Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Season is Over for the Knockouts

A glorious first season came to a tragic end tonight, as the New Jersey Knockouts lost to the New York Knights, by a score of 2.5 - 1.5. GM Joel Benjamin won on first board against GM Pascal Charbonneau, but the Knockout's Mike Zlotnikov and Mackenzie Molner, lost on boards 2 and 3 respectively. Evan Ju, on Board 4, fought a long difficult struggle, but had to settle for a draw, after 117 moves and the 50 move rule. The Knockouts end their inaugural season with a respectable record of 4.5 - 5.5.

All Knockouts' matches in the year were extremely close, all ending by a score of 2 - 2 or 2.5 - 1.5. The Knockouts were competitive all year long, and, although counted out by some at the beginning of the season, put up a resilient and brave fight.

Congratulations to the winner of the match tonight, the New York Knights, who take third place in the Eastern division of the USCL, and play Philadelphia in the playoffs.

Thanks go to Greg Shahade, commissioner of the United States Chess League, for all his hard work. Check back periodically throughout the year for updates on the Knockouts' players, and other events in Garden State.

Knockouts flooring the Knights

Tonight, the New Jersey Knockouts are flooring the New York Knights. I was unable to real-time blog, tonight, but Debbie Benjamin was kind enough to send me a picture of the Halloween donuts at the site, for all you donut lovers.

Until next week, when the Knockouts are in the playoffs!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justice Prevails: Molner wins game of the week!

For the first time in the Knockouts' brief history, a player has won game of the week in the USCL. Mackensie Molner's (a.k.a. Big Mac and the Sac Attack) thrilling and innovative crush of Baltimore's IM Larry Kaufman on Board 3 has prevailed.

While Molner came in second in the GotW contest several weeks ago, this week the judges rightly came to their senses and awarded Big Mac and this Sac Attack this weeks prize. His innovative knight sacrifice and resourceful, and well-timed, defense maneuvering clinched it for him. Plus, as the tiebreak judge remarked, it was quite an interesting game.

Congrats to Big Mac and have fun replaying the wild game here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Real Time Blog for Week 9: KO and Fish

Next week is the last week in the USCL. Unfortunately, this will be last real-time blog of the regular season. If (when) New Jersey makes the playoffs, I should be back in November for another blog.

But next week, when New York and New Jersey will play, it might be for the final playoff spot! Watch the United States Chess League action next week on the Internet Chess Club, sponsored by


Blehm resigned! And the Knockouts have tied the match 2.0 - 2.0!


And Joel has won a piece, but Blehm is trying to mate him and get a perpetual.


And Molner put the final crush on Kaufman, and Kaufman resigned! The Knockouts now are behind only 1.0 - 2.0.


Molner's got Kaufman in a nasty zugzwang. He just needs to push his pawns to victory, it seems.


But Khodarkovsky's game really wasn't as interesting as I made it out to be. A few short moves later, White's central passed pawn stopped the dancing monarch, and Michael had to resign. Therefore, the Knockouts are down 0.0 - 2.0.

A bad taste of donuts infects the bile within me.


Khodarkovsky's game is rather interesting. In this R+B vs. R+B, his king is kind of tied up dancing around White's pieces, but at the same time, when not dancing, he's pushing is outside passed baby queens toward their birthing center.


After a furious exchange of pieces, Mac's game has turned into a very unbalanced position. Mac has a Queen and two pawns for Kaufman's Bishop, Knight, and Rook. Point-wise it is straight up, but Molner's queen is well-positioned, and if he can take advantage of it before Kaufman manages to coordinate his pieces, then he's in good shape.


Blehm make what looked like a threatening move, but Joel has calmly and quickly moved his queen to g3, attacking Blehm's queen and threatening further to simplify the position. Joel would be living off the increment, but in a materially equal endgame.


The Knockouts are low on time on all the other boards too. Molder has three-and-a-half minutes left, but Khodarkovsky and Benjamin have less than two minutes each.


And Aviv has resigned. The mating attack was just too strong. The Knockouts are down 0.0 - 1.0 to the Kingfishers.


Uh-oh. It looks like Board 2 is in bad shape for the Knockouts. Enkhbat has what appears to be a crushing attack against Friedman. He's just sacced a Rook for what appears to be a smash up mating attack.

