Monday, September 28, 2009

Knockouts Preparing to Douse the Blaze

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts look to improve on their 4-0 record in their first interleague match of the season, and first match ever against the Chicago Blaze who are looking for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Chicago Blaze currently have a 1-3 record and are tied for last place in the Western Division. The New Jersey Knockouts currently lead the Eastern Division, a game up on the second place Boston Blitz, whose only loss came when they were brutally obliterated by the Dallas Destiny -- a team that is tied for last place in the West with the Blaze.

This game will be played at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, with a faster time control of 75 minutes plus a 30 second increment, instead of the more usual 90 minutes plus a 30 second increment. The New Jersey Knockouts have white at boards one and three and black at boards two and four. The Knockouts lineup of Joel Benjamin, Mac Molner, Albert Kapengut, and Andrew Ng will be going against the Blaze lineup of Jan van de Mortel, Angelo Young, Mehemed Pasalic, and Eric Rosen. While Benjamin and Molner have both played games this season, this will be the first games for Albert Kapengut and Andrew Ng.

For the fifth consecutive match, we will see Joel Benjamin on board 1, whose season record has been an impressive 3.0/4.0, with two wins and two draws. Benjamin’s points all have helped the Knockouts achieve their four wins this year. This season shows why it’s important to have a player such as Joel Benjamin on a team. His draws in weeks one and four allowed the Knockouts to defeat the New York Knights 2.5-1.5. Benjamin’s two wins in weeks two and three also were the difference makers as the wins helped decide both matches. Certainly this season Benjamin has been "Captain Clutch" for the Knockouts!

Last year, teams needed five points to make the playoffs in the East, while in the West 4.5 and a tiebreaker was good enough. Last season, the Knockouts only managed 4.5 and missed to playoffs by the smallest of margins. A win in Wednesday game’s would give them five points. Currently the Knockouts magic number to clinch a spot in the playoffs is 3.5. A loss or draw by either Queens or New York would also lower lower the Knockouts' magic number. The battle for fourth place and the final playoff spot in the East is currently being contended between the New York Knights and Queens Pioneers -- should this keep up, we will have a nice "battle of the boroughs" going down the stretch.

Let's check out the matchups, board by board.

As stated above, the Knockouts will have GM Joel Benjamin (2641) playing as white at board 1 against IM Jam de Mortel (2456). Last week, Benjamin wrote a great article about last week’s match where he went over his game, discussed Boris Gulko, and mentioned that he feels that the Knockouts will get the job done against the Blaze. Certainly on this board Benjamin should be expected to pull through with a win. Joel’s opponent, Jan van de Mortel, has a season record of 0.5-1.5 in the two games he has played.

Mackenzie Molner (2446) will be playing his second game for the Knockouts this season on board two, with the black pieces against IM Angelo Young (2325). Molner will be expected to put up a great result on board two, he started his season for the Knockouts by thrashing the Knights' Matt Herman on board three, a win that helped the Knockouts earn their fourth win. Molner’s opponent, Angelo Young, is not slouch, having a fantastic USCL season with a 3-0 record for the Blaze.

IM Albert Kapengut (2379) will be facing off as white on board 3 against IM Mehemed Pasalic (2346). This is Kapengut’s first game in the USCL. It should be a very exciting and important game for Kapengut, who is no newcomer to chess, winning the Belarus Chess Championship seven times. Aside from playing, Kapengut has been a very successful chess teacher and coach -- one of the best players he has taught is Chicago Blaze’s top player Yury Shulman. For Chicago, Mehmed Pasalic will be playing his fourth game of the year, and has a record of 1-2 this season.

Playing as black on the Knockouts' board four is Andrew Ng (2182) against Chicago's Eric Rosen (2164.) Andrew Ng is having a great year in his chess career, winning the US Chess Cadet Championship over teammate Victor Shen last summer with a record of 5.5-1.5 with 4 wins, 3 draws, and no losses. This game will be Andrew Ng’s first game for the Knockouts this season and fourth game in his USCL career. Last season, Andrew Ng went 1.5-1.5, with 1 win, 1 loss, and 1 draw, the a win occurring in his first game against Elvin Wilson of the Philadelphia Inventors in a 3-1 win for the Knockouts. This game will be the US Chess League debut for Eric Rosen.

This matchup between the New Jersey Knockouts and Chicago Blaze can be seen on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) on Wednesday September 30th at 8:00 PM on the Internet Chess Club (ICC.) The games should be exciting as the Knockouts fight to stay at the top and the Blaze fight to try to stay alive in the West.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Geld Medal Performance (by Joel Benjamin)

by Joel Benjamin

Payback is sweet.

To paraphrase my good friend HOF GM Johnny (who the NY Knights have not let out of the stable yet), I have nothing against the Knights; I just hate them. It has already been pointed out that Giorgi Kacheishvili is a gentleman of the highest order, and the same is certainly true about Pascal Charbonneau. [Perhaps not true about Fed, but I like him anyway.] But really, after they quashed our playoff plans two years in a row, it is intensely satisfying to sweep them this year. [Good thing we got them early this season. Apparently the Gothamites don’t wake up until about round six.]

With limited time for blogging due to all my teaching, writing and daddying responsibilities, I usually focus on my own game of the match. But I don’t really want to say too much about my game with Kacheishvili.

