[imagefield_assist|fid=12294|preset=fullsize|title=The Mechanics' Institute building houses the oldest chess club in the United States. Pictured here is a more-than-100-year-old table in the playing hall of the Mechanics' Institute.|desc=|link=none|origsize=|align=left|width=700|height=523]
By GM Ben Finegold
The U.S. Chess League is back for its seventh season, and the Saint Louis Arch Bishops started the new season with a revamped line-up.
Round 1 saw Saint Louis paired against the San Francisco Mechanics. Unfortunately, we lost 2.5-1.5 in a tough match, but we cannot be too unhappy as we were out rated on boards two through four, and my opponent on board one was GM Jesse Kraai, against whom I have never won!
The first game to finish was on board two, where new Arch Bishop FM Jake Banawa lost to IM Daniel Naroditsky in a complicated Najdorf Sicilian. The game was about equal, in fact Jake was probably a bit better, but time trouble and tactics were a dangerous combination, and Jake made a blunder (23…Rfd8?? Instead of 23…Rae8) and lost.
The next game to finish was Jialin Ding on board four. He had black in the Chinese Dragon variation of the Sicilian against youngest-ever USCF master, Samuel Sevian. Jialin seemed to know the opening better and built up a nice time edge to go along with his nice position. When Sevian sacrificed the exchange with 22.Qxh7+ Qxh7 23.Rxh7, Jialin should have declined the offer and played 23…Bxb3! with a nice advantage. As it went, the game petered out to equality and a draw by repetition.
The match was effectively over when IM David Pruess overwhelmed FM Doug Eckert on board three. David played a QGA, equalized pretty quickly and then won material with some neat tactics.
We were down 2.5-0.5, but I had a nagging edge against Kraai, and I was able to wrap up the point in a bishop ending after 89 moves and four hours of play!
So we lost the match, but by the closest of margins. Today we play the Los Angeles Vibe, Tuesday, September 6, which, coincidentally, is my birthday!