Molner is still trying to figure out a way to wipe out Kaufman, and hope his knight sac was not in vain.


Another Mac sac! He let go of his light-squared bishop for another rook lift. If he can pull this out, he's definitely in contention for game of the week again... although Irina Krush's rook sac in her game is also pretty.

Here is Mac's game...


Battsetseg - Khodarkovsky is looking pretty drawish. Michael's pawns are on square colors that complement his bishop, but there's a lot of harmonic tension in the position. My guess is that they are going for a repetition soon.


Mac's pieces are all posed for the attack. He's standing up now, striking an imposing figure over the physical board. The smack is back!


I've been too busy watching the games to actually blog. For which I apologize. Profusely.

What I did notice that Mac's attack ain't wack, and we're gonna see a sac, that will hack Black.


Ratings for the games at the 10:00pm hour.
Board 1: 72 observers (+9%)
Board 2: 30 observers (=0%)
Board 3: 27 observers (+4%)
Board 4: 21 observers (=0%)


While we await the photos of the donuts at the Boston Blitz site, let's check out Aviv's game on Board 2. It looks like there are three little two pawn islands for White, while Aviv (as Black) has a three-pawn island on both coasts of the board. Aviv is lining up his heavy pieces to fire at the central island. Clocks are approximately equal.


On Board 1, Joel is currently playing from the screen, not the physical board.

On Board 2, Aviv is angled between the screen and the board, but mostly looking at the board itself.

On Board 3, Molner is close to the screen, with his hand poised on the mouse.

On Board 4, Khodarkovsky is ignoring the screen, and his hunched over the board, hand ovre mouth, thumb on cheek.


On Board 4, we have a pretty equal looking endgame, although Khodarkovsky is down a bit on time. Nevertheless, it is R+B vs. R+B and bishops are same color and pawns are equal. Looks drawish.


Indeed, Blehm is having a long think about what to do with a pawn stuck in his throat.


On Board 1, GM Joel and GM Blehm are getting ready to set up the pieces for a game of Fischer Random. Pieces are slowly moving back to the first couple of ranks.

Actually, you know what it really reminds me of. A cat. Both sides, actually. A cat that this ready to spring forth and pounce on a rodent. The pieces on both sides are lying in wait for the opportunity to strike.


Molner is viscious. He's castled on the queenside (opposite), moved his king a tad safer to b1, and has now started another attack against poor Kaufman's king. He grabbed the mouse, pressed and held the mouse-button for a perceptible instant, while slowly -- with the deliberation of a Senator pondering a response to a question from an Ethics committee -- shifting his mouse cursor north, guiding his determined and grim h-pawn toward its ultimate sacrificial goal, of smashing the living crap out of the pawn shield that feebly guards Kaufman's emasculated monarch.


Ratings for the games at the 9:00pm hour.
Board 1: 61 observers (+43%)
Board 2: 30 observers (+20%)
Board 3: 26 observers (+4%)
Board 4: 21 observers (+5%)


Let's move onto Board 4. The Knockouts' assistant manager, Michael Khodarkovsky, played his Alekhine against his opponent, WIM Tsagaan Battseteg. As you may know, Michael is the president of the Kasparov Chess Foundation, and was a coach/manager of the 2004 US Women's Olympiad team. Michael may be mumbling "oil can" to shake off the rust, but he's already in a dynamic position, lining up the big guns on White's isolated d-pawn. I sense there may be a big exchange of pieces soon.


Let's see what Big Mac is up to on Board 3. As everyone knows, Mac was inexplicably ripped off in a complete travesty of justice as he missed out on the Game of the Week prize (he lost to this pedestrian effort) with his brilliant win from late September (which you can replay here), and the USCL tried to justify their shameful voting in this post.

Anyway, he's attempting to win the prize again this week, as he is gobbling up space on Kaufman's side of the board, and showing once again, that the French reputation (shrink and surrender) is not wholly undeserved.


On Board 2, Enkhbhat declined the draw by playing 15. Qc4. He will regret that Aviv gave him an opportunity to live and play another day. Now, the crushing begins.


Only 75 minutes in, and Friedman has offered a draw to his opponent on board 2!


Back to Board 2... FM Aviv Freidman has traded off three minor pieces a side, to reach what appears to me to be a relatively equal position. Both sides have a Knight and their heavy pieces, Aviv has a 3-2 majority on the queenside, but his e-pawn is pretty far advanced and looks lonely. It might need some more protection at some point soon.