It seems Giorgi didn’t pay much attention to the thrashing his countryman Mchedlishvili (I’m glad I just have to write that and not pronounce it) suffered at the hands of Nigel Short and didn’t prepare for 2.Ne2 in the Caro-Kann. I was handed a winning position on a silver platter, a pawn up for absolutely nothing. The only problem was choosing between a vast array of delicacies, which for some reason is difficult for me.

I think I did okay until move 18, when Bxf7+ would have led to an easily winning position, or even better, 18.Rxf7!. I was actually quite proud of 18.Bc2, thinking that Black had no chance to survive my kingside attack, but I overlooked some nuances (21…Bxc3 for starters) and soon I wasn’t winning anymore. I probably had some way to at least maintain an edge, but when you get in bad time pressure (for no particular reason) you can’t expect to find subtleties. Shortly before the end Giorgi tendered a pretty reasonable draw offer which I didn’t even notice until after I moved. We headed into that direction anyway, with an unusual perpetual check.

[I think Giorgi and I had only played once despite competing in several tournaments together for many years. Now we’ve played three times in one month!]

This is what I really want to talk about. Boris...Gulko. I want to put an adjective in the middle of his name, one with a few asterisks followed by a gerund. Anybody read the King’s Gambit by Paul Hoffman? Remember the nickname he mentioned for Rustam Kasimdzhanov? Well, that’s what I want to call Boris. After beating Pascal in an awesome game, Bo is now 5-0 for the Knockouts. It’s true that four of those games were whites, and he hasn’t had to play on board one, but his opposition hasn’t been too shabby and he’s won most of those games easily. This one certainly wasn’t easy. Pascal missed a kibitzer-pleasing miracle draw late in the game...

Instead of 55.Nf5, 55.Nd5!! forces Black to acquiesce to a stalemate.

But still, Boris was winning a move earlier with 54…Nf2 (instead of 54…Ke6). And the way Boris constructed a mating attack with so few pieces was impressive.

When Boris and I did a photo shoot for a local magazine last summer, I decided to ask him to join the Knockouts. I didn’t know what to expect; would he feel invested in the team, would he thrive in the Internet milieu? I figured we had nothing to lose with a player of his caliber, but I have to admit, I did not expect total domination.

Boris is so awesome, he’s really awe-a lot. I think he deserves a cool nickname. As the one who dubbed Alex Yermolinsky “the Yerminator,” I think I’m the right man for the job. Boris arrives for each game wearing the traditional head covering for Orthodox Jewish males. Therefore, he is “the Yarminator.” All bow before his awesome power.

Anna Matlin played a nice game against Norowitz, but like our first board, took way too much time on her moves. Matt Herman seems to be a player that thrives in wild, complicated positions, but he played a stronger version of himself. You just don’t get into a street fight with Molner, or you wind up the victim of a Big Mac Attack.

Next week we try for 5-0, staying up late for the Chicago Blaze. I’m not much for trash talking, but I believe we will get the job done, even if we have to face a lineup of four Ditkas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

K vs K, USCL Style: Knockouts Win Again!

Forget Valencia.... The real K versus K battle took place last night in the fourth week of the United States Chess League, where the New Jersey Knockouts defeated the New York Knights a the second time this season for their fourth consecutive win. The Knockouts remain the only undefeated, untied team this year, improving their record to an impressive 4-0. With the win, the Knockouts hold a one game lead in the Eastern division over the Boston Blitz, who are 3-1. The Knockouts got wins from Boris Gulko and Mackenzie Molner, while Joel Benjamin scored a draw. The win also kept the New York Knights on the playoff bubble, and if the playoffs were to begin today, we would see a third matchup between the first place Knockouts and fourth-place Knights.

The match between these Hudson River rivals wasn’t the only major chess event today. Earlier, old rivals Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov faced off in Valencia, Spain. Not many chess players have beaten Kasparov, but one of the heroes of yesterday's USCL match, Boris Gulko, has beaten both of them, including a win over then World Champion Kasparov at Linares, 1990 (click here for the game).

The match was highlighted by a number of missed opportunities by both teams.

On board 1, Joel Benjamin has the white pieces, and managed to draw Giorgi Kacheishvili, giving him an impressive season record of 3-1. Benjamin was winning for much of the game, and 18.Rxf7! would have sealed the deal. However, he was unable to hold the win when he ran into time trouble. The game eventually was drawn by repetition on move 41. The draw was good enough for the Knockouts, as they would get their two wins they needed on the middle two boards.

On board 2, Boris Gulko played as black, and defeated Pascal Charbonneau to improve his career USCL record to 5-0. Gulko managed to gain a winning advantage on move 47 when he had a beautiful mating attack working for him that allowed him to win a bishop. In a wild turn of events on move Gulko's 54...Ke6? would have given a clear draw to Charbonneau, had he played the beautiful stalemate trick played 55. Nd5, but instead the knight went to f5, giving the game back to Gulko. They would play on until move 60 where Charbonneau finally resigned. This is Charbonneau's second loss this year against the Knockouts.

On board 3, Mackenzie Molner made his 2009 USCL debut as white and defeated Matt Herman in a wild tactical melee. It looked as Molner would easily win the match when Molner won the exchange on move 12, however things evened up on move 21 when he castled kingside on and gave away a bishop. After some more exchanges Molner missed a mate in three, but skewered Herman’s rook, which still gave Molner a clear advantage. Herman would resign on move 33.

