Week7: New Jersey Knockouts (3.5 - 2.5) vs Boston Blitz (2.5 - 3.5)
(Beat Reporter: Mark LaRocca)
After their devastatingly depressing DRAW with the LA Vibe, the Blitz find themselves in a “do or die” match facing perhaps their toughest opponent of the year, the NJ Knockouts, who are sporting one heckuva right-left combo in GM Stripunsky (2673) on board one and GM Benjamin (2646) on board two. Obviously, Boston will need to be at the top of their game… and to assure this, management had sent the team on a journey to the Himalayas… in search of their “Bliss”. Well, considering the mood and moral after last week… It couldn’t hurt… but, more about this after the match.
In a total reversal of my usual form, I have decided to evaluate this match honestly. Keep in mind that in no way does this add any credibility to my predictions… but, at least I can feel a bit better about myself… maybe find a bit of “Bliss” as well.
So, to begin… Let me say, we will need stellar performance from boards 3 and 4… two wins here are a must, in my opinion, because I see no better than half a point coming from the top two boards. Shocking, you say? Yes… that means I am predicting a Blitz loss of a game. Didn’t I tell you about that honesty thing? But, don’t scream at me yet… check out this lineup…
GM Stripunsky (NJ) SM Sammour-Hasbun (BOS)
FM Gulamali (BOS) GM Benjamin (NJ)
NM Wu (NJ) NM Martirosov (BOS)
Liu (BOS) Burke (NJ)
There are no sure things here… but, it seems this top heavy NJ lineup just may have an Achilles heel (lets hope). Vadim has been playing excellently and Andrew Liu out-rates his opponent by about 100 points. With that in mind, I will predict a Blitz win (2.5 – 1.5) as follows…
GM Alex Stripunsky (NJ) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) – Board 1
This game is hard to figure as both of these guys play anything. Jorge is in a bit of a slump and coming off two losses in a row. I say 1.e4… and Jorge will be hard pressed to resist a fighting Sicilian. But, with Black, a draw is a good result and expected. Boston (0.5 – 0.5)
FM Kazim Gulamali (BOS) vs GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) – Board 2
Kazim has been a Blitz super-star since the first match. With a record of (3 – 1) he is hard to pick against… but, playing GM Benjamin… I apologize ahead of time… I must go with one of our US greats here. After 1. e4… expect anything from from 1…e5 to 1…g6. There just is no preparing for Mr. Hat. Boston (0.5 – 1.5)
NM Christopher Wu (NJ) vs NM Vadim Martirosov (BOS)– Board 3
Two tough competitors here. This game is really a toss-up and the critical game of the match. Not to put too much pressure, Vadim… but, a win by either side turns the match. I figure 1. e4… and a quiet 1…e5, a Ruy?... but don’t rule out 1… c5 if Vadim had a good night at MCC on Tuesday.
Boston (1.5 – 1.5)
Andrew Liu (BOS) vs John Michael Burke (NJ) – Board 4
What can we expect here… but, a fighting game. Maybe something on the order of 1.d4, c5? I truly don’t have a good handle on this one. However, it will be exciting and there will be lots of chances for both sides. Give the nod to Andrew… Boston (2.5 – 1.5)
Lots of pressure and lots of excitement is the theme for this match. Can the Blitz pull it out? It depends on boards 3 and 4… and, of course, whether they found their “Bliss”.
If you have never seen “Bliss”, you won’t want to miss this one. Try to be there by 6:30 pm. or, face waiting for someone to let you in. See my video "A day in the life of a Blitz Fan".
Weds., OCT 17, 7:10pm, Harvard SOCH hall, 59 Shepherd st., Cambridge, MA.