So, 2008 USCL Season has finally rolled around, hard to believe, but it’s been 3 long eventful years, this being the 4th season. The league has expanded and so has the fan base, with it of course comes new challenges as well, how to manage the team, how to attract interest, how to market and raise money etc. Forgive my slight digression and let’s delve into last night’s match itself.
As soon as I arrived at the Boston Blitz home location I definitely could feel the winds of change.
Besides welcoming David Vigorito, I was quite surprised to see another fellow with him, FM Braden Bournival. Last year it was simply unthinkable that he would come to watch our games unless he planned to leave on a stretcher but of course one cannot keep old grudges forever and sometimes circumstances force you to become more amenable as well. Another thing I noticed was this guy with a huge camera, rather a huge lens, well I sort of assumed he was some local photo enthusiast and really didn’t pay much attention to him. I am talking to my friends and teammates while the guy was unloading his shots. Then I decided to be a little nosy so I ask the guy who the hell he is and to my great amazement he tells me he is from the Boston Globe. My jaw almost dropped. What is Boston Globe doing at our match?!
I think my tone even changed as I began to talk to him with much more attentiveness. Anyhow he took some pictures and left only to be replaced by another fellow, he had a notepad and was asking questions, also from the Globe. He was especially interested in talking to Jorge (no idea why ) and my friend Alla, who is basically a chess groupie, just kidding… she is just a good friend and a loyal fan.
Even before the match starting and even without reading some of Greg’s comments on Boston Blitz homepage of the USCL site, I knew my game was going to be pivotal in the team’s success. I embraced this idea with dignity by not preparing whatsoever for my opponent. My game started out as a Slav, until he played Bg4 which is an old obscure line, which I knew little about. I knew Nd5 wasn’t a move (Nfd7 Nxc4 e5…), but after that I think we were both on our own which was fine with me.
Perhaps g4 was a bit unnecessary and a more cool-headed response like Bxc4 was in order but I decided to mix things up and played in anyway. Of course I never imagined in my wildest dreams that my opponent will simply retreat his bishop, he should have played Qh4+ first. After Bg6? h4!, I think its a clear +/-. Black is already hard-pressed for good advice. I expected Evan to play Qc7 but I wasn’t immediately sure how to respond to it until I found the Bc8 idea which I think he had overlooked completely so after 14.Bxe6!, I was totally in control.
The next decision came after my opponent played 15…Qg2+ and I had to choose between moving my king to e3 or d3. At first the d3 square seemed much more natural, it doesn’t block anyone and is closer to the queenside where I would be potentially safer. However I spotted Na6-c5 -Rd8 ideas and that meant e3 was the home for me!
My teammate Mark Esserman joked afterwards that he thought I should play the King’s gambit like those old games where kings are walking around with no fear. My other teammate Vadim Martirosov misunderstood that comment to mean this position came out of King’s gambit itself, and was quite baffled as he knows I don’t play that.
Finally on move 17, I had the time out to play the star Bc8 move. I won more material than I expected (a whole rook) largely due to Evan’s generosity and later had to just play relatively precisely not to blunder but the outcome of the game was never in doubt. I wanted to analyze the game with my opponent, but ICC administrators in their infinite wisdom decided to mute my account Krasik-BOS…
I don’t have much to say about my teammates games because I really didn’t see much of them, some – like Jorge’s – because it gave me a headache to even look at the position. One moment though I do remember distinctly, was when Shabalov played Topalov’s Nxf7!?, a bomb went off… I remember everyone getting up from their seats and looking intently at the projector screen, some fans began whispering probably trying to figure out if it had been played before, while the players were just looking at the projector board and at each other in disbelief. To be quite honest, I did not have a good feeling.
After his game had ended Jorge spent another 40 min or so perhaps more analyzing certain variations with a horde of people. I just couldn’t believe his stamina! The variations were insane and he was navigating through them with amazing efficiency. I know even the higher rated players very impressed, I wanted to go drink and celebrate but it was hard to pull Jorge off his task. Since, I couldn’t think clearly or was simply not made for that position, I quickly took myself out of the analysis session.
As this was going on, my teammate Denys Shmelov informed me that at least one prominent member of the Knights, as well as one former member of the Knights are accusing Jorge of cheating, something about too many of his moves matching Rybka, at first I just dismissed it as sour grapes and typical ICC kibitzers nonsense but when I heard Chris Bird discussing it too and finally when I saw the Globe reporter shock Jorge with this question, presumably he had overheard someone’s conversation from Bird or Matt, I was just appalled.
It’s not just an personal attack at Jorge and the Boston Blitz, it’s an attempt to completely discredit the whole USCL. Something which we take for granted and which took a long time to build, these people can destroy in one night and create an atmosphere of distrust and paranoia in a chess world already dominated by these effects. I think the reasons for grave concern are obvious, we are not playing face to face, we cannot see what’s going on in another city. I prefer to have faith in my fellow USCL’ers as well as in certain measures instituted by the league like having TD’s and surrendering your cell phones. Sure cheaters will always find a way, but I haven’t seen anything so far in these 3+ seasons to warrant such suspicion.
I know the mood was quite ruined in the room and I know we were all quite upset about it during the postgame press conference, it felt like someone who can’t beat us, is trying to take our joy out in this fashion. The press conference ended but certain players were still fuming over it, they wanted to continue the video and make certain statements to NY players which may or may not be appropriate.
The discussion continued long into the night as we went to the bar with several other team members and fans. I know my night was somewhat ruined by this accusation, because this is last thing I wanted to discuss after my match. I hope the people involved in starting these allegations, whether they meant it as a joke, as sour grapes or whether they actually believe these lunacies, realize what they are doing to USCL which we all cherish and love.