Sunday, November 22, 2009

Knockouts' Season Ends with loss to Knights

by Joseph Criscuolo

In a breakthrough season, the New Jersey Knockouts were two points away from making the US Chess League Finals, but unfortunately they fell short. Despite having the best record in the league during the regular season, the Knockouts fell to the New York Knights by a score of 2.5-1.5, a worthy team that the week before, defeated the second place Boston Blitz by the same score. The Knights will play the Miami Sharks in the US Chess League finals. The Knockouts' match was close the entire time, ending with three draws and one decisive game. The Knights' Yaacov Norowitz was the difference maker, as he defeated Sean Finn on board four. Certainly this match was another chapter in a short but exciting rivalry between the two teams, and one that should be exciting to follow for years to come.

On board one, it appeared that Joel Benjamin would earn his first win this year against Giorgi Kacheishvili but that would not be the case. Joel Benjamin was up by a pawn on move 55, but Kacheishvili would find a combination that would allow him to win an exchange and a pawn. The two players would then play on into a drawn endgame, something that would be costly at the end for the Knockouts.

On board two Dean Ippolito would end up drawing Pascal Charbonneau in a game that was unbalanced from early on. At move 19, Ippolito had a queen, two rooks, bishop, and five pawns against Charbonneau’s two rooks, two bishops, knight, and seven pawns. By move 44, it appeared that Charbonneau was clearly winning but Ippolito found a draw, a draw that Charbonneau happily accepted in what would help determine the match for the Knights.

Mackenzie Molner had a lot of chances to make this a 2-2 match with a board three win against Matt Herman, but time trouble was potentially the difference in this game. Molner managed to earn a pawn on move 10, one that would evaporate 5 moves later on move 15. The clock was not friendly to Molner as seen on move 17, when Herman owned 1:27:20 of clock while Molner just had 18:35 on his clock. As the game progressed the game became more and more equal and the two played to a draw.

Sean Finn had a tough challenge to make on board four, playing against Yaacov Norowitz, possibly the most dangerous player on board four. Move 22 was the defining move, one that would allow Norowitz to gain an important pawn, after Finn took Norowitz’s bishop, Norowitz would take the pawn with his bishop attacking the queen allowing for him to take Finn’s knight and become the hero of the match as he would checkmate Finn after thirty eight moves.

The Knockouts had never made the playoffs in their history, and despite their league-best record, the loss was a heartbreaker. Still, building on the success of this season should place the Knockouts as an elite team in the US Chess League for years to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Knock, Knock, Knockouts on Final's Door

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey began their quest for the US Chess League Championship with a big win over the Baltimore Kingfishers last week. Now, they must defeat the New York Knights for the third straight time this season in order to face the surprising Western Conference Champion Miami Sharks, who defeated the San Francisco Mechanics.

The Knockouts won both battles between themselves and the Knights, New York Knights is a team that's better than their marginally winning record. The Knockouts chose White on first board and will field the exact same lineup that led them to their decisive 3-1 victory against Baltimore. The lineup features GM Joel Benjamin, IM Dean Ippolito, Mackenzie Molner, and Sean Finn. The New York Knights do the same, bringing the same lineup that upset the Boston Blitz in the first round. Their lineup is GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, GM Pascal Charbonneau, Matt Herman, and Yaacov Norowitz. The Knockouts own draw odds for this match, meaning that all the Knockouts need are two points to make their first championship appearance, against Miami Sharks. While the championship is nice, the Knockouts must concentrate on this match first to prevent a letdown. This game will be played at 7:00 PM ET on Wednesday November 18, with the time control of game 90 with 30 seconds increments after each move.

On board one we see a matchup that already resulted in two draws this season, GM Joel Benjamin playing as white against GM Giorgi Kacheishvili. In the two matchups between the GMs this year, they were all even, though Joel Benjamin probably could have won the second game between the two GMs.

Board two features a matchup that was played the first game of the week of the season, IM Dean Ippolito ( plays as black against GM Pascal Charbonneau. In that game, Ippolito won the USCL Game of the Week prize, weaving a two knights versus pawn mating net against the former Canadian Champion. This type of win is something that may be easy for a player of Ippolito’s caliber, but certainly not one of the easier for those who enjoy this game.

On board three, Mackenzie Molner faces off as white against Matt Herman. The two have met earlier this season, with Mackenzie Molner earning the win in what would be one of two wins for the Knockouts help that decided the match for New Jerseys fourth consecutive win.

On board four, Sean Finn has the dark pieces and will try to beat Yaacov Norowitz. While ratings alone favor Norowitz, Finn’s two wins this season have both come against players with higher ratings, he has defeated WGM Jennifer Shahade for his first ever US Chess League win and earned his first playoff win against WIM Tsagaan Batsettseg.

This game can be seen at the Internet Chess Club (ICC) Wednesday November 18th at 7:00 PM. Change of schedule changed the Western Championship game to Monday so this will be the only game of the night for what has been an exciting season. Watch along as a new Eastern Division Champion will be crowned on this historic night!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Knockouts Win and Draw in Quarterfinal

by Robert N. Bernard

The New Jersey Knockouts defeated the Baltimore Kingfishers on Monday night by a score of 3-1, in United States Chess League playoff action. With the win, New Jersey advanced to the Eastern conference finals, where they will play the New York Knights, who defeated the Boston Blitz 2.5-1.5. New Jersey won on boards one and four, and held Baltimore to draws on boards two and three.
(GM Joel Benjamin, pictured below)

The match was closer than the 3-1 score might indicate. Because of a better regular season record, New Jersey had draw-odds, meaning that a drawn match (2-2) would count as a New Jersey win. Three of the boards had sharp, double-edged positions that could have gone either way with a misstep by one player or the other. Baltimore, which had won the USCL Championship in 2005, was hoping to get back the the playoffs, which had eluded the Kingfishers for the last few years. They put up a valiant fight, but in the end, the Knockouts' sharp and aggressive play proved to be a gamble that paid off with a handsome victory.

