The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 US Chess League

Last Wednesday I stumbled into the Mechanics Institute Chess Club in San Francisco and I was surprised to learn from club manager Steve Brandwein that a USCL match would occur later that day featuring Patrick Wolff, Vinay Bhat, David Pruess, and the “Kid” (Gregory Young) for SF – versus a tough Dallas Squad. I predicted it would all come down to the “Kid” versus the “Woman” (Dallas had a WFM on 4th board, Bayaraa Zorigt (2196)), but that didn’t happen. Kid vs Woman was a draw where Kid was slightly confounded in a Dragon opening as white, selected a very bad line, but Zorigt in turn blew it and could only reach a drawn ending up 2 pawns that were hopelessly blockaded.

Young (SF) – Zorigt (DAL) USCL 07

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd710.Bb3 Rc8 11.0-0-0 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.h4 a5 14.a4?

This move looks bad. Maybe the Kid is misremembering a line.

17…bxa4 15.Nxa4 Bxa4 16.Bxa4 Rc4! 17.Bb3 Rxd4?

17…Nxe4!, very obvious, should win with no problems for black.

18.Qxd4 Nd7 19.Qc4 Qb8 20.h5 Nc5 21.hxg6 hxg6 22.e5 Bxe5 23.Rd5 Bg724.Re1 e6 25.Rxc5 dxc5 26.f4 Rd8 27.c3 Qb7 28.Re2 Bh6 29.Bc2 Qe7 30.g3 Qd6 31.Kb1 Bg732.g4 Qd5 33.Qxd5 exd5 34.f5 g5 35.Bd3 Kf8 36.Re1 d4 37.c4 Bf6 38.Kc2 Rb8 39.Ra1 Bd840.Be4 Bc7 41.f6 Rb6 42.Rxa5 Rxb2+ 43.Kxb2 Bxa5 44.Kb3 Bd8 45.Ka4

Of course white could run his king to d3 too. In any case, an easy draw.

45…Bxf6 46.Kb5 Be747.Bf5 Kg7 48.Kc6 Kf6 49.Kd5 Bf8 50.Be4 Kg7 51.Bf5 Be7 52.Kc6 Bf8 53.Kd5 Be7 54.Kc6 Kf6

For some bizarre reason, black was refusing draw offers around this point.

55.Kd5 Bf8 56.Be4 Bg7 57.Bf5 Bf8 58.Be4 Be7 59.Bf5 Kg7 60.Kc6 Kg8 61.Kc7 Kf8 62.Kd7 Bf6 63.Kd6 Be7+ 64.Kd7

1/2-1/2

Pruess lost fairly quickly, making several bad blunders vs IM Stopa (onlookers clucking that he didn’t show up at all, which is a little harsh).

Stopa (DAL) – Pruess (SF)

1.Nc3 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e4 Bg7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Nb3 Nf6 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 b6?!

The simple 8…d6 followed by Na5 is more natural. There is no need for this move.

9.Bg5 Bb7 10.f4 d6 11.Bf3 Na5?

11…Nd7 or 11…h6 and 12…Nd7 are OK. The text is a major blunder.

12.Nxa5

12. e5! is exceedingly strong.

12…bxa5 13.Kh1 Qb6 14.Rb1?

Again, 14. e5! is best and very strong. Black cannot survive that hit: 14. e5 dxe5 15. fxe5 Rad8 16. Qc1 Bxf3 17. exf6! and wins.

14…Rfc8? 14…Rad8 to hold up e4-e5 is necessary (or …h6 first).

15.e5! Finally. White wins easily.

15…dxe5 16.fxe5 Rd8 17.Qe2 Nd7 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Bxd5 Nxe5 20.Bxa8 Rxa8 Black could have resigned already. This sort of game is doubly disappointing in a team format.

21.Bxe7 Qe6 22.Bc5 Qxa2 23.Qe4 Rc824.Bxa7 Qc4 25.Qe3 Qxc2?

A final blunder but it didn’t matter.

26.Rbc1 1-0

This left GM-elect Vinay Bhat to slog it out, up a pawn vs IM John Bartholomew (but with bishops of opposite colors). GM Alejandro Ramirez was saying on ICC it was still a draw, even after numerous Bartholomew miscues just before the first time control. However, one blunder too many occurred.

Vinay did eventually pull the game out; see John Bartholomew’s account. Vinay, although perpetually short of time, demonstrated exemplary technique to use the bishops of opposite colors’ attacking potential.

I hadn’t seen Patrick in years. Nobody knew if he was rusty! People got really nervous when he was late for the game. However, he did arrive safely about 15 minutes late and reached a dynamic Sicilian with equal chances as black. I would even say that his opponent was playing rather strangely and I slightly preferred Patrick’s game after a dozen moves. His IM opponent, Boskovic, proceeded to blunder (a blunder kibitzed by amateurs on ICC well in advance, and one I was most surprise to see on the board) and lost material due to a nice back rank trick and Patrick could have won an easy ending with 2 knights versus a rook. However, he kept queens on (not a good move in time trouble) and his opponent found a trick to win back the two knights for the rook and made a draw with no problems. This match could’ve gone San Francisco’s way if Patrick had steered to the safe ending win.

