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.

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