USCL Week 2 preview/predictions

Sep 3, 2014, 3:32 PM |

In half an hour, the New Jersey Knockouts will begin our second match. After a disappointing loss last week, NJ will certainly be looking to right the ship with a big victory tonight. Our opponents are the Philadelphia Inventors, a team that always looks relatively weak on paper but is always extremely dangerous. In fact, Philadelphia leads the all time series record against NJ by the score of 5-4, including a big win last year (also in week 2) and a tie later on (in week 8). 

As usual, Philadelphia has pinned their hopes on the lower boards, putting pressure on their top boards to overperform. They managed to win last week with this exact formula, behind big wins by Dov Gorman and Peter Minear on the middle boards. This time Gorman is out of the lineup, sending NM Minear to the second board and introducing FM Rubenchik on the third.

Philadelphia Inventors  New Jersey Knockouts
IM Tom Bartell: 2448     GM Alex Stripunsky: 2656
NM Peter Minear: 2365     GM Joel Benjamin: 2634
FM Rodion Rubenchik: 2329     NM Christopher Wu: 2363
NM Todd Bryant: 2201     Haik der Manuelian: 2149
Average Rating: 2336     Average Rating: 2451
Philadelphia Total     New Jersey Total

The top board sees a familiar matchup, where IM Tom Bartell takes the white pieces against GM Alexander Stripunsky. The two are hardly strangers, having played last year in the league and just 3 days ago over the board. Both times, however, GM Stripunsky had white (he won both games), so the IM will look to use the white pieces to his advantage this time around. Neutralizing this board would be a huge victory for Philadelphia, but the vast difference in strength should more than compensate for the small advantage the white pieces give. GM Stripunsky will win and give NJ a much-needed boost. 

NM Peter Minear moves up to the second board for the first time, but will have his hands full from the get-go. GM Benjamin was only able to draw last week, but this time he has an even more pronounced rating advantage and still has the white pieces. Minear's big win over Christopher Chase was one of the deciding factors in Philadelphia's victory last week, but holding on against one of the strongest board 2s in the league with the black army is simply too much to ask. NJ's double-GM lineup will prove to be effective, and Joel will bring home another key point for the Knockouts.

Christopher Wu makes his debut this season, taking the black pieces against FM Rodion Rubenchik who will be playing in his first league game. The small rating edge and the league experience should help to offset the white pieces, but Philadelphia will likely need Rubenchik to deliver if they want to have any hope in this match. Chris will not comply however, and will even have a solid advantage before liquidating into a draw to clinch the match for the Knockouts. 

Finally, Haik der Manuelian returns to the team this year, getting the white pieces against NM Todd Bryant. Haik is hardly a stranger to playing masters on the bottom board, finishing with an equal score last year over 5 games. Now, however, Haik has gained well over 100 rating points since that time, and will likely no longer be satisfied with a draw against a slightly higher rated opponent. This time, however, he'll have to settle for one, and his half point will give NJ a nice margin of error in case one of the top boards find themselves in trouble. With that, NJ will get back on track with a big 3-1 victory, putting outselves into good position heading into the interdivisional play. 

And now on to the more fun part of these posts - badly predicting all the other matches of the night. Last week I got 8/20 game results correct but just 1/5 (!) match results right - we'll try to correct that this week!

New England Nor'easters  New York Knights
GM Alexander Ivanov: 2589 0.0 1.0 GM Gata Kamsky: 2785
IM David Vigorito: 2519 0.0 1.0 SM Matt Herman: 2439
FM Steven Winer: 2419 1.0 0.0 NM Gary Huang: 2358
Carissa Yip: 2141 0.0 1.0 NM Qibiao Wang: 2320
Average Rating: 2417     Average Rating: 2476
New England Total 1.0 3.0 New York Total

New England is putting forward a quite strong lineup, with an average rating of 2417. They don't get to feel too good about it though, as New York responded with an absurd 2476 average rating! Not only is that the case, NY is rubbing salt in the wounds by trotting out the current US champion, GM Gata Kamsky. The third board is New England's best chance to score, as Huang played a very uninspiring game last week before putting together a miracle save against NM Krasik. With the white pieces and a significant rating edge, FM Winer will take that full point. The second board has the crazy Matt Herman taking the white pieces against IM Vigorito - somehow Matt will manage to sac all of his pieces and win anyway. Keep an eye on this game for GOTW potential! GM Kamsky simply outclasses his opponent and will bring home another full point for NY, while NM Wang will make good use of his big rating edge and the white pieces to clinch it for NY.

