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


  1. great recap!!
    I think we need to give James some lessons in the art of the interview

  2. I think James gave a great interview!

  3. Apologies for diffusing the drama Jeff, but as much as I would have liked to, I never actually "strutted along the edge of defeat". In fact Black is in control after 14.Bc1?, and the endgame is clearly better for me.

    Plus, 'creating a passed pawn' (g5?) was actually his second serious error in the game. After that its a matter of technique :)

    P.S That spectator comment is priceless!

  4. Fantastic report! Bravo! More! More!