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!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Jersey Aims to Scor' Six over the 'Pions

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts took care of business the first five matches this season, now they go for a USCL-record six straight wins against the Arizona Scorpions, a team that needs to win to stay in the playoff battle in the Western division. In their second and final interleague match of this season, the Knockouts face the Scorpions for the first time in USCL history. As the match starts at 9:00 pm in Jersey, the time control will shortened again, to game in 60 minutes with a 30 second increment. The Knockouts lineup features Joel Benjamin, Dean Ippolito, Mackenzie Molner, and Sean Finn. The Arizona Scorpions look to get back to .500 with a lineup of Alejandro Ramirez, Rogelio Barcenilla, Daniel Rensch, and David Adelberg. The ratings are close on each board, and this will be a good test for the Knockouts if they want to have a playoff feel in the regular season, as the Scorpions will have to be in playoff mode if they want to make the playoffs.

GM Joel Benjamin faces off with Black against the young GM Alejandro Ramirez. Benjamin won last week to help win the match for the Knockouts over the Chicago Blaze. In all five matches the Knockouts have played, he has been there and has not lost one. Joel Benjamin is a real candidate for league MVP.

IM Dean Ippolito returns to action on board two against IM Regelio Barcenilla. Dean Ippolito’s performance of 2.5-0.5 in the first 3 games this season has been another great story for the Knockouts, now he returns looking to help the Knockouts earn win number six!

SM Mackenzie Molner faces off against Daniel Rensch on board three. Mackenzie Molner played his second game of the season last week and gave the Knockouts exactly what they needed to ensure a win last week, a draw, to make the score 2.5-1.5 against Chicago.

On board 4, we see the debut of Sean Finn against David Adelberg. Sean Finn is a late addition to the Knockouts and looks to try to be a factor in what has been a successful season for the Knockouts.

The match can be seen on Monday October 5 at 9:00 pm on ICC. Watch and see if the Knockouts can make history in this late night interleague matchup. The Knockouts have been good but have to play strong against a Arizona team that needs this win to make the playoffs.

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

Joel Benjamin's Midseason Report

Midseason Report
by Joel Benjamin

After five rounds, The New Jersey Knockouts are on top at 5-0 and all is well with the world. I thought I might share a few observations on the action so far...

The New York Knights

New York’s 2.5-2,5 record is misleading. The Knights have faced a brutal schedule, including the two strongest teams in the West (Seattle and San Francisco) and the invincible Knockouts. They’re strong at the corners with Kacheishvili and Norowitz, and improved production on board two could really turn things around. But will they give HOF GM Johnny a shot? The Knights will easily make the playoffs and have as good a chance as anyone to get through to the finals.

Inventors' Team Blueprint

Philadelphia had high hopes this season with the acquisition of Alex Lenderman, but Sergey Kudrin’s stunning 0-5 has killed them. The Inventors will have to win some games on board one if they have any hopes of making a miracle comeback for the playoffs.

Cinder-lina No More

Last year Carolina was a heart-warming Cinderella story, a balanced team with a competitive first board. Losing Lev Milman, who graduated from Duke and came home to play for Queens, was a big blow. Jon Schroer is playing out of position on board one, but the real reason for their 0-5 start is lack of production on bottom. Last year Ron Simpson notched 7 ½ out of 10 on board three. This year, against much stronger opposition, he is 0-4. Mojo apparently does not transfer from one season to the next.

New Jersey's Timing

New Jersey is a consistent 4-1 on boards one, two, and three. Our kids have not scored as well so far on board four. Does this mean we are vulnerable if our higher boards are held to a standoff, or unstoppable if we win board four? In the timing is everything department: The one time we lost board three, Anna Matlin won on board four to defeat the Inventors.

San Fran Panda

Every year I think San Francisco is the best team, but they don’t seem to be that in the end. Obviously Shankland is extremely tough on three and Yian Liou has been a find for them on board four, but they need for Josh “the Panda” Friedel to scarf down some magic bamboo and get going on board one.

Dallas's Destiny

The fans were all shocked to see Dallas start so poorly after winning the league title two years running. They still have a shot at the playoffs, especially if they do not resign prematurely for the rest of the season. You certainly don’t want to count out a team that can beat a powerful Boston squad 4-0! The Destiny will battle it out with Arizona and Tennessee for the last playoff spot in the West, and I don’t know who should be the favorite to get it.

Arizona's Bloggers

The Arizona Scorpions are winning the blogging race hands down, led by Mark Ginsburg’s consistently entertaining and insightful Opening of the Week column.


It is said that Queens’ Andrei Zaremba’s large DD iced coffee is a potent cocktail, but New Jersey’s DD Box of Joe is leading the way so far.

Game of the Week

The judging for Game of the Week has been very uneven. I think Greg Shahade and Michael Aigner are doing very good jobs, and Arun Sharma is okay as well, but Jeff Ashton and Jim Dean seems to have no clue. In week five, I couldn’t understand how Dean saw fit to give Kacheishvili no points for his stellar win over Friedel. Dean and Ashton both got it all wrong on Herman-Naroditsky (though Dean at least acknowledged that it was a good game). That was a terrific game, whether it was totally sound or not. Herman is an all out attacking player, and he’s quite right to play in that style. As to Ashton’s comments that Herman should be fined $50 for this game, I’ll say that it took me a few years to realize how good a player Shabalov is, but once I did, I lost my dogmatism.

