USCL week 4 recap
It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was New Jersey's turn to escape with a key half point against the New England Nor'Easters. In an interesting departure from previous weeks, this time it was the bottom boards who came through for the Knockouts, with Aaron Jacobson picking up the key win in his USCL debut to keep us in strong playoff position.
The night started out with a draw between Dmitriy Volkov, who was making his USCL debut, and Mika Brattain of New England. After an opening that can only be described as disasterous, somehow the win became less and less clear until finally Volkov was able to escape into a drawn rook ending. An impressive save by the "rookie"!
The other Knockout making his debut was Aaron Jacobson, who had an uneviable matchup as black against the super talented Carissa Yip. White slightly mishandled the opening, but Black was only able to take advantage by achieving equality, missing a few opportunities to get his position going. As his clock ticked down he began to lose the thread and allowed White good chances, but a surprising rook "sacrifice" turned all that around as suddenly White was placed on the defensive. Yip was unable to cope with the sudden turnaround, and NJ brought home a key full point.
Unfortunately for NJ, IM Vigorito brought his A-game to even the score with a huge win over GM Joel Benjamin. Benjamin's offbeat opening was reasonably well-handled by White, who kept a reasonable edge throughout the game despite missing some opportunities to increase it. Finally Black lashed out inadvisably and was swiftly punished in the center of the board, finally ending up committing a fatal blunder that White didn't ignore.
For like the billionth time this left the match in the hands of GM Alex Stripunsky, but this time he was unable to deliver as GM Ivanov's defenses proved uncrackable. Though White got a solid edge from the opening, Black was able to lock down the queenside and deny White any squares on the a-file, giving him enough to keep White from achieving any winning chances. Stripunsky was not satisfied with a draw and continued trying, but almost was burned as he hung a pawn and had to switch to an albeit easy defense to hold the draw and the match.
With this draw and Manhattan's loss to NY, we moved into 3rd place in the division, but we are a full point behind the New York Knights and 1.5 behind the Philadelphia Inventors. The rest of the division is hot on our heels with Manhattan just half a tiebreak point behind, so our position is far from secure. Our next match is against the reinvented Carolina Cobras, who despite their much-improved roster sit in last place in the Southern division. However, with just a point separating them from 3rd place in that division, this match will be very important for both sides. But more on that later!