The destruction has begun. GM Joel has blasted open the a-file for his rook, who smartly stayed at home, while the Fish's rook, went, um... fishing on the b-file, looking for a tasty snack. All he found was a worm, and GM Joel is poised to gut him and fry him. Perhaps with a bit of tarragon and a side of leeks.


Let's look back in a little more depth at the situation on the boards.

On Board 1, the DMZ seems to be the line separating the fourth and fifth rank. No one seems willing to cross it. The real question is, though... where will the pawn break occur? Will the a-file open up for both sides? What about the center? Who will make the first pawn capture? Both sides just castled. When will the destruction begin??


The coffee is excellent tonight. And the donuts, well... The munchkins are covered with Halloween-theme-colored sprinkles. And the sprinkles are crunchy, not chewy.


As I said, Mac Molner, New Jersey's third board tonight, just completed the World Junior Championship. You can see the final standings at their website, here.


Ratings for the games at the 8:00pm hour.
Board 1: 43 observers
Board 2: 25 observers
Board 3: 25 observers
Board 4: 20 observers


Finally, on Board 1, GM Joel Benjamin has forcefully slammed his finger down on the mouse, when he smashed out 3 Bb5+ to his unsuspecting, and fashionably late, opponent, GM Pawel Blehm. Blehm tried the supposedly more unusual reply 3...Nbd7, and they are only at move 6, already 40 minutes into the game.


On Board 2, the Knockouts' late roster replacement, FM Aviv "Sveshi" Friedman has surprised his opponent FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat with a Chigorin Defense. Morozevich would be proud. Aviv has clearly shaken off the rust of his long layoff, and will soon be tempting the Kingfisher with his wily ways.


On Board 3, the Knockouts' Mackensie "Big Mac Attack" Molner, is White against IM Larry Kaufman. Molner just returned last week from a solid showing at the World Junior Championships in Armenia. Despite starting ranked 60th, he finished in a tie for 48th-56th, with 6.0/13.0, and a performance rating 122 points over his FIDE rating. The experience he gained there is bound to help him in the White side of Kaufman's French Defense.


A quick look around the four boards before a deeper look. Let's start with Board 4. The Knockouts Assistant Manager and Team Alternate Michael Khodarkovsky, has played the Alekhine defense against US Women's Championship participant WIM Tsagaan Battseteg. They have already hit move 8, and Khodarkovsky's fianchettoed bishop aims at White's pawn center, consisting of a c- and d-pawn.


Three of the four games have started. GM Joel Benjamin has been unable to start his game as his opponent is late. We're the only team that seems to get to the matches on time!


Everyone has arrived, and the matches are about to start. We are waiting on the Fish to swim up to our hooks.


GM Joel Benjamin and his wife Debbie are here. Mac Molner just walked in. Ready to hook the fish.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pictures from Tonight's Contest versus the Boston Blitz

Even though I'm not in New Jersey tonight, Debbie Benjamin was kind enough to email me a few pictures from tonight's match.

ABOVE: Joel Benjamin showing off his loyalties, although the placement of the Indians hat is probably not a coincidence, considering Cleveland is playing Boston in the American League Championship Series (in baseball).

ABOVE: Evan Ju (far) and Victor Shen (close) start their games. Dean Ippolito is on the left in the back.

ABOVE: Dean Ippolito prepping before the game. With him, is his ubiquitous Red Bull.

Player Profile: Victor Shen

Victor Shen is a 14 year old national master, living in Edison, New Jersey. After being taught to play at age seven by his father, Victor admires from afar the attacking games of Kasparov and Tal, and his former coach Scott Massey, and current coach (and Knouckouts' manager) Joel Benjamin. Interestingly, he also mentions that current American #3 Alexander Onischuk is a favorite because of his superb opening preparation and his classical style.

Besides the hundreds of Kasparov games that Victor claims he doesn't actually study, a particular game that he admires is Tal's victory against Smyslov in the 1964 USSR team championship. Victor is awed by 24...Qe2!! and extraordinarily impressed by Tal's endgame technique at the end. You can replay the Tal-Smyslov game here.

