Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Real Time Blog (Week 3) - NJKOs vs. Baltimore Kingfishers

This is the real time blog for the New Jersey Knockouts in Week Three of the USCL. The match tonight is the Knockouts versus the Baltimore Fish... I mean Kingfishers.


And it is over. Another miracle drawn match from the Knockouts! 2.0 - 2.0!! Still undefeated!


Ok, I count one chicken. Dean won, and the score now is 1.5 - 1.5. Joel may as well play on and try to win, because he's a pawn up in a generally drawn endgame.


Dean just needs to wrap things up. But, in this league, anything is possible, so listen... ZERE VILL BE NO CHICKEN COUNTEENK!


Unreal!!! Dean has sacced his rook, and looks like he may win it by queening his pawn. He's smirking... :)


Down to two games. Joel is up a pawn in the endgame, but it is a very drawable endgame (a rook apiece, 2P vs 3P all connected on the kingside). USCL commissioner Greg Shahade says that Joel drew that same endgame (on the pawn down side) versus Kasparov in the past!


Boy it is tense in here. Dean Ippolito is glaring at the screen. Joel Benjamin looks calm, but he's likely in the zone. Don't know how much more I can get in here before the games end, but we'll see...


It comes down to two very similar looking R+N versus R+N endgames. Ipplolito had one of these last week. Can the Knockouts pull out two wins here and win the match? A win and a draw to tie the match? Anything less than that, and the Knockouts lose their first one of the year. Stay tuned.


Victor fell. After defending well and running his king from the kingside to the queenside, he finally succumbed to a tactical trick, and either had to give up his queen or be mated. It is not looking good for New Jersey now, as the Knockouts trail 0.5 - 1.5 to the Kingfishers.


Baltimore tried to hold on to the win, but Lunna pulled off the draw on Board 4. Therefore the match is tied at 0.5 - 0.5, after one complete game!


Victor is holding on. He has a nice little trap (... Qxc2, where Rxc2?? is mate after Rb1+) but that's a real long shot. But, remember last week! Victor has a habit (sample size of one) of making a long shot.


Shen is valiantly trying to defend, but is getting viciously attacked. He's in time trouble, less than 10 seconds left now.


Lunna played Kf7, protecting the queening square. It seemed like an obvious move, but Lunna took his time, checking all the variations.


On Board 4, Rouleau sacced his Bishop so he could queen his c-pawn with check. Lunna's thinking about this response.


Shen just got a bigger rock in his sneakers after 27. Bxg7, and he has less than a minute left.


Ippolito-Enkhbhat is still really a complex struggle. Enkhbat just injected his queen into Ippolito's second rank 22. ... Qd2 after a 12 minute think . Dean is concentrating hard at the physical board, not looking at the screen, head in hands, still. That black queen seems to me like it feels like a small rock in your sneakers after a nice day at the beach.


On board 4, looks like we are getting some queens back!


On Board 3, Victor has only 3 minutes left, but his 24. ... Qc5 has dropped his opponent into a long think. She still has 40+ minutes on his, though.


Some real long calculation required on Board 4. Can White sac his Bishop and take the pawn and still draw?


Here's the position on Board 1, the GM versus GM battle. White's (Blehm) connected pawns versus Black's (Benjamin) isolated pawns on the queenside, and White's doubled pawns on the kingside.


Victor is really low on time now, only 4+ minutes left.


A pair of rooks have come off in the Ippolito game, but other than that, the position look eerily similar to an hour ago.


Lunna has picked up the h-pawn. But at what cost? Looks like his a-pawn will fall.


Tense maneuvering in the Lunna-Rouleau game. Both kings are making feints and false starts, trying to decide how to penetrate into the opponents position. Lunna's bishop on a5 is making a nice dark-squared block, and coordinating well with his queenside pawns, which are on light squares. Rouleau's king can't just come waltzing into the a-file, because many of the squareson the b-file are covered.


Back to Board 1. GM Joel Benjamin's French Defense id facing a phalanx of pawns, with the tip on c5, and the flankers on b4 and d4. The commentary has virtually stopped on the game, even though there are exactly 100 people watching. Everyone is wondering how Joel will break out of the slightly cramped position that he has.

Here's a picture of GM Joel at the start of the match.


Victor is way down on the clock. He has 17 minutes left, to his opponent's 63 minutes.


I've ignored Victor Shen's game on board 3. Let's have a look... Hmm... Well, both have pretty bad light-squared bishops. Rohonyan has a nice knight planted right in the center of the board. It coulf be kicked out with ... f6, but the hole it leaves on g6 doesn't look too nice for Victor. If only Victor would move his bishops back to his first rank, then he would be setting up to practice a Fischer Random game. Rohonyan has just played f4, and here's the current position.


As I thought, it was a long planning session on Board 2, as Dean took about 20 minutes before he played 19. a4 ...