Board Two, which had IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat as White against the Knockouts' IM Dean Ippolito, (pictured above) was the only tame affair of the evening. In a Slav Defense, an early queen exchange and several other trades led to an early endgame, with Enkbhat's bishop and rook against Ippolito's knight and rook. After the minors were traded, a repetition in a drawn rook endgame seemed to be a logical conclusion. Ippolito commented after the game that a draw with Black in a match with draw odds is a favorable result.

Board Four saw WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg as White against Sean Finn (pictured above) of New Jersey. Finn brought out a King's Indian Defense, and while Finn opened up lines on the queenside, Battsetseg countered with a pawn rush on the kingside. Finn played the speculative and quite possibly unsound exchange sacrifice 24...Rxa4, but was rewarded when his opponent blundered in time pressure, and allowed 28...Nxd5. From then, Finn won back the exchange, had some extra pawns, consolidated, was vigilant for any perpetuals, and brought home the win. At this point, the score was 1.5-0.5 for New Jersey, and the Knockouts just need to score a draw in one of the final two games.

On Board Three, the Knockouts'
Mac Molner was on the white side of a Sveshnikov Sicilian against FM Shinsaku Uesugi. The game followed known theory for a while. Molner showed signs of an attack, but queenside counterplay foiled his efforts. Molner fought valiantly until the endgame, when Uesugi was a pawn up in a rook and opposite colored bishop endgame. Uesugi allowed the exchange of rooks, which turned a possible slight advantage into a pawn up, but drawn position. When Uesugi realized that there was no point in paying further, he offered a draw, which Molner accepted and clinched the match for New Jersey. (Sean Finn and Mac Molner rejoice in the thrill of victory, below.)

On Board One, the game between GM Joel Benjamin as White and GM Sergey Erenburg was an exciting and interesting affair. Benjamin trotted out the Spanish Four Knights when he encountered Erenbug's unusual looking 4...Bd6. Of course, as everyone knows, this move has been discussed in the inaugural volume of Secrets of Opening Surprises as "Solokov's Surprise". Benjamin tossed out the aggressive, but thematic 8. g4, which he mentioned after the game is an idea in these types of positions. Benjamin has a vicious attack going, but low on time, and keeping his eye on the other games, simplified to an approximately equal position. While the other players were celebrating New Jersey's victory, Benjamin walked Erenburg's king to the queenside, wove a mating net, and eventually Erenburg had to concede after losing some material.

The victory was met by joy and celebration throughout the Garden State. Or, at least throughout the Garden State Parkway. (Dean Ippolito and Joel Benjamin celebrate the big win, below.)

The lineups for the Eastern Conference Championship -- the Battle of the Hudson -- will be posted on Sunday evening. New Jersey will have the White pieces on boards 1 and 3. This blog will have a preview of the match early next week.

Monday, November 9, 2009

First Round Playoffs: Knockouts Look to Piscatorially Dethrone Kingfishers

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts enter their first playoff game in team history in a great position to contend for a US Chess League Championship. To get there, they must first concentrate on defeating the Baltimore Kingfishers. By virtue of finishing first, the Knockouts own draw odds and thus a score of 2-2 will be good enough to advance to the Eastern Division finals. The Knockouts defeated the Kingfishers in Week 7 by a score of 3.5-0.5, but both lineups in this match definitely have a different look to them. For the Knockouts they feature a lineup of Joel Benjamin, Dean Ippolito, Mackenzie Molner, and Sean Finn against a Baltimore Kingfishers' lineup of Sergey Erenburg, Tegshsuren Enkhbat, Shinsaku Uesugi, and Tsagaan Battsetseg. The Knockouts will own white on boards one and three, and black on boards two and four. If Knockouts can stay consistent with history they have a good shot at winning, the Knockouts own the record against the two teams with a record of 3.5-1.5.

GM Joel Benjamin makes his USCL playoffs debut as white against GM Sergey Erenburg on board one. Joel Benjamin had a huge season for the Knockouts earning five out of nine points in nine games with three wins, four draws, and only two losses. The two grandmasters met two times last season with Sergey Erenburg winning both of those matchups. Sergey Erenburg is undefeated in five games with two wins and three draws.

On board two is IM Dean Ippolito facing off as black against IM
Tegshsuren Enkhbat. Dean Ippoltio had a huge regular season, in five games he won three, drew one, and only lost once. Tegshsuren Enkhbat’s season has featured him earning points in six out of seven games, with five draws and one win, with one of those draws coming against Knockouts top board Joel Benjamin. The two international masters have met twice, in 2008 and 2007 with Dean Ippolito winning both of these matches for the Knockouts.

SM Mackenzie Molner plays as white on board three against FM Shinsaku Uesugi. These two have never faced each other before in the US Chess League. Mackenzie Molner played four games this season, earning a win and two draws, and only losing one game. Shinsaku Uesugi earned three out of the team’s six points, with two wins, two draws, and two losses in his first season in the US Chess League. Uesugi lost to the Knockout's IM Albert Kapengut in the New Jersey - Baltimore this year.

Sean Finn faces off against WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg with black on board four. In the short time he’s been a Knockout, Finn has done his job well, earning a win and a draw. Finn’s first win came against WGM Jennifer Shahade in a big upset that helped solidify the Knockouts in the game that clinched the Eastern Division. Tsagaan Battsegseg played two games this year, winning one and losing once.

This match can be seen at the Internet Chess Club as always at 7:15 PM Eastern Time, tonight. Time control will be the traditional game 90 with 30 second increments. The other game affecting the Knockouts as long as the Knockouts win, is the game between the New York Knights and Boston Blitz, with the winner of that match facing the winner of the Knockouts-Kingfishers game. The Boston Blitz will win the match if they draw, as they too have received draw odds. Games in the Western Division can be seen on Wednesday, November 11th.