Victor has played two games so far for the Knockouts with a loss and a draw. The draw, especially, was an amazing save, and if you don't know the story, you should check it out here. Despite his 0.5 - 1.5 record, he thinks the USCL is a brilliant idea. The camaraderie of being on a team with others from your area, the possibility of being in "must win" situtations, and the practice with the FIDE time control, all make playing for the Knockouts a great experience for which Victor is thankful.

Highly emotional experiences make for lasting memories, and while most people's memorable experiences over a chess board are joyous, Victor's was on the other end of the happiness spectrum. It happened earlier this year in the last round of the 2007 Liberty Bell Open, where he was playing Alex Shabalov. Coming out of the opening in good shape, he blundered the exchange for a pawn, but it was a blunder of serendipity, as he came out of the opening with a big positional advantage that became winning. But then, disaster struck. He missed some wins in time trouble, then exchanged queens. The last board in the last round of the top section is always a harrowing experience, since the spectators crowd around you. In Victor's case, the pressure of the spectators was far greater than the pressure on the board, since the queen exchange produced a dead drawn endgame. Shabalov declined Victor's draw offer, and Victor traded rooks to produce what he thought was an even deader position. But it didn't work, and tactical shots by Shabalov caused Victor to resign. We've all likely experienced situations like Victor's -- I know I have -- but Shabalov's "I'm sorry" during the postmortem permanently etched this episode in Victor's mind.

He confesses to not being an avid reader or purveyor of television and movies, spending most of his time on chess and schoolwork. While he may relax for a few minutes, playing basketball with his friends, he takes the time he used to spend playing sports and studies his opening theory.

Finally, in my interactions with Victor, I've noticed that he has a wickedly self-deprecating sense of humor. He claims that he sucks at chess and has never have played a game of chess of which he was proud. Indeed, everytime he ruminates on his game versus Shabalov, he wonders why he still actually plays this maddening game. And, he claims that if he ever does play a game of which he is proud, he will send it in. I expect, though, that the remainder of his games this year with the Knockouts will provide moments of pride and glory.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Real-time Blog Week 7: Knocking out the Inventors

Next week, the Knockouts play the first place Boston Blitz. Tune in on Wednesday October 17th at 7:00pm for all the action. And this week, watch all the Wednesday night action of the USCL on the ICC sponsored by


And Jayson Lian resigned... And the Knockouts have lost the match 2.5 - 1.5. This takes the Knockouts back to a 3.5 - 3.5 record.


Another draw on Board 3 by repetition. It is 1.5 - 1.5... Only Jayson Lian's game on board 4 remaining!


And 10 seconds later, IM Dean has drawn by repetition on Board 2. The match is tied now 1.0 - 1.0! These two games were not expected to go for the Knockouts, so that fact that the KOs have drawn is another amazing accomplishment by the good guys!


And GM Joel has drown by repetition on Board 1. The match is currently tied 0.5 - 0.5!


Everyone is away from the physical board now, and all are working directly from the computer screen.


Boy, it is close, but not clear exactly what is happening. All boards could draw, all could lose. It is really interesting....


On Board 1, no one is quite clear how Benjamin came out of this, but material is equal, even if Joel has a disadvantage.

On Board 2, Ippolito and Smith are in what looks to be a complete draw.

On Board 3, Friedman is a pawn up, but Costigan's pieces seem a little better placed.

On Board 4, Yeager is way down on the clock, and will be living on the increment soon, while Lian's bishop is still trip for the taking.

It is looking up a little for the KOs!


Another grandmaster agrees with the first, but it is unclear to many others. Here's the critical position, where Kudrin just played 20. Bxe4, and Joel responded with 20...Bg4!


While the majority of titled players believe that Joel is lost on Board 1, one grandmaster is holding out, saying the Joel is, in fact, better. It seems odd to me, but what do I know?


It doesn't look too good for the Knockouts' chances inthe match. GM Joel is having a very tough time on Board 1. IM Dean may exchange into an endgame, but perhaps with a slight disadvantage. On Board 4, Jayson Lian's bishop sac was not accepted, but he still remains in a difficult position. Board 3 is relatively equal.


Jayson Lian has sacced his Bishop on f5. The consensus in the commentary is that is won't work, but in the USCL, you never know. New Jersey has been known to escape with miracles in the past.


Comments on the games are favoring Philadelphia on all boards. GM Hikaru Nakamura is predicting a 4-0 sweep for Philadelphia! Certainly the results cannot be that dramatic for the KOs!?!


