Monday, November 9, 2009

First Round Playoffs: Knockouts Look to Piscatorially Dethrone Kingfishers

by Joseph Criscuolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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