Thursday, August 28, 2008

Joel Benjamin on his game of Week 1

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After the resounding victory, the Knockouts are all smiles. From left to right, Victor Shen [board 4], Dean Ippolito [board 2], Michael Khodarkovsky [assistant manager], Mac Molner [board 3], Joel Benjamin [captain and board 1].

Joel Benjamin asked me to post the following note. Its great to have our esteemed captain add to the blog!

How 'bout those Kayos? My teammates did a great job in the first round. I think a lot of our players are under-rated and will score big this season.

I wasn't so happy though about my game, and I think the USCL fans should know why I lost the game.

The obvious excuses are:
  1. My young opponent has been touring the country winning tournaments while I've been touring Bergen County maternity wards.
  2. I didn't study 12.d5 sufficiently and couldn't remember anything about the games I looked at.
  3. The last time I sacrificed that many pieces I was playing bughouse.
But I'm going to opt for a darkhorse excuse for losing. I'm going to blame it on the METS. That's right, my favorite baseball team is driving me crazy! On Tuesday night they managed to blow a 7-0 lead. Seven nothing!!! And they took an agonizing five+ hours to do it, finally capitulating in the 13th inning, sometime after midnight. There was no way I could sleep after such a debacle. After tossing and turning all night, I lacked the energy to combat such a strong young player. [I have scoresheets older than this guy. A lot of them]

Hopefully the bullpen will get its act together and give me some peace. I don't think it's fair to ask my boys to bail me out every week.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Week 1 - Knockouts vs. Kingfishers, Realtime!!


And Dean wins too! The Knockouts have won 3-1.


Victor forked, won the exchange, and then played the Krazy Killer Korner Kween move, Qh8! His opponent resigned, and Knockouts are up 2-1!!!


Victor is out of his seat, pacing back and forth, awaiting his seemingly vanquished opponent's next move.


On board 4, Victor Shen has just played 33.Ne4, with a nasty little three-tined fork threatened on d6.


And Joel couldn't quite pull it out. The match score is tied 1-1. Erenburg has been on a roll lately, winning tournament after tournament -- his luck continued here.


There are two other games going on in this room! On Board 2, Dean Ippolito seems to be slowing pressing ahead. His bishop on h6 and his pawn on f5 make a potent combination, a bind on Black's position. Dean is also ahead on the clock with 31 minutes left, to Kaufman's 9 minutes.


There are 120 people watching the Benjamin-Erenburg game. The general consensus is that Erenburg merely has to consolidate, and the game will be in his favor. The arguments are over how he should consolidate.


A rook down, with four minutes to go. Is GM Joel's attack sound?


With a 1-0 lead, 200 cheerleaders, and Joel Benjamin with a speculative attack on Board 1, it is an exciting night here in Lincoln Park! On Board 2, Dean Ippolito is slowly grinding down Larry Kaufman -- Dean's bishops are criss crossing Kaufman's kingside like Michael Palin getting from Moscow to Bangkok and Tokyo to Cairo in three days by public transportation only.

Ok, that analogy was just wierd. Sorry.


Quite tense moments in the Benjamin game. Joel's way down on the clock but he's pressing his attack. Playing directly from the screen, not looking at his physical board, he's a paragon of supreme concentration.


It is getting rather chilly in this room. I wonder if the alarm that went off a half-hour ago was a heat alarm?


Arizona Scorpion and IM Mark Ginsbug says the Erenburg-Benjamin game contains "craziness". It's beyond me, but have a look.


Joel Benjamin is down on the clock -- only 16 minutes left to Sergey Erenburg's one hour. The game is getting exciting though. Joel is starting to unleash the majestic archers with their golder arrows. Or, he's sacking an exchange. I'm not sure.


Mac Molner has won! His opponent abruptly resigned, in a totally uncomfortable position! The Knockouts are up 1-0!