On board 4, Anna Matlin played as black and lost to Yaacov Norowitz, who was over 300 points higher than her. Norowitz played the Stonewall formation, something that he recently lectured at the Kenilworth Chess Club. The Stonewall is something many can see when he blitzes on ICC. The game was pretty much even, as Matlin put up a strong fight against her higher rated opponent, until move 34 when she played e3, losing a pawn and that was enough for Norowitz to win the game. Still, a strong showing by Matlin who won upset of the week a few games ago.

The next game is Wednesday September 30, when the Knockouts face the Chicago Blaze at 8:00 pm in their first interleague game this season. As always the games can be watched on the Internet Chess Club. The Chicago Blaze is currently 1-3 in the Western Division. Other games of interest include Monday’s matchup which features the second place Boston Blitz who are battling the Knockouts for first place in the East, and the Baltimore Kingfishers who need the win to keep ahead of the New York Knights and Queens Pioneers, who play Wednesday. The New York Knights likely are better than what their record indicates.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Live Tweeting and Webcam Tonight

I am going to be Live Tweeting the match tonight. Join the NJ Knockouts on Twitter at...


Also, there will be a live webcam tonight as well. Watch it at...


We hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Knockouts to Beat Dead Horse

by Joseph Criscuolo and Robert N. Bernard

In Week 1 of the USCL, the New York Knights put together the lineup of Kacheishvili, Charbonneau, Herman, and Norowitz, against the New Jersey Knockouts, and were defeated. They have elected to resurrect that dead horse and use that same losing lineup against the Knockouts in this week's rematch of that first week encounter. As New Jersey resident Yogi Berra might say, "It's deja vu all over again."

The first place New Jersey Knockouts will try to maintain their perfect record against a team they have already beaten the New York Knights. This matchup will have a major impact on how the second half of the season will flow, as a Knockouts' win will place them in a nice spot to clinch a playoff berth and keep the Knights in the bottom half of the standings. A Knights' win will put them half a game behind first place, setting up for a close battle in the second half of the season for the top of the division, and a possible rematch in the playoffs.

The Knights finally won their first match week when they defeated the Queens Pioneers 3.5-0.5. While the Horsies are using the same lineup, only Joel Benjamin returns for the Knockouts, playing first board. Boris Gulko, Mackenzie Molner, and Anna Matlin round out the remainder of the lineup for the Knockouts. Boris Gulko had an exciting debut in his first game of the season last week, winning a well deserved game of the week.

Playing as white on board 1 is GM Joel Benjamin (2641) against GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (2666). In week 1, they drew their game when Kacheishvili played as white. Joel Benjamin has put up an amazing performance for the Knockouts posting 2.5 points in 3 games. Joel Benjamin won his second game of the season last week against Johnathan Schroer of the Carolina Cobras, and those on ICC can see him review his game on ICC with his ICC Game of the Week radio show.

Playing as black on board 2 is GM Boris Gulko (2609) who will be facing GM Pascal Charbonneau (2560). Boris Gulko looks to remain undefeated in his US Chess League Career, with his all time record now standing at 4-0. Boris Gulko won the USCL Game of the Week prize last week with unbelievable play against Oleg Zaikov of the Carolina Cobras.

Playing his first game of the season as white on board 3 is Mackenzie Molner (2446) against Herman (2275). Molner had 5 points in 8 games last season and has previously played for the New York Knights in 2006, a year before the Knockouts inaugural season.

Playing as black on board 4 is Anna Matlin (2003) who is facing famous ICC blitzer Yaacov Norowitz (2354). Anna Maitlin was heroic in her first game for the Knockouts, defeating Rahul Swaminathan of Philadelphia on board 4 to deliver the win for the Knockouts as well as taking home Endgame Clothing's upset of the week award. A win or draw for Matlin will most likely win her upset of the week again, as Norowitz is 351 rating points over her. Placing Norowitz on board 4 was an interesting roster choice for the Knights, as he is 79 points higher than board 3, Matt Herman.

This exciting rematch be seen this Wednesday September 23 at 7:00 PM on ICC. With both teams fielding 2 GMs expect 2 close games on the top boards as well as the future of New Jersey chess in Molner and Matlin! And if you can’t get enough chess, there are four other USCL matchups that night for you to enjoy!

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Jersey Kicks Carolina's Asp!

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts take first place in the Eastern Division of the United States Chess League after defeating the Carolina Cobras 3-1 with exciting wins by Joel Benjamin, Boris Gulko, and Dean Ippolito.
Arthur Shen had a solid game until losing the thread when in time trouble. The win propels Knockouts' record to 3-0, taking sole first place when the Boston Blitz were swept by the Dallas Destiny 0-4, in a new Boston Massacre. The win also drops the defending division champion Carolina Cobras to 0-3, leaving them in the cellar of the East. The highlight of the match was Boris Gulko’s first game the season, which will definitely be a top nominee for game of the week and definitely deserves its own article. The Knockouts look to go an amazing 4-0 when they play the New York Knights in a rematch of the season opener which saw the Knockouts' amazing start to the season.

