USCL Week 4 preview/predictions

Sep 17, 2014, 12:52 PM |

We managed to climb back into the discussion last week, but with the divisional race extremely tight it's hardly time to let up. Tonight we face off against the struggling New England Nor'Easters. One of the 2010 expansion teams, New England took the league by storm headed by then-IM Sam Shankland. They thundered out to a 9.5-0.5 regular season, and carried this momentum through the playoffs en route to a championship. Since then, they've had only average results, and the loss of now-GM Sam Shankland is hurting them hard. This year, they've lost all 3 of their matches by the smallest margin possible, and desperately need a win this week to get back into the picture. On our side, with Manhattan and New York squaring off this week, a win would most likely send up into the top 3 of the division - playoff position! 

New Jersey Knockouts  New England Nor'easters
GM Alex Stripunsky: 2656 1.0 0.0 GM Alexander Ivanov: 2589
GM Joel Benjamin: 2634 0.5 0.5 IM David Vigorito: 2519
NM Dmitriy Volkov: 2371 0.5 0.5 SM Mika Brattain: 2453
Aaron Jacobson: 2139 1.0 0.0 Carissa Yip: 2141
Average Rating: 2450     Average Rating: 2426
New Jersey Total 3.0 1.0 New England Total

The importance of this match is clearly not lost on either team, as they are both bringing out heavy lineups in this match. NJ is sticking with the top-heavy double GM lineup, while New England is responding with a dual 2500+ set themselves. In fact, NE is playing the top three players on their roster. On our side, we introduce two new players to the fray: Dmitriy Volkov and Aaron Jacobson. 

On the top board, GM Alex Stripunsky has the white pieces against GM Alex Ivanov. The two are certainly not strangers to playing each other in the USCL, as they've played in each of the last two seasons (and many times over the physical board). Stripunsky has had the better side of those matchups, scoring a win and a draw, but the two are relatively evenly matched. This time, however, with the white pieces and an unmatched will to win, GM Stripunsky will gain a key full point for the Knockouts.

Heading down to the second board, GM Joel Benjamin will face his most difficult test of the season, taking black against IM David Vigorito. IM Vigorito is well-known as an opening book author, having written advanced texts on dynamic systems such as the Grunfeld, the King's Indian, and the Sicilian Dragon. However, such advanced knowledge of theory probably won't help against GM Benjamin, who likes to avoid theory as a matter of course anyway. This is certainly one that could go either way, but I'm going to guess GM Benjamin has the better side of a draw.

Dmitriy Volkov makes his league debut tonight on the third board. He faces a difficult task as he is matched up against Mika Brattain, who is one of the more promising juniors in the country. Though Volkov doesn't play too much chess these days, when he does find the time he's a very formidable foe. The small rating difference between the two won't bother him, and the two will end up playing a solid draw. 

This will bring the action to the final board, where we've got two very young kids with nearly identical ratings squaring off. Should I even bother trying to predict this one? Intriguingly, Carissa Yip is currently ranked as the 2nd highest rated 10 year old (!!!) in the country, just 2 points behind... Brandon Jacobson? Yep, that's Aaron's younger brother. Well, hopefully that'll help motivate him in this game :) Alright, I'll be optimistic here and predict another full point for NJ - so long as Aaron remembers not to distract the driver.

And with that, NJ keeps the momentum going with a 3-1 victory, sending us to playoff position as the key interdivisional matchups loom. But don't be fooled by the apparently large margin - this is a match that could very easily swing either way. After watching the games last night, I can quite confidently say that anything is possible :)

Now we get to the more interesting part of the post, known to many as the part where I embarrass myself. Unfortunately Victor lied to the world which messed up my predictions last week, but I managed to get 12/20 game predictions correct and 2/5 of the matches right. That'll take me up to 29/60 games and 4/15 matches, pretty reasonable results given there's 3 possible results to a game!