The alarm wasn't a big deal. Some sort of thing on the computer stack in the playing site. Here's a picture of the playing site. From left to right, Victor Shen, Mac Molner, TD Mike Somers (back to camera), Joel Benjamin (standing), and Dean Ippolito.


The Shen-Zimmer game to me is interesting... augh! Alarm going off!


On Board 2, Dean Ippolito's opponent, Larry Kaufman, has been thinking about his 19th move for over a half-hour. Perhaps he had to go outside to feed the meter?


The Big Mac attack is at again. Mac Molner is smashing the ramparts on Board 3.


The inaugural donuts of 2008. Go ahead and lick your screen. I understand Boston Blitz supporters tend to do that a lot.


Finally, on Board 1, Benjamin's heavy pieces are majestically arrayed, like a line of British archers ready to pierce the hearts of the enemy with their golden arrows. Well, sort of. Actually there's just a queen and both rooks kind of hanging out. (94 people watching this game)


On Board 2, IM Dean Ippolito has the bishop pair and a slightly better pawn structure, as he's centralizing his pieces to slowly crush IM Larry Kaufman. (31 people watching the game)


On board 3, Mac Molner's Benko has a inverted phalanx of pawns on dark squares, and has opened up the g-file in front of Ray Kaufman's king. Mac's about 10 minutes up on the clock. (28 people watching that game)


Let's go around the horn and check out our games, starting with board 4, Victor Shen, White against FM Zimmer.

Victor's got a nice Knight planted in Black's territory on the queenside. The pieces are filling up the queenside of the board for both sides. Victor's down on the clock thought, with only 42 minutes left to his opponent's 1 hour and 16 minutes. (26 people watching that game)


Joel Benjamin's got his rooks poised on the f-file to crush Erenburg's emasculated monarch.


So, here's a subset of the 200 cheerleaders outside the New Jersey site.


If you're reading this blog, you're either a fan of the Knockouts, or have a lot of time on your hands. In any case, the New Jersey Knockouts are on Facebook! Come and join our group!


Joel Benjamin is walking around the room surveying the three other games.


I always find it interesting, the way these top level players play the USCL matches. Benjamin and his student Shen (Boards 1 and 4) are studying the computer monitor intently, although they both have physical boards set up next to them. Molner and Ippolito are bother leaning over their physical boards.


On Board 1, the Knockouts' captain and esteemed leader, Joel Benjamin, is already down 20 minutes on the clock, Erenburg still has extra time (over 90 minutes)! Last year, the Knockouts had some problems with time trouble. Let's hope the trend doesn't continue to this year.


Here's a picture of the playing site, Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, NJ. When I got here, the outside lawn was filled with about 200 cheerleaders (and, no, I'm not kidding). The New Jersey State Chess Federation must have a great PR machine, I thought. Alas, they were just on the site for a cheerleading clinic. I could not convince any of them to come inside to root for the Knockouts, unfortunately.


And "Big" Mac "Attack" Molner -- winner and victim of a few "Games of the Week" last season, has started with FM Ray Kaufman on Board 3. Molner, never afraid to shy away from complications and excitement, has the black side of a Benko Gambit. What can expect from the Mac Attack this week?


Board 2 has finally started, with IM Dean "Of Chess" Ippolito opening with his characteristic 1.d4. His opponentIM Larry Kaufman, has played the Nimzo Indian, and it is a 4.Qc2 variation.


GM Joel Benjamin's game has started again GM Sergey Erenburg. Both have had recent spreads in Chess Life Online about them, both taking place at NJ Board Two's IM Dean Ippolito's facility in Branchburg. Erenburg won the Futurity that was there back in July, and GM Joel just taught the US Chess School there a few weeks ago. That US Chess School was attended by board 4, Victor Shen.


And Victor Shen has started his game. He has nary a donut in front of him. Instead, he has an White in an Accelerated Dragon.


Ready to start the Knockouts' second glorious season!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NJKOs 2008 Schedule Preview

The 2008 United States Chess League commences play in less than a week! The New Jersey Knockouts are set to begin their second season, ready to lay some bone-crushing hurt to the souls of their feeble competition. (Hey, this blog isn't supposed to be objective.)

