Week 2 recap: Disaster strikes
Despite the craziness and uncertainty of the USCL, the final standings have little sympathy for mistakes, and NJ committed the equivalent of a giant blunder this week. With a gigantic rating edge over Philadelphia, one had to hope that we could convert into a match victory and an early divisional lead. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and just over 4 hours later we found ourselves in dead last in our division. An extremely disappointing start to our season!
Shortly into the match, it appeared as if the result couldn't have been scripted any better. GM Benjamin achieved a great position early with black against Philadelphia's Dov Gorman. IM Kapengut, despite his connection issues, had a pleasant position with White out of a Ruy Lopez, I had equalized without any trouble against IM Costigan, and Balakrishnan had just blown open the center with what looked like a nice advantage. But a few moves in the USCL can change everything, and that was exactly what happened...
I suppose IM Kapengut knows better than me, but with a very pleasant looking position I would expect White to play for a lot more than he did, especially with Balakrishnan's idea blowing up in his face:
This would prove to be the only decisive result of the match. Balakrishnan is a very strong young player, but his record in the league (just 1/6) has been disappointing thus far. Hopefully we'll see a turnaround from him soon.
This draw left Philadephia with a 2-1 lead, and only needed a draw on the third board to bring the match home. Unfortunately White really played for absolutely nothing the whole game, and it's very difficult to beat someone with Black under those conditions. Not for lack of trying!
And so NJ is currently relegated to last place in the Atlantic division. However, the season is still early, and just one point seperates first and last place. Way too early to count us out just yet! Our next match is against Boston, on Tuesday at 7:30 PM (Eastern), where we will be desperately trying to get a positive number into the "Win" column!
In a brief "Around the League", New York obliterated Manhattan in a 3.5-0.5 victory, with IM Vovsha earning the only half-point for Manhattan. Aravind Kumar refuted an enterprising sacrifice by Manhattan's not-so-secret weapon Ryan Goldenberg for a huge upset, while Bodek and Charbonneau won nice smooth games. Boston and Connecticut had an exciting draw, in which Connecticut's board 4 Kapil Chandran spoiled a dominating position with the unfortunate blunder Bg5 (one of the puzzles below!). Leif Pressman played a very brave game with Black and was rewarded with the full point, while the top 2 boards both split the point. NE forced Baltimore to an 0-2 start, behind a smooth win by Steven Winer, back from a long hiatus, and Andrew Liu who played carefully to defuse Ben Krause's exciting piece sacrifice. In West Coast action, defending champions Seattle went down to a strong LA squad, despite Orlov's amazing heroics in taking down GM Khachiyan from a completely lost position. Amanov and Abrahamyan provided the wins for LA, with Roland Feng unable to pick up the necessary tying point despite an Herculian effort. SF nearly whitewashed Arizona in a 3.5-0.5 victory, with Mackenzie Molner providing Arizona's only half-point after brilliant defense from GM Kraii. Miami and St. Louis faced off in a highly anticipated match, but Miami's Eric Rodriguez collected the only win of the match. Finally, Dallas took care of the heavily outrated Carolina despite a board 4 disaster and Craig Jones' board 3 heroics to save a draw from an exchange-down position. Dallas, however, showed that the big downside to having significantly lower rated players on the top 2 boards has a price, with GM Chirila and Jeffery Xiong teaming up to put Dallas over the top.
And here are some more puzzles from around the league. Last week's participation was... sparse, but congratulations to Bab3s for turning in the only correct answer to a position. The answer to the first position was the instructive 2-mover 1. Rh6! Kh6 2. Qh8#, the second as Bab3s pointed out was 1... Rc3!! when White must lose a pawn to avoid mate, and the third the brilliant "Move of the Week" 1... Qa3!!, forcing mate! If there's no interest in this I probably won't continue with it after a couple of weeks.
Don't forget to vote in the Game of the Week pool (not up yet), and again our usual thanks to our sponsors PokerStars and chess.com.