American Champions, Youth Talent To Represent Garden State
The New Jersey Knockouts are a team of contrasting talent. On one hand, they have three grandmasters over the age of 45. On the other, they have two teenage sensations with the international master title.
This roster features GM Joel Benjamin, a Yale University graduate and three-time U.S. Champion (1987, 1997, 2000). Benjamin has held a number of American records throughout his illustrious career; at 13, he broke Bobby Fischer’s record for being the youngest master. He also played in 22 straight U.S. Championships. This 2008 U.S. Hall of Fame inductee helped Deep Blue defeat Kasparov in 1997 and currently is a renowned author and chess coach.
Benjamin recently published a popular summary of his chess adventures.
GM Alex Stripunsky’s career highlight was the 2005 U.S. Championship, where he finished tied for first before losing to Hikaru Nakamura in a playoff match. Stripunsky is a specialist in offbeat openings and is a frequent participant in American opens. Like Benjamin, he played over 70 games in the U.S. Chess League, making him one of the most experienced online players in the PRO Chess League.
GM Alex Fishbein is a friendly face on the U.S. tournament scene and a four-time U.S. Championship participant. Fishbein was one of the many chess talents to trade the game for a financial career, but he will bring veteran experience to this Knockouts team.
IM John Michael Burke was the topic of international conversation in 2015 when his rating skyrocketed from 2258 to 2603. While critics called out the rating system, fans of Burke praised him for being the youngest person to ever break 2600 FIDE. Since then, Burke’s rating has tailed off to a still-impressive 2494, positioning the 15-year-old as the world’s ninth highest rated player under the age of 16.
Burke's astonishing rise.
14-year-old IM-elect Praveen Balakrishnan has taken a more normal route to success than his teenaged teammate. Currently rated 2464, Balakrishnan is awaiting FIDE’s confirmation of his title. Since the beginning of 2016, the youngster has gained 120 rating points and is only getting stronger.
IM Alexander Katz can be considered old when compared to his teammates, but he is just 18 years old. This young international master pulled off an impressive win at the 2016 Atlantic Open, a stellar result for someone preoccupied by his MIT studies. While schoolwork likely comes first for Katz, he is fully capable of pulling off upsets.
The New Jersey Knockouts also have teenagers FM Aravind Kumar and Brandon Jacobson, who will soon be rated over 2200 and 2300 FIDE, respectively. It remains to be seen if the youth talent on this team will prove to be the team’s anchor or their Achilles’ heel.
The PRO Chess League welcomes the New Jersey Knockouts!
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