USCL Week 6 Recap/Week 7 Preview+Predictions superpost
Decided I'd combine the two this week into one SUPER GIANT BIG HUMONGOUS POST
First off is a brief (heh) look at our loss last week. Facing off against a very strong team in New England, our lower boards couldn't get the job done and we fell 1-3. Things got off to an inauspicious start when John Michael Burke, making his season debut, uncharacteristically got into a difficult position with white quickly against an unusual opening and subsequently lost the exchange. With a fairly active position there were chances regardless, but eventually he had to concede the point.
This game hardly reveals Burke's real strength. Having just broken 2200 and thus earning his NM title, expect him to be back with much stronger play.
The next board up struggled also, as Christopher Wu was unable to take advantage of Andrew Liu's apparent lack of knowledge in the opening (having spent a lot of time in it), as a typical Nimzo situation appeared where Black's queenside intiative simply resulted in his pieces being bystanders to the destruction of his king.
This left our top two boards in a very difficult position, both needing wins to salvage the match. Unfortunately this resulted in GM Fishbein being forced to eschew de facto draw offers in pursuit of victory, which didn't pan out as IM Vigorito defused the threats and maintained his material advantage.
Finally, GM Stripunsky saved the team a bit of face, taking advantage of a late blunder to earn the full point while already down 0-3.
A highly disappointing match, breaking our 2-match win streak and sending us back into a tie with Manhattan for the 2nd playoff spot. For the moment, Manhattan remains half a game point ahead and thus visually holds the coveted 2nd place position. But with 4 weeks of tough matches still to come, the only thing that can be definitively said about the USCL teams is that Carolina is not going to make the playoffs (of course, Miami could lose out while St. Louis loses all their matches except a win against Miami, while Carolina sweeps all 4 of their remaining matches.... yeah, probably not).
This provides the perfect segue into the preview part of this post, in which we take a look at the Knockouts' next opponent... Carolina!
|Carolina Cobras||New Jersey Knockouts|
|IM Jonathan Schroer: 2432||GM Joel Benjamin: 2640|
|FM Robin Cunningham: 2225||GM Boris Gulko: 2591|
|NM Craig Jones: 2251||IM Albert Kapengut: 2363|
|NM Carlito Agner: 2227||Haik der Manuelian: 2032|
|Average Rating: 2284||Average Rating: 2407|
Board 1 sees a typical giant mismatch, with IM Jonathan Schroer playing yet another top GM in Joel Benjamin. The good news for Carolina is that Schroer spends most of his league career on the top board, having played 50 times against practically all IMs/GMs (or those that should be). The bad news is that he's scored just 16 points among those 50 games. It doesn't help that playing solidly and not risking much isn't a great option, because Carolina is similarly outrated on each of the top 3 boards. This mandates some risk on his part, and GM Benjamin takes advantage with the full point and sends Carolina to 0-7 on the top board.
The second board is an even more compelling rating advantage, with GM Gulko even having the white pieces against FM Robin Cunningham. Now look, I like underdogs and all, but this is a bit ridiculous. And I thought I was excited when I saw Ivanov take the white pieces and a 360 rating point advantage... how can you not pick Gulko in this matchup? NJ drives the point home that Carolina's top two boards are simply not going to get them into the playoffs anytime soon.
The bottom two boards are a bit more evenly matched, with Craig Jones' 100-point or so rating disadvantage partially offset by the fact he holds the white pieces. Really Carolina has to win on this board if they want a chance in this match (well, this holds true for most of their matches), but they won't get it as Kapengut has little trouble holding a draw and clinching the match.
On the last board, Haik der Manuelian plays way up again, but this time he's tasted victory and hero...ic...ness. More importantly he has the white pieces and doesn't really have to risk a whole lot to try and beat a much higher rated player when the top 2 boards have such great chances. He plays something pretty solid and a draw ensues.
So NJ gets back on track with a 3-1 victory, and takes up a precarious position with the final set of divisional matches starting the following week, but a much happier place than we were in after starting 0.5/3.