New York Knights  Manhattan Applesauce
GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2552 0.0 1.0 IM Victor Shen: 2510
SM Matt Herman: 2439 0.0 1.0 IM Farai Mandizha: 2478
NM Alex King: 2333 0.0 1.0 NM Levy Rozman: 2382
NM Gary Huang: 2358 1.0 0.0 Shaun Smith: 2065
Average Rating: 2421     Average Rating: 2359
New York Total 1.0 3.0 Manhattan Total

Sorry NY, but this just won't be your night. I'l put my faith in Victor one more time just in case he remembers how chess works tonight, though with the black pieces it's sort of a big ask. I really want to support Matt and all, but somehow I'm just not confident in him taking the black pieces and not doing something overly crazy. That'll give Manhattan a huge lead, but Huang will show that he's 2360 for a reason and will strike back for NY. Unfortunately for NY, Alex King will overpress due to the team situation and Rozman will bring it home.

Carolina Cobras  Miami Sharks
IM Kassa Korley: 2486 0.0 1.0 GM Julio Becerra: 2626
FM Andrey Chumachenko: 2435 0.0 1.0 FM Marcel Martinez: 2474
NM Kevin Mo: 2334 1.0 0.0 NM Tony Arencibia: 2251
Aaron Balleisen: 2105 0.5 0.5 NM Carlos Gaston Andretta: 2228
Average Rating: 2340     Average Rating: 2395
Carolina Total 1.5 2.5 Miami Total

The Southern division became interesting last night, as St. Louis was finally stopped by Connecticut. This will give the rest of the pack a golden opportunity to make up lost ground, though for both Carolina and Miami, a win would be just the first step. Neither of these teams seem to be in any real danger of challenging the leaders, but they'll be looking to change those perceptions tonight as they struggle to get back on track. GM Becerra will welcome the opportunity to play someone under 2700 FIDE, and will take full advantage for Miami's first point. Soon after, Martinez will follow suit, effectively ending Carolina's chances in this match. Mo will make it interesting by returning fire, but Andretta will steer the game to safety and ensure the victory.

Atlanta Kings  Baltimore Kingfishers
IM Carlos Perdomo: 2400 0.5 0.5 IM Tanguy Ringoir: 2583
NM Damir Studen: 2372 0.0 1.0 IM Levan Bregadze: 2530
NM Richard Francisco: 2382 1.0 0.0 NM Jared Defibaugh: 2325
NM Michael Corallo: 2284 0.5 0.5 NM Andrew Zheng: 2208
Average Rating: 2360     Average Rating: 2412
Atlanta Total 2.0 2.0 Baltimore Total

Atlanta is the only team in the South for which a win would be enough to put them into solid-ish playoff position, but they face a tough task in a strong Baltimore squad. Atlanta is repeating the lineup that lost to us last week, but this time they have a better matchup against a more balanced lineup. IM Perdomo surprised the league last week by neutralizing the opposing top board, a feat he will repeat here as he secures a key half point. Though Studen will be outclassed on board 2 with the black pieces against a strong IM, Francisco will use the white ones to equalize the score. Corallo seemed like he'd be making a bid for the strongest board 4 in the league with a current rating of nearly 2400, but his debut last week was less than impressive as he escaped by the skin of his teeth with white against a much lower rated player. This time peace will break out without the need for drama, and the match will follow suit.

Boston Blitz  Philadelphia Inventors
IM Samuel Sevian: 2571 1.0 0.0 IM Tom Bartell: 2448
FM Denys Shmelov: 2473 0.0 1.0 FM Dov Gorman: 2400
NM Chris Williams: 2310 1.0 0.0 NM Peter Minear: 2365
NM Ilya Krasik: 2264 1.0 0.0 NM Todd Bryant: 2201
Average Rating: 2405     Average Rating: 2354
Boston Total 3.5 0.5 Philadelphia Total

I never seem to give Philly enough credit, but frankly here I just don't see any realistic way they can win this matchup. Minear just is not good with the black pieces, and Williams does not seem like a forgiving player. He'll get the night started with a quick attacking win to get the momentum going. Basically-GM Sevian will follow suit, taking down IM Bartell in a matchup he must be very happy with, while Krasik will do the same after Bryant realizes he needs to try and win. Finally, Gorman will provide the lone bright spot of the night and improve to 3-0 (ok, he's gotten some gifts, but his results are starting to look like his 2012 ones), but it will be woefully insufficient as Boston shakes up the Eastern division with a convincing victory.

We're at T-3 hours now, and judging by last night these are games you don't want to miss a minute of, lest you return to find your favorite team just hung mate - and won anyway! Until next time!

-Alexander Katz