In the computer room of the Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, New Jersey (photo, right), the New Jersey Knockouts took down the Philadelphia Inventors Tuesday night by a score of 2.5-1.5 with wins coming from captain Joel Benjamin and upcoming star Anna Matlin. Dean Ippolito drew his game at board two. The win puts the Knockouts on top of the East with a 2-0 record, while putting the inventors at the bottom, looking up, with a 0-2 record. The Knockouts look to go 3-0 next Monday when they face the defending Eastern division champion Carolina Cobras in week three of US Chess League action.
The match started strangely, with Phildelphia's manager Alex Lenderman foregoing his advantage of the first move, by playing 1. a3 (photo, left, taken a few moves later). New Jersey's board two, IM Dean Ippolito had just won the New Jersey state championship the night before, calmly won a pawn, but then got into somewhat uncomfortable position, despite the material advantage. With Ippolito's time running down, Lenderman quixotically offered a draw, which Ippolito declined, but then made an offer, which, after a few minutes thought, Lenderman accepted. The draw gives Ippolito a season record of 1.5-0.5 in two games.
New Jersey's alternate Aviv Friedman, scraped off the rust, and began his season for the Knockouts with a loss on board three against Tom Bartell, who had tied with Ippolito in the New Jersey state championship the previous day. Friedman would battle on to the very end, resigning after move 60 after being unable to promote a pawn before Bartell did (see photo below, clockwise from top, Friedman, Ippolito, Matlin).
The score was then 1.5 - 0.5 in favor of the Inventors. But, the tides would soon turn.
Fourth board, and USCL and New Jersey rookie Anna Matlin would prove to be the difference maker in this match. Playing the first USCL game in her promising chess career, she would defeat Rahul Swaminathan. Matlin played a Sicilian Kan and was in a tough position after the opening, having to concede that her dark-squared bishop was badly placed, as Swaminathan enjoyed a confortable space advantage. Matlin ground hard in the middle game, eventually winning the pawn she needed in the endgame on move 34. She exchanged into a won king-and-pawn endgame, with Swaminathan resigning after move 50. This game would prove why a team needs to be good on all boards!
The match was then tied 1.5 to 1.5. It was all up to the veteran captain Benjamin.
Benjamin and Kudrin played a tight game (photo, right). The spectators on the Internet Chess Club were commented that one slight misstep on either side would cost the game. The game was equal in material until Benjamin gained the pawn he needed on move 35. Benjamin would win another pawn in the endgame. On move 60, with his pawns on the a-file and h-file, and a knight against Kudrin's lonely bishop, Kudrin realized that his time was up and resigned. Thus, the match was clinched for New Jersey.
After the match, Benjamin proclaimed that the Knockouts resilient and tenacious play carried the day, as only Matlin had decent winning chances for the majority of the match. The Knockouts were all smiles after the match (see photo below, left to right, Aviv Friedman, Anna Matlin, Joel Benjamin, Dean Ippolito).
The Knockouts take on the Carolina Cobras Monday September 14 at 7:00 pm on ICC. Going 3-0 would be big for them, as a strong start can help the Knockouts cause of solidifying their first playoff bid. Last year the Cobras defeated the Knockouts in week 8, a loss that would cost them the season. The Knockouts look to avenge that defeat in what should be an exciting matchup!