Due to technical problems with a server creating a beeping noise in the computer room in which they normally play, the games were moved to another room, which wasn’t a problem at all for the Knockouts as they never suffered any disconnections. Unfortunately for the Cobras, they had 3 disconnects at 3 different boards with Benjamin, Ippolito, and Shen, with each player getting an added 2 minutes to their games. Joel Benjamin also got an additional 2 minutes when a Schroer sent Benjamin a draw offer early in their game.

Joel Benjamin’s game was the last one to finish and the one that decided the match. Joel Benjamin’s win against IM Jonathan Schroer gave him a season record of 2.5 out of 3, which is something a great board 1 player can do. The game was close until Jonathan Schroer played 26. Qg2 this allowed Benjamin to win a crucial pawn. Benjamin took that advantage and fought hard in the end game, where his two passed pawns in the center were too much for Schroer.

Boris Gulko’s game against FM Oleg Zaikov was nothing short of legendary. Playing as white in his first game of the year, he would make moves many ordinary players would never conceive. On move 27 he would sacrifice the exchange for a pawn. Move 30, he traded his queen for two rook. On move 32, the game was materially rather unbalanced; Gulko had two bishops, a rook, and five pawns against Zaikov's queen, knight, and four pawns, and had a winning position! Not only that he had 44 minutes while Zaikov had 8 minutes. Zaikov played hopelessly as his queen could not do anything to stop Gulko’s beautiful combination. On move 42, Zaikov resigned, as the only way to save his king would be to play Kg7 which loses his queen after Bc4+. Calling it game of the week would be an understatement. Gulko was serene the entire game, seeming to be able to see these moves quickly, while Zaikov had to use most of his time to be outmatched by Gulko's legendary play.

Dean Ippolito has had a great start to the season and has no signs of slowing down. Dean Ippolito defeated FM Ron Simpson at board 3 as black, improving to an impressive record of 2.5 out of 3 games! Ippolito would gain control of the game early and never look back, winning an exchange at move 18. Following the principles of trading when having a lead in material, Dean Ippolito traded queens right away on the next move and didn’t look back. Just as things looked to be shifting towards Simpson’s favor, he played 32 Kb3? Which Ippolito responded with d5, with Simpson being unable to capture the pawn because of two major pins, the b4 pawn (covering the King) and the Bishop at d4 (covering the Rook,) this would win Ippolito the bishop and force a trade of rooks. The final blow was when Ippolito promoted his h pawn to queen, as Simpson would be unable to promote any of his pawns without preventing mate. Simpson resigned after move 44 with a mating combination that Simpson could not prevent.

In his second USCL game, Arthur Shen came up short again against Craig Jones. However Shen played solidly for most of the game. Late in the game Shen had slightly worse, but tenable position, but he would face time trouble and lose give up queen with less than a minute on his clock. Despite losing, the young Arthur Shen showed that he can become a competitive player in the USCL and he will certainly have a bright chess career.

The New Jersey Knockouts return to action Wednesday September 23 at 7:00 pm on ICC when they take on the New York Knights in a rematch of the first week's action. They continue their quest to win their first four matches and just as important, take away points from their division rivals who would love to take down the top team in the East.

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

Follow the Knockouts on Twitter!

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Live Blogging: Week 3 vs. Carolina


Joel Benjamin wins it at board 1! The win improves the Knockouts record to 3-0 and Benjamin's record to 2.5 out of 3. Next match is next Wednesday September 23 as they rematch against the New York Knights with hopes of the season sweep.


Arthur Shen resigns on board 4 after a tough battle. Its all up to Joel Benjamin now.


Benjamin is tense as he looks to finish the match with a win.


In time trouble, Arthur Shen loses his queen for a rook on move 35.


Joel Benjamin looks to finish off Schroer at board 1. Both have atleast 3 minutes of time.
Arthur Shen and Jones are in a close battle with both in time trouble.


Its up to Joel Benjamin and Arthur Shen, should either one win or draw, the Knockouts will be 3-0 for the season! The webcam now focuses on Benjamin and Shen, watch them battle it out at


NJ 2-0 Dean Ippolito defeated Ron Simpson on board 2. Ippolito's win improves his record to an impressive 2.5 out of 3 games, the win also ensures that the Knockouts are undefeated after 3 games! The Knockouts need at least a draw to win the match.


Ippolito has promotes his pawn to queen on move 43!


Joel Benjamin flinched as Schroer played Kg2.


Ippolito moves his pawn to h2, that pawn will be a queen really soon.


Ippolito moves rook to a7 to block Simpson's "a" pawn.


Ippolito moves his h pawn to h4, knowing that pawn can not be stopped!


Getting close to the end here, the player's times looks like this.
On board 1 Joel Benjamin has 3:18 left against Schroer's 8:21
Boris Gulko defeated Zaikov on board 2 giving NJ a score of 1-0
On board 3 Dean Ippolito has 11:34 left against Simpson's 8:00
On board 4 Arthur Shen has 4:40 vs Jones 11:37


Ippolito and Simpson trade rooks, leaving Ippolito with a Rook and 4 pawns vs 5 pawns. Things looking good for Ippolito.


On move 32 Simpson plays Kb3? allowing Ippolito to play c5! taking advantage of the pinned bishop and pinned b4 pawn! Ippolito would win the bishop on d4 and has the game under control!


Joel Benjamin make a bold move on move 24, playing fxe4.


Game between Ippolito and Simpson appears to be getting more closer than Ippolito wanted.


