September 25, 2009 • General

Greetings to everyone out there from beautiful and sunny Seattle as the extended summer continues out here. Unfortunately, I have been quite busy since my last blog which is why I have slowed down considerably on my postings. However, true to form for the fans, I am going to try and add more information in general. Here goes nothing, hope everyone enjoys the reading!

UW 16 USC 13

Last Saturday, I went to the Huskies-Trojans game with my good pal, Elston “Troy” Cloy II. Shockingly enough, despite having gone to a couple pro football games as well as a zillion hockey and baseball games, I had never gone to a college football game. Due to my close proximity to the university district and village, it made sense to jump at this opportunity especially as the Trojans were in town for the biggest game of the season. Since I had made it quite well known that I was planning to go to the game, I chatted briefly with my friend IM John Donaldson (also a player and manager of the San Francisco Mechanics in the US Chess League) about the game and he made a very ill-fated comment. The comment itself was “The huskies will have to score 40 points to beat the Trojans!” As it turned out, that was over double of what was actually needed.

One of the great things which I love about football in comparison to any other sport is that there are always tailgating parties before any games. Having the opportunity to mingle with UW and USC (BOO) fans before kickoff was a lot of fun other than the scary masked man I saw and the horrible downpour of rain which will put a damper on anyone’s spirits early on a Saturday morning. However, it was still a bunch of fun and there is really nothing to complain about. I highly recommend going to a football game and tailgating if one has never done it before.

After the fun, everyone finally headed over to Husky Stadium for the game. I must say that it did not start off well at all. Pretty much as soon as we arrived, the Trojans drove down the field with pinpoint precision scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. After the Huskies opening drive resulted in a punt, the Trojans continued down the field, but a couple key stops in the red zone prevented a touchdown and led to a field goal. Wow! So not less than 8 minutes into the opening quarter and immediately we are down 10-0. Luckily, the Huskies finally gave the fans something to celebrate with a very nice drive capped by a Jake Locker TD pass which made it 10-7 at the end of the first quarter. From here, the game slowed to a crawl (from an offensive point of view) involving many good defensive plays by both teams. However, the Huskies were able to get a field goal before halftime and it was tied 10-10. It was at this point that I turned and said to Elston, “I think the Huskies are going to win this game!” As the game continued on, the tension and anticipation continued to rise. Considering that many people would have been pleased with a loss by a touchdown, let along being tied going into the 4th quarter was way beyond anyone’s expectations.

When the Huskies went ahead 13-10 with about 10 minutes left, the crowd’s anticipation really began to rise. Elston also told me at this point that, “we are rushing the field if they win.” The rest of the game really became fast paced and nerve wracking at this point. With 4 minutes left, the Trojans were in the red zone once again after a zillion fumbles, but a key third down stop by the Huskies meant that the Trojans had to settle for a tying field goal. It was now that the QB Jake Locker led the Huskies on a last minute drive down the field. When he completed a 2nd and 7 pass for 20+ yards down to the 19, everyone really got ready for the impending explosion. In fact, many of the fans started scurrying down to the front rows of the sections getting ready to charge. When field goal kicker Erik Folk nailed the kick for a 16-13 lead with 3 seconds left, everyone simply went nuts. After they stopped USC on the kickoff, everyone pretty much lost their heads and jumped over the rails and ran onto the field to celebrate with the players and fellow fans. The rest is pretty much a blur, but it was definitely one of those experiences which I cannot put into words cause it was just such euphoria for everyone.

Saturday Part II

Following this game, I actually had a dinner meeting set up well in advance to knowing about the football game. It was really nice seeing many familiar faces again including Erik Anderson, Jim Roberts, John Henderson, etc after such a long time. As many people will remember, AF4C ran the US Championships in 2003,2004 and 2005 before growing frustrated with USCF (Who can blame them, quite frankly?) and focusing more on the school programs in the Washington area. One of my great hopes for Seattle in particular is that with my current success and hopefully future successes as well that I can raise the profile of chess. Time will tell, but I am definitely optimistic about the future. After eating some of the best sushi of my life, I drove home and simply passed out as I was too tired and exhausted from the long day and all the events that transpired.

Sunday Updates

After such a great start to the weekend, I decided to kick back and relax on Sunday. Overall it was a slow day for me although I enjoyed another lesson with FM Michael Lee and followed fantasy football. However, the day ended badly when I magically lost in both fantasy football league’s and the Titans lost to the Texans 34-31. Alas, it is only two weeks into the season and there is a long way to go!


