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Victory in Saint Louie

[imagefield_assist|fid=6781|preset=bdynako-preview|lightbox=true|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=285|height=375]By Spencer Finegold

After underachieving in the first couple of weeks, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops finally weaved together enough points to win their match against the Dallas Destiny. In case you were wondering why I didn’t use words like “we” and “our”, it is because board four was held down by Executive Director Tony Rich in my stead. To be honest, neither of us wanted to lose and let our team down, and considering our opponent would be about 300 points higher rated, it was a tough “destiny” to avoid. Our line-up did however still consist of the big three: Lebron, Wade, and Bosh (more commonly referred to as Nakamura, Shulman, and Finegold). They ended up winning the match with 2.5/3, as our GM-titleless fourth board was not so lucky.

GM Alejandro Ramirez played more enterprising style against our board one than did last week’s opponent. The game started out a bit dry as Hikaru found himself on the black side of a closed Catalan. After a cute repetition on moves 12 and 14, Nakamura decided to decline the pseudo-draw offer (an offer I assume Ramirez would have been easily taken) and play for a win. Perhaps this psychological ploy worked as the Destiny’s first board played way too aggressively by advancing his kingside pawns. After some fine defense, black found himself in a better position, and a very speculative sacrifice by white on move 22 dug him even deeper in his grave. A piece up for just a couple of pawns, Nakamura converted with little to fear and a whole lot of time.


After last week’s inexplicable debacle on board two, Shulman showed up to his game this week (quite literally since he wasn’t playing remotely from his home town) and didn’t disappoint. Again with white, in the same opening nonetheless, Yuri was playing a much lower rated player in NM Tyler Hughes. He played his pet line 7. Be3 against the King’s Indian Defense, and obtained a much more promising position out of the opening. Black, with a slight disadvantage already, decided on the wrong plan entirely. From moves 13-16, all pawn moves in front of his king, Hughes effectively destroyed all hopes he had of equalizing. This was eerily similar to the game going on next to Shulman, so the onlookers where unsurprisingly optimistic. After capturing on f5 with his pawn, Yuri found a beautiful outpost on e4 for both knights to hover over, effectively freezing Hughes' King’s Indian Bishop behind its own pawns. Shulman continued to instructively neutralize all of Black’s play on the kingside, while winning and creating a passed pawn on the queenside. Black was effectively out of constructive moves, with all of his pieces tripping over each other as he allowed the GM an unstoppable passed pawn.


Board three was by far the least exciting game for the Arch Bishops. GM Finegold, commanding the black pieces, tried to play his usual Classical Sicilian, but FM Keaton Kiewra was not so quick to oblige. The game opened as “Nick’s Trick” the Bb5 Rosillimo. Finegold and Kiewra followed the path of many GM’s and got to a position with a very small but lasting edge for white. Liquidating to an endgame, white saw his advantage slowly but surely slip into equality. Even with White’s slightly better king and strong knight, Black was able to hold carefully, trade rooks, and get into a dead drawn bishop-and-three against knight-and-three endgame. Maybe white still had an infinitesimal advantage, so he tried for 25 moves to win. Black held quite comfortably, however, and the draw was inevitable.


The heart-breaking loss on board four this time was not attributed to me. Rich played brilliantly early on and found himself with an enormous advantage out of the opening. NM Nelson Lopez seemed unsure of himself to say the least as black in a Scandinavian Defense. The game perhaps transposed into a bad French Defense as an early …e6 locked in Black’s light-squared Bishop. Our light-squared Arch Bishop was also locked in and victory seemed all but assured. Rich was starting to convert his advantage beautifully with his 13th and 14th moves. Black had to patch up a completely illogical and probably lost position, while Rich’s pieces were all in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, White traded his strong knight, bishop and queen for their more inferior counter-parts, and was left with, at most, a small advantage. Things still didn’t look so bad, as Black started to unravel himself (maybe the lowly A-player could hold a draw against his master opponent in the ensuing rook endgame). White played rather pointlessly however, and drifted into a worse position. Still there was a lot of slack in the double-rook endgame, and Rich was far from losing. A pair of rooks left the board and black had to try to win or his team had absolutely no chance. Sometimes, in order to win, you have to try to lose, and with his 39th move black did just that. Rich misjudged his opponent’s cunning pawn sacrifice and decided against capturing it, allowing the pawn all the way to a3. That in itself was probably not losing, but after allowing another pawn wedge to stick on h3 the black rook was threatening deadly penetration. Black ended up dominating white’s weak 2nd rank, queening, and mating his worthy opponent.

The final score of 2.5-1.5 netted the Arch Bishop's its first-ever U.S. Chess League victory and provided a badly needed pick-me-up after a last week's disappointing showing against Chicago. The Arch Bishops take on Miami on Monday.