Gulko wins his game on board 2 with a Zaikov resigning. Gulko seemed really excited about his nice win, which certainly is one of the most exciting matches this season. 1-0 NJ


Gulko uses time to his huge time advantage on move 40 with hopes to find a winning combination.


3 hours in and no game has been determined yet. Ippolito holds a lead against Simpson, while Gulko is playing one of the most exciting games of the night.


Gulko's game is getting very interesting, on the board and on the clock. Gulko has an enormous time advantage of 43 minutes against 3:44 as well as a nice bishop pair.


Ippolito and Simpson trade queens. Things look good for Ippolito.


Boris Gulko trades his queen for 2 rooks!


On board 4 for Carolina has disconnected, giving Arthur Shen an extra 2 minutes
Zaikov down to 8 minutes against Gulko's 51


2 hour 30 minutes into the match and the Knockouts up on time big on the top 3 boards. Gulko has the biggest lead in time, having 51 minutes against Zuikov's 14 minutes.


Arthur Shen plays Nc5 on move 20, forking the queen and bishop of Jones.
Gulko responds to 28.....Qe6 with 29.Qxb7


Carolina disconnected on boards 1 and 3, Benjamin and Ippolito both receive an extra 2 minutes.


Everyone takes a look at Gulko's game, while Gulko may be down the exchange he has a manageable position as well as some nice opportunities on the board if Zaikov isn't careful.


In a comfortable position, Dean Ippolito has Simpson's knight pinned at e7 after making Re8 at move 17.


Boris Gulko sacrifices the exchange against Zaikov on move 27.


The NJ Knockouts cam now focuses on GM Boris Gulko as he plans his 27th move. Also in sight is Dean Ippolito. Angle will change at 9:30


Ippolito looks like he was in deep thought as he makes the move Nxd4


Very quiet and composed room right now, Gulko and Ippolito both are on their move right now.


After making his 18th move Arthur Shen gets up and walks around. Also standing is Joel Benjamin


Here is some information on moves made and time remaining for each player
17 moves in Joel Benjamin has 52 minutes while Schroer has 47
23 moves in Boris Gulko has 66 minutes while Zaikov has 38
14 moves in Dean Ippolito has 48 minutes while Simpson has 47
17 moves in Arthur Shen has 49 minutes while Jones has 49 as well

Unusual, since the Knockouts tend to be behind on time.


No players standing up right now as all of them on the clock.


Live NJ webcam shows one of our spectators, an iguana!


Boris Gulko appears to be relaxed while playing. After thinking about his move for 7 minutes he plays 20. e4 and responds to Ne7 with 21. d4 in 6 seconds.


After 26 minutes, Dean Ippolito has decided to play Bxg4 gaining a pawn and gets up from his seat as he waits for Simpson's next move.


The computer room where they normally play chess has been known to be freezing cold, today's game had to be played in a different room and has not been anything close to freezing.


Dean Ippolito has been deciding his 13th move for quite a while, he's been thinking his next move for about 20 minutes and hasn't gotten up from his seat as he thinks his move.


Joel Benjamin makes his move a5 and gets up to walk around.


Rob Bernard performs an amazing act of stuffing 5 donuts into his mouth on web cam. Of course the Knockout players don't notice as they are concentrating on their games closely.


While Joel, Dean, and Arthur have gotten up to walk around while playing Boris Gulko has been sitting the entire time. He looks determined to win this match.


Dean Ippolito took a good look at the board before playing Be6.


The Knockouts are playing in a other than the room the normally play in. Unfortunately, the server in the room they play in wouldn't stop beeping creating a room unsuitable for chess. Fortunately the room they're in now is perfect to play in.


Fans can view the New Jersey Knockouts live via webcam! Just visit


On board 1, Joel Benjamin has played the Kings Indian Defense vs Schroer.
Board 2, Boris Gulko decided to play the English Opening
On board 3, Dean Ippolito has elected to play the Petrov's Defense against Simpson
Finally on board 4, we see Arthur Shen has faced the French Defense


Games all just started and Jonathan Schroer sent a draw offer, this might have been a mouseslip, who knows?


Live blogging tonight from the New Jersey Knockouts' match against Carolina! Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

PREVIEW: Knockouts to Charm Cobras Monday

by Joseph Criscuolo

If the New Jersey Knockouts want to go to 3-0, they will have to make life miserable for the 0-2 Carolina Cobras. The Knockouts appear to really want to go 3 for 3, with the Knockouts out-rating the Cobras significantly on the top 3 boards. The exciting lineup for the Knockouts has 2 GMs, the always dangerous Joel Benjamin and the legendary Boris Gulko at board two. If that isn’t enough, we get to see the NJ State Champion Dean Ippolito on the third board! Finally, young and upcoming star for the Knockouts Arthur Shen will be playing on board 4.

Certainly the Knockouts want this match - the playoffs may not be enough for them - they definitely want more. Certainly, they won’t be completely satisfied until they win the United States Chess League Championship. Looking at the playoff picture, last year the Knockouts would have needed 5 points to make the playoff, they had 4.5 and failed. This year, having 3 wins in the first 3 games would give them 7 games to get only 2 more, which is something they easily can achieve.

On board 1 we have GM Joel Benjamin as black facing off against IM Jonathan Schroer. Joel Benjamin has been great for the Knockouts, winning on board 1 last week against GM Sergey Kudrin. Benjamin is worried about being considered the favorites for every game, but this is a game where if everyone gets the job done, the Knockouts will be 3-0.

