USCL Week 5 Preview/Predictions
As we near the halfway point of the season, the USCL returns to divisional play. The stakes are rapidly increasing as the playoffs draw nearer and nearer, with some divisions becoming clearer and others just getting more and more muddled.
Take, for example, the South division. St. Louis sits at a respectable even score, but it is only enough to be sitting in third place a full 2 matches out of the playoff picture, as Miami and Dallas both have full scores up to this point. On the other pole, the Atlantic division sees first and last place seperated by just 1 match, in a very tight race that tomorrow night may hope to clarify a bit.
We face off against Manhattan while New York looks to defend their small division lead against Philadelphia. For us and Manhattan, the story is pretty much the same. A win would vault us back to an even score and well in the playoff hunt, while a loss would set us back a devastating amount with very little time left to recover.
|New Jersey Knockouts||Manhattan Applesauce|
|GM Alex Stripunsky: 2651||GM Zviad Izoria: 2624|
|GM Joel Benjamin: 2640||IM Dmitry Schneider: 2516|
|NM Alexander Katz: 2362||NM Ryan Goldenberg: 2348|
|Haik der Manuelian: 2032||Tyrell Harriott: 2197|
|Average Rating: 2421||Average Rating: 2421|
Neither team is pulling any punches, with both teams trotting out their highest rated player accompanied by a titled player on the second board. With 2 very evenly matched teams going at it, nobody can hope to predict the result. Except me.
On board 1, NJ hero GM Alex Stripunsky again takes the white pieces, this time against GM Zviad Izoria. Stripunsky won a great game last week that almost netted the GOTW prize, leading NJ to our first match win and putting us back in the playoff discussion. I still have something against Izoria ever since I dropped a rook against him while up a clear piece (though he just outplayed me and lost his way in time pressure), which somehow marked the beginning of a huge slump for me that hopefully I'm getting out of. Izoria has played twice this season, one with a GOTW nominee win over Bartell and one a sacrificial draw against IM Bregadze that boiled down into a perpetual, but was White in both games. Stripunsky will maintain a slight advantage throughout the entire time, but Izoria is slightly stronger than Melik and will draw the game.
GM Joel Benjamin returns to board 2, again with the black pieces, and again against a strong IM. IM Dmitry Schneider has played in the league for many years, with strong results in the last couple of years. Joel will play another double-edged opening, probably a Caro-Kann where he has a ridiculous amount of experience in, not allow the position to resolve itself into sterility and bring home a much-needed point for NJ.
I return to the now-familiar spot of board 3, and have white for the third week in a row. NM Ryan Goldenberg is a huge USCL steal, as his now 2380 rating makes him a formidible force on either of the bottom 2 boards. Additionally, he's a virtual unknown, having exploded in strength recently, meaning that there is practically no material for preperation. Note that he hasn't gone down rating points in a tournament since the 2010 World Open. Not fun. Obviously I'm never going to predict a loss for myself but I guess the safest bet is a draw, though hopefully this time my opening with white won't just leave me worse.
Finally Haik der Manuelian tries his luck again, this time against Tyrell Harriott, a fairly active player who is coming off a horrific tournament in August, during which he dropped 55 rating points in a freefall from 2197 back down to 2142. But with solid 2170ish results over the last few years, this just makes him a more dangerous force. Haik is still looking to get on the board, having lost both his first 2 games while significantly outrated and playing black - a situation he now faces again. But this time, the third time proves to be the charm and Haik succeeds in collecting the half-point after failing to win a better position.
And with that, despite the fact that I seem to predict every match being one win for us combined with 3 draws, NJ takes home the match 2.5-1.5 and climbs back into the playoff hunt.
And of course, this post would be no fun without a further display of clairvoyence. Last week was pretty good for me from a prediction standpoint (and a player standpoint!), correctly predicting 6/8 winners, with 5 of those being by the exactly correct margin. Only Miami and Philadephia managed to shake off my match prediction, while NE was the only team to win by a different margin than I called (3-1, though it was 3.5-0.5 before the board 2 result was overturned vs. my wild prediction of 4-0).
This week though, I return to focusing only on the Eastern matches. The West is great and all but I simply don't care very much about the standings over there for now.
