Apeldoorn Apes knocked out
(Photo by Ed van der Meulen)
In the 5th round of the Chess.com's PRO Chess League, we played the New Jersey Knockouts of the Atlantic Division. Knowing we had to win two more times out of the remaining three matches, this could be a good opportunity. Our team consisted of Roeland Pruijssers, Stefan Kuipers, Thomas Beerdsen and Merijn van Delft, resulting in an average rating of 2420. But we were facing one of their strongest lineups consisting of Alex Stripunsky, Joel Benjamin, Alex Fishbein and Alexander Katz (averaging 2473).
For this match we played together in our hometown Apeldoorn and we all streamed our games on Twitch. Even though the WiFi wasn’t all too happy with four streams running at once, it was so much fun to do. It resulted in a nice combination of chess, small talk, cheap jokes, and spectators in the background.
Karel van Delft made a video report about the match (mostly in Dutch): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=204Q5ea1UBc
Our team-channel on Twitch is www.twitch.tv/apeldoornapes, there will be more streams on there in future matches.
The first round wasn’t looking all too good, because Roeland didn’t manage to achieve too much against Katz, while Stefan dropped a pawn against Fishbein and couldn’t get anything going in the complications. Also, Merijn was under pressure against Stripunsky for the greater part of the game, but blundering a piece ended the struggle early on. Thomas also dropped a pawn at some point, but in the (double) rook endgame he managed to punish Benjamin's mistakes. In time trouble he even managed to win the endgame, resulting in a 2,5-1,5 loss the first round.
The second round Thomas put his knight on the rim early on against Stripunsky, but the knight never got away from h5 and therefore he didn't stand a chance when his opponent attacked on the other side of the board. Merijn was scared during his entire game against Benjamin, but managed to take over the initiative. His opponent managed to find a repetition of moves and immediately went for it. Stefan had a very promising position with major material advantage, but simply messed up against Katz. Roeland didn’t mess up his promising position and easily converted the advantage against Fishbein. Another 2,5-1,5 loss, but we felt there were possibilities.
In the third round Roeland lost his first game against Benjamin. He was under slight pressure in the middlegame, but quickly collapsed. Thomas also reached a very promising position against Katz, but his attack stalled and got countered when he left his own king in the center. Merijn was positionally stalemated by Fishbein, but his opponent didn’t feel like trying to play for a win and offered a draw. Stefan played a fine positional game against Stripunsky and eventually won on time in a very good endgame. The third 2,5-1,5 loss, which results in a 7,5-4,5 standing before the final round.
This meant we needed a 4-0 win to win the match. We actually achieved to get a 4-0 result, unfortunately not in our favor… Thomas sacrificed a pawn early on, but never saw it back again. Stefan was a bit too greedy against Benjamin and got crushed. Roeland was under slight pressure against Stripunsky, and eventually blundered a pawn. At some point, the queen endgame was still drawn, but absolutely not easy to play and Roeland didn’t manage to hold. Merijn completed the malaise by not converting his winning position against Katz. In time trouble, he even gave away the draw as well.
The final score of 11,5-4,5 creates the impression that we didn’t stand a chance at all, but the match was actually rather close. Congratulations to the New Jersy Knockouts, they were simply a bit stronger at the decisive moments. Roeland was very pleased to be the top scorer with 1,5 out of 4, the rest of the team was also not unsatisfied with a shared second place with 1 out of 4 ;-)
We had a great time and lots of fun playing all together at the same location. The Twitch stream was a success, and we will be streaming more on our own team-channel.