Monday, September 29, 2008

Boston Blitz vs. Philly Inventors

Time for my weekly preview of the Boston Blitz (3-2), this time up against the hapless Philadelphia Inventors 1-4. The Blitz have pounded on this team, leading the all time series 5.5-0.5! Furthermore, the Blitz are coming off a lopsided win against the best of the West, the San Francisco Mechanics, while the Inventors are still licking wounds from their run-in with the NJ Knockouts.

Here are the matchups. The Blitz have white on boards 1 and 3.

1. SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun: 2576 vs GM Sergey Kudrin: 2600
2. IM David Vigorito: 2431 vs FM Thomas Bartell: 2386
3. SM Denys Shmelov: 2446 vs IM Richard Costigan: 2288
4. NM Ilya Krasik: 2144 vs FM Matthew Bengtson: 2232

First, a few questions about the Blitz lineup this week. Usually, a few people are unavailable from week to week, forcing Phelps's hand in the lineup. I can only assume Larry or Eugene is unavailable this week for Board 1. Otherwise, I would think the Blitz would want to play what I consider to be their strongest lineup, the one that defeated the Mechanics last week: Christiansen, Sammour-Hasbun, Esserman, and Krasik. But perhaps they have specific matches in mind this week, as we'll see below. At any rate, since the Inventors are battling for last place, it probably doesn't matter-- this lineup still looks like a winner for the Blitz.

Before I go to a board-by-board breakdown, let me pause to ask-- where's Eugene? It seems that having him on the roster would be most useful to fill in when Larry or Jorge are unavailable, but so far, he is the only Blitz member not to play in any matches this year. The fact remains that as long as Larry and Jorge are available to play, Eugene doesn't fit too many Blitz rosters because of ratings concerns. I could also understand the 3-GM team if they had a very talented lower (but under) rated player that allowed the 3-GMs to play all at once (I count Jorge as a GM of course). As it stands, I wonder if adding a talented underrated player to help grant more flexibility on Board 4 instead of including Eugene this year would have been a better choice.

The Boards:

Board 1 Jorge has white against Kudrin. Jorge is coming off of his second Game of the Week Honors for his two-wave attacking victory over Pruess last week. GM Sergey Kudrin doesn't like to lose, but he also barely likes to win, having drawn most of his games for the Inventors. Interestingly, GM Kudrin has played THREE current members of the Blitz in a USCL matchup, all last year! He drew Eugene Perelshteyn with the White pieces in week 3, and he drew with Larry Christiansen with the Black pieces. In a twist, he also drew Marc Esserman when Marc played Board 1 for the Miami Sharks for the single match (the only one he played last year) against Philly. Kudrin doesn't lose much, and neither does Jorge. A draw looks almost inevitable here.

Board 2. IM Vigorito (Black) vs. FM Bartell (White). Following ratings alone, Vigorito must have a slight plus over Bartell. But let's look at their recent performances. Bartell just had a decent result at the NJ Open this month, getting nicked for two draws by 2200-level masters and a draw with eventual tournament winner Molner. David Vigorito probably hasn't been playing his best chess this year, but he did have a fairly decent New England Masters (only 1 loss in a strong field). In the New England Open, his only loss was to teammate Shmelov, but he suffered a couple of draws to both stronger and weaker players. However, IM Vigorito has drawn his two USCL games with ease (see: here or here), in one case, with a clearly superior position. Given that both have had solid but not spectacular recent performances, I'm going to predict a draw here as well, especially after wins start appearing on the lower boards.

Board 3. Shmelov (white) vs. Costigan (black). This is a rematch from last year, when Denys won but perhaps was worse early on (I haven't analyzed this, shooting gallery!). Historically, Shmelov has been great for the Blitz, while Costigan's record is mediocre at best. Looking at Shmelov's recent tournament results gives conflicting results-- A tie for first at the New England Open is offset by a poor performance in the Manchester, NH September Swiss, in which he coughed up two draws to players in this reporter's rating range (2000). Costigan, meanwhile, has only been munching on a steady diet of rapid tournaments. I have to like Shmelov's chances to reprise his victory over Costigan from last year, especially as the Blitz have proven themselves to be adept at preparing well for their opponents and showing good teamwork (securing draws where useful, for example).

Board 4. Ilya Krasik has Black against Bengtson. In an effort to make my poetry efforts tougher, Philly has a Costigan on Board 3 and a Bengtson on Board 4.

Here is where Ilya should avert his gaze if he doesn't want to see what I am going to predict.

Surprise, surprise. I think Ilya is going to win this week. Bengston has not been stellar on Board 4 for Philly, and he has played in zero USCF touranments since 2006. Ilya has been putting together a decent season for the Blitz on Board 4, has shown excellent preparation for his opponents, and has now compiled a 1.5 out of 3 record that certainly should have been 2 out of 3. I should also mention his last tournament, in August, was a good result, including a draw with Foygel. I fully expect to see Ilya win this week, cementing the victory for the Blitz against the Inventors. To predict anything other than a win for Ilya (despite the spike in commenting a predicted Ilya loss brings with it) would be just dishonest to facts as laid out before me, folks.

I still fully expect him to show off his special brand of lively invective in our comments section this week, so stay tuned!

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