USCL Week 6 preview/predictions
Unfortunately I've been pretty busy this week, so the recap of last week's games will be a little late. However, since it wouldn't make much sense to post predictions after the matches have finished, I figured I'd at least get this done quickly before the starting gun sounds.
This week we have a huge matchup against the Philadelphia Inventors, who are currently sitting atop the Eastern division with a shocking 4.5/5 score. Despite being heavily outrated in every match, their secret sauce has proven to be the right recipe. A huge upset over the Rio Grande Ospreys last week cemented their legendary status, at least for now. New Jersey, on the other hand, has sort of limped their way to reasonable playoff chances, salvaging important wins over the Atlanta Kings and the Carolina Cobras despite major setbacks in each. We are currently clinging on to third, on the virtue of having slightly better tiebreaks than the Manhattan Applesauce have, but one good week (or one bad week!) can drastically change the scheme of things. Rarely was this more evident than last night, when the Dallas Destiny and the St. Louis Archbishops, who both seemed to be running away with their divisions, were unceremoniously dragged back down to the field and will have to re-prove themselves if they want the top seeds.
|New Jersey Knockouts||Philadelphia Inventors|
|GM Alex Stripunsky: 2656||0.0||1.0||FM Dov Gorman: 2400|
|GM Joel Benjamin: 2634||0.0||1.0||NM Peter Minear: 2365|
|NM Dmitriy Volkov: 2371||0.0||1.0||FM Rodion Rubenchik: 2329|
|Aaron Jacobson: 2139||0.0||1.0||IM Richard Costigan: 2288|
|Average Rating: 2450||Average Rating: 2346|
|New Jersey Total||0.0||4.0||Philadelphia Total|
Ain't gonna be no rematch. Ain't gonna be no rematch.
GM Alex Stripunsky returns, looking to repeat his week 2 performance where he won against Philadelphia's star IM Tom Bartell. This time he faces a far easier task, getting the white pieces against FM Dov Gorman. However, Gorman is no joke, and underestimating his ability would be a serious error. Last year, his foray onto the top board yielded excellent results as he neutralized NJ's GM Joel Benjamin on the top board, leading eventually to an Inventors win and the crushing of NJ's playoff hopes. Regardless, this looks like a huge mismatch, but who am I to argue with the secret sauce?
Southpaw nothing. I'll drop him in three.
The second board actually does see a rematch, between NM Peter Minear and GM Joel Benjamin. Last time these two played, back in week 2, the GM dropped Minear in 3. Or maybe 2. Or 76. I don't know. What's the conversion factor again? Anyway, this time Minear gets the white pieces, but that hardly compensates for the vast difference in strength between the two. You know what does compensate for the vast difference in strength between the two? Secret sauce.
What is keeping him up Bill, I don't know.
NM Dmitriy Volkov's debut was far short of inspiring in the opening, but he hung around for the full 15 rounds to salvage an incredibly important half-point, one that would prove to save the match after GM Benjamin was upset. FM Rubenchik, however, has serious experience in the upset department, knocking off GM Holden Hernandez of Rio Grande (with the black pieces!) last week to complete Philly's stunning upset. With the top boards severely overmatched, Rubenchik will need to come out with a vicious left hook if Philly wants to win this match, and his portion of the secret sauce will cause the knockout.
Finally, veteran IM Richard Costigan, also fresh off a big upset over WIM Nemcova to put the finishing touches on Philly's shocker, slips back down to the fourth board to take on not-so-veteran Aaron Jacobson. Jacobson's debut was an encouraging one, defeating the super-talented 11 (!!) year-old Carissa Yip of New England to offset IM Vigorito's charge. Fresh off a solid 1.5/2 against the Sevian contingent last weekend, Aaron is in form and ready to go. Unfortunately, he is no match for the secret sauce, and Philly will cruise to a simple 4-0 victory.