Anyway, the remaining 3 Wednesday matches will look like this:
|New York Knights||Philadelphia Inventors|
|GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2552||0.5||0.5||FM Tom Bartell: 2496|
|SM Matt Herman: 2424||1||0||FM Dov Gorman: 2362|
|FM Akshat Chandra: 2395||1||0||NM Peter Minear: 2385|
|NM Nicolas Checa: 2267||.5||.5||FM Karl Dehmelt: 2260|
|Average Rating: 2410||Average Rating: 2376|
|New York Total||3||1||Philadelphia Total|
New York successfully defends their division lead with a 3-1 victory. Charbonneau has the white pieces and a rating edge, but Bartell is a far more active player and will survive the onslaught. Matt Herman lost to Dov Gorman last year, but this time will play something with a bit more to it (probably avoiding the Exchange Slav which is every double-edged player's dream) and take advantage of Gorman's recent struggles. Akshat had some stupid game last week where he FINALLY emulated me, went well under a minute to his opponent's many minutes, then somehow randomly won the game. Took him long enough to listen. Having learned the power of the yolo he'll take home another point. I know I keep predicting Gorman and Minear to lose games but it has to happen sometime... right? Finally, Dehmelt proved to be too much for Praveen to handle, but Nico won't have any of that and will comfortably hold.
|New England Nor'easters||Connecticut Dreadnoughts|
|GM Sam Shankland: 2673||1||0||GM Mikheil Kekelidze: 2576|
|FM Steven Winer: 2409||.5||.5||GM Michael Rohde: 2548|
|NM Mika Brattain: 2364||.5||.5||IM Jay Bonin: 2436|
|NM Lawyer Times: 2261||1||0||Zachary Tanenbaum: 2143|
|Average Rating: 2427||Average Rating: 2426|
|New England Total||3||1||Connecticut Total|
NE has the second 3-1 margin of the night, with Shankland starting it off by utilizing the white pieces to good effect to take down GM Kekelidze. Winer's return to chess has been nothing but successful thus far, easily showing that he's more than capable of playing successfully on board 2. Black against GM Rohde is not a very nice pairing to have but he'll make the best of it and achieve a half-point. IM Bonin has Black which makes him a bit less scary, but still has a lot of experience with fairly fast time controls and won't be defeated, while the white pieces won't save Tanenbaum and he'll go down slowly but Black will be playing for 2 results quickly.
|Boston Blitz||Baltimore Kingfishers|
|IM Marc Esserman: 2569||1||0||IM Levan Bregadze: 2469|
|SM Denys Shmelov: 2465||.5||.5||IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat: 2492|
|NM Vadim Martirosov: 2349||1||0||GM Larry Kaufman: 2401|
|NM Ilya Krasik: 2286||1||0||NM Andrew Zheng: 2159|
|Average Rating: 2417||Average Rating: 2380|
|Boston Total||3.5||.5||Baltimore Total|
This prediction is overly crazy but my self-imposed rule of not taking more than 5 minutes to fill in all the results is kicking in. Esserman has White and therefore 30 moves and some piece sacrifices later he'll bring home a point, Shmelov lost last week but will return to his solid self and easily draw, Vadim "squeeze for free" Matirosov will score a point well into the night in garbage time when the GM slips up a long defense, while Ilya Krasik has been a staple of the USCL forever and will rant his way to a victory.
And so the plot thickens, with all the week 5 action happening both tonight and Wednesday night on chess.com's server. Thanks to our sponsors PokerStars and chess.com, and we'll be back in a few days with a match recap.
Also, TRIVIA :D Maybe this will become a weekly thing, maybe not, I don't know. Since this is apparently too hard for the live show I get to use it here, horray:
The USCL gives rise to many close and tense matches, many of which have teams as rating favorites by very few points. It is hardly rare to see a team with an average rating of less than 5 points higher than their opponent's (Note NE's one-point edge over Connecticut). However, New Jersey and Manhattan enter tomorrow night's match with an unusual distinction: There is no rating favorite, because both teams have the exact same average rating!
When was the last regular-season match that this occurred in, which teams were playing, and what was their average rating?