The newly minted Manhattan Applesauce got things going against the always dangerous Carolina Cobras with a 2.5-1.5 victory. Due to a last-minute lineup change, Carolina was down a half-hour on two boards, but very nearly pulled off the upset. IM Jonathan Schroer pressed IM Dmitry Schneider on board 1 but could only draw, while NM Craig Jones overcame his time deficit to stun SM Greg Braylovsky on board 3. Manhattan's board 2, IM Eli Vovsha, provided the winning margin with his epic Grunfeld victory over FM Ron Simpson, but the real turning point in the match was on board 4, where Carolina's NM Udayan Bapat was pressing Manhattan's James Black on the white side of an Alapin Sicilian.
Bapat had gotten the better of Black, but in early time pressure (down to 18 minutes), he bashed out 23. Be4?!, missing the more immediate win to be had with 23. Re3! g6 24. Rh3 Kg7 25. Qc1! Nf5 26. Bc5 Bd5 27. Be3 Ne3 28. Qe3 and the threats of Qe3-h6 and c3-c4 should force black to resign.
Bapat was given another chance to end matters on move 28.
Still deep in time pressure, Bapat instantly took on b7, missing the crushing 28. Qf4! - after 28. ..Kg7 29. Rf3 Rf8, White would have a pleasant choice between the prosaic 30. Bf8 or the spectacular 30. Rh3 Rh8 31. Bf8!! (an incredible deflection) forcing mate as black cannot continue to cover both f6/h8.
Bapat unfortunately missed one more chance to end things on move 30 (Rd5!) and then tragedy struck. With Black drumming up kingside counterplay, Bapat looked to force a queen trade.
Black didn't miss his opportunity, responding to 32. Qc1 with the crushing sequence 32. ..Nf4! 33. Rg3 Ne2! winning a rook and the game.
The New England Nor'easters won their debut match against the Baltimore Kingfishers by a 2.5-1.5 margin, with smooth wins on boards 1 and 2 compensating for a wild loss on board 4.
Baltimore's NM Ian Shoch crazy rook sacrifice (rather forced from a practical standpoint, given his weaknesses on d4 and f4 and the match situation) on move 23 finally paid dividends as New England's FM Christopher Chase sense of danger betrayed him on move 31
Chase had navigated a tricky defense well and only needed 31. ..Rd5! to end matters. Instead, he went for 31. ..Na5 and after 32. Qh3 Kg7 33. Ne3! he was lost.
Everything went the San Francisco Mechanics' way against two-time league champion Dallas Destiny, looking to return to their former glory after missing the playoffs last year. After scoring an easy 2.5/3 on the bottom three boards to clinch the match, board 1 fell into their hands in incredible fashion.
Dallas' IM Puchen Wang had played a very nice game til this point, but spoiled things with 50. ..Ne6?? (50. ..Rd5 maintained the pawn advantage, though white can still fight for a draw) and after 51. Rf5 was forced to resign giving San Francisco's GM Patrick Wolff the full point.
The Arizona Scorpions kicked off their 2010 campaign by defeating the defending Western Conference champion Miami Sharks 2.5-1.5, behind IM Danny Rensch's masterpiece on board 3 against FM Eric Rodriguez and IM Dionisio Aldama's mating attack on board 2 against IM Blas Lugo.
Aldama has just played 30. Ndf5! leaving Lugo with a difficult decision and only 2 minutes left. Lugo needed to find 30. ..Qf4! guarding h6, hitting f2 and stopping white's attack in its tracks. Instead, after 30. ..Bc2?? 31. Nh6 Kg7, white had a surfeit of options: 32. Qd6 (played in the game) or 32. Nef5!! forcing mate. Aldama forced resignation on move 43.