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USCL 2012 Preview: East

  • webmaster
  • | Sep 10, 2012
  • | 5081 views
  • | 11 comments

USCL 2012 Preview - East

If you are interested in the rubric based on which I'm evaluating these teams; or in my predictions for the Western Division, they can be found here. If you don't know what the US Chess League is, it is an exciting, professional league, with 16 teams representing 16 chess communities across the U.S.A, in which the majority of top American Grandmasters and young talents participate. You can find more info by checking the USCL website.

East

The East has probably grown stronger this year than last year-- and it's always been quite strong. Apparently the historical record in East-West matches is 45-44 in favor of the West, but I would be quite surprised if the East did not seize the lead in that rivalry this year-- we will find out soon enough as it is now Inter-division week. My general prediction about the difference in strength between the two divisions appeared to be borne out in week 1, when 7/8 eastern teams managed to field teams whose current ratings average out to above 2400-- while in the west only 3/8 teams managed that.

In general, I also think the east is more balanced-- meaning less disparity between their top teams and their bottom teams-- and thus it's much harder to predict which teams will come out on top, especially in individual matches. Thus, in drafting my fantasy USCL team, I did not draft many eastern players, as I did not see many opportunities for mis-matches. However, the players I was interested in were mostly grouped in two teams...

1st place - Connecticut Dreadnoughts

The Dreadnoughts are this year's expansion team, and they appear destined to follow in the approximate footsteps of the 2010 Nor'Easters.

Under-rated youngsters? They've got the best, as far as I could find in my scouting: Joshua Colas who was 2198 in January and is currently 2395!! I think this guy was the second best player to grab for Fantasy USCL, after someone on the Knights, and I grabbed him very high in our draft. But that's not all, they also have Kapil Chandran as a good up-and-coming youngster to man board 4. Plus, they have two other huge sources of under-rated power that don't come from kids: GM Kekelidze was somehow 100 points lower in January, as was Ian Harris, who I think will be their best board 3.

As to Big Guns, they have Robert Hess, #4 in the U.S. as well as a good value on Kekelidze. None of their players are proven USCL performers, as they are mostly a team of USCL newcomers. For their team-work and attitude, refer to my theory that winners are often going to have good team spirit. Robert Hess is a winner. I think manager Ian Harris is also a winner-- just look at the effort that was taken to assemble a very-well planned USCL team. I think that effort kind of speaks for itself: they must have put in a lot of time creating a terrific roster with plenty of power, good lineups, and flexibility, and that will show in a good attitude throughout the season.

Check out this lineup:

Hess-Kekelidze-Harris-Colas. Average rating 2516.

And they have plenty of flexibility, as Chandran can also perform creditably on four in this same lineup. Or when they don't have Hess, they could do:

Kekelidze-Sarkar-Otchiyev and then either Colas or Chandran on 4. These guys means business.

2nd place - New York Knights

The only player who I think is an even better value than Colas for Fantasy USCL is GM Alex Lenderman, who coincidentally, was first picked in our draft, by none other than GM Shankland. Lenderman is #5 in the U.S., and will often play on.... board 2!! He also has a good USCL record in the past.

New York also has fair under-rated value from Matthew Herman and Michael Bodek and Justus Williams on their middle boards, and three!! more powerful top guns in GMs Gelashvili, Kacheishvili, and Charbonneau. Their strongest lineups are along these lines:

Gelashvili or Kacheishvili - Lenderman - Herman or Bodek - Checa (or Bareyev if Bodek is on 3). This lineup will often sacrifice board 4, but is *insane* on boards 1-3. Or a more balanced lineup:

GM - Herman - Bodek - Williams. This lineup will usually have the advantage on 3+4, a slight disadvantage on 2, and a GM as good as any on board 1.

The team has great flexibility, since they have 4 great GMs-- though his rating is lower than the other 3, Charbonneau is a long-time clutch performer in the USCL, who can be substituted for any of the other three without significantly weakening the lineups. Since basically all their players (Katz and Barayev as well as Herman, Bodek, and Williams) are offering them extra value, they can run almost any lineup, and compete. I barely ranked them below Connecticut-- it's very close.

