by Robert N. Bernard
The scoreboard tells it all.
The New Jersey Knockouts dealt a crushing blow to the Boston Blitz in Monday night United States Chess League action, annihilating them on every board, and winning by a clean sweep of 4-0. The Blitz and the Knockouts were tied coming into the evening for first place in the Eastern Division, but this victory relegated Boston to second and vaulted New Jersey to the top. New Jersey now stands at 7-1 and Boston at 6-2.
The lineups for the match were questioned by bloggers and pundits from around the league. Why wasn't Joel Benjamin playing first board? Was he scared? Actually he had a prior commitment that evening, which the team knew about in August, so there is no truth to the conspiracy rumors.
The Knockouts won last week versus Baltimore, more than likely due to the return of the ubiquitous donuts, which went uncharacteristically missing during the team's only loss this year to Arizona. Therefore, to invoke the Caissac deities, and augment the strength of our opponents, we branded the Boston Creme donuts with a red B. Eating the donuts would surely allow us to grok the essence of the Blitz, and propel us to victory.
Boy, did it work. But it didn't look good at 6:45pm.
I came in the room, and just the arbiter, Mike Somers, was in the room. Where was everyone else? The traffic in New Jersey is usually pretty horrible, but I just drove in from 25 minutes away, and it wasn't that bad. Where is everybody? Was Arby's having a roast beef sale?
Finally, Dean arrived carrying a large, heavy box. I wasn't about to speculate what he picked up in the swamps of the Meadowlands before he arrived. The rest of the team soon followed. When Victor arrived, he went into serious study mode. Ah good, I thought, he's booking up on Esserman's pet lines. But the book was a History textbook. Either he's going to crush Esserman, or he's going to be slaughtered like the Union in the pit outside of Petersburg (I think it was an American History textbook, thus the reference).
So what could I do to psych us up and inspire the team subconsciously? I know... I could destroy one of the aforementioned donuts.
That brings us to the controversial Boston CSI (Boston Creme Smashing Incident). The perpetrator of the elegiac ellipsoidicide, armed only with a hammer and a tube of red decorative incing, prepared the enemy donuts for their destiny. The donuts were tagged with the red Boston B, pictures were taken (see above), and then one unlucky pastry was given a lesson it never forgot, as it was mercilessly pummeled with a hammer. See the video below...
So, what happened in the match?
Board two saw Dean Ippolito take the black pieces against the Blitz's manager, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun. Sammour-Hasbun has only played two matches for the Blitz this year so far, but his leadership has given them their stellar record. The Blitz leader played a Catalan, an opening quite familiar to Dean, but usually with white. The game was close throughout, but then took control of the c-file, and aimed at Dean's weak c7-pawn. The only problem was that Sammour Hasbun's bishop had little freedom, stick on a5. Sammour-Hasbun a remarkable speed chess player got in time trouble, and blundered. Ippolito won the trapped bishop, and then proceeded to consolidate his gains. Sammour Hasbun resigned, and it was 1-0 for New Jersey.
On Board three, Victor Shen went up against against brand-new International Master Marc Esserman. Shen was outrated about 150 points, but with the white pieces, Shen had a chance. Esserman played a Two Knights Defense, and Shen slowly built up a nice center. The nasty tactic 19. Bxh6 clearly surprised Esserman, and after a number of exchanges, Shen had has passed d-pawn planted firmly on the sixth rank. Esserman, seeing Shen was down on the clock, offered a draw, which Shen completely ignored. Play continued, and revolved around the d-pawn, and low on the clock, Shen calmly maneuvered his pieces until the pawn made it to d7. At that point, Esserman was forced to give up his bishop for the pawn, and after some futile attempts to find a perpetual, Esserman gave up. New Jersey was now up 2-0.
Board four, however, did not look promising for the Knockouts. Andrew Ng got in trouble in the opening, and by the 16th move was cramped and passive, with the Blitz's Andrew Wang getting a knight on Ng's sixth rank. That's always a bad sign. Ng searched for counterplay, ended up down a pawn or two, all the while draining his clock of digits. However, Wang never seemed to push his initiative as hard as he needed, and Ng ended up getting a little freedom in his position. It was only a little counterplay, but caused Wang to think. Wang ended up low on his clock, and with both players down to a less than a few minutes, Ng was back in the game, but still down a plethora of pawns. Then, the unthinkable happened. Wang's king was caught in the corner, and Wang blundered, dropping a piece. Then, almost immediately afterward, dropped an exchange. A few moves later, with his pawn approaching the eighth rank, but as helpless and clueless as a lemming's death march, Wang resigned. New Jersey 3-0, and the winner of the match.
Last to finish was Boris Gulko on board one, playing white against Eugene Perelshteyn. A topical Slav Defense, with an early a2-a4 by Gulko, led to a complex middlegame. The position was tense throughout the game. Finally, a number of exchanges led to a rook and minor piece endgame that Gulko was nursing a slight advantage. Perelshteyn blundered with 37...g5, which dropped a pawn. That's all Gulko needed -- swap, swap, swap, and a rook and two-pawns versus a rook endgame was enough for Gulko. His impeccable training was on display as he methodically brought home the point. New Jersey 4-0. Brooms all around!
After the match, the team was all smiles (photo below, L to R: Ng, Ippolito, Gulko), with the exception of Victor Shen, who had left early to continue reading his history textbook.
The next match is on Wednesday, October 28 versus the Philadelphia Inventors, a team that New Jersey beat earlier in the season. It starts at 7:00pm on the Internet Chess Club.
You know what? Next week, we are going to get some Philly cheesesteaks, draw a picture of Benjamin Franklin out of Cheez-Whiz and attack it with a garden hoe. That's sure to work too.