Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 5 Recap: vs. Dallas

In our history, the L.A. Vibe have always done fairly well against the Dallas Destiny. Our lifetime score is 2/4, but I'm pretty sure we have been the rating underdogs in all 4 matches! Moreover, in our last meeting, back in Week 5 in 2011, we won against the Destiny 3.5-0.5, despite them fielding a strong team. For whatever reason, we have always had their number in the past, but that was not the case this week! Like always, I again felt optimistic at first, at one point liking our position on all four boards, but as time ticked away our positions went from good and promising to not so good...anyways, let's see what happened:

GM Julio Sadorra (DAL) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 1/2-1/2

I wasn't sure about Melik's opening at first, but after the nice move 17...b3!, I think that Black was fully in control of the game, although it was never quite enough of an advantage to get any serious winning chances.

IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs GM Conrad Holt (DAL) 0-1

An interesting game to say the least, where both sides had a somewhat unusual setup of their pieces playing around White's isolated queen pawn. Was it weak, was it a strength? I think Zhanibek had good chances to create a strong attack on the kingside, maybe a Ne5-g4 maneuver somewhere would have caused Black some grief, but overall GM Holt played some good defense, including 28...Ne7, which was a strong re-positioning of the knight and more or less shut down White's potential attack. This effort earned Conrad a 2nd place finish in the Game of the Week contest, which is pretty impressive considering he won first place last week!

FM Alec Getz (DAL) vs WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) 1-0

Another wild affair from Tatev, who seems to always find herself in positions where everything is hanging. After a strangely played opening from FM Getz (is 11.Bc2 a good move??), I thought that Tatev was more or less winning after picking up White's two central pawns. It is not unusual for Black in these Tarrasch g7-g5 lines to win the e5 pawn, but White is supposed to get some kind of compensation based on Black's uncastled king. However, this was not the case here, and if Tatev simply played Bd7, Qe7 and 0-0-0 early on her position would have been completely winning, with 2 extra pawns and more active pieces. But Tatev went for a quick attack with Rg8 and g4-g3, and unfortunately this was completely unjustified with her king in the center and queenside undeveloped. Although it looked scary at first, all of White's pieces were close enough to the kingside to defend against any kind of hasty attack, and quickly Black's lack of development started to tell.

Then in mutual time trouble both sides started missing opportunities, but FM Getz was able to find some strong moves, including 28.Ba4+, which simply led to mate. For his efforts Getz won third place in the GOTW contest, not bad!

Nicky Korba (LA) vs Travis Guenther (DAL) 1/2-1/2

Nicky got one of those typical "slightly better but Black is still perfectly fine" positions, where he wasn't able to pose his opponent any serious problems. With 2 bishops White must aim to open up the position and let the bishops work their magic, but this is often easier said than done. I think instead of 20.Rd2, it would have been better to play Rab1, with idea b4-b5, trying to create a weakness on the kingside. Nevertheless winning a position like this one is a fairly difficult task against a solid opponent.

So our second loss in a row, but like in our previous matches, I felt that we certainly had our chances to win, and hopefully next time some of these hectic games will start to go our way! On October 10th we will be facing the Boston Blitz, a match that can be viewed live on

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week 4 Recap: vs Philly

Last week the L.A. Vibe was sorely beaten 3-1 by the Philadelphia Inventors. It was a tough match, and like our other matches this season, I felt very good about our chances early on. Nicky had a large time advantage out of the opening and seemed to have a comfortable position. Keaton definitely had the more pleasant position with Black and a small time advantage as well. Tatev's position looked unclear but she had an extra pawn with no obvious compensation for her opponent, and, of course, a quickly rising time advantage. Melik didn't get much with White against GM Erenburg, but was definitely not worse until much later on.

GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (PHI) 0-1

Melik needed to find 27.g6! to keep the game balanced, but after 27.gxh6 Black's position was just easier to play, and with not much time Melik made a few inaccuracies and GM Erenburg showed his high class of play to take the full point smoothly. <--This game won 3rd place in GOTW, so Erenburg's strong play certainly didn't go unnoticed. 

Keaton was just slightly better in the middle game, and even after the strange Nd4-e2-back to d4 rendezvous, he had fine compensation for his missing pawn in the form of his strong, unopposed dark squared bishop, but made a pretty bad oversight when things got complicated and ended up blundering his queen. Oh well, these things happen even to very strong players!

