USCL Week 3 Preview/Predictions
After my demonstration of incredible clairvoyance last week, getting nearly nothing right, the only logical thing to do is to dig a deeper hole by trying again!
Divisional play takes a backseat this week, as teams face off against the other division within their conference. Despite NJ being in a super-strong division, this week hardly represents a break from difficult play, as Boston was not in this division for the given reason that they were too strong (!). NJ has gotten off to an extremely disappointing .5/2 start, while Boston fares a little better at 1/2. It goes without saying that both teams will desperately be pressing for the full point in this match.
|New Jersey Knockouts (0.5 - 1.5)||vs||Boston Blitz (1.0 - 1.0)|
All Time Series Record: (Tied 3.5 - 3.5)
Starts at 7:30 PM EST
Time Control: Game in 75 with 30 second increment
|New Jersey Knockouts||Boston Blitz|
|GM Boris Gulko: 2591||IM Marc Esserman: 2569|
|IM Albert Kapengut: 2363||FM Samuel Sevian: 2486|
|NM Alexander Katz: 2362||SM Denys Shmelov: 2465|
|NM Christopher Wu: 2288||Michael Mahoney: 2040|
|Average Rating: 2401||Average Rating: 2390|
|New Jersey Total||Boston Total|
By Boston's own admission, NJ enters into this match as the favorites. Just look at their blog post showing a margin of Boston victory at only 2.5-1.5! If Mark La Rocca predicts Boston wins by just a half-point, it's a safe bet that he's running scared.
GM Gulko leads the Knockouts into battle, sporting the white pieces against the (in?)famous IM Marc Esserman. Esserman is one of the most exciting players to watch play chess, not afraid to toss material into the fire in search of an early checkmate - and often finds it! GM Gulko is undoubtedly aware of Esserman's combative style and will direct the game into calmer, positional waters in which his experience will reign supreme.
On board 2, Samuel Sevian makes his debut on the East Coast, having apparently relocated from California. Sevian needs no introduction, and as Victor Shen aptly put it last night, "If you haven't heard of him, you will soon, because he's going to be world champion". I hate picking losses for our team, but with a gigantic rating edge and the white pieces I have an uneasy feeling about this board. Given that I tweaked board 1 a bit to give us a win, I'll be pessimistic here and give Boston the point.
Board 3 sees myself taking on the very strong SM Shmelov, who returns to the board where he had a dominating performance years ago, with the added experience of playing against a host of titled players on the top 2 boards. Not fun. To add to the confusion Shmelov plays several different openings, making him difficult to prepare for. Despite this the white pieces will offset the difference in playing strength and a draw will be a fair result.
Finally, board 4 has been the bane of NJ's existance thus far in the league. In week 1 our significantly outrated Haik der Manuelian went down to the very strong Nicolas Checa with black, no disaster, but week 2 saw us trot out a young master in Praveen Balakrishnan, who was frankly flattened with the white pieces very quickly. This week we unveil an even stronger player, with Christopher Wu having recently eclipsed 2300 (again) while collecting a nice chunk of money in an excellent Atlantic Open performance. This week he faces Michael Mahoney, who appears to be making his league debut and I know very little about. With a rating disadvantage of over 250 points, even the white pieces won't save Mahoney and NJ finally breaks into the win column with a 2.5-1.5 victory.
And now, in an ill-advised effort to redeem myself, the rest of the matches!
Philadelphia kicks off the night against Connecticut. Philadelphia is once again outrated, but as we had the firsthand experience of last week, this means little in the USCL. FM (actually IM-elect) Bartell faces off with the white pieces against GM Kekelidze. With the white pieces Bartell will play cautiously and a draw will result. NM David Hua faces a difficult task, playing black against GM Michael Rohde. Black against a GM is hardly an unfamiliar matchup for Hua, but he'll go down in this game. Fortunately for the Inventors, Philly will answer as FM Dov Gorman scores a resounding upset win over IM Jay Bonin, and Minear capitalizes on yet another giant board 4 mismatch to give Philadelphia yet another upset victory 2.5-1.5.
Following is the NY Knights against the NE Nor'Easters. As prominently displayed on the home page of the USCL, GM Charbonneau takes on GM Sam(antha?) Shankland in what should be a highly anticipated matchup. Unfortunately the actual game will prove to be anticlimactic as a lifeless draw is the result. SM Matt Herman takes the black pieces against SM Steven Winer, who has displayed an excellent start to the league after a chess hiatus. Herman is another player who is extremely exciting to watch, but unfortunately he also has the black pieces and thus less chances to mix things up. Winer showed his positional style in a smooth win against Enkhbat last week, but Herman will be his typical resourceful self and save yet another half-point from a lost position. FM Michael Bodek plays against another kid, Mika Brattain, and will use the white pieces to full effect to claim the first decisive result of the match. Finally, Nicholas Checa takes the black pieces against Lawyer Times, another player I don't really know anything about, achieving early equality and not really pressing for more. Thus, Bodek puts the team on his fancy "I have a GM norm" shoulders en route to a 2.5-1.5 victory.
In the only other match of the night, the Manhattan Applesauce face off against the embattled Baltimore Kingfishers, who have had a disasterous 0-2 start to the season. Manhattan looks to make this 0-3, and has trotted out one of their best lineups for the occasion. On board 1 GM Zviad Izoria takes on IM Levan Bregadze. Bregadze's title and rating are not really reflective of his actual strength, as there would be nothing strange about "2550 GM Bregadze" to most people. But Izoria isn't interested in exactly how strong Bregadze is, and will bring home the point regardless. IM Schneider has the black pieces against IM Enkhbat and will comfortably hold. NM Salimbagat has the black pieces against NM Defibaugh, who is know for his occasional flashes of brilliance that result in really nice games. Unfortunately he's also known for occasionally just kind of flopping. Not sure which Defibaugh shows up to play this week, but my gut tells me the brilliant side of him breaks out and he collects an important point for Baltimore. The highest rated board 4 in the league, NM Ryan Goldenberg, has the black pieces against NM Ian Schoch. After being the victim of the upset prize last week after a queen sacrifice didn't pan out (or maybe he just blundered it, not sure), Goldenberg will be looking to get back on track, but the black pieces won't allow him more than a draw. And so Baltimore somewhat gets on the board in a 2-2 tie.
The action starts in less than 7 hours. Make sure to be on chess.com at 7 PM Eastern, and tune in to the live show at chess.com/tv at that time. Thanks to our sponsors PokerStars and chess.com for making the USCL possible.