Clock check time. Board 1 - Joel is down 22 minutes, and has only 12 minutes remaining. Board 2 - Dean is up 3 minutes, with 27 minutes remaining. Board 3 - Aviv is down 12 minutes with 19 minutes remaining. Board 4 - Jayson is down 8 minutes, with 23 minutes remaining.


An ICC observer with the handle 'mote' made an interesting comment: "Joel Benjamin is the Derek Jeter of American chess". While I'm sure Joel appreciates being compared to Jeter (as Jeter's work ethic and character are impeccable), Joel probably would recoil in horror when he remembered that Jeter is a Yankee. Of course, 'mote' also compared Joel to Joey Ramone. I'll let Joel decide how to respond to that one.


Dean took 33 minutes, and had to retreat his Queen back to f2. The times on the clocks are now approximately equal, and his 35 minutes time advantage has disappeared.


Well, I'm back commenting on the players' physical positions. All of them are actually looking at their physical boards, rather than the screen. That's unusual for so late in the evening. In previous matches, at a few minutes past the two hour point, about half the players are usually at the screen.


Everyone keeps asking about the donuts. Well, there are only six left, and I'm certain they were eaten so quickly tonight because we all need the extra calories to fight the 58 degree temperature of the room.


It appears that Dean Ippolito did not anticipate Smith's 16...Qe7, because he has spent a great deal of time pondering his move. The position does look critical -- here it is...

He is hunched over the board, his head actually extending beyond the fourth rank, and he's looking straight down at the position.


Joel has taken a walk around the room, looked at a few of the Knockouts' games. Them curiously, he turned to face the wall, put his hand on his chin, and pondered the green chalkboard for about 15 seconds. Then, he briskly walked back to his chair.


Finally, on to Board 1. The Knockouts' first board, and team manager GM Joel Benjamin (read office NJKO profile here) has the Black pieces against veteran GM Sergey Kudrin. Kudrin's Giuoco Piano has turned into a deceptively simple position. If I had to guess, it looks very much like a position someone would diagram in a book, with the caption "The End of the Opening Phase", and then discuss the middlegame. Chances for both sides, nothing crazy looking, only one pawn exchanged.

And, after 14 moves, Joel is down only 8 minutes on the clock, which is pretty good for him.


What's up on Board 2? The game started a half-hour late, as the Inventors' IM Bryan Smith (who in his picture looks a little like Seth Green, from Austin Powers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) got caught in traffic - perhaps he needed to invent a flying car. Anyway, Smith has the Black pieces against noted teacher IM Dean Ippolito - you can read his NJKO profile here. Dean has some space in the center, and a Queen and Rook battery aiming down the f-file at Black's castled king position. While White has more space in the center, his Bishop is bad. However, Black is still lagging a bit in development.

Ippolito is up 20 minutes on the clock, but remember he started with an extra 35 minutes. A pawn and a couple of minor pieces have been exchanged for both sides.


Let's move to Board 3. The Inventors' IM Rick Costigan has White against the Knockouts' FM Aviv "sveshi" Friedman. With the Black pieces, Friedman responded with 1...e6 to White's d-pawn sortie, perhaps hoping for White to play 2. e4 and transpose into a French. But White made the unusual move 2. Bf4, which to me looks like from the "Getoutofbookquickly Opening". Most people do not know, but Vladimir Borisovich Getoutofbookquickly was a Ukrainian master of the 19th century, who played what looked like reasonable moves according to Opening Principles 101, but no one ever played before or afterward. FM Friedman responded with 2...Nf6, which according to the statistics at, has a 49% success rate with Black, and only a 33% success rate with white. Only 18% of games that start 1. d4 e6 2. Bf6 Nf6 are drawn, (granted, small sample size).

Looks like Board 2 may turn out to be an exciting battle. After a dozen moves, Costigan is only up 5 minutes on the clock, and while two minor pieces have been exchanged, all the foot soldiers remain.


Let's start on Board 4. We see the Inventors' Daniel Yeager as Black against the Knockouts' sole winner last week, Jayson "I wasn't really born in 1995" Lian, as White.