A strange game to say the least, but I mostly blame that on the opening. Tatev kept building her advantage slowly and her opponent was out of time around move 20 or so--after a bunch of blunders from both sides Tatev ended up winning, raising her USCL performance even higher!

Nicky was fairly unfamiliar with the Ruy Lopez exchange, but ended up getting a decent position anyways. The RLE is an opening that is only dangerous for Black if White has a very sneaky and strong plan to improve their position and completely outplays their opponent--but with simple, non-confrontational moves White can't really hope for any advantage against a reasonably good player. But that's just my opinion. In the game Nicky was doing all right, even though I'm not a fan of his decision to let FM Shahade ruin his kingside structure, and was unable to find some good defensive moves to save a slowly deteriorating position.

So all in all an unsuccessful week--it's hard to say whether we are getting unlucky breaks this year or if we got a lot of lucky breaks last year.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 3 Recap: vs. Carolina

Arguably the worst match ever...pretty much all 8 players at some point made some egregious oversight, or horrible practical decision, or just played sloppily--anyways, maybe this tragicomedy of errors was enjoyable for the fans, who were once again reminded that everyone is human, and no one is impervious to making awful moves! With that, let's do a quick recap of the games. I'd like to start with my game, since it's only fair to talk about how badly everyone else played if I throw myself under the bus first, right?

Anyways, feel free to play through the game:

So I felt very comfortable with my position in the middlegame, and as soon as I started to feel really optimistic about the match is when I started to overlook things on practically every move. But ok, here was the situation before the series of unfortunate events that occurred on my board. FM Casella was in a completely dominating position and had about an extra hour on his clock. Tatev seemed quite pleased with her position, seeing as how she also had an extra 30 or 40 minutes and her opponent, FM Korley, was nearly flagging on every move. Zhanibek had comfortably equalized with Black and also enjoyed an extra 30 minutes on the clock. Not to mention, I was already liking my chances in my game, as I felt I also equalized without a whole lot of effort and had only 20 extra minutes or so. So with all that in mind I assumed nothing could possibly go wrong and naturally lost all focus and all my "soviet chess training" flew right out the window. 

I missed 19.Qc4, with a double attack on g6 and c6. Ok, it's already a bit embarrassing that someone at my level could miss this move, but it's also certainly not unheard of that a master could miss a simple double attack. Anyways, since playing 19...Ne7 would run into 20.f4, where it seemed like White would get a dangerous initiative, I decided to sacrifice the pawn and try to put all my pieces on active squares, probably the correct practical decision. After that my opponent played reasonably well for the next few moves and I played sort of "meh", but then NM Jones blundered with 25.f4, and now I will spend a long time thinking, "how could I possibly miss Nxf4?". I mean it should be so mindbogglingly obvious, but I have no explanation for why I didn't even see it. And Nxf4 would have probably saved the game, I win back one of the pawns and all of White's other pawns remain weak, which means Black has pretty good compensation.

Ok, enough about my game, lets move on to the other gems in the match:

At first this was a semi-interesting game with two solid players playing solid moves and Zhanibek eventually getting a small middlegame advantage and more importantly, a significant time advantage. Then once he got low on time, looking for some kind of knockout blow that wasn't there, all hell broke loose. Fortunately for us, IM Schroer didn't find 43.Qxc6, which would have won the game immediately (and the match), Unfortunately for Carolina, he then went into an endgame with a healthy extra pawn but in horrible time pressure blundered two pawns and lost the game. Zhanibek was not happy about winning the game...instead he vowed to never ever let himself get into time pressure again, and he had a point. When time pressure rears its ugly head, it can cause two really really strong players to play like two really really not strong players!

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) vs FM Kassa Korley (CAR) 1/2-1/2

Tatev's game was another anomaly--although she didn't too anything too extreme in the opening, her opoonent was still down to like under 10 minutes while the move number was still in the teens. Then, with FM Korley nearly flagging on every move, I guess Tatev lost focus and somehow overlooked 25...Qxg2+, which not only gets Black out of their speculative position, but leaves White on the defensive side of a difficult endgame. Fortunately for us, FM Korley was so low on time at this point, that he chose to give back his extra exchange (things around his king were looking a bit hairy) in order to go into a simplified rook ending which he could hold without needing more than the 30 second increment for each move.