IM Boskovic (DAL) – GM Wolff (SF), USCL 07

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Nxd7 5.0-0 Ngf6 6.Qe2 e6 7.c4 Be7 8.Nc3 0-0 9.d4cxd4 10.Nxd4 Rc8 11.b3 a6 12.Bb2 Qa5 13.Rac1 Bd8! 14.Kh1 Bb6!

A very creative maneuver. Black is fine.

15.Rfd1 Rfd8 16.f4 Ba7 17.f5?! Bxd4 I was on the scene and fully expected the move 17…Rfe8 here not giving any squares. What can white do? Patrick’s choice is more concrete but I did not expect him to give up his beautiful bishop. The computer indeed likes 17…Rfe8 the best.

18.Rxd4 exf5 18…Ne5 is a reasonable alternative.

19.exf5 Qxf5 20.Nd5?!

Bartholomew commented here on his blog site that he loved white’s game after this weak advance. The text is a strange and bad move based on a tactical blackout; 20. Rxd6 is equal.

20…Re8! 21.Ne7+? Rxe7 22.Qxe7 Re8 23.Qxd6 Qc2!

Black should win easily after this nice shot. White’s back rank is fatally weak.

24.Rf1 Qxb2 25.Rd2 Qc3 26.h3 Nc5 27.Qd4 Qa5?

Trade the queens! Black would win slowly and surely. The text is really asking for unpleasant surprises in time trouble. Note that objectively it’s fine (black is winning anyway) – it’s just trickier.

28.Rf5 Nfe4

28…Qc7! is a crafty winning move, eyeing the back rank again.

29.Re5 Rf8 30.Rd1 Qxa2 31.Rxe4 Nxe4 32.Qxe4 Qxb3

Black is better, but now it’s not decisive – just an edge.

33.Rb1 Qc3 34.Rxb7 g6?

34….a5! is stronger. Black could still hold out for a positive result after, let’s say, 35. Ra7 Qb4.

35.Ra7 Qf6 36.c5 Kg7 37.c6 Rd8 38.Rd7 Rxd7 39.cxd7 Qd6 40.Qe8

1/2-1/2

Watch this space for the games and some photos I took of the live action.

Here was the longest game of the match.

V. Bhat (SF) – J. Bartholomew (DAL)  USCL 07

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 10.Qe2 Bg4 11.0-0-0 Nd7 12.d5 Bxf3 13.gxf3 cxd5 14.Bxd5 0-0-0 15.Be4 Qe5 16.Bc3 Qc7 17.Kb1 f6 18.Rhg1 Nc5 19.Rxd8+ Kxd8 20.Bd4 Bd6 21.Bxc5 Bxc5 22.Qc4 Kc8 23.b4 Bd6 24.Qxc7+ Bxc7 25.Rxg7 f5 26.Bd3 Bxh2 27.Bc4 Be5 28.Bxe6+ Kb8 29.Rf7 f4 30.Rf5 Bd6 31.a3 h5 32.Rd5 Bc7 33.Kb2 Re8?? 34.Rxh5!

The same back rank trick that should have victimized Boskovic in the Wolff game. Bhat now reels the point home very convincingly.

a5 35.Bc4 axb4 36.axb4 Re5 37.Rh8+ Ka7 38.Rh7 Bd6 39.c3 Re7 40.Rh5 Re5 41.Rh7 Re7 42.Rh5 Re5 43.Rh6 Bc7 44.Bd3 Rd5 45.Be4 Rd7 46.c4 Rd4 47.Bd5 Rd2+ 48.Kb3 Rd1 49.Rh7 Kb8 50.Rh8+ Ka7 51.Rh7 Kb8 52.Be4 Rd8 53.c5 Kc8 54.Bf5+ Kb8 55.Be4 Kc8 56.Kc4 Rf8 57.Bd5 Rd8 58.Be6+ Kb8 59.Bd5 Kc8 60.b5 b6 61.Rh6 bxc5 62.b6 Bd6 63.Bc6 Be5 64.Rh7 Rh8 65.Rf7 Bd6 66.Bb7+ Kb8 67.Bd5 Kc8 68.Be6+ Kb8 69.Kd5 Rd8 70.Kc6 Be5 71.Rb7+ Ka8 72.Ra7+ Kb8 73.Kb5 c4 74.Bd7 c3 75.Bc6 Kc8 76.Be4 Rf8 77.Ra8+ Bb8 78.Ra3 Be5 79.Kc6 Rf6+ 80.Kd5 Bd6 81.Rxc3+ Kb7 82.Rc6 Black resigns 1-0

It was a very interesting match indeed.

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