Todd Lunna (White) on Board 4 has ended up in a very interesting position. Material is equal is a same-colored-square Bishop ending. Todd has a doubled f-pawn, and his opponent connected pawns on the g and h files. Clearly Black has the better pawn structure, but is it enough to win?


I may have been right about the planning. Dean Ippolito is taking his time to play his move in what I thought to be the critical position. Here's the position with White to move...


Board 2 (NJ's Dean Ippolito is White) is complicated. I usually rely on some titled player's commentary to repeat here and make it look like I know what I'm talking about, but no titled player is really saying anything. So, I can sum up what I see. Material is equal. Ippolito has a pawn on e5, but it is doubled with its friend on e3. Minor pieces are equivalent (one dark-squared bishop and one knight apiece) and queens are still on the board. Rooks are fighting over the open c-file.

It is one of those positions that appears to require some definite long-term planning, and the player that can execute a decent plan while countering his opponent's plan will prevail. As far as I can see, there are no bang-bang tactics on the board. And, yes, I'm ready to take that back when they prove me wrong.

Here's IM Dean Ippolito at the start of the match.


Nope, Joel has retreated his bishop to g6, after 16 1/2 minutes of thought.


On board 1, Joel Benjamin has his chin resting on his right palm, and he's staring intently at the board. GM Blehm has thrust his c-pawn forward to c4, challenging Benjamin's isolated pawn on d5. I'm guessing that Joel is deciding whether to swap it off, which would leave Blehm with two central pawns, or not.


Boy, I must be missing something. On board 4, Rouleau castled right into an open file. Lunna slammed his rook down on g1. Well, ok, it wasn't slamming, but it was a loud mouse click.


Now, for a recap of board 4. Todd Lunna (picture below), one of the Knockout's alternates, has played an exchange Ruy Lopez against Baltimore's John Rouleau. The queens are off the board, and Lunna has been cursed with tripled isolated f-pawns. And, yes, I mean the f-file, not as an abbreviation for some word that begins with "f". Although, I don't know -- it might be the same to Todd.


Once again, I am fascinated by the different things players do when playing these games on ICC. Lunna (board 4) started by playing on his physical board next to him, but keeps going back to the screen. Shen (14yoNMVS, board 3) is watching the physical board. IM Ippolito (board 2) tends to look at the physical board, hunched over it actually, but is also prone to a lot of pacing during the games. Benjamine (board 1) is back at the screen.

All players do, however, seem to make their move on the physical board first, and then on the screen.


Speaking of Board 3, the Knockout's Shen (I was going to say again "14 year old national master Victor Shen", but it seems like a waste of typing and aggravating any carpal tunnel syndrome I might develop) has played the Sicilian against WGM Katerina Rohonyan. By my untrained eye, both have bad light-squared bishops, but Rohonyan's dark-squared bishop is taking aim for Shen's kingside castled position, with a nice hold on the center. WARNING: All analysis provided herein is for amusement and entertainment purposes only.


I took this picture as the games were starting. It is third board, 14 year old national master Victor Shen, awaiting his opponent's first move. If you're reading this for the first time, read about Victor's last second stalemate escape from last week's match under the headline "Knockouts are Undefeated".


On ICC, an amusing comment from someone named "kruupy", suggesting that on Board 2, Black has "checker syndrome". :-)


On board 2, IM Dean Ippolito started the game with his customary 1. d4, to which his opponent, FM Enkhbat, responded with a Slav Defense. Now, remember gentle readers, I am not anywhere near a master-level player, but to my eye, it seems odd that Black has put so many of his pawns on light squares, even though his bad bishop is outside of the chain. But, perhaps, someone else can explain it to me.


On board 1 with the black pieces, GM Joel has played the French. White has developed a few minor pieces, but Black's c-pawn has already crossed the Mason-Dixon line. Of course, Maryland was a boarder state, and had its share of people loyal to the Union as well as the Confederacy. But I digress. Actually, I'm digressing a lot. Maybe too much. Board 2 update in a few minutes.


Apparently Baltimore is having connection problems on boards 1 and 3. GM Benjamin and 14 year old master Victor Shen are taking it in stride. We'll get to the chess in a minute.


The match started a little late, and we've already had a couple of disconnections. But, all is well now. Here's a picture of fourth board Todd Lunna (with the hat) and second board IM Dean Ippolito getting ready for their match.


Everyone is here. We've all encountered bad traffic on the Garden State Parkway. But, we're all here now. The players are getting their game faces on. Grrrr.... Hook the FISH.


Here's a picture of GM Joel Benjamin indicating this real-time blog. Whoa. Very self-referential. Think Godel, Escher, Bach.


More at 6:56. I lied. GM Joel is here, and our arbiter is setting up the boards and the programs. I should be able to take multiple pictures tonight, so keep a lookout!


The playing room is being vacated by the students of Chapel Hill Academy. They probably have no idea of the carnage that will be on view tonight, when the Knockouts throw their hooks into the Fish.... I mean Kingfish... Kingfishers...

More at 7:15 pm when the match actually starts!

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