Let this recap be a public service announcement that time trouble is as just as bad a problem as anything else. When you have low time, it's harder to find the best moves! Even if you do find the best moves, often they require a bit of calculation to justify that you just have no time for! Imagine doing's Tactics Trainer but with 30 seconds on the clock for each'd be horrific! If FM Korley hadn't been so careless with his time early on, he would have had enough time to at least try and win that endgame.

FM Michael Casella (LA) vs NM Rahul Swaminathan (CAR) 1/2-1/2

This game was last, but certainly not least in terms of controversy. Michael has always had really good opening preparation but this time he just outdid himself. After the opening, he had a huge advantage on the board, and even a bigger advantage on the clock! But from then on he played indecisively and just couldn't put his opponent away. Finally, in that endgame where he had two extra pawns (and many ways to win), he didn't realize that a position was about to be repeated three times and that's all she wrote.

So a pretty disappointing match to say the least--first it should have been us to win with at least a score of 3-1, then it was Carolina who came oh so close to winning (literally, 43.Qxc6 in Schroer-Amanov and it's lights out for L.A.), but in the end, we drew. So that's that. In Week 4 we play Philly!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 2 Recap: vs. NY Yankees

It was the match-up everyone was waiting for...(not really), but finally, for the first time in USCL history, the Los Angeles Vibe took on the New York Knights. For anyone who hasn't lived in one of these cities, it is important to note that L.A. and N.Y. are in a constant feud for the title of "best city in the U.S." No disrespect to any of the other dozen major cities, but come on...let's be real. Anyways, New Yorkers are always out to prove that New York is a better place to live in than Los Angeles. In response, people from L.A. just sort of shrug their shoulders and then go to one of the many beautiful beaches in sunny Southern California, or catch a fun improv show in Hollywood. Either way, just because the weather is always lovely in L.A., doesn't mean the Vibe didn't want to win this match and stick it to the NY Yankees of the USCL--and just look at how confident they were!

Actually I didn't get the point of calling us the Vaseline Globes (seriously am I missing a pun here or something?), but it didn't matter, we were huge dogs. Outrated by an average of 150 points per board, no one really expected us to even have a chance in the match. Except for myself, of course. From my view, I liked the individual matchups. So let's go through it game by game:

GM Tamaz Gelashvili (NY) vs IM Andranik Matikozyan (LA) 1-0

GM Gelashvili doesn't really play sharp openings too often, which meant that if he was going to win this game it would be some kind of slow squeeze, leading to a drawish endgame that he would have to grind out--this is exactly what happened, but it is obvious that Andranik had many chances to save the half-point somewhere, for instance 35...Rd1, where White cannot unpin their bishop, would have easily drawn (actually White has to be careful not to lose). But, stuff happens, and credit goes to GM Gelashvili for finding the right moves to win the game.

IM Zhanibek Amanov (LA) vs GM Alex Lenderman (NY) 1-0

I was excited about this game, since Zhanibek is a close friend and I know just how dangerous he can be with the White pieces. Furthermore it was likely that GM Lenderman felt the pressure to win with Black, being such a heavy rating favorite, and this can cause you to play a bit carelessly, which is exactly what happened. Zhanibek played very energetically out of the opening, seized the initiative, and after the blunder 24...Qb4 it was all over.

NM Justus Williams (NY) vs FM Michael Casella (LA) 1-0

Not much to say about this game, other than the fact that Justus is blossoming into a really strong universal player! It's always tough when your team plays against someone you know and like, and you just end up hoping it turns out to be a good game.

Nicky Korba (LA) vs Isaac Barayev (NY) 1-0

This was the other game that I was excited to see, since Nicky is our young and not so secret weapon who I feel is capable of winning against any board 4 in the league. It turned out to be quite an interesting game, until Barayev, a former second of GM Vladimir Kramnik, "mouse-slipped" with 19...Rd2 and it was not much of a game after that.

