USCL Week 5 Recap: Halfway there...
...but fortunately, not living on a prayer :D
The Knockouts continued their winning ways with a vitally important win over the Manhattan Applesauce. The win brings the Knockouts back to a 50% score and vaults us into second place in the Atlantic division.
In other divisional news, New York convincingly defeated Philadelphia 3-1 to take control of the division by a full point. Yet the division remains incredibly competitive, as following just a half-point behind us is Philadelphia and Manhattan just a half-point behind them.
The halfway point represents the end of the first session of divisional play, with the remaining 3 divisional matches reserved for the final 3 weeks of the season. Before those see another inter-division week, followed by an inter-conference matchup. This means the next 2 weeks are critical for all teams, as the seeding heading into the set of divisional matches will be key in determining the final standings.
GM Joel Benjamin was the first to strike, getting the best of an obscure opening line and collecting the full point with a vicious attack. The effort netted him a GOTW nomination as he tries for his second one of the year.
The match looked to be pretty much sewn up at this point, as der Manuelian had a pretty much winning position and GM Stripunsky had a small edge. I had played terribly and already fallen into a bad position, which I was still thinking was better for me.
Next to finish was an answer from Manhattan, as I just played horrendously and Goldenberg took full advantage, smoothly outplaying me while I just wandered around aimlessly. Hardly one of my better games and one I'll be trying to quickly forget.
Quite a well-played game by Goldenberg, while I just showed up with my C-game and made it look like some IM was playing a nice game with Black in the first or second round of the World Open.
GM Stripunsky pressed and pressed, but was ultimately unable to bring home the full point and had to settle for a draw.
This put the match into the hands of the board 4 game, which for us meant Haik der Manuelian was putting the team on his shoulders. After achieving a vicious attack, he let up at the critical moments a couple of times and let his opponent off the hook, but finally after a long night and many moves his opponent finally cracked under the pressure and committed a horrific blunder.
Not exactly the best-played game ever, but a win is a win, especially when it brings the match home.
And with that final move, we fought our way back into a playoff position, with great prospects of maintaining it. Our next match is a key one against the New England Nor'easters, who is currently leading the Northeast division with a powerful 4-1 record, conceding match draws only to Boston and Connecticut. They are, for now, a point ahead of the rest of their division, a lead which they will look to maintain entering the second set of divisonal play.
Needless to say, with 2 teams trying to maintain their playoff seeding going at it, an exciting match is sure to follow with both sides putting forward a top lineup. That match will happen at 7:10 PM next Tuesday - don't miss it!
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Trivia Solution: The last regular season match to feature two teams with the exact same average rating was as far back as 2010, when Miami and Dallas weighed in at a 2423 average rating during the 7th week. Miami won that match. http://uschessleague.com/results.php?y=2010&w=7
The same phenominon was seen in the 2012 Quarterfinals, with both Arizona and St. Louis clocking in at a 2401 rating. Arizona overcame draw odds to win the match and advance. http://uschessleague.com/results.php?y=2012&w=quarterfinals