On Tuesday, I got up early and played tennis with my fellow Slugger member Josh Sinanan. Having spent too much time in Europe or New York (Nothing is ever free there) I have not had any opportunities to play tennis recently. Luckily, my location is ideal and there are some free public courts right next to Green Lake which makes it very convenient. It is also important to keep the fitness level of all Sluggers high so that we can continue our winning ways. There really is not a whole lot else to mention except Josh&I tried going to this really nice sushi restaurant Kisaku only to find out it was closed once again making us 0/2 when trying to eat there. Nothing else really spectacular happened during the day, but I spent much fo the day gazing at the lovely beauties who were out tanning and sunbathing around the lake. In the evening, I went down to the university district where I drank some more tea and played a bit of chess.

Dallas Destiny-Seattle Sluggers

On Wednesday it was time for the US Chess League once again and we faced the Dallas Destiny in the fourth match of the year. The matchups were definitely a bit strange but not unexpected. However, I had a feeling that I would be playing someone a bit off the beaten path. Perhaps it is simply my imagination, but I do find it a bit sad that a certain board 1 for the Dallas Destiny feels like his 2-0 career score against me from way back in the early 2000s is such a big deal. This unnamed player has also made it a point of avoiding me in any and all tournaments. Thus, before I even get into the specifics of the match, I would like to give IM John Bartholomew a big round of applause for being a man and giving it his all despite a massive rating differential between us. Board two featured an interesting matchup between FM Slava Mikhailuk and IM Daniel Ludwig from Florida. Prior to the match I would have ranked this matchup as a tossup. Board three had FM Keaton Kiewra against FM Michael Lee. Both of these players have had some good results although Kiewra has not played serious chess since the early 2000s due to his focus on college studies at UTD. Overall, another very critical matchup but also about even. Board four featured Josh Sinanan against Bayaraa Zorigt. I would have to give Josh a small advantage here, but still simply too close to call. Thus, my pre match assessment was that if Slava,Michael and Josh could score 1.5 between them, that I would win and carry the team to victory.

IM John Bartholomew (2499) – GM Hikaru Nakamura (2759) 23.9.09

1.Nf3 b6 2.g3 Bb7 3.Bg2 c5 Hmm doesn’t this look similar? Oh right, this is what I played last week! 4.c4 g6 5.d4 my opponent makes his intentions clear right away. He is not going to play a super slow setup and get mowed down painfully. 5…cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nf6 7.0-0 Bg7 8.Nc3 d6 9.Rd1 The main line although b3 and Be3 are perfectly fine too. 9…Nbd7 10.b3 (10.Be3 Rc8 11.Rc1 0-0 12.Qh4 a6 13.b3 Re8 is roughly equal.10…0-0 11.Bb2 Rc8 (11…Ne4 12.Qe3 Nxc3 13.Bxc3 Bxc4 14.Qxc3 Nf6 is equal, but I strongly felt that due to my assessment of the overal match, I needed to play for a win.)

The first starting position of the game. 12.Qd2 The most logical move as it avoids any tricks with Ne4. (12.Nd5 would have been another interesting choice as it leads to a queen sac after 12…Bxd5 13.cxd5 Rc2 14.Rd2 Ne8 15.Rxc2 Bxd4 16.Nxd4 Nc5. This position is roughly equal but it should be easier to play for White.) 12…a6 13.Rac1 Rc7 with the idea of Qa8 and Rfc8.  14.Ne1

The idea is pretty straight forward here for White: play for the d5 square. 14…Qa8 15.Nd5 if White were to try (15.Bxb7 Qxb7 16.Ng2 with the same f4-d5 ideas, I can chip away at the center with 16…b5 after which White won’t be able to keep the same vice grip on the d5 square.) 15…Nxd5 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.cxd5 Rfc8 18.Nc2 b5?! (I chose to refrain from 18…Nf6 as I felt that 19.e4 e5! 20.Ne3 was just too completely equal.) One other key factor in match play is being aware of what the situation is on other boards. At this point, I thought Slava was worse on board 2, I especially disliked Michael’s position on board 3 and I felt that Josh was equal. I felt that either Slava or Michael would lose while the other two would be able to hang on and draw. Thus, I felt that it was my responsibility to fight on and try to come up with something to keep the team alive. 19.e4 (19.Bh3 was also interesting and leads to complications after 18…f5.) 19…Nf6 20.Ne3 Qa7 21.Rxc7 Rxc7 22.Rc1

Up to this point, John has done a very good point having avoided any complications. The reason I refer to this as being good is simply due to the match situation. The goal on board one is to avoid any real problems and let board two and three clean up. Here, I would have offered a draw to pretty much any GM. Once again, however, I felt that it was my responsibility to play on and see if I could work some magic due to our positions on other boards. 22…Bc8 23.h3 h5 24.Rc3 Bd7 25.b4! This prevents b4 at some point giving my bishop extra possibilities along the a6-f1 diagonal. 25…Qb8 26.Qc1 Rxc3 27.Qxc3 Qc8 28.Qxc8 Bxc8