Jayson started the game with the Queen Pawn, and it quickly went into a Nimzo Indian. Black ended up with what appeared to be an oddly placed dark-squared bishop on a5, outside his pawn chain. On move 11, Black pushed his d-pawn to d5, and we had one of the most fun pawn structures around, the c- and d-pawns of each side in a staredown on c4, c5, d4, and d5. A flurry of exchanges has left white with a half-open c-file and a kingside fill of pawns. Black has a full complement of pawns on the queenside, and some space. Minor pieces are equal. White may need to shelter his king, but his Bishop on d3 peers down both diagonals on the board.

Jayson is up on the clock too, by about 18 minutes. 15 moves have been completed.


It is almost 8:00pm. Time to go around the horn for each game!


I usually wear a sport coat to work, but today I wore a turtleneck and no jacket. I am a fool because it is about 58 degrees in this room. Even the hot coffee is growing icicles.


Tonight, the room is exceedingly cold. The air conditioning is blowing strong and hard, and I'm freezing!


And the Ippolito-Smith game has started! It is a Modern system I've seen a lot. The Bangiev Squares Strategy recommendation for Black is this system with 1...g6, 2...Bg7, 3...c5 against almost anything that White plays (except a queenside fianchetto). Ippolito has decided to gain some space in the center with 4. d5, and now has a strong looking light-squared pawn phalanx in the middle of the board.


The more things change... Bryan Smith will play board 2 after all. There will be a 35 minute time penalty, and the Knockouts' IM Ippolito will have 90 minutes and the Inventors' Smith will have 55 minutes.


From the USCL Commissioner:

**UPDATE** There will be a last second replacement on Board 2. FM Mike Shahade will be replacing IM Bryan Smith. Rules dictate that he will start with a 90-45 time disadvantage... however New Jersey has waived this penalty and it will just be 90-70, as it's 20 minutes past starting time.

Some have commented that this was good sportsmanship on New Jersey's part. Which it is, but it is entirely due to the donuts, which I think Dean is out in the hall devouring right now.


The Inventors' Board 2 has bagged. An emergency replacement for Board 2 has been announced. It is FM Michael Shahade, father of the USCL's commissioner, Greg Shahade. The game has yet to start, and IM Dean Ippolito awaits.


Quietly, on Board 4, young Jayson Lian has the white pieces in a Nimzo Indian. In the line that's there, according to the statistics at, 6. a3 leads only to a 32% winning percentage for white (34% draw, 34% black win).


Conference on the mound. Board 2 of Philadelphia still has not shown.


No pictures tonight, unfortunately. You will just have to imagine the donuts. There are about equal numbers of glazed, powdered, and cinnamon. There are only a few chocolate ones. That will tick off GM Joel, and it is likely he will take out his rage on Kudrin on board one, turning his Giuoco Piano into a Giouco Fortissimo!


According to the statistics at, the line GM Joel Benjamin chose for himself in this line (6...Ba7) is pretty drawish, with 48% of games ending in draws. White does win 33% of the time and Black wins 19% of the time.


On Board 1, Kudrin-Benjamin have played a Giuoco Piano, that apparently follows Sadvakasov - Becerra (Miami 2007) according to IM Mark Ginsburg.


All these crazy openings! On Board 3, we have 1. d4 e6 2. Bf4 ... what?!?


Three of the four games starts. Philly's second board, Bryan Smith, is stuck in his garage inventing something.


The games are about to start. Everyone is here.


Prepare for the epic showdown tonight, as the Knockouts try to extend their winning streak to three matches by lobotomizing the Inventors, who are desperate for a win, which would get them back into playoff contention.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Goeller annotates KOs-Snakes games

Michael Goeller, of the Kenilworth Chess Club (which is a nice club that I attended a few times last year, but unfortunately never got back to for a number of reasons) has annotated this past week's games versus Carolina.

You can get the annotated games here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Real Time Blog (Week 6) - NJKOs vs. Cobras


And Dean drew! And the Knockouts have won the match, 2.5 - 1.5! Two in a row! The Cobras have proved themselves to be nothing but garter snakes!

Stay tuned next Monday, for Monday night chess versus Philadelphia!


And not a minute later, Zaikov offered a draw to Friedman, and it was accepted! The Knockouts are assured to draw the match. It is 2.0 - 1.0 for the good guys over the Snakes.


Jayson survived the attack, and his extra exchange proved worthwhile, as he crushed Jones! The Knockouts now lead 1.5 - 0.5!