And interconference week means that all 8 matches feature an Eastern conference team, which means 8 predictions instead of the usual 4. I know, I know, try to contain your excitement :)
|Boston Blitz||San Francisco Mechanics|
|GM Eugene Perelshteyn: 2577||.5||.5||GM Vinay Bhat: 2555|
|IM Marc Esserman: 2569||.5||.5||IM Daniel Naroditsky: 2570|
|FM Samuel Sevian: 2486||1||0||FM Andy Lee: 2316|
|Michael Mahoney: 2040||0||1||NM Vignesh Panchanatham: 2238|
Neither Boston nor SF can make headway, as the match ends in a 2-2 tie. Perelshteyn will play something not particularly theoretical where both sides just play chess, which is perfectly fine with Bhat who will adopt a solid setup and nothing much really happens. Esserman is coming off a GOTW-winning loss, and with the Black pieces will respond to Naroditsky's aggressive line against the sicilian with... an even more aggressive line. At some point one or the other of them has to bail out into a perpetual. The third board sees Sam Sevian on board 3 playing against... wait, Sevian on board 3? Point. Finally, the last board sees a big rating mismatch in which the rating will tell the story and the match ends in a draw.
|Arizona Scorpions||Connecticut Dreadnoughts|
|IM Mackenzie Molner: 2592||1||0||GM Michael Rohde: 2548|
|IM Levon Altounian: 2513||.5||.5||IM Justin Sarkar: 2512|
|IM Mark Ginsburg: 2400||0||1||FM Leif Pressman: 2374|
|NM Ben Marmont: 2201||1||0||Zachary Tanenbaum: 2143|
|Average Rating: 2427||Average Rating: 2394|
|Arizona Total||2.5||1.5||Connecticut Total|
Mac Molner plays a nice game to take down a strong GM to strike first for Arizona, while the second board sees Altounian playing and thus probably a draw. Pre cssman has the black pieces, but will strike back for Connecticut anyway in a long game after Ginsburg cracks under the constant pressure, while Ben Marmont makes it a good day to play black on the lower boards with a key victory that brings them right back into the playoff hunt while Connecticut's position slips.
|Baltimore Kingfishers||Seattle Sluggers|
|GM Niclas Huschenbeth: 2610||1||0||GM Emil Anka: 2497|
|GM Larry Kaufman: 2401||.5||.5||FM Costin Cozianu: 2478|
|NM Jared Defibaugh: 2297||1||0||FM Tian Sang: 2324|
|FM Ralph Zimmer: 2244||.5||.5||FM Curt Collyer: 2266|
|Average Rating: 2388||Average Rating: 2391|
|Baltimore Total||3||1||Seattle Total|
Baltimore takes advantage of a difficult week for their division, bringing home a big 3-1 victory over the newly-revitalized Seattle Sluggers. Huschenbeth makes good use of the white pieces and rating advantage on the top board, Cozianu tries but eventually has to concede the half-point against GM Larry Kaufman, Defibaugh plays for mate... then plays for mate again... then plays for mate again... then mates him! Finally Collyer goes the same way as Cozianu and Baltimore, while remaining in last, makes up key ground and sets up some big showdowns in that division over the next few weeks.
|Los Angeles Vibe||New England Nor'easters|
|GM Melikset Khachiyan: 2602||.5||.5||GM Alexander Ivanov: 2624|
|IM Andranik Matikozyan: 2577||.5||.5||FM Steven Winer: 2409|
|IM Larry Remlinger: 2373||1||0||NM Mika Brattain: 2364|
|Nicky Korba: 2160||.5||.5||NM Lawyer Times: 2261|
|Average Rating: 2428||Average Rating: 2415|
|Los Angeles Total||2.5||1.5||New England Total|
New England holds a 2 point lead over the rest of the division, and looks to take another match here to avoid any big drama over the next few weeks, but LA has other ideas. Taking full advantage of Seattle's slip, LA moves into second place with a nail-biting win over NE. The top 2 boards are not particularly exciting, both ending in draws without a whole lot of drama, while IM Larry Remlinger proves to be the difference on the third board with a smooth win over Mika Brattain. Finally, Nicky Korba's game lasts the longest, but eventually he tricks Lawyer Times (who is on fire in the league) late in an ending and escapes with a draw to collect the match.
