USCL Weeks 4,5, and 6

I admit, I have been remiss in updating this blog over the past few weeks. Fortunately the Dallas Destiny has had much success of late! Let's get to it.

Week 4: Carolina is a dangerous squad that in my opinion is capable of knocking off any team in the league. IM Milman is a force on board 1 while FM Zaikov (board 3) is arguably as strong as the veteran IM Schroer (board 2). NM Craig Jones brings a lot of experience to board 4. I made the decision to bring in the alternate FM Keaton Kiewra to play on board 3, and the Nebraskan came up huge with a complete demolition of Zaikov in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf. IM Boskovic succumbed to Milman's pressure on board 1 while my game with Schroer was drawn. Our NM Francisco Guadalupe (making his league debut) played a wild game against Jones that was drawn after many twists and turn.

Result: a hard-fought 2-2 tie.

Week 5: The marquee Monday-night matchup against Miami was huge for us. I again decided to shake things up on boards 3 and 4, and the lineups came out like this:

Dallas Destiny Miami Sharks
1. IM Drasko Boskovic vs. GM Julio Becerra
2. IM John Bartholomew vs. FM Marcel Martinez
3. FM Andrei Zaremba vs. IM Alejandro Moreno Roman
4. NM Ryan Milisits vs. Roberto Socorregut

Things weren't looking so well for us after an hour or so of play. I had played a dubious (at best!) pawn sacrifice on move 5 against Martinez and emerged with a creaky position. On board 4, Ryan's King seemed to be a bit tied up on h1 when Socorregut's knight hopped into f3. What's more, Zaremba had passed up a likely draw in a R+B vs. R+B ending and was now worse. Drasko seemed to be holding his own against Becerra.

What happened next was the type of reversal that has helped us so much this season. Martinez inexplicably sacrificed an exchange against me, and Milisits sprung a nice combination to garner two minors for a rook. Zaremba did go on to lose, but Drasko emerged from some complications to reach a pawn-up rook ending. That game was eventually drawn while Ryan confidently reeled in the point. All eyes were on my game, where I had R+ c and d pawns vs. R + a pawn. I made a big mistake with 74. c6?? (74. Rc2 wins very easily) after which I believe Martinez can draw. Fortunately, he returned the favor and I managed to score the win. A nervy ending!

Result: 2.5-1.5 win

Week 6: This week we reverted to our most formidable lineup: three IMs and the underrated WFM Bayaraa Zorigt on board 4. Having IM Stopa on board 3 is obviously huge, as he almost always has a large rating edge (not to mention his record as an All Star playing boards 1+2 last season). The match started strangely when IM Bryan Smith offered a draw to IM Davorin Kuljasevic on move 6(!) with White(!!?). I'm not sure if Bryan was in a hurry to get somewhere or what, but this is a horrible match strategy. Davorin declined the offer and registered a seemingly effortless 24-move win. On Board 3, Jacek achieved an overwhelming position from the opening, but ran into trouble when he stranded his knight on a7. The game drifted into a R+B vs. R+N ending that should probably have been drawn, but was botched badly by IM Costigan. Thus, we pulled forward with an imposing 2-0 lead.

Drasko again struggled with White against the Sicilian and was duly ground down by GM Kudrin. The final game of the match saw Bayaraa and NM Elvin Wilson locked in a tense middlegame. Our team has come to expect big things from Bayaraa - she is simply tough as nails. Despite some bad pressure (to say nothing of the pressure of the match), she kept good control of a pawn-up position and eventually drew.

Result: 2.5-1.5 win

So, to sum things up: after 6 weeks of play we are 5-1. Clear first in the West, tied with Boston for the overall lead. Not bad!