Sunday, October 05, 2008

Monday Night: Boston Blitz take on the New York Knights

Before we discuss Monday Night's battle, let us recap last week's Boston Blitz debacle against the cellar dwellers, The Philadelphia Inventors. Kudos are in order, not to a Boston team that struggled on every board, but to Greg Shahade, who has clearly put together a stronger and stronger US Chess League, where any team can win each week.

On Board 1, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun "castled into it", and sought to pawn storm Black's kingside. However, Kudrin ripped open the queenside with a pawn sac while Jorge's plan was still just a glint in his eye. As soon as the lines opened up directly to Jorge's King, the result was hardly in doubt. In the following position, after 19...Be6, White is clearly in big trouble.

Black is about to garner 2nd place Game of the Week Honors.

Clearly, Jorge lives by the sword and dies..... you get the picture.

On Board 2, Vigorito perhaps was still thinking back to his miniature loss to teammate Charles Riordan in the Boylston Chess Club Championship. To understand how short their Monday night encounter lasted, consider that my own Hauptturnier game ended on move 15, after 20 minutes of play. I stood up to watch the club champs, and Charles and David were already gone! At any rate, Vigorito's position collapsed, and with it, any chance of a Blitz victory.

On Board 3, Denys managed to secure a draw... in a two pawn up endgame. To be fair, at that point, the match was already decided in the Inventors favor, and Shmelov had little incentive to play accurately for a win against Costigan.

On Board 4, Krasik got butchered by Bengtson. Needless to say, in the Benko Gambit, if Black doesn't get counterplay for the sluffed pawn, White gets a good position. Given that Bengtson was such an unknown for the Blitz, one must wonder if Krasik's normally good preparation was lacking last week.

Except for Board 4, last week's performance hardly matters, as the Blitz are fielding 3 different players in what I consider to be the 2nd strongest lineup. (What outside viewer would have guessed that a 2 GM lineup would only be Boston's 2nd best? That is just what Jorge brings to the Blitz).

Normally at this time of year, we would be making Yankee-Red Sox analogies, as those teams battled it in the baseball playoffs. However, the Yankees didn't make the playoffs, and the Knights are dangerously far from a playoff berth in the US Chess League this season. With only three matches after this, a loss this week would all but eliminate the Knights from the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Blitz are up and down week to week, beating the top teams then losing to the bottom ones. It just might be enough to make the playoffs, but they cannot afford to lose too many more matches, especially with Queens coming up in the final week.

Let's look at the matchups this week:
(Blitz have white on Boards 1 and 3)

1) GM Larry Christiansen: 2670 vs GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2524
2) GM Eugene Perelshteyn: 2619 vs GM John Fedorowicz: 2540
3) NM Marc Esserman: 2307 vs IM Jay Bonin: 2370
4) NM Ilya Krasik: 2144 vs NM Matthew Herman: 2271

We have a 4 GM battle royale this week, the first time that has happened in the league since the Blitz met the Knights in Week 4 of the 2007 Season! (And I believe only the 2nd time ever).

Board 1) GM Larry Christiansen has white against Blitz slayer GM Pascal Charbonneau. Pascal has performed brilliantly for the Knights (and Kingfishers) many times, winning the 2005 USCL MVP, Game of the Year honors, twice(!), and earning game of the week another two times. However, last year his 2.5/8 record was sub-par, and he has been a non-factor this year, winning a game against the Inventor's Kudrin and losing a game to Miami's GM Becerra. Pascal appears to be a glutton for punishment-- taking Board 1 for the disastrous Knights this week, and starting a job at a hedge fund during the Wall Street fallout.

Still, this week I'll predict that Larry will not end Pascal's reign of terror over the Blitz, and Pascal will pull out yet another demoralizing victory against Boston.

Board 2) Eugene makes his first appearance this year for the Blitz, facing off against the Fed. Eugene recently played in the very strong SPICE Cup and had a middling result. GM Fedorowicz has been unsuccessfully thrown against some of the league's top players, including Nakamura and Stripunsky. Since I can't decide who has been better lately, I'm going to predict a draw.

Board 3) Young up-and-comer Esserman vs. the veteran Bonin. Here is where the Blitz need a win, and I think should expect a win. Although the boston-blitz homepage writers keep pointing to board 4 as volatile , my own quick analysis suggests that Board 3 is where the biggest and most frequent upsets take place. The reason is that Board 3 is where the veterans meet the underrated players and get smacked around. My database has a Bonin-Esserman game from 2003, in which Bonin won, but that was an eternity ago. Bonin has been respectable for the Knights, but this year he has struggled a bit. I'll give Esserman the nod in this one.

Board 4) Only Krasik was suited up for last week's thrashing by the Inventors. Given his volatility, both over the board and over this blog, I can't help but wonder if he can shake off last week's loss and calmly play the Black pieces two weeks in a row. Then again, Herman appears to be an 1.e4 player, so the ill-fated Benko Gambit can't make a second appearance. Also, Herman has not played much for the Knights the past two years. In other tournaments this summer he racked up a very strong result against masters and a not-so-good result. So which Krasik and which Herman will show up tomorrow? The future, it is difficult to see. But, just to be different, let's give Herman the full point against Krasik.

OH NO! For the first time, I am predicting a Blitz loss.... I feel ugly inside.

Tune in Monday Night to see what really happens. It is sure to be fun either way.

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