The Knockouts are sponsored by the New Jersey State Chess Federation.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Benjamin Frankly: GM Joel Previews New Jersey's Playoffs

by GM Joel Benjamin

The New Jersey Knockouts find itself in an unaccustomed position. We weren’t quite prepared to clinch a playoff spot midway through the season, not after the brutal finishes to our first two seasons. And clinching the Eastern Division title with a round to spare…we kind of had to pinch ourselves after that. So we go into the playoffs with the top seed, giving us draw odds and choice of colors in the opening round. Our opponents, the Baltimore Kingfishers, are a formidable squad with a strong first board and good balance in their lineup. You can throw out the regular season records when you get to the playoffs, a point driven home to me by the Sunday Sports section of the New York Times. They assessed the strength of all 27 World Series Champion Yankee teams, rating the 2000 team as the worst, one of the worst World Series winners in history. That team, which won only 87 games, defeated my beloved Mets in five games. So while we remain confident, we temper our optimism with caution.

Lineups are affected by player availability. Probably every team will be kept from its ideal lineup at some point in the playoffs by logistical concerns. Both teams will have one of the two grandmasters on the roster in the match. Sergey Erenburg beat me twice last season, so I will be particularly determined to make a good showing on Monday night. We are going with Dean Ippolito and Mac Molner, two of our core players from the beginning, on two and three. Both of them played a bit less than in the past this year, but will be primed for the playoffs. Our fourth board, Sean Finn, was added to the roster late in the season as insurance for the playoffs. He looked good in two games for us—a draw with David Adelberg of Arizona, and a win over Jennifer Shahade of Philadelphia—so we think he’ll do a good job as well.

As the top seed, we got choice of colors. We had to choose before we knew their lineup, though they are fielding pretty much what we expected. With some teams, in may be clear on which boards you want the White pieces, but not always. I think the conventional wisdom is to choose White on one and three, on the theory that color makes a bigger difference for higher rated players than lower rated players. That seemed as good a reason as any to choose white on the odd boards. Indeed, New York and Arizona made the same call, with only Seattle choosing Black. I’m not surprised by the Sluggers’ decision, as Nakamura feels he can beat anybody with either color. If I were that good, maybe I would feel the same way. (If we make it through to the final against Seattle, we will have choice of color.)

The Kingfisher trio of Enkhbat, Uesugi, and Battsetseg are not particularly well versed in opening theory, but they are scrappy players who can be strong if they get the right type of position. On paper the teams are pretty even, but only needing to score two points to advance should make us a slight favorite. Hopefully we will be able to “reel in” their kings (or any other Baltimore-themed phrase in Bioniclime style) and advance to the Division finals.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Jersey Tops Throughout Playoffs, Despite Being Sacrificed to Queens

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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Knockouts to Force Queens' Abdication

by Joseph Criscuolo

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!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philadel-Phiasco! New Jersey Wins and Secures First Place

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts have clinched the Eastern Division Title after overwhelming the Philadelphia Inventors a score of 3.5-0.5. The Knockouts' Eastern Division Title was earned once the Boston Blitz failed to defeat the Miami Sharks, with a 2-2 draw. The Knockouts dominated the match with wins from Boris Gulko, Victor Shen, and Sean Finn and a draw from the Knockouts' top player, Joel Benjamin. The Knockouts currently have the best record in the US Chess League with an 8-1 record, a point ahead of the Western Division leading Seattle Sluggers (7-2).

New Jersey can break the all-time single season record, held by the San Francisco Mechanics at 8.5/10, with a win in their match next week against the Queens Pioneers. Queens will try to beat the Knockouts and hope for a rematch the next week in the US Chess League Playoffs. The Knockouts will own the best record in the US Chess League with either a win or draw.

On November 9th, the Knockouts will be slated to play the fourth seed in the Eastern Division, which has not yet been decided. Three teams are battling for this position, the Baltimore Kingfishers with 3.5 points, the Philadelphia Inventors with 3.0 points, and the Queens Pioneers with 2.5 points. While Baltimore is in the lead, they face the eliminated Tennessee Tempo who definitely could play spoiler and ruin their playoff chances. The Philadelphia Inventors will face the Carolina Cobras and can get in if they can get help from the Tennessee Tempo. The Queens Pioneers are the most unlikely playoff opponent as they trail Baltimore by a point and will need help from Tennessee and Carolina as well as defeat New Jersey.

While owning bragging rights for best team in the East the Knockouts also earned something more important, they will own draw odds for the quarterfinals and semifinals, meaning that if they draw the opponent they will win the round. This is why winning the Eastern Division title is more important. The Knockouts will have color choice in the first round, and if Boston fails to beat New York in the quarterfinals, the Knockouts will own color choice in the Semifinals as well. The Knockouts are guaranteed color choice in the champion match if they can win or draw against Queens or if Seattle draws or loses against Chicago.

Joel Benjamin continues on what has been a great season for him with a draw against Sergey Kudrin. In the eight games he has played this year he has only lost one match. The match between the two Grandmasters was relatively short as neither could find an advantage in the 16 moves that they played up until the two agreed with a draw.

Boris Gulko continues his domination of the US Chess League as he defeated Tom Bartell for his fifth consecutive win of the season as well as his eighth consecutive win in his perfect US Chess League. Gulko took advantage of Bartell early as he gained Bartell’s pawn on d5 on move fifteen with his bishop on c3. Bartell attempted a full attack to try to come back to defeat Gulko but in the end it wasn’t enough as Bartell resigned after move twenty three.

Victor Shen defeated Richard Costigan in a tight battle that was determined late in the game under time pressure for both sides. On move forty one Costigan had the opportunity to open up the game with a move such as Qg3 to set up what could be a winning advantage, instead he took a pawn with his Rook and lost his Knight and this eventually became an unbalanced endgame. However Victor Shen set up an attack that overwhelmed Costigan, and after a series of precise moves with his Queen, Rook, and Bishop (in severe time pressure no less), weaved a mating net from which Costigan could not escape.

