Now that the New Jersey Knockouts have won the Eastern Division Title in the US Chess League, there is one more thing at stake for them, and that is owning the best record league. They can earn this with a great performance against the Queens Pioneers, who themselves have to win big to make it to the US Chess League playoffs. To own the best record in the league, the Knockouts simply need to clinch, but to own the best record via the first tiebreaker, the Knockouts simply need to get one win out of the four games in this match!
The Knockouts will have a change of scenery for this match as they will be playing at the Dean of Chess Academy in Branchburg, New Jersey which is owned by the Knockouts' own Dean Ippolito. The Knockouts' regular site, Chapel Hill Academy, is closed this week. Because of the location change, the match begins at 8:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday November. The time control has changed as well, with the game being in 75 minutes with 30 second increments. For the season finale Joel Benjamin, Mackenzie Molner, Andrew Ng, and Arthur Shen face off against Alex Stipunsky, Lev Milman, Elizabeth Vicary, and Fritz Gaspard. Even though everything is set, the Knockouts can't afford a letdown. Even though the Pioneers appear to be the weakest team that still have playoff hopes, losing big to them and being forced to face them again in the first round of the playoffs facing them again would give a huge amount of momentum to Queens.
Queens can only make the US Chess League playoffs they must beat the Knockouts, while hoping the Baltimore Blitz lose to the Tennessee Tempo and the Philadelphia Inventors lose or draw to the Carolina Cobras. To make that a less likely opportunity for Queens the Tennessee Tempo and Carolina Cobras currently are last place in their division. In terms of game points, which are the first tiebreaker, the Queens Pioneers have to earn more points than the Baltimore Kingfishers, who have two more points than them, and the Philadelphia Inventors who only are up by half a game. If Queens wins 4-0 and Baltimore loses 1.5-2.5, Queens would win that tiebreaker over Baltimore by only a half a point. However they also need Philadelphia to lose as well, in the same situation where Queens sweeps and Philadelphia draws, Queens would win the game point tiebreaker as well. Thus, a sweep seems like the only thing Queens can do to better their chances of making the playoffs. Perhaps if Stripunsky’s mouse didn’t slip in week one, the Pioneers could have gotten a draw that week and be even closer to the playoff picture.
GM Joel Benjamin will have white and face off against GM Alex Stripunsky on board one playing. Benjamin's season has been nothing short of spectacular -- in eight games, he has only lost once. His three wins and four draws made it so that the Knockouts had true support at their first board. His performance has put him fifth in the 2009 MVP Standings with 12 points. Alex Stripunsky has performed well this season with two wins, one draw, and one loss in four games. Stripunsky’s lone loss came against Larry Christiansen due to an unfortunate mouse slip late in the game. In three games between these two players, the two grandmasters have both have won once, drawn once, and lost once. A win will give Joel Benjamin a great case for making the US Chess League All Star team!
SM Mackenzie Molner will be using the black pieces on board two against IM Lev Milman. In the three games Molner has played, he has one win and two draws, with one of the draws being a game where he could have won but decided to go with the draw to earn what was most important, a Knockout victory. In Lev Milman’s two games, he has lost both of them against John Donaldson of San Francisco and Gregory Serper of Seattle.
Playing as white at board three, Andrew Ng faces off against WFM Elizabeth Vicary. Ng has played two games this season with a win and a loss. His win came in the week eight Boston Massacre, where the Knockouts won by a decisive score of 4-0. In her two games, Elizabeth Vicary has lost both of them, one against Tsaagan Battsetseg of Baltimore and the other against Yaacov Norowitz of New York.
On board four is Arthur Shen facing off with the dark pieces against Fritz Gaspard. This is Arthur Shen’s third game of the season, in his previous two games he has lost both matches against opponents that were rated much higher than him, Craig Jones of Carolina and Yaacov Norowitz of New York who was up by at least 200 points in rating.
This match can be seen along with six other matches at the Internet Chess Club. Game time is 8:00 PM Eastern time . This looks to be an exciting match as the Knockouts gear up for the playoffs!