Friday, August 31, 2007

Week 1 Summary

The first week of the USCL has passed, and the standings in the Eastern Division are already surprising. The New York Knights, with their 3-1 loss to Baltimore, dwell in the cellar. Their manager, Irina Krush, lost a theoretically interesting endgame, which she was initially winning, and then some slight inaccuracies moved it to a loss. It would be really interesting and instructive to have someone figure out just where the tipping point was from win to draw to loss for Irina.

Unfortunately for the Knockouts, two other teams in the Eastern division won; Philadelphia and Boston eked out 2.5-1.5 victories. Each team has three draws and a win on one of the lower boards.

So, the Knockouts and the Pioneers, are tied for 4th-5th place in the Eastern division, ahead of the Knights. The NY Metro area, center of chess skill in the USA, would be out of the playoffs, if the season ended today. Yes, yes, I know it's early to talk about the playoffs.

Jennifer Shahade's recap of week one is here at Chess Life Online. There's not enough on the Knockouts, but maybe that's just my opinion.

So, if you do want more about the NJKOs, you can read Michael Goeller's annotations of the Knockouts' games at the Kenilworth chess club blog, which is here.

Next week -- I'll review the merchandise I purchased at the USCL online store.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Real Time Blog


We're having some virtual post mortems here... The Knockouts will be back next Wednesday playing the Tennessee Tempo. Enjoy more real-time blogging then!


Joel won and it is 2.0 - 2.0 and a drawn match!


Ju drew a miracle draw 1.0-2.0


Molner drew. So it is 0.5-1.5.


Wow.... Evan let the queen go. Holy cannoli!


Could the Knockouts be turning it around? Benjamin has managed to uncramp himself and be an exchange up -- the clocks have equalized too.

Evan managed to trap Shiber's queen on the eighth rank, but at the cost of fixing his own rook and knight and king. Can Shriber make a breakthrough?

Molner and Coleman are still battling it out in the relatively equal endgame.


Short walks. Tense room. Players letting out audible sighs.


Things are looking grim for the good guys. Everyone is low on time, Ju and Benjamin are battling, but both positions are somewhat uncomfortable. Mac looks like a draw is on the horizon. Stay tuned.


Tom Bartell resigned. Sensing that we would be down the exchange and the endgame was hopeless, he tipped his king. The Knockouts are down 0-1, but they are not out!


The crowd goes crazy. Did Bartell miss 24. Ng3 and 25. Nf5-d6?


Ok fine! I had two more munchkins, but that's IT for me...


79 people watching Bartell. 73 people watching Molner. 46 people watching Ju, but that's way down from what it was when the disconnect happened. 193 people watching Benjamin.


With the exception of Tom Bartell, the Knockouts are all down on the clock. Ju has 18 minutes left (down 4 to his opponent), Benjamin has 17 minutes (down 11), and Molner has 17 minutes (down 12). Bartell has a half-hour left.


Two and a half hours into the match, and boards 1 and 4 are still in the early middlegame, with a great deal of tension still in the position. Boards 2 and 3 are heading toward endgames. On board 2, Vovsha still holds the slight advantage, as Bartell has the IQP. On board 3, Molner has his queenside majority, but the pawns are still near their starting positions. Again, is it enough for any sort of winning advantage? Only time will tell. (Believe my analysis at your own risk.)

9:23 pm

Shiber disconnected in her game with Evan Ju, but she's back now. Ju got two minutes added to the clock. I don't think any of the other players noticed, but the TD worked it out with the USCL commissioner, Greg Shahade.


The donuts... most are gone, and I've only had three! And three munchkins at that!! If my wife is reading this, then I've only had one.


An explosively loud police siren suddenly blasted its wail outside the window here. I jumped, but no one else seemed to notice.


Knockouts team member Victor Shen (vcs on ICC) notes that he likes GM Joel's position on board one, but the rest of the games are unclear.


Evan finally played 11..Bd7 after nearly 34 minutes of thought.


The tension in the room is palpable. The air conditioner is going, but it is still about 80 in here. Now, only Ju is still looking at the screen, the other three Knockouts are at their physical boards.


Evan Ju taking a long time on his 11th move. Khodarkovsky says its a choice between 11...Bh5 and 11..Bd7. I wonder whether Evan is looking at something else entirely?!