Baltimore Kingfishers  Carolina Cobras
IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat: 2450 0.5 0.5 IM Kassa Korley: 2486
GM Larry Kaufman: 2391 0.5 0.5 NM Ilker Bozkurt: 2383
NM Jared Defibaugh: 2325 1.0 0.0 NM Kevin Mo: 2334
NM Andrew Zheng: 2208 0.0 1.0 FM Robin Cunningham: 2268
Average Rating: 2344     Average Rating: 2368
Baltimore Total 2.0 2.0 Carolina Total

In one of the "weaker" matches this week, at least on paper, the Baltimore Kingfishers and the Carolina Cobras are both looking to rebound from losses last week. Both the top two boards feature fairly solid players, and draws on both seem like the most likely results. The bottom boards are more likely where this match will be decided. Defibaugh is always a fun player to watch, and for some reason I have a feeling he'll pull through this week to give Baltimore a big boost. However, FM Cunningham has a wealth of USCL experience, and combined with the white pieces and a small rating edge he will strike back to equalize the match. 

Atlanta Kings  Connecticut Dreadnoughts
SM Deepak Aaron: 2446 0.0 1.0 GM Michael Rohde: 2512
NM Damir Studen: 2372 0.0 1.0 FM Leif Pressman: 2432
FM Kazim Gulamali: 2397 0.5 0.5 SM Joshua Colas: 2400
NM Richard Francisco: 2382 1.0 0.0 FM Jason Shi: 2220
Average Rating: 2399     Average Rating: 2391
Atlanta Total 1.5 2.5 Connecticut Total

Yes, I'm actually predicting that Connecticut will win a match! GM Rohde has the black pieces on the top board, but somehow I expect the game to get into something relatively crazy which Rohde is renowned for his prowess in. FM Pressman has white, which should be enough to get a sufficiently crazy position that he can get the full point out of. Studen, however, is certainly a worthy opponent when the position gets messy, so that's one that could really go either way. Colas will have the worse side of a draw, but will manage to collect the half point, while Francisco's full point on the bottom board won't be enough to save Atlanta as Connecticut moves to 2-0. 

Boston Blitz  Manhattan Applesauce
IM Steven Zierk: 2543 0.5 0.5 IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy: 2486
FM Denys Shmelov: 2473 0.5 0.5 FM Andrew Shvartsman: 2432
NM Chris Williams: 2310 1.0 0.0 FM Rico Salimbagat: 2286
NM Ilya Krasik: 2264 0.0 1.0 NM Levy Rozman: 2382
Average Rating: 2398     Average Rating: 2397
Boston Total 2.0 2.0 Manhattan Total

In the final match of the night, Manhattan looks to continue their winning ways against the Boston Blitz. With GM Hungaski out of the lineup however, their task will be significantly more difficult. Although IM Ostrovskiy has to move to the top board, he's a pretty difficult player to beat and will hold a draw without a great deal of drama. The same will occur on the second board, where Shmelov will also stay solid and a draw will ensue. On the bottom two boards, both NM Williams and NM Rozman will use the white pieces to good effect, taking advantage of their respective rating edges to bring home full points for their respective teams. With a 1 point difference in average rating, a split match will be the fair result.

We'll find out just how bad my predictions are starting in about half an hour, so don't forget to tune into ICC for the exciting matches! If last night's games are any indication, the drama and craziness will certainly continue tonight. See you in the recap of our brilliant victory!

-Alexander Katz