Sean Finn magaged to earn his first ever US Chess League win over the 2002 and 2004 U.S. Women's Champion, and much higher rated, Jennifer Shahade. Finn went up a pawn on move twenty one with the move exf5 after Shahade played f5, the move also weakened the safety of her king as well. Finn would have a huge attack on Shahade which proved to be decisive as he was up by a Bishop and a pawn after thirty three moves. Shahade resigned after thirty five moves after Finn set up a beautiful attack which was more than the WGM and chess author could handle.

The Knockouts move to 8-1 and will play again next Wednesday in the last game of the season against the Queens Pioneers. Most games in the league has playoff implications, so tune into the Internet Chess Club for all fourteen teams in action!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Jersey Turns Pike on Philadelphia

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts look to cap off an excellent season by earning the Eastern Division title in the United States Chess League. If they are to do that, a good idea is to defeat the Philadelphia Inventors this week, who need a win to stay alive in the playoff race. The last time these two teams met earlier this season, the Knockouts defeated the Inventors by a score of 2.5-1.5 under a strong lineup headed by Joel Benjamin who certainly has to be one of the most important players in the US Chess League.

The Knockouts control their destiny in the East and can clinch first place this week with one of two situations, a Knockouts win combined with a Blitz draw or loss, or a Knockouts draw combined with a Blitz loss. Should one of these happen, the Knockouts will finish first place in the East with the advantage draw odd sand color choice in the first round against the fourth place team in the playoffs. This week's matchup features the Knockouts lineup of Joel Benjamin, Boris Gulko, Victor Shen, and Sean Finn against a tough Inventors lineup of Sergey Kudrin, Tom Bartell, Richard Costigan, and Jennifer Shahade. Time control for this match is game in 90 with 30 second time increments.

Board one features a matchup that was seen in week two, this time GM Joel Benjamin will be playing as black against GM Sergey Kudrin. In their first matchup, Joel Benjamin was victorious against Kudrin, in a 2.5-1.5 win for the Knockouts. Joel Benjamin has an undefeated record of 2-1 against Kudrin in the US Chess League. In the five games he has played, Kudrin has lost all five, it’s hard to imagine him losing a sixth consecutive game, but it’s also hard to see anything stopping Joel Benjamin whose lone loss came against the Arizona Scorpions.

GM Boris Gulko looks to go for his fifth win of the season with the white pieces against former New Jersey Knockout, FM Tommy Bartell. Last week, Gulko came in second the Game of the Week voting. The game will make Boris Gulko eligible to for the USCL All-Star Team, and with a record like his, he is likely to make it. The Knockouts definitely can look forward to having him in the playoffs. With a Benjamin-Gulko one-two punch in the playoffs, the Knockouts certainly give themselves a lineup that is hard to beat.

Off of his big win against the Boston Blitz, Victor Shen plays black on board three and looks to win his third game of the season against IM Richard Costigan. In the two games this season, Victor Shen has two wins including his Game of the Week third place in last week’s sweep of the Boston Blitz against Marc Esserman.

Sean Finn will be playing his second US Chess League match at board with the white pieces against WGM Jennifer Shahade. In his first match, Sean Finn managed to draw David Adelberg of the Arizona Scorpions in the only match which the Knockouts have lost this season so far. This is also Jennifer Shahade’s second game of the year, she defeated Jared Defibaugh of the Baltimore Kingfishers last week. Sean Finn will not be hula hooping during the match. No word on Shahade.

This match can be seen online at the Internet Chess Club on Wednesday, October 28 at 7:00 pm Eastern time. It is one of four matches that can be observed that night, which should be an exciting night in the US Chess League.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Knockouts Massacre Blitz: Boston Cremed, Score a Donut.

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.

Live blog: Versus Boston


Video of Boston Creme Donut Smashed by a Hammer


Wow! A sweep! 4-0 NJ!!!


Dean wins! NJ up 1-0


All the games going. clocks low. Incredible tension.


Dean has won a piece! S-H has some checks, but it looks like Dean can get out of it.


Sammour-Hasbun has a crucial move here. Nakamura suggested two equally plausible paths. One a draw, one a win for Dean. Which path will he take?


Victor in good shape, but he and Andrew are low on time.


Esserman offered a draw on Board 3, but Victor is going for the knockout with the killer move 25. d6.


Things heating up. Except the room.


Andrew Ng on Board 4 is still in a tough position, but slowly might be squirming his way out of it. His opponent may not be taking advantage enough of his initiative.


Victor Shen played the smashing move 19. Bxh6, completely crashing apart Esserman's kingside pawns. Esserman is on the ropes. Can he recover?


Ippolito 45min / Sammour-Hasbun 26min... A wild position, where Dean seems to be contemplating trading queens.


Gulko 49min / Perelshteyn 36min... Gulko's thinking about his 23rd move. He's got the two bishops and a little extra space.


It is almost 9pm -- the match is almost two hours old. The room has cooled a bit, but it is still in the low 80s in the room. In a few minutes, we'll go around the horn again, and see how all the boards stand.


Dean has no Red Bull this week. Just coffee... He did tell me that he went 12-0 at his simul this past weekend, so yay for Dean!


We're handling the clock well two weeks in a row. Only down significantly on board 4, where the position is tough anway.


Andrew Ng's position on Board 4 looks rough already. He's got a white knight buried in his position, doubled and weak e-pawns, his knight is rather passive. Material is even, but it looks like he's going to have to extricate himself from a messy and difficult situation.


On Board 3, Victor Shen has his Bishop dominating the center of the board at d5, and a nice white pawn center. The only issue is that he's a bout 10 minutes down on the clock.


On Board 2, Dean Ippolito is up 10 minutes on the clock, and has made the long-diagonal smashing move 16...Qa8, lining up his queen right behind his rook on a7.


