“WE PLAYED LIKE A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!”
If you’re looking for a hard-fought battle between two professional teams, don’t look here. The Baltimore Kingfishers defeated the Manhattan Applesauce Wednesday night in a match that made the spectators wonder if the participants were substituted by clones of Mr. Magoo. Players arrived late, the quality of the games was poor, and we couldn’t help but wonder if certain people didn’t prepare at all.
James Black arrived early and was roaring to go. He said he prepared for the match and would play better than he did last week. To our surprise, Ian Schoch was twenty-five minutes late! James’ time advantage was increased even more as he seemed to know exactly what his opponent would do in the opening. James obtained what every strong player dreams of: control of the center, a safe king position, and a kingside space advantage. Schoch’s original idea was to make use of his queenside pawn majority. This did more harm than good. Not only was it too slow, it weakened the light squares in a way that allowed James to play 19.Ba4!
Everyone in the spectators’ room was clueless as to how black can defend. 19…Bd7 allows 20.e5 and black is in deep trouble. Schoch played a whopper: 19…Re6? This move was so bizarre that James rejected the obvious 20.d5, which gives white a clear advantage. “I wanted to look at other ways to win,” he claimed after the game. Indeed, there was another way to win, but why go into complications when it’s totally unnecessary? 20.h3 Bh5 21.e5? let Schoch back into the game. He reeled off a series of forcing moves, putting James into a difficult position. James made the final mistake with 27.Nxe4? (27.Bxc6 Rxc6 28.Qf3 was more tenacious), and after 27…Bxe4 his light squares were ripped to pieces. He resigned five moves later.
When It Rains, It Pours
When half of your team works in finance, somebody is bound to be late. The recent economic downturn has motivated many Wall Street bosses to be harder on their employees. There was a rumor that Lev Milman was working under some Gordon-Gekko-type. I didn’t believe the rumor myself, until Lev showed up five minutes late. He was pale white and sweating bullets, as if someone had just told him, “Get me some inside information, or you’re fired.”
Oddly enough, Lev’s opponent (grandmaster Larry Kaufman) was fifteen minutes later than he was. However, this made no difference. Lev hasn’t played a serious game in nine months, while Kaufman is coming off a solid, third-place finish at the U.S. Senior Open. Lev began by playing very uninspiring chess, allowing Kaufman to equalize with no troubles at all. After twenty-two moves they reached an insipid position. Like countless other young players, Lev became impatient, when in fact he needed to bide his time and maneuver a bit more. He lashed out with 23.e5?! “I felt I had to do something,” he admitted after the game.
Kaufman replied with 23…f5!, an excellent positional move that reduces the scope of Lev’s bishop and keep’s white’s rooks at bay. Lev spent the next five moves trying to drum up an illusory kingside attack; in reality he was going nowhere fast. Lev’s attacking pieces became targets, and when opportunity knocked, the seasoned veteran did not hesitate to seize his chance.
28…g5! came as a surprise to everyone, including Lev. Superficially, it looks wrong: black pushes a pawn that guards his king, and the pawn can’t take anything because it’s pinned! But Kaufman had seen more deeply, and knew that the pin was only temporary, after which Lev will be down a piece with no compensation. Lev tried a cheapo, then resigned. We were left in an 0-2 hole.
It was a welcome sight to have grandmaster Alex Stripunsky playing for us again; earlier this year he finished 6th at the U.S. Championship. Alex had a very difficult game against grandmaster Sergey Erenburg. He worked hard to create weaknesses in Erenburg’s position, but Erenburg was up to the task. Erenburg was able to win a pawn, although Alex would not quit. He fought a back until he could secure a fortress for his king and keep white’s passed pawn on its starting square. Unfortunately for Alex, he had to play for a win no matter what, since were already down 0-2.
Therefore, he rejected 37…h4, which likely would have secured a draw, and instead played the more disruptive 37…fxg3 e.p.?!, hoping for some kind—any kind—of Erenburg mistake. The match situation would also explain why Alex rejected the tenacious 40...h4+ for the "hopeful" 40...Kf6?! Thus, Erenburg was given the opportunity to play the precise 41.h4, which ended all hope. Baltimore won the game and the match.
After the final game The Strip gathered everyone who was still there. Eli Vovsha’s grind-it-out victory over Tegshsuren Enkhbat was for naught. “We played like a bunch of idiots!” exclaimed Alex. He wasted no time in getting right down to what we’re going to do against Boston next week. We lost to The Blitz twice last year, and there’s no indication that anything will change. Wait a sec…
Where the hell is Zaremba?