On board 2 we have the legendary GM Boris Gulko as white facing off against FM Oleg Zaikov. This is Boris Gulko’s first game of the season. Last year he had three wins in three games. With such a rating difference between Zaikov and Gulko, look for Gulko to do what the Knockouts need him to do.

On board 3, we have IM Dean Ippolito as black facing off against FM Ron Simpson. Ippolito has been solid this year, with 1 win and 1 draw. A player like Dean Ippolito at board 3 is never a good thing for an opponent, and ratings suggest Ippolito may be too much for Simpson.

On board 4, we have Arthur Shen, as white, facing off against NM Craig Jones. This is the second match for the young Shen, who looks for his first win in the USCL. This is the only board where the Cobras have a rating advantage, but the young Shen is ready for the challenge.

The game is on Monday September 14 at 7:00 pm on ICC as always. Be there to see if the Knockouts can do what they should do, win their third match of the year.

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

Follow the Knockouts on Twitter!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Inventing a Path To Victory

by Joel Benjamin

The Knockouts win again! It sure didn’t look that way for a long time. Dean, after getting a very good opening, found himself in a potentially desperate situation before holding the balance with some nimble bishop maneuvers. Aviv had a terrific opening as well, but hallucinated once to lose a pawn, and a second time in what looked to be a drawn rook ending. Anna actually had the best winning chances for a good while, but her position looked only even until she took control of the d-file and the game. And finally, there was a bit of thievery off Route 23.

Joel Benjamin -Sergey Kudrin [B52]

USCL (2), 08.09.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Nxd7 5.0–0 e6

Until this game I wondered why Sergey always did this in

stead of the more obvious 5…Ngf6.

6.c4 Be7 7.Nc3 a6 8.d3 Rc8

He’s trying to deter the typical kingside attacking plan after 8…Ngf6 9. Ng5 h6 10.Nh3 0-0 11.f4. To that end, the best way to wait might be 9.Be3.

9.b3 Bf6 10.Bb2

Originally I planned 10.d4 cxd4 11.Nxd4, intending to meet 11…b5 with 12.Ndxb5!? axb5 13.Nxb5. Alas, after 13…Rc6 DIAGRAM, I just didn’t see enough compensation for the piece.

It can be a bit embarrassing to sack all your pieces and resign in a team event. Unfortunately, the bishop doesn’t really belong on b2, where it can create pin opportunities for Black.

10...Ne7 11.d4 cxd4 12.Nxd4 0–0 13.Qd2 Nc5 14.Rad1

I didn’t agonize over whether I should prevent d6-d5, because I didn’t notice the possibility until after I made this quick move.


Grrr. Now I have to start calculating already.

15.exd5 exd5 16.Qe2

I thought 16.b4 Ne6 (16...Ne4 is playable, but perhaps weaker) 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.cxd5 exd5 would be about equal, and I wanted more.


I didn’t see this move at all. I calculated 16...dxc4 17.Ne6 Nxe6 18.Rxd8 Rfxd8 19.bxc4 Nd4 and then I move my queen somewhere and play 20.Ne4—I can only be better in that position. Also 16...Re8 17.Qf3 dxc4 18.Nf5 Qc7 (18...Nd3 19.bxc4) 19.Nd6 is better for me.


17.Nf3 was a safer choice, as after Qe6 18.Qxe6 Nxe6 I can simply play 19.cxd5. I had visions of this knight coming to e3 and doing damage, but… 17...Qe6!

Ouch. For some reason, I can never predict what Sergey is going to do. If 18.Qxe6 Nxe6 I’m a pin cushion. And 18.Ne3 d4 19.Ncd5 dxe3 20.Nxf6+ gxf6 21.fxe3 Ne4 just loses a piece for nothing. 18.Qf3 dxc4 19.Rfe1 Qf5 is also bad. I think I found the best move.

18.Rfe1 Qxe2 19.Rxe2 dxc4 20.bxc4 Rfd8 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8 22.g3

Black has an optical advantage because my pawns are split, but b7 can be attacked, too. Still, it’s hard to see at this point how Black can lose.

22…Nc6 23.Ba3 Bxc3 24.Bxc5 f6 25.Ne3


It doesn’t appear that Black has done anything wrong until this move, but there are a lot of better moves. 25…Nd4 26.Bxd4 Rxd4 27.Nd5 is dead equal. Black can probably still press a bit with 25…Ne5. Kudrin may have been simplifying in view of the match situation, which probably looked good for them at that moment. But it only makes White’s position easier.

26.Rxd2 Bxd2 27.Nf5

Now 1-0 at least becomes a realistic possibility. Still something like 27…Bb4 looked like a sure draw to me.


Within a minute or so I realized that this move is so bad White may already be winning. I don’t think the endgame is Sergey’s specialty, but I feel his pain. A few days earlier I took a superior bishop v. knight endgame against Jay Bonin and butchered in so badly on the way to making the time control that I was immediately lost. I resolved to learn from my mistakes and channel my inner Bonin.

28.cxb5 axb5 29.Nd6 b4

29...Bb4 30.Bxb4 Nxb4 31.a3 simply costs Black a pawn, so now I have a juicy target to go for.