New York KnightsLos Angeles Vibe
GM Tamaz Gelashvili: 26941.00.0IM Andranik Matikozyan: 2470
GM Alex Lenderman: 27030.01.0IM Zhanibek Amanov: 2463
NM Justus Williams: 23311.00.0FM Michael Casella: 2308
Isaac Barayev: 21440.01.0Nicky Korba: 2007
Average Rating: 2468Average Rating: 2312
New York Total2.02.0Los Angeles Total

So to sum up, we were oh so close to taking out the mighty New York Knights, but just couldn't get it done. I guess we should be happy that we were able to draw this match, but even if we had lost, things wouldn't be so bad. After all, it never gets bitter cold or disgustingly hot in L.A., the weather is somehow always "just right". Ok I have to admit that it is pretty funny that L.A. managed to put N.Y. on the ropes with one of our weakest line-ups ever...just saying!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 1 Recap: vs. Arizona

Last night marked the start of the L.A. Vibe's 2012 USCL season, where we were paired against Arizona, a team we have already played thrice in our 2-year existence. The total score up to last night was 1.5-1.5, so of course both teams were hoping to tip the score in their favor to this slowly booming rivalry. Prior to the match, there was a bit of lineup drama, as two of our all-stars, GM Melik Khachiyan and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan were out of town, doing something in Istanbul...apparently it was more important to them than the USCL...

Anyways, all was fine, until the day before the match, when FM Harut Akopyan had messaged me saying he was feeling extremely sick and wouldn't be able to play. This sent us scrambling to figure out a respectable lineup, which was not an easy task, given the short notice and that pesky rule <2401 average rule. Anyways, we were still able to put up a reasonably good line-up, and despite being penalized 25 minutes on the bottom three boards, at one point in the match I felt that we had fairly reasonable chances to win, or at the very least tie.

The first game of the match to end was between WFM Amanda Mateer vs. Nicky Korba. Nicky was making his USCL debut and seemed to be an underdog given he had the Black pieces with a time disadvantage against a higher rated and more experienced opponent. Before the match we told him that a draw would be a good result (in hindsight perhaps this was not the best idea).

Play through the game here:
WFM Amanda Mateer (ARZ) vs Nicky Korba (LA) 1/2-1/2

After about 15 moves, it was pretty clear that Nicky had played very well, and reached a position where only Black could expect to win. The position was locked up, but to Black's favor, as they could decide when to breakthrough along the h-file. For the next few moves, Nicky again did the right thing, he set up Alekhine's Gun along the h-file and forced White to leave their major pieces awkwardly bunched up on the kingside. In this kind of position, where you are fully in control,  the right strategy is to build up as much pressure as you can on one side of the board and then when the time is right...switch to the other side! So after 25.Be2, I think the right plan was to play not 25...Qf8, with idea Qh8, but 25...Qd8, where Black can menace not only Qh8 but also Qa5, followed by a7-a6 and a timely b7-b5 break to exploit White's major pieces leaving the queenside. With White's king in the center of the board, opening up the queenside for Black's queen and bishop seems quite strong.

Of course, after seeing Nicky's position on move 25, I was quite optimistic...then after taking a minute to look at the other games in the match, Matikozyan-Molner and Altounian-Amanov, I clicked back to his board and to my horror I saw that he elected to trade all the major pieces and quickly drew the game!

Although we were doing more or less okay on the other boards, Molner definitely had the better game, and I was starting to feel more and more displeased with my own position against IM Mark Ginsburg.
Full Disclosure: I played poorly =/

I had hoped Nicky would win, giving us a cushion in case Andrank and I weren't able to hold our slightly worse positions, but after seeing the game drawn I realized that a draw in the match would be a very fortunate result. Some time later, Andranik blundered a piece in an already sketchy position and around the same time I foolishly blundered a pawn. We ended up losing both games, but credit must be given to IM Molner and IM Ginsburg, who played well and made good use of their chances.

The game between IM Levon Altounian and IM Zhanibek Amanov ended peacefully--Zhanibek had tried to make something out of a drawish endgame (since he saw that two boards were in trouble), but was unable to create any kind of serious winning chances.

All in all a disappointing night, as the time disadvantage didn't really play much of a role, and we had certainly aimed to at least tie the match, but came up short. Next week the Vibe takes on the always strong New York Knights for the very first time!

And here is the final match score:

Los Angeles VibeArizona Scorpions
IM Andranik Matikozyan: 24700.01.0IM Mackenzie Molner: 2511
IM Zhanibek Amanov: 24630.50.5IM Levon Altounian: 2493
FM Konstantin Kavutskiy: 23710.01.0IM Mark Ginsburg: 2400
Nicky Korba: 20070.50.5WFM Amanda Mateer: 2144
Average Rating: 2328Average Rating: 2387
Los Angeles Total1.03.0Arizona Total

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Welcome to the official page of the Los Angeles Vibe! Here you will be able to read weekly recaps, player bios, and more!