by Joel Benjamin
After five rounds, The New Jersey Knockouts are on top at 5-0 and all is well with the world. I thought I might share a few observations on the action so far...
The New York Knights
New York’s 2.5-2,5 record is misleading. The Knights have faced a brutal schedule, including the two strongest teams in the West (Seattle and San Francisco) and the invincible Knockouts. They’re strong at the corners with Kacheishvili and Norowitz, and improved production on board two could really turn things around. But will they give HOF GM Johnny a shot? The Knights will easily make the playoffs and have as good a chance as anyone to get through to the finals.
Inventors' Team Blueprint
Philadelphia had high hopes this season with the acquisition of Alex Lenderman, but Sergey Kudrin’s stunning 0-5 has killed them. The Inventors will have to win some games on board one if they have any hopes of making a miracle comeback for the playoffs.
Cinder-lina No More
Last year Carolina was a heart-warming Cinderella story, a balanced team with a competitive first board. Losing Lev Milman, who graduated from Duke and came home to play for Queens, was a big blow. Jon Schroer is playing out of position on board one, but the real reason for their 0-5 start is lack of production on bottom. Last year Ron Simpson notched 7 ½ out of 10 on board three. This year, against much stronger opposition, he is 0-4. Mojo apparently does not transfer from one season to the next.
New Jersey's Timing
New Jersey is a consistent 4-1 on boards one, two, and three. Our kids have not scored as well so far on board four. Does this mean we are vulnerable if our higher boards are held to a standoff, or unstoppable if we win board four? In the timing is everything department: The one time we lost board three, Anna Matlin won on board four to defeat the Inventors.
San Fran Panda
Every year I think San Francisco is the best team, but they don’t seem to be that in the end. Obviously Shankland is extremely tough on three and Yian Liou has been a find for them on board four, but they need for Josh “the Panda” Friedel to scarf down some magic bamboo and get going on board one.
The fans were all shocked to see Dallas start so poorly after winning the league title two years running. They still have a shot at the playoffs, especially if they do not resign prematurely for the rest of the season. You certainly don’t want to count out a team that can beat a powerful Boston squad 4-0! The Destiny will battle it out with Arizona and Tennessee for the last playoff spot in the West, and I don’t know who should be the favorite to get it.
The Arizona Scorpions are winning the blogging race hands down, led by Mark Ginsburg’s consistently entertaining and insightful Opening of the Week column.
It is said that Queens’ Andrei Zaremba’s large DD iced coffee is a potent cocktail, but New Jersey’s DD Box of Joe is leading the way so far.
Game of the Week
The judging for Game of the Week has been very uneven. I think Greg Shahade and Michael Aigner are doing very good jobs, and Arun Sharma is okay as well, but Jeff Ashton and Jim Dean seems to have no clue. In week five, I couldn’t understand how Dean saw fit to give Kacheishvili no points for his stellar win over Friedel. Dean and Ashton both got it all wrong on Herman-Naroditsky (though Dean at least acknowledged that it was a good game). That was a terrific game, whether it was totally sound or not. Herman is an all out attacking player, and he’s quite right to play in that style. As to Ashton’s comments that Herman should be fined $50 for this game, I’ll say that it took me a few years to realize how good a player Shabalov is, but once I did, I lost my dogmatism.
The Adelberg win, on the other hand, was overrated. I think that was mostly because he is a young, talented, and likeable kid, but the game was completely stock. If Kasparov saw the game he would not fine Adelberg, but he would fine Zorigt.
You would think I should go easy on Ashton because he praised my games effusively, but that was actually the worst part! Only the Schroer game was worthy of points; if he had found the draw at the end it actually would have been a much better game. But giving points to my win over van de Mortel is ridiculous. In a standard position from the opening, my opponent suicided with 16…Bxc3??, forcing me into a completely winning endgame. My moves were pretty good from there, but the game was really easy. I didn’t have a single difficult decision; I could have won in several different ways. It’s not good enough for technical chess to be correct. Going from even to +- in one move means the game was not hard enough.
So let me propose judges consider “degree of difficulty.” If the loser of the game missed some opportunities, that may make the game better, not worse. If it’s a wild, insane position where the winner takes risk, credit him, don’t penalize him. If you can’t see the mistakes without a computer, it might be unfair to expect the winner to do so as well.
On the other hand, I thought Esserman-Bartell was not a very worthy winner. True, it was a weak round (probably Gulko should have won again for his game with Charbonneau, which was a hard-fought tense encounter). I didn’t think Esserman had to work at all for that win.
By the way, how about some love for Kapengut-Pasalic? That game was pretty cool. I hope I can throw patties like that when I’m Albert’s age.
The Knockouts are sponsored by the New Jersey State Chess Federation.