Anyway, now time for the fun part. Philly really messed with my predictions last week, but I managed a solid 7/20 games and 3/5 matches correct, bringing my season totals up to 43/80 games and 8/25 matches correct. Still not happy with my match-picking clairvoyance, but >50% picking games is pretty good. Let's try and improve these numbers...
|New York Knights||New England Nor'easters|
|GM Gata Kamsky: 2785||1.0||0.0||GM Alexander Ivanov: 2589|
|FM Michael Bodek: 2502||0.5||0.5||SM Mika Brattain: 2453|
|NM Gary Huang: 2358||0.0||1.0||FM Christopher Chase: 2411|
|NM Qibiao Wang: 2320||1.0||0.0||NM Carey Theil: 2180|
|Average Rating: 2491||Average Rating: 2408|
|New York Total||2.5||1.5||New England Total|
With the demise of St. Louis and Dallas last week, New York has a very good chance to establish themselves as the best team in the league. To do that, however, they'll have to deal with their sole weakness to date, which is incredibly the play of the U.S. Champion! In his rematch against GM Ivanov he'll have the white pieces, an advantage that is hard to imagine him squadering. Kamsky will right the ship and get the night off to a good start with a win. Though FM Chase will respond by defeating NM Huang, whose play has been very iffy on the season, NM Wang will continue to clean up the lower rated players and FM Bodek will steer towards a match-clinching draw in a stable position.
|Atlanta Kings||Carolina Cobras|
|GM Alonso Zapata: 2555||0.5||0.5||IM Kassa Korley: 2486|
|IM Carlos Perdomo: 2400||0.5||0.5||NM Kevin Mo: 2334|
|NM Richard Francisco: 2382||1.0||0.0||FM Robin Cunningham: 2268|
|NM Leo Martinez: 2266||1.0||0.0||NM Craig Jones: 2232|
|Average Rating: 2401||Average Rating: 2330|
|Atlanta Total||3.0||1.0||Carolina Total|
Baltimore's shocking win sent the Southern division into chaos, but not quite the way these two teams would like it. The establishment of Baltimore as a serious division contender brings the count up to 3 (St. Louis, Baltimore, Connecticut), meaning that these teams are going to have an extremely hard time crawling back into playoff contention. GM Zapata being back in the lineup is a boost for the Kings, but IM Korley has proven himself more than capable of handling himself on the top board. This time the top board will result in a draw, as will the second board contest between NM Mo and IM Perdomo. This will leave it up to the bottom boards, where Atlanta will put things away and keep their playoff chances alive.
|Miami Sharks||Connecticut Dreadnoughts|
|GM Julio Becerra: 2626||0.5||0.5||GM Alex Lenderman: 2701|
|FM Marcel Martinez: 2474||0.0||1.0||GM Mark Paragua: 2588|
|NM Carlos Gaston Andretta: 2228||0.5||0.5||NM Ian Harris: 2308|
|John Salisbury: 1998||0.0||1.0||NM Zachary Tanenbaum: 2208|
|Average Rating: 2332||Average Rating: 2451|
|Miami Total||1.0||3.0||Connecticut Total|
Miami has been struggling these season, but with the Southern division being battered in interdivisional play they can soar right back into playoff position as early as 6-7 hours from now. Unfortunately for them, Connecticut is seriously starting to look like the best team in the Southern division and a serious contender in the playoffs, and I don't see how this match is going to be particularly close. GM Becerra-GM Lenderman is a high profile rematch from earlier this year where GM Lenderman took the full point, but the reversed colors will result in a split one. GM Paragua will start off the scoring with some fairly interesting win, while NM Tanenbaum will put the match away by exploiting his big rating advantage and white pieces. NM Harris establishes a margin of error with the better side of a draw, and Connecticut will roar back to the top of the division.
|Manhattan Applesauce||Boston Blitz|
|IM Victor Shen: 2510||1.0||0.0||IM Steven Zierk: 2543|
|IM Farai Mandizha: 2478||0.0||1.0||IM Marc Esserman: 2528|
|FM Rico Salimbagat: 2286||0.5||0.5||NM Chris Williams: 2310|
|NM Levy Rozman: 2382||1.0||0.0||NM Ilya Krasik: 2264|
|Average Rating: 2414||Average Rating: 2411|
|Manhattan Total||2.5||1.5||Boston Total|
Manhattan is looking like a pretty good team, while Boston... isn't. However, in this match I like Boston's chances. Despite that, I'll give Victor one last vote of confidence, which will be offset by IM Esserman smashing something (whether Black's king shelter or a wall, one or the other). Manhattan will keep pace with the rest of the division with Rozman's win on the bottom board and a split point on the third board, though with all 8 of these players being very dynamic this is a match that could go in any direction.
As usual, a huge thanks to our sponsors PokerStars and ICC, the latter of which is where the games will begin in about 90 minutes. With interdivisional play resuming next week, teams still have no idea whether they'll be fighting for the top 3 or the top 4 spots in their division, meaning that they need to establish the best position they can before the extra playoff spot is awarded. Don't miss it!