Friday, September 3, 2010


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.

Schoch-It-To-Me Baby

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.

Forced Variation

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?
-Jeff Kelleher

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 1 Results - Manhattan Applesauce survive a scare versus Carolina; win 2.5-1.5

Manhattan’s victory over the Carolina Cobras Wednesday night was not pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly.

The Applesauce played like a baby eating a product of the same name, making many sloppy decisions over the board which made this match very painful for the spectators to watch. The only solace for the viewers is that none of the games were spoiled by any errant mouse-slips (a la last year’s Stripunsky-Christiansen debacle).
On paper, this looked like just what the doctor ordered. The Sauce (formerly the Queens Pioneers) had a heartbreaking debut vs. Boston in ’09 and things never got rolling, despite all-star performances from Andrei Zaremba and Alex Stripunsky. Our ’10 opener would be against the Cobras, by far the lowest-rated team in the league. Carolina was one of the best in ’08, but seemed to fall off the charts last season. The team got weaker during the off-season when they lost Oleg Zaikov.
With this in mind we decided to “rest” Zaremba and Stripunsky, so as to give some playing time to our “new blood:” long-time master (and former New York Knight) Greg Braylovsky, and the youngest member of our team, James Black, last year’s sixth grade national champion.

Black is Beautiful

Playing against Udayan Bapat in his first-ever game in this format, we didn’t expect much from James. He wasted no time in putting himself in a bind; at one point he was struggling to find any kind of useful move. Bapat’s position was so good that his biggest problem was choosing which way (among several) he was going to win. Luckily, chess in 99% tactics, and all of us blunder once in a while.
Black’s 28…Kg7?? was one of those blunders that was so bad it threw off his opponent’s concentration.

Bapat returned the favor with 29.c5?, allowing James to mount a comeback. It is comical to note that Black’s useful 31…Rh8 would not have been possible had he not blundered! Bapat made the final error with 32.Qc1, when 32…Nf4 ended things nicely. Congratulations James!

James also shared his thoughts on winning his first game in the USCL in the video below.

Role Reversal

For a guy who hasn’t played in a year, Braylovsky seemed to be playing without rust. He broke the kingside wide open, giving himself a powerful attack on Craig Jones’ king; Greg even had a pair of connect passers to boot. Suddenly, as quick as lightning, Jones launched an all-or-nothing counterattack on the queenside.

The hubris of Jones’ going-for-broke energy threw Greg for a loop. Greg’s defense faltered, and before any of us could blink, he went from being the hunter to the hunted. He got mated in the middle of the board, and the match had completely changed momentum.

Give Me a Heart Attack

On paper, the Schneider-Schroer game looked to be the most competitive. It turned out to be the driest game of the match. Dmitry followed an old theoretical line in the Panov-Botvinnik attack which Fischer famously used to defeat Benko many decades ago.
Dmitry obtained the slight advantage he was looking for, but after a few inaccuracies the game fizzled out into a draw.

That put the weight of the whole match on the shoulders of Eli Vovsha, who once again played the masochistic tango, this time against Ron Simpson. As we’ve come to expect from Eli, he carefully strutted along the edge of defeat. In the style of the Gruenfeld defense that Anand has always been so keen on, Vovsha snatched a pawn in the opening and said “Prove it” to his opponent. Simpson tried to make the game even more intriguing to the viewers by offering the exchange sacrifice 16.Re5!?

If nothing else, this move had the practical effect of putting Vovsha into a deep think. We were alarmed when Eli spent most of his remaining time contemplating whether or not to take, and in the end he declined! “He could have played [16…e6] in twenty seconds,” someone commented in the spectator’s area, shaking their head. “Now he’s gonna have to hurry [insert explicative] up.”
Ron Simpson fought like a warrior. He turned Eli’s connected queenside passers into doubled, isolated pawns which he easily blockaded. He then created a protected passed pawn of his own. Vovsha had one thing going for him, however: the two bishops. They began spreading over the board like a pair of twin pythons, poised to spit their venom at the white pieces, all of which looked as frightened as mice. The break 38…g5 was key in deploying Eli’s other rook into action. As soon as he had the passed f-pawn it was all over.

Don’t get too excited. Although this was a victory for us, we walked out of the Eighth Avenue building with a sigh of relief more than anything else. If we keep cutting it this close we’ll be cruising for a bruising. Nevertheless, we’ve got the players to give us a realistic chance for a 2-0 start.
Baltimore will be butting heads with us next Wednesday, and they’ll be hungry for their first victory. You can count on it.
-Jeff Kelleher