After this there is a gap to teams 3-8, all of which I think will also be close. But none of the remaining 6 teams can field a variety of 2450+ lineups and really challenge the top two teams over the course of a full season, in my opinion, though in individual matches, they definitely always have a good chance.

3rd place - Manhattan Applesauce

They have some good under-rated value in King and Shvartsman, either of whom would be a good include on a Fantasy team (I grabbed King who I know is improving very rapidly). But unfortunately they don't have the top guns to really take advantage of the rating room that King and Shvartsman provide them, despite Romanenko being a bit under-rated. So their best lineup is probably:

Vovsha-Schneider-Milman-King

which you can see will be stronger on 3+4 than any other team in the East, but quite a bit weaker on 1+2 than Connecticut or NY. Or they can go with:

Romanenko-Vovsha-Shvartsman-King

which again is very strong, but not at the level of the top two teams. Overall, I see the Applesauce having a really fun and great season this year, and making it into the playoffs while entertaining their fans.

4th place - New Jersey Knockouts

To me, New Jersey is pretty medium on all fronts. They have some under-rated youth in Shen and Wu. They have some top-gun power in Stripunsky and Benjamin. But not more than average for the powerful East. They should score close to 50%. I believe their best lineup is the one they already used in their week 1 victory:

Stripunsky - Kapengut - Shen - Wu.

A good lineup, of course. But you've seen stronger ones earlier in this article. I also feel they have a little less flexibilty than some other teams, though I think playing their best lineup in their first match is a good sign that they intend to win, and so I give them slightly better chances to make the playoffs than the following teams.

5th place - Baltimore Kingfishers

They have some decent supply of under-rated players, Kevin Wang being the best, but Defibaugh, Balasubramian, Selzler, and Zimmer each contributing several points to possible lineups. Their GMs are not as strong as some of the other teams, but they get them at a slight rating bargain. All of this could be the recipe for a very strong team, except that their most powerful lineups turn out to be pretty awkward, and so they are not able to really take advantage of the discounted ratings. They could almost compete with Connecticut and NY if they were allowed to run:

Huschenbeth - Marvelashvili - Wang - Balasubramian

But unfortunately, this lineups is illegal by 25 points, so what they can do is:

Huschenbeth, Margvelashvili, Zimmer, Selzler

Unfortunately they can't even get one of Wang or Balasubramian into this lineup by just a few rating points. Or another top lineup is:

Margvelashvili - Paikidze - Wang - Zimmer

Unfortunately they are just barely not able to get Balasubramian onto 4 in this lineup. I think this awkwardness in the way the ratings of their players match up will actually be costing them quite a bit over the course of the season, and they will fall just short of the playoffs.

6th place - Philadelphia Inventors

This team lacks in under-rated youngsters for boards 3+4. Erenburg is a fine top board, and Bonin and Bartell are both decent USCL performers. But none of these 3 is exceptional, compared to their competition. Will Fischer scored an unreal USCL-record 9.5/10 in his debut last season, but his rating has caught up by 150 points, and he will now have to compete with much tougher opposition, often playing board 2 instead of 4. Their flexibility is not amazing either, relying on Erenburg on board 1. I think this team is a step behind in power compared to New Jersey, Baltimore, and even Boston. But I think the Inventors have always had a very good team spirit and presence in the league, and I thus give them a slight nod to finish above New England and Boston.

7th place - New England Nor'Easters

Losing USCL-star Hungaski hurts them quite a bit. New England has some strong assets: Shankland is an above-average board 1. Andrew Wang is a good under-rated kid for board 3, and Ben Goldberg is probably a USCL over-performer. I think Ivanov gives them more flexibility to post strong lineups when Shankland is unavailable, and that Bournival could have a strong season. But still, the East is very competitive, and NE faces some awkwardness creating their best lineups:

Shankland - Riordan - Wang - Goldberg

It would be legal to have someone rated 2500 on board 2, but New England has nobody with that rating. Thus this lineups is a board 2 short of being one of the stronger lineups in the East. Or:

Shankland - Ivanov - Wang - Pellows

This lineup needs an underrated player with a January rating of 2100-2150, who is currently 2250 level or more. Then it would be a great lineup. Unless Pellows is secretly way better than his rating, this lineup is not on par with the top lineups in the East.