|New York Knights||Miami Sharks|
|GM Tamaz Gelashvili: 2699||1||0||GM Julio Becerra: 2619|
|IM Irina Krush: 2531||1||0||FM Eric Rodriguez: 2348|
|FM Justus Williams: 2366||1||0||NM Tony Arencibia: 2219|
|FM Aravind Kumar: 2146||1||0||NM Carlos Gaston Andretta: 2128|
|Average Rating: 2436||Average Rating: 2329|
|New York Total||4||0||Miami Total|
Whooooo somebody's gotta sweep sometime and this looks like a nice candidate. Actually not really. But ok we'll have some fun with this. Becerra is one of the faces of the USCL, but he's gotta lose sometime and you'd be hard pressed to find a better candidate to beat him than GM Tamaz Gelashvili. Something fun happens and Gelashvili eventually gets the best of it. Krush is coming off a great performance in Baku, raising her FIDE above 2500 and collecting a GM norm. Eric Rodriguez is a quite strong player, but this time he does something aggressive and it doesn't work out. Justus Williams, who is apparently now an FM, takes white and wins. Finally since I already had it at 3-0, Kumar also wins somehow with Black and makes it 4-0 just because 4-0 is pretty cool.
|Philadelphia Inventors||Dallas Destiny|
|FM Tom Bartell: 2496||0||1||GM Conrad Holt: 2639|
|FM Dov Gorman: 2362||0||1||FM Jeffery Xiong: 2485|
|NM Peter Minear: 2385||.5||.5||FM Alec Getz: 2433|
|IM Richard Costigan: 2288||1||0||NM Atulya Vaidya: 2208|
|Average Rating: 2383||Average Rating: 2441|
|Philadelphia Total||1.5||2.5||Dallas Total|
Well ok. Holt is Holt, thus point. More seriously Holt's one of the top players in the country, and Bartell despite being a very strong player is not. Thus, point. Jeffery Xiong is on a ridiculous pace through the USCL right now and though I don't think he'll actually win, he'll win. I don't see Getz losing, though I don't see him pressing for much once the top 2 boards become winning. Finally Costigan gets a point because let's throw Philly a bone? Again more seriously, Vaidya is someone I really know nothing about, but he's a kid and therefore goes for some unsound attack that the veteran manages to defuse and do the typical "exploit your weaknesses" thing. Despite that, Dallas takes the match and will be extremely difficult to catch.
|St. Louis Arch Bishops||Manhattan Applesauce|
|GM Varuzhan Akobian: 2717||1||0||GM Zviad Izoria: 2624|
|IM Priyadharshan Kannappan: 2508||1||0||IM Farai Mandizha: 2453|
|IM Vitaly Neimer: 2455||1||0||FM Rico Salimbagat: 2259|
|Jacob Wilkins: 1909||0||1||NM Ryan Goldenberg: 2348|
|Average Rating: 2397||Average Rating: 2421|
|St. Louis Total||3||1||Manhattan Total|
Manhattan actually has the average rating edge in this match, but that's solely due to the 439 point advantage on the bottom board. If that's not a record, I don't even. Anyway, there's a reason Akobian is over 2700 USCF and he'll prove it against a similarly strong GM, Kannappan is Kannappan and is just a ridiculously good player, Neimer has white and a big rating edge so I'll take him, while Wilkins has played great this season winning several (like 3?) upset prizes already, but there's a bit much being asked of him this week. Despite this his low rating achieves the desired purpose and the top boards deliver, bringing St. Louis into 2nd place after Miami is swept (which will obviously happen), making their matchup the following week even more exciting.
Well, after that brief post, the usual stuff: Tune in to chess.com on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to catch all the games live, with commentary at chess.com/tv. NJ plays at 7:30 PM (Eastern) on Wednesday - show up and cheer us on! Also, now we all get fangroups, so all you fangirls (and boys too) make sure to join ours! I don't really know what they're for, but I'm sure some cool stuff will happen there.
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