Like any other intense rivalry, there’s lots of history and no matter how good one team is in any given season, the result is always in doubt. NY Knights vs. Manhattan Applesauce is no exception. While the Knights can lay claim to winning 5/8 of the lifetime matches; each team had both the skill and the will to eliminate the other from the playoffs over the past two years. Most recently, last Fall, the ‘Sauce were victorious in a highly heated match that allowed them to advance to the Semifinals – despite lifetime MVP, Eli Vovsha losing a tough match to the highly talented Matthew Herman.
While this is the first of two matches this year between the two teams, it’s likely not to be any less exciting…especially, as we have an interesting matchup on every board. Below is my preview what I think may happen in the games:
Board 1: (W) GM Pascal Charbonneau - (B) GM Robert Hungaski
A rematch of the 2010 Quarterfinals match where Robert, as a young IM, was able to crack the experienced Charbonneau in a Scandinavian defense with black. In that year, for those that remember, Robert went 7/8 leading the Nor’easters to the championship title…Now he is a known GM, and Pascal will be ready and looking for revenge. I expect a fighting game with fireworks, though the opening may start out somewhat slow. Pascal is a world class player with a strong record in the USCL (just check out his awards page), though knowing his party animal ways, the long weekend may catch up to him and the longer the game progresses, the more I like our chances.
Board 2: IM Eli Vovsha – SM Herman
A matchup with history - any fan of USCL or of the two NY teams will be able to recall last year’s quarterfinals where Matt forced through an incredible attack in the Sicilian Najdorf to score the Knights only victory and with that win the coveted Game of the Week prize. Eli doesn’t lose rarely and certainly is one to learn from his mistakes (being a Ph.D candidate, analyzing data and learning from prior trials is his forte). He has white in this game and his solid positional style is one to be reckoned with. He’ll try to control the pace of the game with the goal of not allowing the talented Herman to get any sort of significant counterplay. The key to the game: the clock. If Eli can control his time pressure, he should be able to continue his all-star ways.
Board 3: FM Michael Bodek – FM Rico Salimbagat
A strong matchup for the Knights - but not as clear as a 200 point difference may imply. While Bodek is still in his mid teens and already a 2500 player, Rico is experienced and has played with the best of them. He’s already warmed up with an interesting game in round 1 and is ready to rumble. Key to the game: Rico getting out of the opening in decent shape.
Board 4: NM Ryan Goldenberg – FM Aravind Kumar
A game the ‘Sauce should have great chances in. Ryan is coming off a strong showing at the Atlantic Open as well as the World Open and most recently, an instructive win in round 1 over Philadelphia. It’s clear Aravind will be cooking up something, but as long as Ryan can maintain his cool and continue his solid play, board 4 should provide an anchor this round for Manhattan.