Over on Board 1, Gulko and Perelshteyn have a battle of the pawn structures. Gulko's isolani versus Perelshteyn's doubled g-pawns. Gulko has some weak light-squares around his king, but without a light-squared bishop, and Perelsheyn capitalize? Clocks are pretty even.


The donut smashing video is causing discussion.


It is almost 8:00pm and there are 71, 54, 52, and 47 people observing the four boards of the Knockouts' match.


On Board 4, Andrew Ng, winner of the aformentioned 2009 US Cadet Championship, is playing Andrew Wang. Ng threw up a Sicilian and was given 3. Bb5+. He's now down on the clock, pondering his 13th move.


On Board 3, we have high school junior, PanAm Under-16 Gold Medalist, and runner up in the 2009 US Cadet Championship, Victor Shen. He's playing newly minted IM Marc Esserman, who has been a USCL phenom. He seems to win all the time. Victor is on the White side of Two Knight's Defense and is taking a long look at deciding how to recpature on his 12th move. Bishop or Pawn?


On Board 2, Dean Ippolito as Black is facing a Catalan, an opening he apparently plays a lot as White. Dean is carefully pondering his 11th move, and the commentators are wondering if he has forgotten his theory. Unlikely...


Let's go around the horn and see what's up on each board.

On Board 1, Gulko (as white) is in a topical line of the Slav Defense. His Blitz opponent just threw out 12...Qa5, and Gulko is going into a think for the first time this evening.


The room is about 85 degrees, but the heat is going off at 8pm, and it will get cold soon afterward.


Ippolito's game finally started. JS-H wasted 12 minutes on his first move. Probably transfixed by the donut smashing video.


Dean Ippolito's opponent, J. Sammour-Hasbun, has decided not to play, apparently. It has been 9 minutes and he still has not moved.


We're live from Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park NJ. We smashed a Boston Creme Blitz donut prior to the match with a hammer. You can see the video evidence on youtube.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fun Night at the KO Corral: New Jersey vs. Boston Preview

by Joseph Criscuolo

Now that the New Jersey Knockouts have officially clinched a playoff berth for the first time in their three season history, they can set their sights on their first division title. They must finish ahead of this week's opponent, the always tough Boston Blitz. This could be the match that decides who finishes first in the Eastern Division. After seven matches, both teams have won six games and not lost a single match against a division opponent, with both teams losing their only match in interleague play. Boston currently holds the lead in the tiebraker, as they have more game points with 19 against the Knockouts who have 17.5. The teams have played two USCL matches in their history, with the New Jersey Knockouts owning the better side of the 1.5-0.5 score. Last season the Knockouts defeated the Boston Blitz in week four by a score of 3-1.

The New Jersey Knockouts will field the lineup of Boris Gulko, Dean Ippolito, Victor Shen, and Andrew Ng against the Boston line up of Eugene Perelshteyn, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun, Marc Esserman, and Andrew Wang. There are many stories in this matchup. This is the first matchup without GM Joel Benjamin, who has played every game on first board this season, and has been influential in making the team what it is today as he has earned at least a draw in every game the Knockouts have won. Filling in for Joel Benjamin on board one is GM Boris Gulko, whom was asked to join the team by Joel Benjamin to join the team in the summer of 2008 when the two did a photo shoot for a local magazine; Boris Gulko was happy to join, and the rest was history. While the Knockouts top rated player isn’t playing, neither is the Boston Blitz’s top player, Larry Christiansen, who has played four games for the Blitz this season. Instead, Eugene Perelshteyn will be on board one for the Blitz. The matchup appears even, as the Knockouts are fielding higher rated players on boards one and four while the Blitz feature higher rated players on boards two and three.

GM Boris Gulko plays his first game on board one as white against GM Eugene Perelshteyn. Boris Gulko’s has won all six of his USCL games, with three of them coming from this season, two of them coming against fellow grandmasters Larry Kaufman and Pascal Charbonneau and the other one being an incredible game of the week against Oleg Zaikov. Gulko’s opponent Eugene Perelshteyn is undefeated this season in four games, with a 3.5-0.5 record.

On board two IM Dean Ippolito will face off with the black pieces against Jorge Sammour-Hasbun. The two have faced off before in the United States Chess League in a game where the Knockouts tied the Blitz in week eight of 2007, a game that Jorge Sammour-Hasbun won. This season Dean Ippolito has a record of 2.5-1.5 with two wins, one draw, and one loss, while Sammour-Hasbun has a win and a loss.

On board three, Victor Shen faces off as white against Marc Esserman. This will be Shen’s second game of the season, with the only game for Shen coming in week one with a win against Matt Herman of the New York Knights in a 2.5-1.5 win for the Knockouts. In six matches this season, Esserman has an excellent record of 4.5-1.5.

Playing as black on board four is Andrew Ng against Andrew Wang. Andrew Ng looks for his first win of the season, with his only game being a loss at board four against Eric Rosen of the Chicago Blaze. Last season, Andrew Ng had a record of 1.5-1.5 with a win, a draw, and a loss, his only win coming against Elvin Wilson of the Philadelphia Inventors. In two games, both against fourth boards of the Queens Pioneers, Andrew Wang has two wins this season.

This exciting match can be seen on the night of Monday October 19 at 7:00 PM Eastern time on the Internet Chess Club. As with all games between east coast teams, the time control will be game in 90 minutes with time increments of 30 seconds. Fans of the US Chess League can also see the Dallas Destiny play the Miami Sharks at 8:00 PM and the Chicago Blaze play the Arizona Scorpions at 9:00 PM. Those games have a big impact of the playoff picture in the US Chess League.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kapengut Annotates Win Against Uesugi

Albert Kapengut has annotated his win against
Shinsaku Uesugi. You can download the PDF of the annotations, here.

Kingfishers Get Royally Plucked by Knockouts: NJ in Playoffs!