30.Kf1 Bc3 31.Nb5 Ba1 32.Ke2

I considered 32.f4 Kf7 33.Ke2 ( 33.f5!?) Ke6 34.Kd3 Kd5? 35.Bf8 g5 36.Nc7 and checkmate, grandmaster! But 34…Kf5 didn’t seem so easy, so I decided to Keep It Simple, Stupid.

32...Kf7 33.Kd3 Ke6 34.Kc4 Ne5+ 35.Kxb4 Kd5 36.Be3 Ng4 37.h3

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I guess 37.a4 is even simpler, because the a-pawn should queen if he grabs my a-pawn.

37...Nxe3 38.fxe3 Be5

There’s no time to penetrate: 38...Ke4 39.a4 Be5 40.a5 Bxg3 41.a6 Bb8 42.Kc5 and a new girl is on her way.


Get back!

39…Kc6 40.g4 g6 41.e4

No pawn trades, please.

41…Bd4 42.Kc4 Be5 43.Nb5 Bg3 44.a3!?

I wanted to see where he would put his bishop. Black has a good plan to draw this game: Run the king over to grab/trade pawns and sac the bishop for my a-pawn. The problem is, I’ll never let him give up the bishop for the pawn!

44…Bf2 45.Nd4+ Kd6 46.Nf3 Kc6 47.a4 Bb6 48.Ne1

I’m starting to see why Bonin likes those knights so much.

48…Bc7 49.Nd3 Bd8 50.Nc5 Bb6 51.Ne6 h5 52.gxh5 gxh5 53.Ng7 Kd6 53...h4 54.Nf5 Bf2 55.a5 Black has to let my king come to b5 due to Zugswang.

54.Kb5! Bf2 55.Nxh5 Ke5 56.a5 Bd4 57.a6 f5

Or 57...Kxe4 58.Nxf6+!

58.exf5 Kxf5 59.Ng3+ Ke6 60.Kc6 1–0

I have just one request for all the prognosticators. Please pick Carolina to win 3-1! So far that has been our good luck charm. Don’t anybody say we’re going to win next week. We like being the underdogs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Knockouts Patently Infringe Inventors, 2.5 - 1.5

by Robert N. Bernard and Joseph Criscuolo

In the computer room of the Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, New Jersey (photo, right), the New Jersey Knockouts took down the Philadelphia Inventors Tuesday night by a score of 2.5-1.5 with wins coming from captain Joel Benjamin and upcoming star Anna Matlin. Dean Ippolito drew his game at board two. The win puts the Knockouts on top of the East with a 2-0 record, while putting the inventors at the bottom, looking up, with a 0-2 record. The Knockouts look to go 3-0 next Monday when they face the defending Eastern division champion Carolina Cobras in week three of US Chess League action.

The match started strangely, with Phildelphia's manager Alex Lenderman foregoing his advantage of the first move, by playing 1. a3 (photo, left, taken a few moves later). New Jersey's board two, IM Dean Ippolito had just won the New Jersey state championship the night before, calmly won a pawn, but then got into somewhat uncomfortable position, despite the material advantage. With Ippolito's time running down, Lenderman quixotically offered a draw, which Ippolito declined, but then made an offer, which, after a few minutes thought, Lenderman accepted. The draw gives Ippolito a season record of 1.5-0.5 in two games.

New Jersey's alternate Aviv Friedman, scraped off the rust, and began his season for the Knockouts with a loss on board three against Tom Bartell, who had tied with Ippolito in the New Jersey state championship the previous day. Friedman would battle on to the very end, resigning after move 60 after being unable to promote a pawn before Bartell did (see photo below, clockwise from top, Friedman, Ippolito, Matlin).

The score was then 1.5 - 0.5 in favor of the Inventors. But, the tides would soon turn.

Fourth board, and USCL and New Jersey rookie Anna Matlin would prove to be the difference maker in this match. Playing the first USCL game in her promising chess career, she would defeat Rahul Swaminathan. Matlin played a Sicilian Kan and was in a tough position after the opening, having to concede that her dark-squared bishop was badly placed, as Swaminathan enjoyed a confortable space advantage. Matlin ground hard in the middle game, eventually winning the pawn she needed in the endgame on move 34. She exchanged into a won king-and-pawn endgame, with Swaminathan resigning after move 50. This game would prove why a team needs to be good on all boards!

The match was then tied 1.5 to 1.5. It was all up to the veteran captain Benjamin.

Benjamin and Kudrin played a tight game (photo, right). The spectators on the Internet Chess Club were commented that one slight misstep on either side would cost the game. The game was equal in material until Benjamin gained the pawn he needed on move 35. Benjamin would win another pawn in the endgame. On move 60, with his pawns on the a-file and h-file, and a knight against Kudrin's lonely bishop, Kudrin realized that his time was up and resigned. Thus, the match was clinched for New Jersey.

After the match, Benjamin proclaimed that the Knockouts resilient and tenacious play carried the day, as only Matlin had decent winning chances for the majority of the match. The Knockouts were all smiles after the match (see photo below, left to right, Aviv Friedman, Anna Matlin, Joel Benjamin, Dean Ippolito).

