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.