Still two pawns up on Board 2, but they are pretty ugly pawns.


Yes, game drawn by repetition on board 1. So the current score is 0.5 - 0.5...


Looks like we have a repetition upcoming on Board 1. Wait for details...


Craig Jones, on board 4, has what looks like a dangerous attack on Jayson's king. Can Jayson survive it?


The games are speeding up. It is difficult to go from board to board. All boards are low on time, and the games are all complex. Most likely just results from now on.


On Board 4, Carolina has sacced the exchange, for an attack, but Jayon is holding on so far with a little over three minutes remainins.


Milman declined the draw, and he an Benjamin play on, while the clock is now far more balanced.


A bunch of trades in the Friedman game, and there's what looks to be an interesting, and difficult, B+R ending.


GM John Fedorowicz is commenting on Friedman's game, and saying that Aviv got his money worth. The end here is exciting!


How interesting. Three pawns down, down on the clock, and FM Friedman has offered a draw to his opponent on Board 3. It is an interesting offer; while materially and temporally, Friedman is far worse, his most recent move, 25. Nf5 suggests that he may have a devastating attack, that is not 100% sound. But, will Zaikov risk that it is, in fact, unsound? Or will he take the draw?


The Knockout's Board 4, Jayson "I'm not 12 even though the USCL website claims I am" Lian, has rammed a knight down the throat of his Cobric opponent. 21...Ne3. Blam!


Zaikov didn't do a Kramnik.


On Board 3, Friedman is threatening mate in 1 with 24...Qd7#. Will Zaikov see it? Or will he do a Kramnik?


IM Milman is still thinking about the draw offer....


The crowd is buzzing. Has Joel made a "team" decision, because the KOs are looking good on Board 2? Or, Joel, cognizant of his own clock status, has made a strategic decision to call it a day, even though he may be a tad better, and has White.


On Board 1, GM Joel has offered a draw to IM Milman. The crowd seems in disbelief.


A look around the room here would suggest that the match is not going well for the Knockouts. Players are slouched, chewing on themselves, grumpy. The KOs are down on the clock on most boards. The time is getting short. The scramble should start soon.


I've determined that for next year, I will have a better camera!


The situation doesn't look so promising for a few reasons.

First, the Knockouts are losing time on the clock. GM Joel has 14 minutes left compared with IM Milman's 32 minutes. And they are still only on move 19. And on Boards 3 and 4, the KOs are down to 18 and 12 minutes respectively, while their opponents have move.

Moreover, on Board 3 FM Aviv Friedman is a pawn down, but his opponent has a 3-1 majority on the queenside -- soon perhaps 3-0.

The guys need some water. Like this...


Boston is having a good night. The Red Sox won the baseball playoff, and their Board 4, Chris "is Awesome and 0 friends" Williams won his game quickly versus San Francisco. Whatever you may think of young Mr. Williams and his "awesomeness" at chess and (ahem) "music", it cannot be denied that his 4-0 record in USCL is pretty awesome.


Knockouts player Victor "Stalemate" Shen informs me that Jayson Lian was born in 1992, not 1995 as stated on the website. That makes much more sense, as he would be really tall for a 12 year old.


On Board 2, Dean Ippolito looks like he's returned one of the two pawns.


The games have all still not reached the 20th move yet. And, unlike other Knockout matches, the clocks remain reasonably balanced for both sides.

Looks like the increment rush will happen in an hour or so.


It is an hour and forty-two minutes later. Only 13 1/3 donuts left. See below. These people are animals!!


Almost 9:oo, and here are my assessments of the Knockouts' games so far.

Board 1: Benjamin's game looks like it is a game between GMs, so therefore, it is far too complicated for me to figure out.
Board 2: Ippolito's game has him up material, and way behind in development. I wouldn't want to be Ippolito is I was playing against Zapfrybizkapa.
Board 3: Friedman's game looks like it was plucked from the library of bullet games.
Board 4: Lian's game has too much mixing of the colors -- the pieces need to go back to their own sides!


Time used on the clocks is very balanced across the teams. (Team with more time indicated)
(1) 43-49 (CAR)
(2) 36-51 (NJK)
(3) 44-46 (CAR)
(4) 50-38 (CAR)


Interesting factoid: All games are on a different odd move (11, 13, 15, 17). Concidence?? I think not!