How to evaluate this position? This is definitely equal, but there are several trumps for both sides here. For White, one advantage is that he has a better light squared bishop whereas mine has no diagonals currently. The queenside also gives White chances as I have no targets, while b5 and a6 are big targets. At the same time, White is a bit overextended in the center and I can try to create some weaknesses with e6/e5. Thus, it should be a draw but there are some chances for both sides. 29.h4?! I do not understand this move as h4 is never really a threat for Black. I would have preferred 29.f4! with e5 ideas looming. 29…Ng4! 30.Nc2 (30.Nxg4 should be a draw, but after 30…Bxg4 31.f3 Bd7 32.Kf2 f5 there are some potential tricks.) 30…Ne5 31.f4 Nc4 32.Kf2 e5!?

Once again, I am trying to create some play here. At this point, I felt that combining some minor complications with my opponents looming time trouble was a good mix to try and confuse him. 33.Ne3?! (33.dxe6 fxe6 34.Bh3 Kf6 35.Nd4 Bd7 36.Nf3 should be a routine draw.) 33…Nb2 34.Ke2 Na4 35.fxe5? Although this move does not lose the game, it now creates a bunch of chances for me if I can get the ideal setup. dxe5 36.Kd2 Bg4!

The reason Bg4 is so critical is because if White can get Bf3 and g4 in the game once again simplifies to an easy draw. At the same time, if White trades on g4, I then get a good knight against bad bishop ending. 37.Bf1 Bf3? Here I decided to take a massive chance. Sticking with my earlier analysis of the games, I felt that taking risks was in order. At this point my opponent only had five minutes, so I figured he would not see the correct variation. 38.Bd3? (38.d6 Nb6 39.Nd5! Nd7 40.Nc7 gives White a clearly winning endgame.) Also possible is 38..Kf6 but 39.g4! I missed this nice shot. hxg4 40.Nxg4 Ke6 41.d7! Ke7 42.Nxe5 with a winning position due to the very strong d7 pawn. 38…Kf8 preventing any future d6 tricks now. 39.Nc2 Ke7 40.Ne1 Bh1!

Played after a five minute think. 40…Bg4 seems more natural, but it relinquishes any immediate plans/ideas. Although Bh1 traps the bishop in the corner, if I can get my knight to the dream square of d6 and combine it with f5, then the e4 and d5 pawn chain will collapse. 41.Bc2 Nb6 42.Ke3 Nc4! 43.Kf2 Nd6 44.Nf3 (44.Ke3 f5 is winning for Black.) 44…Bxf3 45.Kxf3

Here we have reached the ideal position. White now has a bad bishop against my good knight. to compound problems a4 does not create any threats as the knight on d6 holds everything in perfect harmony. 45…f5! This move is very important as White’s drawing chances improve dramatically if he can get in g4. 46.Bd3 Kf6 47.Ke3 Nc8 a very clever waiting move while I see what my opponent plans to do. 48.exf5 (48.Bc2 gives White better drawing chances.) 48…gxf5 49.Be2 Kg6!? A practical move which I chose to play as I felt it left more complications in the position. (49…Nb6 50.d6 {50.Bxh5 Nxd5 followed by Nxb4 is clearly winning.} Nc4 51.Kf2! Nxd6 52.Bxh5 and although I have a small advantage, this is much harder to play for a win.)

50.a4?? The final blunder played under serious time pressure. After this move, there is no return. The last possible drawing chance was 50.Kf2 but the endgame is still unpleasant after 50…Nd6. 50…bxa4 51.Bxa6 Nb6! A crucial move which covers the ever important c4 square. 52.d6 a3 53.d7 the only move to prevent the a pawn from queening. 53…Nxd7 54.Bc4 Nb6 55.Bb3 Kf6 56.Kd3 (56.Kd4 Ke7 is also winning.) 56…e4 57.Kc3 e3 58.Kd3 Ke5!

59.b5 if (59.Kxe3 then 59…Nd5 60.Kd2 Nxb4 61.Kc3 Nd5 followed by either Ne3-f1xg3 or Nf6-e4xg3 which is winning in both cases.) 59…f4 60.gxf4 Kxf4 61.Ke2 Na4

Here my opponent resigned in view of (61.Ke1 Ke5 62.Ke2 Kd4 63.Ke1 Kd3! and White is in zugzwang.)


Board 2: Mikhailuk-Ludwig

This game looked a bit weird as I think Slava combined some weird Qc2 slav with a catalan and then a stonewall! I pretty much disliked his opening play and thought he was significantly worse until Ludwig played 22…b5? After this decision, the game became quite messy and Slava somehow found a way to win. But I would be very surprised if he chooses to wing it with this sort of opening in future USCL games as it is certainly not a pleasant position to play for White. Nevertheless, a win is a win and a very big one at that as we took a commanding 2-0 lead.

