Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 5 Recap: vs. Dallas

In our history, the L.A. Vibe have always done fairly well against the Dallas Destiny. Our lifetime score is 2/4, but I'm pretty sure we have been the rating underdogs in all 4 matches! Moreover, in our last meeting, back in Week 5 in 2011, we won against the Destiny 3.5-0.5, despite them fielding a strong team. For whatever reason, we have always had their number in the past, but that was not the case this week! Like always, I again felt optimistic at first, at one point liking our position on all four boards, but as time ticked away our positions went from good and promising to not so good...anyways, let's see what happened:

GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 1/2-1/2

I wasn't sure about Melik's opening at first, but after the nice move 17...b3!, I think that Black was fully in control of the game, although it was never quite enough of an advantage to get any serious winning chances.

IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs GM Conrad Holt (DAL) 0-1

An interesting game to say the least, where both sides had a somewhat unusual setup of their pieces playing around White's isolated queen pawn. Was it weak, was it a strength? I think Zhanibek had good chances to create a strong attack on the kingside, maybe a Ne5-g4 maneuver somewhere would have caused Black some grief, but overall GM Holt played some good defense, including 28...Ne7, which was a strong re-positioning of the knight and more or less shut down White's potential attack. This effort earned Conrad a 2nd place finish in the Game of the Week contest, which is pretty impressive considering he won first place last week!

FM Alec Getz (DAL) vs WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) 1-0

Another wild affair from Tatev, who seems to always find herself in positions where everything is hanging. After a strangely played opening from FM Getz (is 11.Bc2 a good move??), I thought that Tatev was more or less winning after picking up White's two central pawns. It is not unusual for Black in these Tarrasch g7-g5 lines to win the e5 pawn, but White is supposed to get some kind of compensation based on Black's uncastled king. However, this was not the case here, and if Tatev simply played Bd7, Qe7 and 0-0-0 early on her position would have been completely winning, with 2 extra pawns and more active pieces. But Tatev went for a quick attack with Rg8 and g4-g3, and unfortunately this was completely unjustified with her king in the center and queenside undeveloped. Although it looked scary at first, all of White's pieces were close enough to the kingside to defend against any kind of hasty attack, and quickly Black's lack of development started to tell.

Then in mutual time trouble both sides started missing opportunities, but FM Getz was able to find some strong moves, including 28.Ba4+, which simply led to mate. For his efforts Getz won third place in the GOTW contest, not bad!

Nicky Korba (LA) vs Travis Guenther (DAL) 1/2-1/2

Nicky got one of those typical "slightly better but Black is still perfectly fine" positions, where he wasn't able to pose his opponent any serious problems. With 2 bishops White must aim to open up the position and let the bishops work their magic, but this is often easier said than done. I think instead of 20.Rd2, it would have been better to play Rab1, with idea b4-b5, trying to create a weakness on the kingside. Nevertheless winning a position like this one is a fairly difficult task against a solid opponent.

So our second loss in a row, but like in our previous matches, I felt that we certainly had our chances to win, and hopefully next time some of these hectic games will start to go our way! On October 10th we will be facing the Boston Blitz, a match that can be viewed live on

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week 4 Recap: vs Philly

Last week the L.A. Vibe was sorely beaten 3-1 by the Philadelphia Inventors. It was a tough match, and like our other matches this season, I felt very good about our chances early on. Nicky had a large time advantage out of the opening and seemed to have a comfortable position. Keaton definitely had the more pleasant position with Black and a small time advantage as well. Tatev's position looked unclear but she had an extra pawn with no obvious compensation for her opponent, and, of course, a quickly rising time advantage. Melik didn't get much with White against GM Erenburg, but was definitely not worse until much later on.

GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (PHI) 0-1

Melik needed to find 27.g6! to keep the game balanced, but after 27.gxh6 Black's position was just easier to play, and with not much time Melik made a few inaccuracies and GM Erenburg showed his high class of play to take the full point smoothly. <--This game won 3rd place in GOTW, so Erenburg's strong play certainly didn't go unnoticed. 

Keaton was just slightly better in the middle game, and even after the strange Nd4-e2-back to d4 rendezvous, he had fine compensation for his missing pawn in the form of his strong, unopposed dark squared bishop, but made a pretty bad oversight when things got complicated and ended up blundering his queen. Oh well, these things happen even to very strong players!

A strange game to say the least, but I mostly blame that on the opening. Tatev kept building her advantage slowly and her opponent was out of time around move 20 or so--after a bunch of blunders from both sides Tatev ended up winning, raising her USCL performance even higher!

Nicky was fairly unfamiliar with the Ruy Lopez exchange, but ended up getting a decent position anyways. The RLE is an opening that is only dangerous for Black if White has a very sneaky and strong plan to improve their position and completely outplays their opponent--but with simple, non-confrontational moves White can't really hope for any advantage against a reasonably good player. But that's just my opinion. In the game Nicky was doing all right, even though I'm not a fan of his decision to let FM Shahade ruin his kingside structure, and was unable to find some good defensive moves to save a slowly deteriorating position.

So all in all an unsuccessful week--it's hard to say whether we are getting unlucky breaks this year or if we got a lot of lucky breaks last year.