USCL Week 7 Recap

NJKnockouts
NJKnockouts
Oct 11, 2013, 12:10 PM |
0

It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done against Carolina and maintain third place in the Atlantic division. Manhattan, on the other hand, slammed down St. Louis in a 4-0 whitewash to extend their tiebreaker lead to a full 2 game points.

New York has been dominating the division since the start, but last week they suffered a setback against the Miami Sharks, dropping their lead to just half a match point over both Manhattan and us. 

The match illustrated Carolina's main problems: In order to hope to draw the match, they practically must win on board 4. In order to hope to win the match, they practically must also win on board 3. When neither of those happens, it's up to their top 2 baords to try and fend off much higher rated players, which they simply have not been able to do this season. 

As seems to be typical of our matches, early on it seemed like everything was going quite well. IM Kapengut on board 3 did his job and played a solid draw, while GM Benjamin and GM Gulko on the top two boards had unbalanced complicated positions - exactly what you need to outplay a weaker player. Finally, Haik der Manuelian was holding his own on the final board.

Again, the first to finish was a pretty lifeless draw between Craig Jones (CAR) and IM Kapengut (NJ):

At first glance, one might wonder why Black elected to dissolve the position into sterile equality, playing a significantly lower-rated player. The answer is that while normally Black would play something double-edged and keep the position complicated, in this team event it makes more sense to risk nothing and let your two GMs take care of business. 

The next game to finish was GM Gulko getting it done against Robin Cunningham. The game started almost 40 minutes late despite both players being present at the correct time - for some reason the players had each other censored and so the server would not allow the game to begin!

It appeared that GM Benjamin was well on his way to victory, having basically smashed IM Schroer in every facet of the position. Unfortunately Joel's typical time pressure began to set in and he let Schroer off the hook in a big way, almost even losing the game.

This left us up 2-1, again needing Haik der Manuelian to deliver the match for us. This time he only required a draw, but he had to work very hard for it and was very close to not getting it. NJ's turnaround from .5/3 to the playoff hunt can be attributed to upset points being scored on the last board, achieving not only points but also allowing higher rated players to play on the top boards. 
With that NJ squeaked past Carolina 2.5-1.5, eliminating Carolina from playoff contention. Aside from Carolina, every team is very much alive in the playoff hunt, with the final 3 weeks of the season being all divisional matches.
Our next match is Tuesday, October 15th against the Philadelphia Inventors. Philadephia is a full 1.5 match points out of 2nd place, and a loss would effectively eliminate them from contention. This makes them even more dangerous than usual, fighting for their lives. On the other side of things, Manhattan faces off against New York, which means that a win for us would put us in 2nd place (regardless of their result) with just 2 weeks left to go. NJ will face off against Manhattan in the final week of the season in what could prove to basically be an extra playoff game.
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-Alexander Katz