[Rahul is a familiar face in the Tri-state area chess circuit. He lives in NJ. He shares his first experience in playing for Philadelphia Inventors in this humorous article. Photo Courtesy: Rahul playing against NM James West taken from http://www.diamondbackchess.blogspot.com/ - PK Sivakumar]
My first USCL experience was entertaining, from the drive to the club, to the game, to the postmortem, and the drive back. My dad and I left our house at precisely 6:08 p.m., intending to arrive exactly at 7:15 pm. However, issues arose soon after we left as there was a huge traffic jam on US Route 1. The highlight of this for me was dozing off for 15 minutes and waking up exactly where I had slept in the first place. After a bit of reckless driving, we finally ended up in Philadelphia. The ride seemed a bit like I was on a plane.
In the beginning, I could sense no movement, until we took off and went quite fast. My dad also created much turbulence by skidding and sliding his way to Philly. I made sure to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, located the nearest exit (keeping in mind that it could be behind me), and kept all seat backs and tray tables in their upright and locked position. The only differences were that there were no oxygen masks (which I could have used since my dad had beans before we left) and that we were on the ground. When we got to Philly, my dad taxied for a while, but could not find an affordable parking spot. It might have been useful to have someone directing traffic, but all we had was an irate GPS telling us to “make the next legal U-turn” (in a very annoying, nasally voice, a bit like my brother). After what seemed like an eternity, my dad pulled the car into a parking lot. Unable to read the size 200 font, my father thought that the price was $6.50 for 12 hours. Instead it was $6.50 for 1/2 hour. At this point I was ready to leave the car and walk to the Franklin Merchantile Chess Club to join my teammates.
It was pretty cool for me to be in the same room as Lenderman, Kudrin, and Smith as they’re such good players. I hoped that some of their GM skill would rub off on me, but that was not the case. I was not unduly nervous before the game as I felt that I was sufficiently prepared for what my opponent, FM John Bick, would hit me with. However, by move one I was out of book as he played 1. b3!? Soon I attained a playable position which deteriorated after I exchanged a-pawns and played c5. If I hadn’t played this, I could have perhaps been able to hold the situation. Kudos to Bick for such great preparation because he took me straight out of book and made me uncomfortable by move 1. It was pretty weird to not be able to see my opponent’s face during the game. Usually I look at my opponent’s countenance to see whether he looks uncomfortable or relaxed with the position. To combat this, maybe webcams ought to be installed on all boards…
Next to finish was Alex who crushed IM Burnett on the black side of an advanced Caro-Kann. Burnett seemed unfamiliar with the opening as he spent a lot of time on the initial moves like 8. c4. Alex soon got an extra pawn and wisely steered the game into an endgame. The rest was all technique. He is a great asset to the team as he is very consistent and seems to be quite comfortable with USCL play. IM Smith attained a good position on the white side of a Ruy Lopez. FM Bereolos played a dubious 17…g5, giving White a good position. Prior to that move, Fritz says that the position is roughly equal, but after it, Fritz gives white a clear edge. Instead, black may have been able to play Bg5, preventing f4 without weakening anything. A sample line goes: 17…Bg5 18. Ng4 Re8 and black doesn’t seem to have any problems. Fritz even gives black small advantage here. Eventually the game petered out to a draw as Smith could not quite break through. Qh5 immediately after g5 might have been the best try for a serious advantage.
The draw meant that the result of the match would come down to GM Kudrin vs GM Shabalov. It was quite entertaining to witness the banter between Smith and Lenderman watching the game as the former was very optimistic and the latter pessimistic about GM Kudrin’s chances. For example:
Smith: Kudrin is winning; there is no defense to Rb4 (after Kudrin played Ra4)
Lenderman: Shabalov can just bring his knight back to c7; at this point I’m just hoping for a draw.
Smith: I knew Shabalov would not move his knight back; he doesn’t like to move pieces backwards. Now Kudrin can just move his rook up to a5, with a good position.
Lenderman: That just hangs a knight.
Smith: Black has nothing better than perpetual check though.
Lenderman: It is mate in three.
My Dad: Ke3 wins for Shabalov, right?
**All of us in our minds**- Way too late patzer…
The day was not a good one for me and the team, but we have another chance next week against the NJ Knockouts, which we hope to win. It’s just one match on the course of a long season, one that we hope will end with a championship! I won’t even get into the drive back which started with the GPS causing us to go in circles for an hour and culminated in my dad asking me to throw the GPS out the window. Not such a good day, but hopefully the 2nd match will be the first of many wins for us this season!!