would Bill Belichick do under similar circumstances?"

Given the disadvantage on Board 2, which they accepted in agreeing to make the schedule change, Boston won the match the way they had to -- at the corners. On Board 4, San Francisco learned the age old lesson that you can't send out a boy to take on a bear. If you are interested, IM Bhat will explain how Gregory had the better of it out of the opening and how he would have had an advantage if only this and if only that ... "If only NM Chris Williams hadn't mated him!", seems the appropriate retort. This position belongs in the next version of CT-Art:

Young-Williams after 17.Nxe6
17...Ng3+!! is a winner

What can I say about GM Christiansen's performance on Board 1? Every week he just keeps playing these startling moves that aren't anywhere close to my candidate list while I'm watching the game. In past matches it has been those pesky pawn moves -- f5 and e3 come to mind. Against GM Wolff, Larry snapped the leg irons shut with Nd5:

Christiansen-Wolff after 27.Nd5!

Even after the move was on the board, it still took me awhile to see the underlying idea (of course, this says more about my lack of tactical vision than anything else). After this shot, things went rapidly downhill for Patrick, though it was still quite instructive watching how efficiently Larry put the game away.

IM Bhat got the best of FM Kelleher on Board 2, but rather than comment on the game, I'll direct you instead to Braden Bournival's excellent annotations. The final nail in the Mechanics' coffin came on Board 3 where, try as he might, IM Donaldson couldn't breakthrough against NM Shmelov and eventually had to acquiesce to a draw.

By the way, I understand that the Blitz will be sending lovely bouquets to each of their opponents prior to this week's match. Maybe you've heard -- they're known to be friendly and caring like that.
It seems as though everyone is talking about the Boston Blitz...
...which might go a long way to explaining the angst that BlueEyedRook is currently feeling. Of course, Boston doesn't really need any help from Hades; they have Ilya Krasik, after all.
In another sign of remarkable kindness, Boston Manager Matt Phelps has pretty much handed this week's match to New York with a particularly weak lineup. Of course, Phelps will blame it on availability, but if former Sluggers' Manager Clint Ballard were still around I'm sure he'd be wondering what the commissioner used as leverage to force more parity into the Eastern Division playoff race.

Here are the lineups (the Blitz have White on Boards 1 & 3):

SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun: 2558 vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura: 2709
FM William Kelleher: 2383 vs. GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2532
NM Denys Shmelov: 2251 vs. IM Jay Bonin: 2340
NM Chris Williams: 2175 vs. WFM Irina Zenyuk: 2173

The Knights take an almost 100-point average rating advantage into the match, though I don't necessarily see a rout. Williams should be just fine on Board 4 and Shmelov did manage to draw Bonin from an inferior position earlier in the season. Nobody from the Blitz defeats Charbonneau, so expectations for Kelleher will be extremely low. For Boston, it will come down to whether Jorge can replicate his GM killing ways from the On-Line Chess Championships. If not, it's likely to be an unsatisfying night for Boston fans.

For New York, however, the pressure is on. If they can't win a match with this kind of advantage, then their season must really be over.

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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