US Chess League Week 3 Recap of Seattle Sluggers-Arizona Scorpions

September 17, 2009 • General

Greetings on an unfortunately, rainy evening here in Seattle. Sadly, today broke the streak of eight days in a row of perfect sunny skies without a cloud in sight. Alas, I guess this is a sad sign that summer is nearing an end for us west coasters. Oh well, such is life. Before I dive right into the US Chess League match tonight, I would like to take the opportunity to mention what I have been up to since the last time I blogged. If it was not for the dedicated fans both here and on ICC, I would not be as successful or motivated as I currently am. So once again, I would like to thank everyone for their continued good wishes.

Here in Seattle, when the weather is so great, it becomes impossible to stay indoors and glued to a computer. As such, I spent most of the weekend down in Belltown which tends to be one of the more popular areas when it comes to nightlife. I went to this restaurant Imo near Pioneer Square which is a quaint little Korean restaurant with karaoke and this alcoholic beverage called soju. It was also when I was out at this restaurant that I heard one of the more comical things in recent years. Due to the fact that it was a semi-mixer and meeting new people is common, a friend of mine asked this guy what he thought I did for a living. It was at this point, that the guy blurted out the following: “Are you a porn star?” As I was not expecting anything even remotely resembling this, it completely cracked me up. During the past week, I also went out to Kenmore, Washington to bowl with a few friends and caught up with The Scotsman from ICC. It suffices to say that the overall experiences out here have been incredibly positive thus far and I recommend Seattle for anyone who wants to have a good time in a relaxed atmosphere (sorry Yasser).

Now, without further ado I shall present my game from week 3 of the USCL against IM Rogelio Barcenilla of Arizona. I must say that although I love the New York style of brash in your face predictions, I think they end up serving as motivation for the opposing team more often than not. For instance, a good example would be when Boston Assistant Manager Matt Phelps made a ridiculously absurd prediction that Boston would beat Dallas 4-0 this week. As it turned out, Dallas ended up crushing Boston 4-0. Such predictions are silly and only give people ammunition. The reason I mention this is because GM Alejandro Ramirez decided to make some stupid predictions of his own on the Seattle-Arizona match in which he said I would lose. To paraphrase Curt Schilling, ‘There’s no better thing than shutting everyone up.’ That’s all for now, onto the game and match itself!

GM Hikaru Nakamura (2759)- IM Rogelio Barcenilla (2583), US Chess League 16.9.2009

1.Nf3 b6!? Keeping with my previous game, I chose to open with a pawn move involving the b file. 2.g3 Bb7 3.Bg2 c5!? A way of trying to prevent any sort of standard d4 catalan type of setup. 4.0-0 g6 5.c4 Bg7

This is the first real starting position for the game. At this point, I was pleased as I thought I should have no real problems equalizing. 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.b3!? (7.d4 is what I was expecting. 7…cxd4 8.Qxd4 (8.Nxd4 Bxg2 9.Kxg2 0-0 10.e4 Qc7 11.b3 as was played twice in the famous Karpov-Kasparov match in 1984.) 8…d6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 as was played in Kramnik-Kasparov, London WC Match (14) 2000. 7…d5! A very natural move taking over the initative. 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bb2 Nc6 10.Qc1 Nc7!? (10…Nxc3 11.Bxc3 0-0 was completely equal, but I thought it was a bit too dry and I wanted something a bit more spicy.) 11.Nb5! Definitely the most active move and the only way to try and disrupt Black’s very simple plan of 0-0, e5 and Nd4. 11…e5!?!

The second and arguably most critical point during the whole game. Prior to going 10…Nc7, I had seen the whole plan involving Nxe5. 12.Nxc7?! This move is perfectly fine, but after using nearly 40 minutes, it is completely wrong. Obviously, most of my opponents time was spent analyzing 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 (12…Nxe5!? 13.Bxb7 Nxb5 14.Bxa8 Qxa8 15.f4 Nd4 16.Bxd4 Nd3!! I had overlooked this and simply saw (16…Nf3 17.Rxf3 Bxd4 18.Kg2 Bxa1 19.Qxa1 when White is up a pawn and winning. 17.Bxg7 Nxc1 18.Bxh8 Nxe2 19.Kf2 when White is better, but it remains very complicated.) 13.Bxc6 Bxc6 14.Bxe5 Nxb5 15.Bxh8 f6 (analysis diagram)

At this point, I concluded that my attack was very dangerous due to A)16.Qc4 Ke7 16.Bg7 Nd4 when the dual threats of Qg8 and Bb5 seem to give me an advantage. B)16.Bg7 Nd4 17.Re1 Qe7 18.Bh6 Nxe2 gives me an advantage as well. However, Rybka being totally inhuman suggests a really bizarre line with C)16.e3 Kf7 17.f3 Kg8 18.b4 with a small advantage for White. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine any human ever going for this variation and just makes one in disbelief at how amazing computers are.

12…Qxc7 13.Bc3 0-0 14.d3 Rfe8 15.Rb1 A peculiar move which I do not really understand. 15…Rac8 16.Qb2? Another strange move. I suspect my opponent may not have been familiar with the pawn structure. The more natural English player would have gone for some sort of Nd2-c4 idea. 16…b5! Taking advantage and obtaining more space.