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts made it big this week, clinching a playoff spot for the first time in team history by beating the Baltimore Kingfishers by a score of 3.5-0.5 (click here for pictures and a blow-by-blow description). The Knockouts earned wins from Boris Gulko, Albert Kapengut, and Anna Matlin and a draw from their first board Joel Benjamin, the only player on the Knockouts to have played every game this year. The Knockouts record is now 6-1 and the team must look to battle hard next week against their co-leader in the Eastern Division, the Boston Blitz, who also clinched a playoff spot this week. Benjamin and Gulko were all smiles after the completion of the match (see photo).

Joel Benjamin came into the match after a tough loss against Arizona with a nice draw against Tegshsuren Enkhbat on board one as black. The game was approximately even as there were not many opportunities for either side and was drawn by repetition after 47 moves. The draw moved the Knockouts closer to voctgory, as the match score became 1.5-0.5 at the time. The draw gives Joel Benjamin a record of 4.5-2.5 and establishes him as one of the most important and reliable players in the league, as few are capable of showing the stamina to consistently play at a high level for seven weeks in a row.

Playing on board two, Boris Gulko's record in the US Chess League remains perfect after defeating World Senior Champion Larry Kaufman on board two to keep his career record perfect at 6-0, with 3-0 this season. Not many players remain perfect after six games, let alone go undefeated, but Boris Gulko has been spectacular for the Knockouts. The game was tense, with Gulko's menacing bishops on a2 and a3 pressure Kaufman thourghout the first part of the game. Gulko kept the pressure on, but Kaufman defended tenaciously. Gulko lost a pawn after move 52. Nxf2, but this lead wouldn’t last after a nasty little tactic that left Kaufman rookless. Good players find ways to win and certainly this game was a great example of it.

Albert Kapengut defeated Shinsaku Uesugi on board three as black when Uesugi ran out of time on move 38 (see Kapengut's annotations here). Similar to the game against Pasalic, Kapengut was up on time by a lot as he had 40:20 on his clock when Uesugi’s clock went to 0:00. While there were no major advantages, the Kapengut move that caused Uesugi to lose on time was dxe3 which might have put a lot of pressure on Uesugi with not that much time remaining. Often a chess player is taught that it is better to lose on time rather than make a move that loses on the spot. Interestingly enough Uesugi could have earned a draw by simply accepting Kapengut’s earlier draw offer, but Uesugi declined and Kapengut earned more than what he expected to earn and that’s a win!

Anna Matlin defeated the higher rated Jared Defibaugh on board four in dominating fashion to earn her second win of the season. Matlin would begin her domination over Defibaugh after winning a pawn after move 23 Rxc7 and taking control of the game. Matlin was up two pawns on move 39 when she played the neat little Bxf6 and Defibaugh accepting the loss of a pawn, rather than trading the last minor pieces on the board. Not being able to stop the march of the pawns, Defibaugh resigned on move 46, giving Matlin a 2-1 record this season.

Now that the Knockouts have achieved their first goal of making the playoffs, they must now push for first place in the East next week against the Boston Blitz on Monday, October 19. The game starts at 7:00 Eastern Time and can be seen on the Internet Chess Club. Afterwards the Knockouts face two teams that are currently attempting to make the playoffs, the Philadelphia Inventors and Queens Pioneers. Most importantly, the Knockouts have guaranteed their first playoff game on Monday November 9th. This season has been a great one for the Knockouts as they have already guaranteed that they will be in the playoffs, something they were so close to the last two seasons.

NJSCF Sponsors The HomeFront Chess Marathon October 17th

IM Dean Ippolito will be giving a simul tomorrow in Princeton, all for charity! From the New Jersey State Chess Federation website...

HomeFront, an organization that raises funds to assist homeless children, will be holding a charity all day chess marathon on October 17 from 9 am to 9 pm at All Saints Episcopal Church in Princeton. IM Dean Ippolito will also be giving a simul to support the event. For more information on the event, please see the Tournaments page. Come out and show your support for chess and this worthy event. See you there!!!!

Click here for more information.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Live blog Week 7 versus Baltimore



Anna has won! New Jersey is in the playoffs for the first time in USCL history!

Here's a picture of the team before the match.


Joel's game ended in a draw by repetition. New Jersey leads 1.5-0.5. With a match win tonight, New Jersey is in the playoffs.


Kapengut has left the building. Anna and her opponent are locked in a tight endgame sruggle. Gulko the Grinder is still grinding. Joel's position is markedly better, and might head for a draw.


Kapengut wins! His opponent flagged in a complex and interesting position!


Anna has traded to a pawn up endgame. She has the two bishops against her opponent's bishop and knight.


Kapengut's opponent declined the offer, and is now pushing is queenside pawns.


Kapengut has offered a draw on board 3. A strategic offer, since he's down on material, but way up on the clock.


Wow -- this looks close. Perhaps Joel can draw on board 1, but he's low on the clock. Gulko just needs to continue to grind on board 2. Kapengut is in an interesting position, and his oppoent is very low on the clock. Anna is trying to find a better move than the one good one that's there.


Anna looks like she's in good shape. Benjamin is trying to grind out a draw. Gulko is still slowing building up.

Here's Anna before the match.


Everyone tonight wearing a different color. Anna in purple, Albert in blue, Boris in red, Joel in green.


All games are having a multitude of captures. Matlin's and Kapengut's opponents have 16 and 13 minutes on the clock left respectively, and are on move 16 and 24.


All games have gotten quite interesting. Joel Benjamin looks like he's given up the c-file to Enkhbat's powerful rook battery. Kapengut smashing open Uesagi's position. Gulko GMing Kaufman to death. Matlin tense in a sharp Scotch.


Some excellent imbalances in the Kapengut game. But Uesugi spent a LOT of time, and is way down on the clock.


Pre-match preparations... Kapengut (left) and Gulko (right) are discussing important issues relevant to many people. Ok, it was in Russian, and I don't know what was being said, but it sure looked serious.


Kapengut's game also getting interesting... looks like there might be some imbalances soon.