Back to the physical layout of the room. If you've read the blog before, you know that the Knockouts play at the Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, New Jersey. It is a charter school. We're in the computer lab, and the players are spread out in the room. GM Joel is in the corner of the room by himself. Big Dean is at the head of the room at his own table with his dual drinks (Poland Spring water and Nestle strawberry milk). Young Lian, and "Sveshi" Friedman are at opposite ends of a long table.


It just seems like the atmosphere in the room tonight is a little different than the other matches I've attended. There is more of a determined atmosphere.

It is also a little hotter in here than it has been the previous weeks.


Back to the unusual opening on Board 2... Ippolito is up 30 minutes on the clock, two pawns ahead. White didn't take the apparent draw, and castled instead.


"They" have commented on whether I have better things to do, than take pictures of donuts. So.... here's a picture of the coffee, instead.


Comments on the Ippolito games suggest that White may have a "perpetual" attack on Black's queen, with this line.

9. Be3 Qe5 10. f4 Qa5 11. b4 Qb4 12. Rb1 Qa5 13. Rb5 Qc3 14. Rb3, etc.

But it seems like taking a quick draw with White may not be in Carolina's best interests. However, White down some material, so maybe it is best at this point? What will Schroer do?


Board 2, Ippolito versus Schroer has acquired its own gravity. Not that I'm anywhere near qualified to comment on the quality of the chess, but... Dean Ippolito did get a little greedy, it seems, when he played 8...Nxe4. Will White chase Dean's queen clean from the scene?


All the games have interesting positions. On Board 1, GM Joel Benjamin's position looks more serpentine than the Cobra's player's position. His pieces are lurking back, ready to strike at any moment. On Board 2, IM Dean Ippolito looks like he may be a pawn or two ahead, but whether White's compensation will give him anything is unclear -- Dean just can't get too greedy, I suspect. On Board 3, the acreage that FM Aviv Friedman has encountered is impressive looking, but will black just squat his pieces in White's space? On Board 4, young Jason Lian has some potential holes in White's position at which to poke.


FM Aviv Friedman is munching on peanuts from a Ziploc bag.


On Board 1, GM Joel seems to be a little underdeveloped. His light-squared bishop flew out to c4 early, and now has backed into c2, after a few moves. The consensus of the 80 people watching the game is the White is playing a Ruy Lopez, and Black is playing a Sicilian Dragon. The question is, though... who will prove triumphant? The Spaniard or the Italian?


On Board 2, the Cobra's Schroer took over seventeen minutes to figure out how to recapture Ippolito's cleric, who giving check. It looks like Ippolito is a pawn up, maybe more.


The first week, there were sandwiches, chips, donuts, coffee, soda, and water all very generously provided to the players. The second week, the sandwiches were gone, but the chips, donuts, coffee, soda, and water were still available.

But now, it is the staples of life. Donuts, coffee, and water.

Here are the donuts.

I know that I and the players are all very grateful for the food. Thanks!


On Board 3, our newest player, FM Aviv Friedman is gaining a great deal of space on the kingside, with pawns on e4, f4, g4, and h4. He's White in a Sicilian, and he's prepping his kingside attack, although Black hasn't quite castled over there yet.


More on Dean Ippolito's game. His 4...Bb4+ is a relatively rare move. More common is4...Be7. His move scores 38% for white and 30% for black. However, Schroer's response 5. Nbd2 is extremely uncommon, only played about 2% of the time. 98% of the time, 5. Nc3 is the move.


On Board 2, IM Dean Ippolito, playing black, is in a Queen's Gambit Declined, which is a nice change from all the Slavs we've seen recently in the World Championships.


On Board 4, Craig Jones decided to give up his advantage of the first move by playing Nf3 and e3.


And we're off! The games started on time tonight... On Board 1, GM Joel Benjamin takes on IM Lev Milman, while on Board 2, IM Dean Ippolito tackles IM Jonathan Schroer.

The Knockouts tonight feature the debut of two player on board 3 and 4. On Board 3, FM Aviv Friedman, who was an early roster substitution for FM Tom Bartell plays youngster FM Oleg Zaikov. And on Board 4, the Knockouts youngest member, Jason Lian (born 1995, you do the math) plans on not pulling his punches against Carolina's Craig Jones.


The KOs versus the Snakes.