17.Qd2 Rcd8 18.Qc1 Qb6 19.Qc2? A puzzling move. White has now moved his queen five times in the first nineteen moves! 19…Nd4 20.Bxd4 cxd4 21. Qd2 Rdc8 A slightly better alternative may have been 21…f5 with the idea of e4. Nevertheless, both lines do not change the overall assessment of the position. 22.Rbc1 Rc3!

At this point, White’s position really starts to crumble. It did not help matters that by this point White was down to five minutes already. 23.e3 e4!? Slightly better was 23…Rec8 keeping the pressure on and avoiding any simplification. 24.Nxd4 Rxd3 25.Qb4 Bxd4 26.exd4 Rxd4

Now the smoke has cleared and I am up a pawn as we head towards the endgame. The rest is relatively straight forward although I am sure I missed some easier wins along the way. 27.Qc5 Qxc5 28.Rxc5 Rc8 29.Re5 not (29…Rxb5 Ba6 winning an exchange.) 29…a6 30.Re7 Bd5 31.Rd7 Rd3 32.Rd6 a5 33.Rb6 Rc5 34.Re1 f5! After this move, it is hard for White to obtain any counterplay.

35.g4 Kf7 36.gxf5 gxf5 37.Bf1 Rd2 38.Bxb5 e3! After this nice shot, White is completely lost and can resign more or less instantly.

39.fxe3 Rcc2 40.Bf1 Rxh2



Overall, my opponent had one opportunity with 12.Nxe5 to go into complications. As he avoided this chance, the opening turned out extremely pleasantly for me and I had no problems whatsoever. A relatively easy game in which I did not have any major problems. With this win, we took a 1-0 lead in the match.

Board 2: Mikhailuk-Ginsburg

On board two, FM Slava Mikhailuk took on IM Mark Ginsburg in a rematch from last year. This game also left me a bit clueless as Slava went for a rather bizarre idea in the English with 8.Bd2 and 9.Rc1? My understanding of the English is that White normally should go for Rb1 and b4 instead. However, he only compounded the problems when he followed this up with 10.e4? The dark squares eventually became too weak later on in the game and Ginsburg duly won. Not a good result but also not the end of the world either. However, to point out an odd stat…in our first three matches, we are 3/3 on board 1 and 0/3 on board 2! One can only wonder why this is. 1-1

Board 3: Rensch-Lee

On board three, FMs Rensch and Lee faced off. Out of the tromp, Rensch quickly gained an small advantage which he tried to squeeze once queens came off the board. Lee incorrectly tried to play aggressively on the kingside despite having doubled f pawns. This backfired as Rensch was able to consolidate the kingside pawns and much the first doubled f pawn without any problems. Later on though, Lee came up with some resourceful tricks and was able to keep the game complicated. Rensch then proceeded to blunder badly and went down in flames to a nice combination at the end. 2-1

Board 4: Sinanan-Martinez

This game still continues to baffle me even as I think about it now. On board 4 Josh played an anti-Benko opening which eventually transposed into an English where Black uses a hedgehog setup. Josh was clearly out of his comfort zone and unfamiliar with the themes and motifs of the position. Martinez on the other hand kept on playing natural moves and had a small edge by move 20. After Sinanan grabbed a pawn with 25.Qxa6 Martinez proceeded to use 25 minutes only to cough up a lemon with 25…Nxf3?? instead of 25…Ra8 after which White is definitely in trouble in not outright losing. After the blunder, Martinez was lucky enough to still have a draw in hand which occurred when both players repeated moves. 2.5-1.5

The match itself was very strange in that I was very comfortable early on while all the other boards were in trouble immediately. Luckily for us, this turned and Michael Lee became the hero. Thus far we now have 2/3 and are in solid position as long as we avoid losing matches. Nevertheless at some point we will need to address our board two woes if the next few weeks continue like the first three. Next week we face Dallas and will try to repeat our success once again. GO SLUGGERS GO!


  1. Are you really motivated by someone writing a preview that is hardly serious? I seriously doubt your team needed it as motivation and if they did, thats pathetic.

  2. Michael Viking

    That’s awesome you were motivated by some trash talk. Michael Jordan and other great stars are the same way. Nothing like a little trash talk to get one motivated to kick butt. Lots of losers don’t understand motivation and greatness.

    Keep up the great work. I enjoy your blog.

  3. “The match itself was very strange in that I was very comfortable early on while all the other boards were in trouble immediately.”

    Not really strange, just Hikaru power.

  4. Matt Phelps

    Yes, my prediction was ridiculous. I thought it was clear from the post that I was trying to be funny. People went nuts however. I doubt Dallas took it seriously, they just went ahead and beat the snot out of us. That’s all there is to it. I certainly provided copy for the newshounds, but I doubted anyone would take a lifelong club player’s thoughts for real.

    Whatever… hockey season starts soon!


  5. charles.galofre

    the b6 idea avoiding the catalan… heavy

  6. Mark Trevor Smith

    Hikaru– Thanks for this insightful analysis of your game. (And double thanks for diagram with your side on the bottom.) I enjoyed being in the room to watch live. However, it’s a bit misleading to list your name first in the heading to the game, when you played Black!

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