Board 3: Kiewra-Lee

On board three Keaton and Michael played an old variation of the rossolimo where White does not hack on c6 giving Black the double c pawns. I thought Michael was roughly equal, but Keaton came up with very aggressive moves maintaining the initiative as he sacrificed an exchange on e5. Michael appeared to be hanging on despite this until he played 25…Rxe7? (25…Qxe7 26.h3 {26.Nd5 Qe5 27.Nf6 Kh8 is fine for Black}  26…b6! 27.Nd5 Qe5 with a solid position once again. After going astray, Michael sacrificed a piece on h3, but Keaton maintained his cool and calmly found a nice variation with 30.f3 giving the White queen space to come back just in time and mop up. A tough loss for Michael, but we still kept the lead in the match despite this at 2-1.

Board 4: Sinanan-Zorigt

On board four Josh played a very slow anti meran system with e3, b3, Qc2,Bb2 and Be2. Generally White puts the bishop on d3 and goes for an e4 break. However, as Josh had spent the majority of his time preparing for something else it is completely understandable. It seemed that neither player was really comfortable with the position as Black got the hanging pawns setup on c5 and d5. It appeared that at several time Zorigt had chances to create major threats on the kingside with Ne5 or d4 but refrained from them. especially interesting was 24…d4!? I do not know if it works, but it feels like there should be something for Black. Josh was able to exchange enough pieces on the kingside and in Karpovian fashion cleaned up the queenside pawns on c5 and a6. Eventually he was able to simplify it down to a very basic rook and pawn ending and converted the full point without any major problems. 3-1!


Overall, this victory cannot be understated as it put us in the drivers seat as we reach the halfway point after the match next week. With a very respectable score of 3-1 in the league and clear second in the west, it has been good so far. Had we not won this match, or even worse lost, the team would be much worse off. Another reason that this win is so critical is because I will not be around for the next two matches. Without naming names, I find it very fishy that Tennessee was unable to change their schedule for our match from Wednesday to Monday due to a supposed scheduling conflict. I strongly suspect the conflict very well might be that they were planning to fly Ehlvest in on Wednesday for the match and, as such, I find this very disturbing. However, in my absence I am sure that Greg and Slava will be able to get the job done on boards 1 and 2. GO SLUGGERS GO!

Other Randomness

Yesterday, I once again spent the morning playing tennis with Slugger stud Josh Sinanan and we finally were successful in eating at this really quaint and superb Japanese restaurant Kisaku. For anyone who wants to eat good sushi, I strongly recommend coming to Seattle as I have yet to spend time anywhere (outside of Japan) where the sushi is consistently this good at all restaurants. Early on Tuesday morning, I leave for Vienna and then Macedonia to play in the European Club Cup. Hopefully, I can resume my strong form now that I am completely recovered from my miserable August and beginning of September. I hope everyone enjoyed the blog and have a spectacular weekend. Cheers from the sunny northwest!


  1. It’s always great to read your blogs, thx 4 keeping us updated! ^_^

  2. I am dying to know your thoughts on the K-K match, and particularly the Blitz portion. I too thought it would be a Kasp led slaughter, and was dissapointed in the prior King of chess’s performance. How can it be explained that Kasp basically was played even-up by a 2600 player? It is inconceivable. I am now convinced that even Kasp can easily be beaten by Smallville if there was an ever an opportunity for a blitz match.

  3. I am quite shocked that you had never attended a college football game, and quite amazed that you actually had planned to eat dinner that night. I wish I could see that far ahead. 😉 Hey, you need something more interesting to read than “wow, you are great, your words are great, I feel great reading your words.” (Ok, assuming that you actually read these comments – maybe keeping up with these comments is what you mean by being so busy?!)

    Hey, Bradford, I don’t understand how 6-2 is even-up but then, I’m just an A player and higher math escapes me. Is this some form of set theory or something?

  4. I disagree with his assessment of Slava Mikhailuk’s game. Even if Black doesn’t play b5, how does he improve his position. I don’t think he can do it easily, so isn’t Slava’s game more pleasant to play? Slava has more space, can potentially advance his pawns on the kingside….

  5. Looking forward to some more Nakamura crushing in your upcoming events.

  6. Todd Andrews

    We have a structured schedule of events at the Nashville Chess Center (we are open Monday and Wednesday evenings) and rescheduling a match means we have to reschedule the activities at the chess center as well. Besides that, Jaan and Shaba had some things planned and it was impossible to accommodate you, oh great one. But if it is fishy for us to change our schedule to accommodate our players, then why is it not fishy that Seattle changes their schedule to accommodate their players? We don’t fly the players in weekly, they are here for weeks at a time. But you will be seeing something fishy very soon…

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