The Knockouts take on the Carolina Cobras Monday September 14 at 7:00 pm on ICC. Going 3-0 would be big for them, as a strong start can help the Knockouts cause of solidifying their first playoff bid. Last year the Cobras defeated the Knockouts in week 8, a loss that would cost them the season. The Knockouts look to avenge that defeat in what should be an exciting matchup!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Week 2 Preview: Knockouts to Steal Inventors' Intellectual Property

by Joseph Criscuolo and Robert N. Bernard
In week two, the New Jersey Knockouts look to floor the Philadelphia Inventors in what should be an exciting matchup, this Tuesday, September 8th, at 7:00 pm. The Knockouts began their season on the right foot, defeating the New York Knights 2.5 to 1.5. The Philadelphia Inventors, on the other hand, started with a defeat by the Tennessee Tempo by an indentical score, and hope not to go to 0-2 this week. Now, the battle of New Jersey vs. Philadelphia is in gear, with the all-New Jersey studded lineup going against the team apparently representing Philadelphia. New Jersey will keep their first two boards intact with Joel Benjamin and Dean Ippolito on boards one and two. With boards three and four, New Jersey will have FM Aviv Friedman and young Anna Matlin.

On board one, Joel Benjamin faces off against GM Sergey Kudrin. Those two have played two draws previously in the USCL (in 2007 and 2008). Benjamin will look to change that for the better when he puts up a good fight against Kudrin. Benjamin will be playing as white.

For board two, IM Dean Ippolito will look to repeat his winning ways against Philadelphia manager and weekly commuter IM Alex Lenderman. Lenderman was last year's USCL MVP. Ippolito won game of the week last week, winning with two knights on the board against a pawn against a previous USCL MVP, GM Pascal Charbonneau, with a limited amount of time left on his clock. Ippolito will be playing as black.

On board three, alternate FM Aviv Friedman takes on FM Tom "Benedict" Bartell. Bartell was a New Jersey Knockouts team member back in 2007 with Friedman, before defecting to Philadelphia. Friedman will be playing his first game since 2007, where he went 1.0/3.0. Expect him to change this when he plays Bartell as white.

On board four, we have the first game of young and talented Anna Matlin (right, photo by Ted Wu), the second player to play their first USCL game this year. Matlin will be playing Rahul Swaminathan as black. With so many young players such as Anna Matlin and Arthur Shen, you can expect the New Jersey Knockouts to keep on getting better.

Game time is at 7:00 pm Tuesday, the games can be seen on the Internet Chess Club as always, and games can always be attended at the Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, as the Knockouts fully support having true chess fans at our games. As our games wind down and Philadelphia fans mourn, stay tuned on the ICC for more great USCL matchups as fan favorite Hikaru Nakamura’s Seattle Sluggers face off against our week one victims, the New York Knights.

The Knockouts are sponsored by the New Jersey State Chess Federation, and the USCL is generously sponsored by

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Joel Benjamin on Week 1's Victory

Captain of the Knockouts, GM Joel Benjamin has published an article in Chess Life Online about the Knockouts' stunning come-from-behind victory over the hapless New York "3-1" Knights.

You can read GM Joel's article here.

Perhaps the Knights would have better luck playing a different game on the USCL's generous sponsor

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Knockouts Geld the Knights, 2.5 - 1.5

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts opened the season on the right foot, by getting their revenge by knocking out the New York Knights by a score of 2.5-1.5 with two wins coming from Dean Ippolito and Victor Shen and a draw by Joel Benjamin. Also Arthur Shen began his promising career in the US Chess League. The win gives them a team record of 1-0 with hopes of adding another early win against the Philadelphia Inventors next Tuesday who lost by a score of 1.5-2.5 against the Tennessee Tempo. For those who can’t get enough of this rivalry, the Knockouts will make life even worse for the Knights when they play them again on September 23.

Playing as white, Joel Benjamin drew newcomer US Chess League player Giorgi Kacheishvili after 32 moves with both sides in slight time trouble after both took their time in the opening, which is never a bad thing to do in chess. Joel appeared to have the more active position in this game.

The most notable game of the night was when Dean Ippolito defeated New York Knights MVP Pascal Charbonneau as white. Late in the game Ippolito had two pawns and two knights while Charbonneau had one pawn, a knight, and a bishop. With the pawns being up on the board, Charbonneau decided to trade his knight and bishop for those two pawns, hoping that Ippolito would not know how to get a checkmate with two knights on the board. Unfortunately for Charbonneau, Ippolito did know how to win with two knights against a pawn, expanding his school, Internet-wide. This win won the first of many games they will win this season for the Knockouts!

Matt Herman hailed to the Victor on board three... Victor Shen that is! In an exciting fashion, Victor Shen made brilliantly sacrificed a rook for a knight on move 34 (see diagram)! Herman would take the rook and Victor’s next move he played Rd1+ and Herman resigned! At such a young age, Victor Shen will be around a long time for chess fans to enjoy!

Rising star Arthur Shen’s first game in the US Chess League would not be the result he wanted against blitz legend Yaacov Norowitz, but his first win should come pretty soon. Arthur resigned after 35 moves against strong opposition. Arthur’s rating of 2107 is something many chess players can envy, not many players his age can say they have the honor to play in the US Chess League!

Chess fans should tune in next Tuesday on ICC to see the New Jersey Knockouts face another nearby rival, the Philadelphia Inventors. Game time is at 7:00 pm and chess fans will get to see the Knockouts invent Philadelphia’s second lost of the season.