The USCL has two new teams this year, the Chicago Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions. Fortunately, for the Blase and the 'Pions , they do not have to face the mighty Knockouts this year, except perhaps in the playoffs.

But the big news for the Knockouts is the addition of veteran Grandmaster Boris Gulko to the roster. GM Gulko adds cassiac gravitas and a potent left hook to the line-up.

Let's take a look at the schedule. (Ratings are from the unofficial 2007 USCL rating list.)

Week 1: Baltimore Kingfishers

The opening week sees the Knockouts taking on the Kingfishers of Baltimore, and last year the Knockouts drew Baltimore in two matches. The 'Fish are 2005 league champions, but their glorious past is well behind them, as they finished in the cellar of the Eastern division last year. Their top board, GM Sergey Erenburg (USCL 2558), has had some excellent tournament success this past year (including winning the NJ Futurity II), but we'll see if his success can translate to his team.

Week 2: Queens Pioneers

The Pioneers, last year's fifth place team in the East, battle the Knockouts in the second week. Last year, the Knockouts drew one match and lost another to the Queensmen. GM Alex Stripunsky (USCL 2525) returns as top board.

Week 3: Seattle Sluggers

The Knockouts and the Sluggers parlay their pugilistic proclivities in week three. Its the first meeting between the teams. The Sluggers have acquired GM Hikaru Nakamura (USCL 2580), formerly of the New York Knights, as their top board. Nakamura now lives in Vancouver, and will have to drive a ways to get to their matches. Will the drive tire him out? In week three, we may get to see.

Week 4: Boston Blitz

The Knockouts light up the board with the Blitz in the fourth week of the season -- they drew last year's match. GM Larry Christiansen (USCL 2581) and GM Eugene Perelshteyn (USCL 2481) head up the team, but don't forget about USCL All-Star Jorge Sammour Hasbun (USCL 2579), who ruled board 2 last year.

Week 5: Philadelphia Inventors

In the fifth week, the Knockouts will attempt to avenge last year's loss to the Inventors. The Inventors are led by USCL rating leader GM Sergey Kudrin (USCL 2591), who undefeated consistency last year lead Philly to the playoffs. Notable also is the inclusion of the Inventors' latest addition, FM Tom Bartell (USCL UNR), who fought for the Knockouts last season. Tom moved to Philadelphia, and is better known to New Jerseyites as Benedict Arnold!

Week 6: Baltimore Kingfishers

Midway through the season, the Knockouts pluck the Kingfishers in a rematch of week one.

Week 7: Queens Pioneers

Week seven is a rematch of week two. As northern New Jersey resident Yogi Berra apparently once said, "Its deja vu all over again."

Week 8: Carolina Cobras

The geographically challenged (or perhaps they are simply peripatetically inclined) Cobras are back in the Eastern division, after a one year foray into the West. The Knockouts de-venomed and fang-extracted the Cobras last year. FM Oleg Zaikov (USCL 2423) was a USCL All-Star in 2006.

Week 9: Miami Sharks

The penultimate week of the regular season sees the Knockouts tackling the Miami Sharks for the first time. Lead by two-time USCL MVP GM Julio Becerra (USCL 2566), the Sharks almost drowned in the first half of last season, only to perform swimmingly in the last half and make the playoffs.

Week 10: New York Knights

The last week of the season sees the Knockouts joust with the nearby New York Knights, in a contest that is hailed as "The Battle of the Silent Ks". Two GMs take over the top two slots in the roster, GM John Fedorowicz and 2007 US Champion (and former USCL Game-of-the-Week judge and Chris Berman of ESPN imitator) GM Alex Shabalov. The Knockouts also have to watch out for fourth board All-Star Iryna Zenyuk (USCL 2402), who tends to pull of big wins.

In the next post (early next week), I'll post a Knockouts' player preview.