by Robert N. Bernard
A new location, flaky internet connections, and lack of donuts all contributed to New Jersey's loss last night to the Queens Pioneers, 3-1. Despite the loss, New Jersey will still be going to the United States Chess League playoffs, facing Baltimore in the first round. New Jersey is the top seed, retaining draw-odds and color choice in the first round, draw-odds in the second round, and color choice in the finals. Queens, on the other hand, will be staying home watching the playoffs on the Internet Chess Club, wishing that the magic they invoked to beat the Knockouts could have been summoned for their other matches.
The night did not start well for the Knockouts. Because the New Jersey public schools have off Thursday and Friday of this week, the regular playing location, Chapel Hill Academy, was closed for the evening. This necessitated a move to Dean of Chess Academy, a beautiful facility in Branchburg, run by the Knockouts' Dean Ippolito. Dean of Chess is in a new location, having just moved a little over a month ago. That left one of our players lost, as he had gone to the old location first, eventually showing up to the game almost 15 minutes late.
Then, while we were setting up, the wireless internet connection that had been working flawlessly for the past month, decided not to work any more. The internet company had (ahem) "repaired" and "improved" the internet connection the previous day, but alas, in NewSpeak, "repaired" now means "broke" and "improved" now means "degraded". So, after some scrambling, we were able to find unsecured wireless to which we connected. The manager of the Knockouts (your writer) was apprehensive that this randomly-selected internet connection had a very good chance of being lost in the middle of the game, and he would have to turn into a relayer. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
All these set up problems were insignificant, however, to the final issue. There were no donuts again. There was simply no time to purchase them before the match started, and when substitute donuts arrived around 10:30pm, it was already too late. The Legend of the Deep Fried Tori continues.
The games did not go much better, either.
On Board 1, Joel Benjamin took some chances in attacking Stripunsky's king, but a sufficient defense was employed, and Joel came out a couple of pawns down -- the perpetual he sought was as elusive as a unicorn in a pristine glade. He played on until Stripunsky's forced an exchange of queens, and Benjamin was lost.
On Board 2, Mac Molner (pictured, right) pressed in a tough position against Milman. With Mac low on time, Milman eventually penetrated Mac's position, and Mac was forced to call it a day.
On Board 3, Andrew Ng (pictured, left) whipped up a kingside attack on blogger-extraordinaire, Liz Vicary. At a crucial moment, where he may have been able to solidify his advantage, he blundered, losing a rook to a cute zwischenzug. Shaking his head, and casting his eyes down to his shattered position, he lay down his arms.
On Board 4, young Arthur Shen (pictured, right) was the bright spot of the night, slowly and deliberately outplaying his opponent Fritz Gaspard. Shen got a little too excited, though, as the pawn being jammed down Gaspard's throat was a little too tempting. Shen pushed the pawn, inexplicably missing that Gaspard could mate him in two moves. The crowd on ICC went wild, including Arthur's brother (the Knockouts' own Victor Shen) whose finger was stuck on the question mark key for what seemed like an eternity. And then, even more inexplicably, Gaspard missed the mate. Shen consolidated, avoided last ditch stalemate tricks, and Gaspard gave up. When the potential mate was verbally pointed out to Arthur after the game, Arthur looked to the ceiling, paused a second, gave an infectious smile, and said, "Boy, was I lucky!"
That was it for the Knockouts' regular season, as they finished with a record of 8-2, the best in the Eastern division. But it is not over! Tune in to the Internet Chess Club Monday November 9th at 7:15pm to watch New Jersey play Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs.