Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 4: Knights fall to New Jersey

We lost a very tough match tonight against the surging New Jersey Knockouts, who are off to a perfect 4-0 start. By comparison, we are 1.5-2.5, clinging to the 4th and final playoff spot in the East.

New Jersey played very well on all boards and earned a well-deserved victory.

On board 1, Giorgi managed to wriggle out of a dead-lost position against Joel Benjamin. 18. Rf7! would have immediately ended matters. Instead Joel allowed Giorgi's king to escape to the queenside and, in deep time trouble, gave perpetual check.

On board 2, Pascal held a small pull throughout the game against living legend Boris Gulko, before eschewing 39. Nd8! for 39. b4?!

Gulko's active pieces put Pascal on the verge of defeat and he was forced to shed a knight to avoid mate. Gulko got careless with his extra piece and after 54. ..Ke6??, Pascal only needed to find 55. Nd5!!, immediately forcing a stalemate draw after 55. ..Bd5 56. b7 Bb7. Alas, it was not to be for the Knights, as Pascal instead played 55. Nf5?? and Gulko was able to round up the b-pawn while avoiding stalemate, securing the point.

On board 3, Mac Molner played a stellar game on the white side of a Najdorf, using nearly all of his remaining time to find the super-precise 21. Ne5!, temporarily sacrificing a piece to consolidate and win. Other moves would not have sufficed. For instance, 21. Bd3 Bh6! 22. Qg8 Ke7!! 23. Qa8 Qe3 24. Be2 Bb5 25. Qb7 Kf6 and white has to sacrifice back his queen to avoid mate.

On board 4, Yaacov played a very sedate game against rising junior Anna Matlin. She missed her chance for another upset prize with 34. ..e3?, dropping a pawn and leading to a lost endgame. Instead, the prophylactic 34. ..Kh6!, preparing 34. ..e3 would have led to at least a draw. For example, 34. ..Kh6 35. h4 e3 36. Qe7 ef 37. Kf2 Qb2 38. Ke1 Qc3 when white cannot avoid the perpetual. Yaacov's technique in the rook and pawn ending was impeccable and he scored the Knights' sole victory.

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