8th place - Boston Blitz

The Blitz are historically the best team in the USCL. But this year, their roster is a bit medium overall. They have no special young talents for boards 3-4. Jorge is incredible, and always outperforms on board 1-- but he is facing strong GMs, and can not be expected to overwhelm guys like Hess and Shankland and Gelashvili. Their overall power level is a bit below-average for the East.

Chances of reaching the Playoffs:

Connecticut 90%, New York 89%, Manhattan 45%, New Jersey 42%, Baltimore 40%, Philadelphia 34%, New England 31%, Boston 29%

Semis: Connecticut over New Jersey; New York over Manhattan

Eastern Finals: Connecticut over New York

USCL Championship: Connecticut defeats Dallas to become the third team in USCL history to win the League in their first season!

Don't miss this week's exciting USCL action. Week 2 is Inter-Division matches. Catch them Monday from 5:30-->9:30 pm Pacific and Wednesday from 7:00-->11:00 pm Pacific either on ICC or on Chess.com's live server. Mondays have Chess FM coverage and Wednesdays have Chess.com/TV coverage.

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    IM dpruess

    oops, you are right, i got the math wrong on that one. no wonder i thought it would be "your best lineup."

  • 2 years ago

    SSmith-MAN

    David,

    I do not think the line-up you proposed for the Manhattan Applesauce with Vovsha, Scheinder, Milman, King is actually legal.  The limit for teams is 2400.75 based on the list the team uses.  Since we are using the January 2012 list, the average rating for that line-up comes out to 2420.25

    Shaun

  • 2 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    this year for 2600+ players, the only real anomalous results have been lenderman losing this week and gelashvili losing last week, and given they're on the same team their results kind of offset each other.  i'm sure NY would have hoped for better since they haven't cleaned up on the bottom boards either.

    sammour-hasbun and hess are only separated by 45 ELO and of course hess was ok with a draw with black given his team strength and openings choice.

  • 2 years ago

    IM dpruess

    yes, tonight 2700s certainly did not do well. you really think as a group they are not going to show some statistical advantage over 2550-2625 rated players over the course of the season?

    i do think the intangibles are worth something, but in creating the rubric i layed out in the previous article, i did some thinking about past teams, and i really thought that the under-rated players (schmakel, esserman, bodek) were worth a lot to overall team performance. of course i did not model the uscl results in any scientific way. this is perhaps just the instincts of a random guy who's been watching the uscl for 7 years, but doesn't remember very well what he sees.

  • 2 years ago

    NM Ilusha

    David, historically certain teams have done well and it goes beyond the current ratings, there are certain intangibles like dedication, preparation, togeatherness of the squad, geographical proximity etc... you played for SF for many years you know it as well as I do. This year if you look at the average ratings of some teams it may first appear that they have gotten immensly stronger but on second look, you notice that the production of the so-called floor at 2000 uscf means that the average rating now gets skewed due to the multitude of incoming 2700. The problem with judging purely statistically comes from the fact a 2700, isnt neccesarily better or much better or will neccesarily win against a 2500 rated player as we witnessed tonight for example when Lenderman lost to IM Amanov 2463 and Erenburg rated 2700 drew Molner rated 2500, Benjamin drew lower rated Cozinau and Jorge drew Hess who is over 2700 i believe. Today, for the most part 2700 ratings are due to activity in the tournament circuit, if you are inactive chances are your rating will be in the 2500 or 2600s.

  • 2 years ago

    RyanMurphy5

    Justus Williams is a beast.  I'm thinking New York Knights all the way.  However, since I'm from the Midwest and because Nolan Hendrickson is on the St. Louis team, I'll naturally be rooting for them.

  • 2 years ago

    IM dpruess

    I may be way off. what should I have learned from history?

  • 2 years ago

    unusualkid

    boringCry

  • 2 years ago

    NM Ilusha

    I'm speechless, I guess David is not a student of history.

  • 2 years ago

    Will_I_Am

    wow

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