The Adelberg win, on the other hand, was overrated. I think that was mostly because he is a young, talented, and likeable kid, but the game was completely stock. If Kasparov saw the game he would not fine Adelberg, but he would fine Zorigt.

You would think I should go easy on Ashton because he praised my games effusively, but that was actually the worst part! Only the Schroer game was worthy of points; if he had found the draw at the end it actually would have been a much better game. But giving points to my win over van de Mortel is ridiculous. In a standard position from the opening, my opponent suicided with 16…Bxc3??, forcing me into a completely winning endgame. My moves were pretty good from there, but the game was really easy. I didn’t have a single difficult decision; I could have won in several different ways. It’s not good enough for technical chess to be correct. Going from even to +- in one move means the game was not hard enough.

So let me propose judges consider “degree of difficulty.” If the loser of the game missed some opportunities, that may make the game better, not worse. If it’s a wild, insane position where the winner takes risk, credit him, don’t penalize him. If you can’t see the mistakes without a computer, it might be unfair to expect the winner to do so as well.

On the other hand, I thought Esserman-Bartell was not a very worthy winner. True, it was a weak round (probably Gulko should have won again for his game with Charbonneau, which was a hard-fought tense encounter). I didn’t think Esserman had to work at all for that win.

By the way, how about some love for Kapengut-Pasalic? That game was pretty cool. I hope I can throw patties like that when I’m Albert’s age.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blaze Get Smoked by the Knockouts, 2.5-1.5

by Joseph Criscuolo

The New Jersey Knockouts are still perfect after winning their fifth match in a row against the Chicago Blaze by a score of 2.5-1.5 in Week 5 of the US Chess League aeason. Next week, they can make US Chess League history by beating Arizona to become the first team to start 6-0. The Knockouts already have a better record than they did in either of their previous seasons, where they were 4.5-5.5.

The Knockouts are in a great position to make the playoffs as they currently can clinch the playoffs with 2 wins and a Queens Pioneers loss or draw. The New Jersey Knockouts earned their win with wins from Joel Benjamin and Albert Kapengut and a draw from Mackenzie Molner. Andrew Ng had a rough night, but went down fighting hard. The Knockouts win gives the Chicago Blaze a sense of urgency, with a 1-4 record they will need a huge second half of the season to make the playoffs.

Joel Benjamin has been clutch all season, and kept up his MVP-caliber season with a win against Jan van de Mortel at board 1 as white. With the win, Benjamin improves his regular season record to 4-1, with 3 wins and 2 draws! Benjamin has played every game for the Knockouts this season, the only player on the team to do so. Benjamin controlled the game and earned a pawn on move 30, after that Joel’s attack continued until van de Mortel resigned after move 35 when Joel played Re7+, which would win Joel the Blaze player's Knight, and therefore, the game.

Mackenzie Molner played his first game of the season did exactly what he needs to do for the Knockouts with a draw against Angelo Young in a game where he had a winning position. Molner, playing as black, had to wait 12 minutes for Young to make his first move in the game. But Young's apparent psychological warfare tactics backfired, and put Molner in a position where he could ensure a victory for the Knockouts. Once Joel Benjamin finished his game, the score was 2-1 for the Knockouts and all Molner needed to do was draw, that’s what he would do. Molner certainly had a significant advantage at the end of the game, made possible by the devastating sacrifice 25...Nb4! (DIAGRAM). Yet, Molner put the team first and was able to force the draw and win the game for the Knockouts. Most likely in any other situation, we would’ve seen a win from Molner.

Albert Kapengut gave the Knockouts a needed win on board 3, defeating Mehemed Pasalic in his first ever US Chess League game. Kapengut barely used any time early in the match, and still was on increment time with 1 hour 19 minutes left on his clock on move 18, while Pasalic only had 19:44 left! Kapengut would take his time after that while Pasalic would be in time trouble. Passed pawns won Kapengut this match as, he had his b and c pawns on the 7th rank when Pasalic resigned on move 37. Kapengut has annotated the game here.

Andrew Ng would be the Knockouts lone loss of the match against Eric Rosen. Ng would lose his rook on move 15 but made some nice opportunities in the middle game with a nice fighting counter attack, but that wasn’t enough for the US Cadet Champion, as he would lose his first game of the US Chess League season.

Next week, the New Jersey Knockouts play again Monday October 5 at 9:00 pm against the Arizona Scorpions in their second and final interleague game of the season. Arizona is currently 2-3 after drawing the Dallas Destiny and remain in a tight battle for the playoffs - they certainly need to beat Knockouts to keep hopes alive. The Knockouts can become the first US Chess League team to go 6-0, so watch Monday Night at 9:00 pm at the Internet Chess Club to find out if they can make history!

IM Kapengut Annotates his win!

IM Albert Kapengut won his debut USCL game last night, and has graciously annotated it for the USCL and wider chess community. If you watched the game live, you'll remember that he gained four minutes on the clock in the first twenty moves, and if you read his annotations you will see why.

On the left is an image preview of his annotations, and you can download the PDF here.