New England Nor'easters vs. Miami Sharks
Tomorrow, November 20th, the United States Chess League will conduct its final campaign of the 2010 season. As evening settles over the country, the New England Nor’easters will play the Miami Sharks to decide who will be the 2010 League Champion. Starting with only 90 minutes on each clock (+30 sec. increments), the match itself will be played out on four separate boards. As managers, IM David Vigorito (NE) and IM Blas Lugo (MIA) have fielded the best players they could muster from within their team’s rosters. Once League President IM Greg Shahade cries, “Havoc!” both will let slip the dogs of war!
For perhaps the first time in their inaugural season, the New England Nor’easters find the winds of opinion blowing their way as they are considered the favorite by many. At first glance, that may be hard to explain. Not only did they compile the best regular season record for 2010 with 9.5 out of 10 points; they set a new league record. Their playoff matches have seen them move past two of the Eastern Division’s annual contenders (New York and Boston). They have defied the skeptics week after week, since August 25th. It truly has been a team effort, and Saturday’s lineup showcases many of the Nor’easters players who have helped to make that point:
IM Sam Shankland - After starting slowly, Sam has become a force to be reckoned with on board 1. Many of the opponent’s top players have fell victim to Shankland’s strong play this season. Even though he will have White on board one, his skills will once again be tested by none other than the League MVP!
IM Robert Hungaski – With five wins and two tie games in seven appearances this season, Robert has been “Mr. Go-to” in 2010. Four of those games were on board 1 (where he went 2-0-2); while his three appearances on board 2 have all been wins. Although he will have Black on board 2 this game, he will prove extremely difficult for his opponent (who has not enjoyed the same success on this board).
FM Christopher Chase – Christopher’s performance has been average (in terms of wins/loses/ties) in 2010, and his loses in the playoff rounds might concern New England fans. But he is a crafty and successful veteran, who also will have White in this board 3 match up. It may well be enough to succeed against his opponent, who has not played since mid-season.
NM Alex Cherniack – Alex has been a consistent fixture on board 4 all season long for New England. His performances have secured much needed points in all eight of his appearances in 2010. His solid play and higher rating should make up for the fact that he has Black against his surprising non-titled opponent.
Being counted out is nothing new to the Miami Sharks in 2010. Unlike their opponent, Miami has had to fight from the murky depths of the Western Division after losing their first three matches. With two tie games to follow, it was not until week 6 that the Sharks sank their teeth into a victory. Through strong performances late in the season, Miami clinched a playoff berth. Playing against draw odds throughout the playoffs, Miami has earned their place in the Championship match. This turn-around is largely due to a set lineup that Miami has fielded in recent weeks. That lineup has been altered for this match, and it will be up to the following four players to prove that the change did not matter:
GM Julio Becerra – What can be said of the 2010 League MVP that has not already been said? Julio is the anchor of the Miami roster, and he proved this once again this season. He is playing on an extremely high level at the moment; and will give his opponent all he can handle even though he has Black on board 1.
FM Marcel Martinez – Marcel has been a dominating player all season… on board 3. In his only appearance on board 2 this year, he lost. He will have White on board 2 this match and will look to capitalize on this. He will be facing a strong opponent on the other side of the board as New England’s go-to guy looks to end Marcel’s shot at winning.
FM Charles Galofre – Charles has taken the roster spot that is usually filled by Martinez. While he has not played as often this season as the other members of his team; he has made sure to make the most of the games that he has played. With two wins (including a game of the week winner) and a tie, he will look to avoid his first loss of the season. He will have Black on board 3, and be facing an opponent who has dropped both of his playoff games this post season.
Nicholas Rosenthal – After starting the 2010 season poorly (three loses and a tie), Nicholas has played well in his last three games. His three wins have been impressive (including the game of the week in the Semifinals), and he will look to add one more to the books as he has White on board 4. He will be playing one of New England’s most consistent players, and will once again be the underdog against a much higher rated player.
The battles will play themselves out over the course of the evening. While some may feel that the statistics show one match-up favors one team or another, any chess fan that has watched the U.S.C.L. can tell you that statistics do not tell you the full story. Many a hero has fallen from grace in the course of League Playoff history, and nothing is for sure until Vice-President Sharma posts it on the League’s match page. Who will win Saturday’s Match? Perhaps only Caissa knows for sure; while those of us who are mere mortals must watch and see!
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