The Vovsha-Bartell game has calmed down a bit. White remains slightly better endgame due to Black's isolated d-pawn and White's better development. The question is... is it enough to win? (analysis by M. Khodarkovsky)


Another picture...

(left to right) Tom Bartell, Mac Molner, and Evan Ju, during the pre-game warmup.


Mackensie Molner is taking a quick walk around the room, checking out the other games.


Bartell accepted the sacrifice, after 17 minutes of thought. Vovsha quickly pushed 12. e6, and Bartell took back with 12...Bxe3.


Tom Bartell is hunched over the board, thumb scratching his chin offhandedly. What to do about that knight sac?


Vovsha just played 11. Nxd5... a rather interesting looking move to me. (Don't look to this blog for expert analysis, nor A level analysis, nor B level analysis -- if you're looking for C-level analysis, you're at the right place.)


Benjamin has moved to looking at the physical set instead of the computer screen.


It is very interesting -- Ju, Molner, and Benjamin are all analyzing from the computer screens, while Bartell is sitting at the physical set that is laid out for him. Benjamin is bent forward, left elbow on the table right hand on his chin. Ju's body is straight -- he would be standing if he were upright, but he's at 45 degrees, with his chair as support. Molner has his back extremely rounded, left hand and fingers on his chin, a slight bounce to his posture. Bartell is sitting back in his chair looking relaxed.


Here's a picture of captain GM Joel Benjamin giving a pre-match speech, rallying the troops for battle.


This room is a bit warm... maybe it is all the brain-power working? Maybe it is just New Jersey.


GM Joel Benjamin is striding confidently across the room. All computer problems behind him, he's taking advantage of the private table he is sitting at. Glasses perched, head still -- he's staring into the screen.


Evan Ju is staring intently at the computer screen. He is working directly from the screen, and not the board which is set up next to him. He seems to be working on how to answer 8. Nf1 from Shiber.


I only had one donut. And only a munchkin no less!

7:13 pm

We are in the computer lab of Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, NJ. Someone has generously equipped us with sandwiches, sodas, chips, donuts and coffee. I am going to try a donut or two. Don't tell my wife.


Molner's in a Sicilian, and Bartell in a Caro-Kann. Stripunksy has played a Sicilian against team captain and manage GM Joel Benjamin.

7:03 pm

We are at the first match of the USCL third season, about to start! Evan Ju is board four, and he had started with the French Defense.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pairings for first match posted!

Pairings are up for the first match versus the Queens Pioneers!

White - Black
GM Joel Benjamin (NJKO) - GM Alex Stripunsky (Queens)
IM Eli Vovsha (Queens) - FM Thomas Bartell (NJKO)
NM Mackenzie Molner (NJKO) - FM Teddy Coleman (Queens)
WFM Julia Shiber (Queens) - NM Evan Ju (NJKO)

More details here.

Player Profile: GM Joel Benjamin

Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, 43, is the captain and manager of the New Jersey Knockouts. While growing up in Brooklyn, he learned the game of chess from his brother, when he was eight years old. Only seven years later, he played his personal favorite game against Yasser Seirawan, at the US Junior Championship in 1979, which you can replay here.

He's looking forward to the excellent competition that the USCL provides, and the camaraderie of being on a team. Indeed team play certainly has been special to him, as one of his favorite chess moments was in 1993 at the World Team Championship, where he won two gold medals.

In his spare time, GM Joel will catch a Mets game (and especially revels in the Mets thrashing the Yankees in interleague play), work on a crossword puzzle, play some Scrabble, or read the latest "Reacher" novel by Lee Child.

And, who does GM Joel consider his favorite chess player? It is someone he confesses wracks his nerves to watch play. Kasparov? Anand? Kramnik? No, it is none other than his wife, Deborah Quinn Benjamin!

(Picture courtesy of the United States Chess League)

US Chess League Starts Monday!

The New Jersey Knockouts and the Queens Pioneers will duke it out this Monday night at 7pm, in the opening match of the third season of the US Chess League. Lineups for the matches will be announced soon.

The NJKOs will be playing their matches at the Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, NJ.

Watch for player profiles coming soon to this site, starting with team captain and manager GM Joel Benjamin in the next day or so.