Looks like Matlin's game going to get tactical pretty soon. According to Kenilworthian blogger extrordinaire, Michael Goeller, Matlin has been following Kasparov-Yusupov, 1994 through 11. Qa5.


It is completely amazing to me that all of the New Jersey boards are up on time. Looks like we out-prepared the Kingfishers this week, making up for Arizona's uber-preparation that killed us last week.


Gulko's bishops look very very nasty, sitting on a2 and a3, cutting a swath down the middle of the board.


The crowds are restless... Can we see the donuts! Free the donuts! I'm wondering if I sold the pictures of the donuts to Us magazine, would they fetch a higher price than a picture of Brad and Angelina's new baby? Naw, forget it. Here they are!


Guess what? We have donuts tonight. That means invincibility. Next week, we're playing Boston, and having... you guessed it... Boston Cremes.


On Board 4, Anna Matlin puts up her 1-1 USCL record against Jared Defibaugh. As white, she played the Scotch, which she had prepared for. Joel Benjamin and Anna did some pre-match conferring on the opening -- see picture on right.


Nope... Breaking up ice... I think it was Sharon Stone.


What the heck was that noise?? It sounded like someone decided to pop some popcorn outside the playing room. I'd better investigate.


On Board 3, IM Albert Kapengut is taking on Uesugi. Kapengut has gone into his first serious think of the game. We has a typical pose for thinking, hands on both cheeks, low board, slightly hunched over the board.


On Board 2, GM Boris Gulko, and his undefeated USCL record, is playing the World Champion... No, not Anand, but instead World Senior Champion, GM Lary Kaufman. Gulko tossed out an English, but Kaufman really wasn't comfortable playing against that, and Gulko transposed into a Queen Pawn opening, which Kaufman turned into a Nimzo-Indian.

It's move 12, and Gulko has added two minutes to his clock, while Kaufman is down 20 minutes already. Gulko is relaxed, leaning back, casually staring at the board.


Let's go around the horn and see what we've got.

On Board 1, GM Joel Benjamin is playing IM Enkhbat, a USCL veteran. Benjamin has black and is playing against Enkhbat's Catalan. They are already on move 11, and Joel has a five minute advantage on the clock.


In my three years of the Knockouts' play, I cannot remember us ever being ahead on time on all four boards 20 minutes into the match. But we are. Board 2, 3, and 4 have all gained time.


Early in the match, and all players looked relaxed. Before the match started, Benjamin gave Matlin some last minute preparation; Gulko and Kapengut chatted seriously in Russian.


We're off! And the blogging has started.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Knockouts "Pun-Tinged-Verb-Meaning-'Plan-To-Defeat'" Kingfishers

by Joseph Criscuolo and Robert N. Bernard

The New Jersey Knockouts battle the Baltimore Kingfishers in a United States Chess League match that means a great deal to both teams and will determine how the Eastern Division Standings will look the next week. With last week's tragic loss to the Scorpions, the Knockouts are now tied with the Boston Blitz for first place with 5-1 records. The match that may determine who wins first place in the East will happen next Monday, but both teams have to take things game-by-game because a loss to a weaker team could negate any advantage. This week's match begins at 7:15 PM Eastern tomorrow night, Wednesday October 14, 2009.

The Knockouts face a Baltimore Kingfisher team that must approach every match like it is a playoff game. A win against Baltimore will solidify the Knockouts in the standings, as it will only allow Baltimore to tie the Knockouts at the end of the season. The Knockouts know not to take the Kingfishers lightly, as the Kingfishers are desperate. The Knockouts are employing a powerful double-GM lineup with Joel Benjamin, Boris Gulko, Albert Kapengut, and Anna Matlin against the Kingfisher lineup of Tegshsuren Enkhbat, Larry Kaufman, Shinsaku Uesugi, and Jared Defibaugh. The Baltimore Kingfishers have white on boards one and three, while the Knockouts will have black on boards two and four. Knockouts have a big advantage in rating on boards one and two, as well as a smaller advantage in rating on board three.

Playing as black on board one, GM Joel Benjamin takes on USCL veteran IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat. Benjamin looks for to rebound from his only loss this season, against Arizona's Ramirez, a game that won the USCL Game of the Week. Aside from that lone loss, Benjamin has been the Knockouts top scorer as he has dominated with points in all of his first five games; without him, who knows where the Knockouts would be?

Playing as white on board two is GM Boris Gulko who can earn an impressive 6-0 USCL player record against World Senior Champion, GM Larry Kaufman. Gulko is arguably the most dangerous board two player in the history of the US Chess League, with two big wins this season against the New York Knights and Carolina Cobras. There are definitely many teams that wish they had Boris Gulko on their first board, much less second.

On board three, famous trainer and theoretician IM Albert Kapengut faces off as black against FM Shinsaku Uesugi. Albert Kapengut made a huge difference on board three against Mehemed Pasalic of the Chicago Blaze in week five, which was the difference maker, when the Knockouts won their fifth consecutive match.

Playing as white on board four, Anna Matlin faces off against Jared Defibaugh. Defibaugh clearly owns the higher rating, but Matlin has had USCL success against higher rated players, winning upset of the week in week two against Rahul Swaminathan of the Philadelphia Inventors. Anna Matlin is currently 1-1 this season, with the one loss against Yaacov Norowitz of New York.

The match can be seen Wednesday October 14 at 7:15 PM ET at the Internet Chess Club. The Knockouts look to reserve their ticket to the playoffs and prepare for a USCL blistering barn burner next week against the Boston Blitz.

The Knockouts are sponsored by the New Jersey State Chess Federation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Joel Benjamin's Top Five Reasons

by Joel Benjamin

I guess we aren’t really invincible. Arizona played a good match and certainly deserved to win. Ramirez played a good game, finishing with a combination that was even better than I thought after the game. I went home thinking that I missed a draw on the 37th move.

