Dragons knock out the Knockouts 13.5-2.5
Even before our match with New Jersey started, there was an excitement in the air. Two of our mainstays, GM Bator Sambuev and IM Nikolay Noritsyn had been training heavily, sharpening their already formidable tactical edge. GM Gergely Szabo (pictured above) over in Europe had played in a classical tournament over the weekend, but was now rested up, and in peak form. We'd added checkmating specialist IM Bindi Cheng to our line up the week before, and he'd been a key factor in our 14-2 steamrollering of the young Columbus Cardinals.
This time we were facing a much more seasoned squad. All four of the New Jersey masters were veterans of the U.S. Chess League. GM Alexander Stripunsky and GM Alex Fishbein were known to be fierce at rapid time controls over-the-board. New Jersey was even sitting at 3rd place in our division while we were further down. Still, we had some ideas on how to approach this match, and had learned a lot from our recent games. We were ready.
In round 1, Bator got into a bishop vs. knight ending against their 4th board FM Aravind Kumar, but poor Kumar fell way behind on the clock, and lost on time. Gergely got a passed pawn against IM Alex Katz, but Katz's king was too active, and they agreed a draw. Bindi looked to be worse against top board Stripunsky, but in time trouble, Stripunsky gave up the exchange, and then fell into one of Bindi's trademark mating nets. Noritsyn-Fishbein was a real free for all, with pieces dropping left and right, but Fishbein ended up a bishop down, and resigned. 3.5-0.5. An amazing start against such a strong team.
In round 2, Bator sacrificed a piece against Katz right out of the opening.
Fishbein seemed determined to win some points back, advancing the pawns in front of his king to attack Bindi in a sharp Sicilian Scheveningen.
IM Nikolay Noritsyn annotated his game with New Jersey's top board Alex Stripunsky.
Against Kumar's Slav Defence, Gergely debuted an interesting system where White advances almost all his pawns to the third rank. Both sides sacrificed pawns, but it was Gergely's extra pawn which won in the end. In the second round, we'd managed a 4-0 sweep. We were ecstatic.
In round 3, Nikolay chose an offbeat defence against Kumar's d4, and Kumar ended up sacrificing the exchange, but came under a swift mating attack. Katz built a strong attack against Bindi's Sicilian. In time trouble, Bindi disdained to go in for a perpetual check, and ended up losing on time.
Gergely rolled out his f3, g3 system against Stripunsky's Slav. He was kind enough to provide some notes.
Bator unveiled a Torre Attack against Fishbein's King's Indian. Fishbein ended up with more pawn islands, and lost what might have been a drawish endgame. We were now at 10.5-1.5. Bindi suggested we should try to sweep the 4th round as well, and they set to work.
Nikolay won a tactical slugfest against the ever ambitious Katz. Bindi accurately punished endgame inaccuracies by Kumar. Fishbein sacrificed a slew of pawns and pieces against Gergely, but eventually resigned when he ran out of material. Stripunsky-Sambuev seemed headed toward a draw, until Stripunsky found a deflection knight fork combination to rescue their second win of the evening. Final score 13.5-2.5. Quite a decent performance indeed. We were now leading our division in game points scored, and were tied for 4th in the League overall.
Tune in Saturday, February 11th at 11.55 a.m. EST 8:55 a.m. Pacific for our match against the top rated London Towers team.