Monday, August 31, 2009

USCL Season Five Premiere Match: NY Knights v. NJ Knockouts

OK, I will spare everyone an elaborate apology for completely dropping the ball on this blog last season. I was probably just resentful because I was an alternate instead of a full-fledged team member. However, since that has been rectified I will genuinely try to regularly update the blog with match previews, player interviews, predictions, and all sorts of scandalous, illicit attacks on other teams and their players. I will make my best effort to be as scathing and ferocious as possible. So lets begin with a surgical breakdown of Wednesdays match.

Board one is a highly anticipated matchup between two extremely tough GMs. I have had the pleasure of competing against both Kacheishvili and Benjamin, and they are not only extraordinarily talented chessplayers but also gentlemen of the highest order. Giorgi is a very technical, efficient player who can apply a lot of pressure to his opponent with the white pieces. Joel has an extensive opening repetoire and he could play a variety of defenses with confidence. However, Joel has been inactive recently, while Giorgi is cruising the summer chess circuit, a factor that could be advantageous for the Knights.

Board two pits two more mighty players against each other, GM Pascal Charbonneau and IM Dean Ippolito. Here is another instance of one player competing seriously with greater frequency, but the teams are reversed. But despite Pascal's lack of recent tournament exposure, he is always extremely sharp, and manages to kick up his game a notch to the delight of chess league fans. I imagine Pascal will play solidly, without tempting fate by using a risky, tactical defense. Or, on the otherhand, he could try to disrupt Dean's granite-like positional style with an unbalanced, sacrifical opening. One thing is for sure, Pascal will have Coach Edwards inspirational words resonating in his head: we play to win the game.

Board three introduces two competitors who are mutual benficiaries of a summer rife with rating points. I can attest to the virtual rating point buffet of summer chess as a scholastic player. Without the stresses of school and parole officers, I would go on massive, tidal wave like runs, playing far better than I expected to. Shen and Herman are exhibiting the same appreciation for these golden summer months, as they have broken the 2300 barrier. I forsee a lot of punching and counter-punching in this contest, remeniscent of the Tal-Botvinnik championship matches. Considering that Matt is routinely beating me in training games, I give him the edge.

Board four is, with no disrespect to Arthur Shen, something of a joke. Norowitz is a dream board four considering he is easily 150 points stronger than his September 08 rating indicates. The lineup flexibility permitted by Yaacov's lower rating will be enormously helpful for every match he participates in. Arthur Shen is a quickly improving junior player who shows a lot of promise, but at this stage he simply doesn't score against higher ranked oppoenents with much consistancy.

I'm going to predict a 3-1 victory for the Knights in their season debut. And I have no shame in calling out Matt Herman to bring home a GOTW nomination, a reward that Matt himself will tell you he has been overlooked for on many prior occasions. It was no other statesman than Sir Philip Sidney himself who said "A true knight is fuller of bravery in the midst, than in the beginning of danger." A true knight indeed, Sir Philip. A true knight, indeed.