Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Big One

To anyone disappointed by my miscall of both division finals, let me explain that though I have worked out various formulas, heuristics, and algorithms that enable me to forecast future events pretty accurately, I am not going to waste them on an online chess match.

Ok, now that that is clear, I will spin the dial on this one. Christiansen has not tasted the bitters of defeat this season, beating two GMs and drawing the other seven. I have to give Boston an edge on board one, even with having to move second.

Davorin Kuljasevic (“vicious jerk; vandal” and Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (“senoras: major humbug”) have both been stars this season. I’d give Boston the normal White edge on Two.

Stopa and Shmelov have performed comparably so again an edge to the shinier pieces.

I’d thought I’d read that Williams had broken 2300, but the USCL page indicates only 2241. Is it too out of date or too up to date? Going by USCL performance, though, he rates as a solid favorite with White.

So, it looks like the dial landed on red. Boston, 2.5-1.5. Now let me get out my algorithms again and return to lucrative enterprises.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Western Division Final: Miami vs. Dallas

When I picked Miami to win its wildcard match against San Francisco, I was chided by a west coast correspondent who said that the key to the match was preparation, and that the ‘Nics had it all over the Sharks in that department. So it may have seemed to many at the time, but this was before that existence of the Becerra files was public knowledge. Having to give draw odds in the match, it seemed that a victory with white on Board One would surely have to figure in any winning scenario for Miami. But upon seeing Zilberstein play right into the files versus Martinez, Becerra contented himself with a quick draw, which proved to be all Miami needed.

Miami gave us the Watergate burglars, but what was the real significance to that election of the Republicans capturing the McGovern campaign plans? But were an ambitious young burglar to get his hands on the Becerra files, that could change history. Unless the story was buried on the inside pages, though, I don’t think it’s happened. Therefore I pick Miami to win, 2.5-1.5, and to meet Boston for the championship.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eastern Division Final: New York vs. Boston

What do the moon landings, the Iraq war, and the Eastern division semi-final have in common? They were all directed from Texas. Of course, both Boston and New York have a player there; Perelshteyn beating Krush in their game (of course, Irina is still the #1 Spice girl). Some have claimed this will give Boston a psychological lift, but I think New York’s (not only Charbonneau’s) motivation for revenge is stronger. Also, New York must feel they dodged a bullet in that the game didn’t take place in this match, as it well might have.

New York chose White on boards one and three, which creates rematches on those two boards. Last time, Christiansen drew comfortably with Nakamura while Shmelov drew uncomfortably with Bonin. Obviously, NY plans to do better this time. On the whole, I think they made the right choice.

Though it is not my job, I want to take this opportunity to note Martha Fierro’s great work on board four for New York. Often the players on the lower boards toil in obscurity, and I would not like them to think they are unappreciated. So once more, great job, Martha! I knew you were a player to watch.

Alright, time to make a pick. I mentioned New York’s revenge motivation, but Boston has one or two bad memories themselves that they’d like to erase. There’s too little to pick from, so I won’t. 2-2 is the way I see it, with Boston advancing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wildcard Round

Philadelphia vs. New York:

One night once upon a time while I was tending the local chess club, Harry from the park introduced me to someone he described as a prospective member. It was probably just an excuse to use the bathroom, but I was always flattered when somebody troubled to make an excuse. Anyway, this 40-something guy described himself as basically a beginner, but he had a plan for storming the chessic heights despite his late introduction to the game. He said he was going to study, study and study until he came up with an idea that nobody had ever thought of before, and very early in the game—about move 5 or 6.

Of course, an experienced chessplayer (such as I was) knows that this is a very hard thing to do, but from Mr. 40-something’s self-description, it seemed like he might be the man to do it. He was smart, he graduated from Harvard at the top of his class, AND his psychiatrist was one of the best in the city. Sad to say, though, years have passed and I have heard nothing more of this 50-something-by-now guy. Hikaru Nakamura, aside from showing great form in Europe these past couple of weeks, has often come out with moves that are very offbeat, if not exactly new, even earlier than move 6. By now I think he is ready with the brand-new stuff. I see him leading his team to a one-point victory.

Miami vs. San Francisco:

To me, hero worship is strictly for kids, so while I admire Magnus Carlsen’s great success at such a young age, I haven’t taken down my posters of Sergey Karjakin. But Julio Becerra’s two consecutive MVP seasons have me looking to make wall space. The shortened time control ought to favor a good king-pawn player, so I think Miami has a solid edge on Board One.

Bhat finally lost last week, but if everything could be predicted so easily, there’d be no need for people like me. Joe DiMaggio followed his 56-game hitting streak with a 16-game streak. On the other hand, the Colorado Rockies won 23 out of 24 and then got swept by Boston. But as I said, if it were so easy, you wouldn’t need me. I think Bhat will bounce back and is a likely winner on Board Two.

Unless I counted wrong, Martinez and Zilberstein have met four times in USCL play, with Marcel winning one and drawing the rest. On the one hand, Marcel has had three whites out of four. On the other hand, this game makes it our out of five. So give Miami the edge on Board Three.

So with the match looking very tight on the top three boards, that makes Board 4 the one to watch (especially if you are a “guest”). Barredo has done quite well this season after an uninspiring 2006. This could be because he is a young player who naturally improved over the course of a year. Or perhaps he is a middle-aged guy who has good days and bad, and just happened to have more good ones this year. With no picture and no DOB listed on the USCL page, I can only guess. But I can still use my head a little bit. He is 2160 for league purposes, and apparently still 2160 currently. This indicates a not-too-active player, and so probably a middle-aged guy who happened to have had mostly good days this year. So Board Four looks like a tossup.

So two slight edges for Miami, one perhaps bigger one for San Francisco, and one tossup. You can do the math. But again, if it were just a question of math, you wouldn’t need me. Without the advantage of draw odds, Miami’s players will just assume they need to win, and will be less distracted about game-versus-match considerations. I pick Miami to win, 2.5-1.5.