Here I played 37…Nc5 and lost. Who stops an h-pawn with a knight instead of a king? It’s certainly not instinctive. I moved some pieces around on the board after the end, and found the following draw:

37...Ke6 38.Bd4! [38.h6 Kf7] 38...Kf7 39.b4 Kg8 40.Kg3 Kh7 41.Kh4 [41.Kf4 Kh6 42.Kxf5 Kxh5 43.Ke5 c5 44.Bxc5 Nc3] 41...Kh6 and Black draws by a tempo; 42.Be3+ Kh7 43.Kg5 Nc3 44.Kxf5 Nd5 45.Bd2 Kg7 and whenever White’s king runs to the queenside, I snap the b4-pawn and play Kh6.

Of course this is complete nonsense because White play 38.b3! and wins easily. 38…c5 39.bxa4 bxa4 40.Bb2! and the bishop easily copes with Black’s pawns.

But everything happens for a reason, so I present...

The Top Five Reasons Why the Knockouts Lost

5) Joel’s kindergarten students gave bad advice

4) Arizona did not play Adamson, meaning disappointed fans had no opportunity for their “Larry, Larry” serenade. [At least Mets fans will get that one]

3) Dean overdosed on Red Bull and Five Hour Energy

2) They played better than us


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Knockouts Scorped Upon by Arizona

by Joseph Criscuolo

The Knockouts suffered their first loss of the season with a win against a very hungry Arizona Scorpions who needed a win to help their playoff cause. At the end of the day, the Knockouts fell 1.0-3.0 to the Scorpions, in their last interdivision game of the regular season. However, the Knockouts will remain on top of the East and be in a tight battle with the Boston Blitz for the Eastern Division. The Knockouts also have a nice advantage of being two wins ahead of the teams tied for third. Perhaps losing is not the worst thing for the Knockouts, as the sports world has seen many teams going undefeated into big games and end up finally losing when it matters. Joel Benjamin and Dean Ippolito suffered their first losses of the seasons on boards one and two, while Mackenzie Molner and Sean Finn managed to draw their games.

The game between Joel Benjamin and Alejandro Ramirez was an Exchange Ruy Lopez that seemed to be equal for much of the tame. Then, Joel Benjamin played 33...Rg6 which gave Ramirez the opportunity to cash in on a nice combination, exchanging rooks and set up a winning endgame. This was Joel Benjamin’s first loss of the year, in what has been an impressive year for the Knockouts' top player.

Dean Ippolito would not be able to build on his success he had benefited from on board two as he fell to Rogelio Barcenilla. Barcenilla would be able to gain a pawn on move 20 which would be the difference maker in that game as it was the beginning of what would be the first lost for Ippolito this season, in what has been an impressive year. Barcenilla would be able to have an overwhelming attack that would prevent the Knockouts from going 6-0.

Mackenzie Molner appeared to have some nice chances against Daniel Rensch. There were times where he might have taken advantage of Rensch’s mistakes and potentially build a huge advantage, but in the end the two players could not gain any decisive advantages and called it a draw after 42 moves.

Sean Finn managed to get a draw in his first US Chess League game against David Adelberg. Finn too had some nice chances where he might have found a win, but could not capitalize on those opportunities and had to settle for a draw with a clearly drawn endgame after move 50.

The Knockouts return to action Wednesday October 14 against the Baltimore Kingfishers, looking to remain undefeated against Eastern Division teams. Baltimore will be fighting hard as they are on the playoff bubble and can’t afford to lose any games. Despite the loss to Arizona, the Knockouts can control their destiny in the Eastern Division when they play the Boston Blitz on Monday October 19th, in what may determine the regular season champions in the East.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Live blogging, tweeting, webcam for Arizona match!



Match over -- NJ loses 3-1.


And Joel lost, to a nice combination by his opponent in the endgame. New Jersey does not go to 6-0, and we;re in danger of losing our first match.


Dean succumbed to the pressure. New Jersey down 0-1.


Everyone in NJ is under 10 minutes on the clock. Everyone in Arizona is above 15 minutes. Yikes....


Match is very tight. We're looking good on 4, drawish on 1, bad on 2, and something crazy on 3. But isn't it always crazy with Mac's games??


Can Joel squeeze something out of this endgame? Or will it end up in a draw?


Dean and Joel have both left the room, looking for a refreshment. Dean is back now, looking at the other position. While his board is tough, he's given his opponent something to think about.


Dean is in a tough spot on Board 2. Pawns may fall soon, and he's way behind on the clock.


Joel was right. The Dunkin Donuts Box of Joe is good....


I need some coffee.


The room has more tension tonight than usual. Perhaps it is the fast time control. Perhaps it is the chance to make USCL history and go 6-0. Perhaps it is the fact that there are NO DONUTS.


On board 4, Sean Finn, in his USCL debut, is on the White side of a Sicilian. Finn is relaxed and calmly sitting at the board, looking at the compute screen.


On board 3, an opening that started out 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 ... has devolved into something very off. Mac has spent a long time figuring out how to respond to 9. e5, and he has played 9...a6, after about 19 minutes of thought.

I previously said it was a London, but I clearly didn't actually look at the moves played! It was a Trompowsky, that looks like a big mess now.


On Board 2, Dean Ippolito is hunched over the board, completely still. He's pondering what to how to respond to Nc5. Dean opened with 1. d4, and now is contending with a lot of pressure on his pawn on e4.


Let's go around the horn... On Board 1, Ramirez played an Exchange Ruy, something that is apparently unusual for him (according to the kibitzers). GM Joel has used almost 25 minutes on the first 10 moves, while Ramirez has only used 2.


Looks like New Jersey is completely being eaten by Arizona's preparatory work. Boards 1, 2, and 3 of Arizona have only used a couple minutes each of clock time.


Mac's opening is very very strange to me, but what do I know? Started off as a London, now kind of looks like Beirut.


Ah, New Jersey.... down on the clock on every board.... :-(


The match has finally started on all four boards. Board 3 was slow to start due to an admin error.


Live blogging, live tweeting, and live webcam for tonight's match with Arizona. Follow along right here!