Sluggers Lose to Dallas 1st rd of US Chess League

From Facebook post

Seattle Sluggers Open Season with Tough Loss

by Mark Trevor Smith and Curt Collyer

At Chess4Life in Bellevue on Wednesday, August 26, the Seattle Sluggers opened the 2015 season with a tough loss against Dallas. We were out-rated on boards 1 and 2, but not on boards 3 and 4. Despite the even odds, we ended up on the short end, 1.5 – 2.5, after a win by Tiglon, draw by Cozianu, losses by Golub and Lee.

Michael Lee, who received the international master title a year ago, returned to the Sluggers to play the black pieces on first board. Before the match started, he was greeted by a photo from 2008, when he was on the team with GMs Nakamura and Serper. Costin Cosianu had already arrived early to familiarize himself with his opponent, who, it turned out later, was planning to surprise him with the French instead of the Sicilian. David Golub, whose legendary 7.5/8 on board 4 last season has become a part of his name (remember “grey-eyed Athena” and “pious Aeneas” and “wily Odysseus”?) on the level of “6-time U.S. champ Walter Browne” and “5-time world champ Anand,” took over board 3. New team member Bryce Tiglon, who is still under-rated even after soaring above 2300, carried bright prospects to board 4.

As the match got underway, spectators continued to arrive until we had about a dozen, including masters Josh Sinanan (team manager instead of player this year), Elliott Neff, and Curt Collyer).

As expected, Golub’s game grew exciting quickly, with some of us lower-rated players thinking he was winning, while wiser heads worried for his king’s safety. Vaidya’s 12 Qc1 implied precise preparation, for two other moves (Be5 and Bxb8) are much more popular but apparently not as strong. During a tactical flurry beginning with 13 a3, our master-spectators debated vigorously, but the players found most of the moves recommended by the engines, which declared near equality after 18 Kc1. Black’s startling 20…Ke7 ?!?, though, got us all worried, as white pieces salivated over a fat, juicy target. The fatal error was 22…Qxd4? (Instead, …Qb6 gave Black the best chances of survival.) The last few moves were painful to watch as the lonely black king was strafed (in a mixed metaphor) by White’s queen, bishop, rook, and sacrificed knight. This game has been nominated for game of the week.

Cozianu played a modest version of the Advance against Ri’s surprising French, but after Ri sacked a pawn with 16…d4 to activate his French bishop from b7 to d5, White had only a slight edge. Cozianu wanted to keep pressing, but he agreed to a draw because he feared that his low clock time might give him some problems.

Michael Lee, playing Black against phenom Jeffrey Xiang’s English, had to contend with the 8th most popular second move ( 1 c4 e5 2 a3). A few moves later, theory was jettisoned completely. On move 17, Lee decided on …gf6 to preserve his e-pawn (the engines evaluate …gf6 about the same as the more pawn-structure-conscious …Qf6), and equality set in for many moves. The tide turned sharply in White’s favor after 32…Raxa3? (more solid was …Rb8 or …Rd8 or even …Rbxa3). White’s queen, bishop, and rook flooded in on Black’s poorly protected king. When White’s other rook joined the fun, White had simply to make sure he didn’t fall for a corridor mate-in-one, and it was all over.

Tiglon maintained a solid position all the way through the tried and trusted Cambridge Springs variation of the QGD (credited to Emmanuel Lasker), especially after Malhotra chose 10…Qd5 instead of the much more popular 10…Qc7. The spectators muttered and marveled at the quiet 15…h6 and 16 h3. Were both players trying to pass? Creating Luft? Out of ideas? The engines assessed equality for most of the game, but after Malhotra did not claim the threefold repetition draw at move 61, his clock gave us reason to hope for a victory. While the masters in the spectator room debated the best plan for Bryce to pursue, Stockfish and Houdini insisted again and again on “0.00,” but the evaluation began to creep up bit by bit: 0.8, 1.2, 1.6, 2.6, higher. We applauded Bryce’s triumphant emergence from the playing room. Thanks, Bryce, for this harmonious note at the end of an otherwise dissonant evening.

Final score of the match: Dallas 2.5 – Seattle 1.5.