Crunch time is upon us and almost all teams are scrambling to make the playoffs, improve their seeding, or wish this 2010 US Chess League Season will be over already. This week has some of the best board 1 and 2 matchups that I can remember. All four Monday matches have GM matchups on board 1. Dont see that too often! Should be a great night to watch the US Chess League (in addition to the Yankee game, Monday Night Football, and House – I will TIVO that one I think). Lets look in detail at a great slate of Monday matches.
New York Knights (4.5-2.5) vs. New Jersey Knockouts (2.5-5.5)
If New York is not careful, they risk falling to 4th place in the East, and would be one more loss away from perhaps missing the playoffs. I dont think that will happen, but…… New Jersey on the other hand will need a win and a miracle to qualify for the playoffs. The key for New York is to play a solid match – and it would be nice if GM Alex Lenderman can score aganst GM Boris Gulko, and score on board 2. Speaking of which – this is the key game for New Jersey to win ther match as IM Mackenzie Molner will have white against IM Irina Krush. Expect something very tactical in this encounter. New York has a slight edge on the bottom boards which should give them an advantage, especially with NY’s board 4 – NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy being rated close to 2400. Instincts say tie – but I am gonna predict NY wins this one because they need it more. NY wins 2.5-1.5.
Baltimore Kingfishers (4.5-3.5) vs Boston Blitz (5.5-2.5)
Second place is on the line in the East – which should make for a fantastic match. First , we have a board 1 heavyweight match-up between GM Sergey Erenberg (BAL) vs. GM Larry Christiansen (BOS). Erenberg with the white pieces will need to win – which should make this perhaps the best match of the night. If Erenberg wins, Boston could be in a little bit of trouble. I dont know anything about IM Sasha Kaplan but having black against Jorge Sammour Hasbun should make boards 1 and 2 exciting. If boards 1 and 2 split, it comes down to 2 rating mismatches, one for each team. Zimmer having white helps make up for the 200 rating point disadvantage vs. Boston’s Denys Shmelov. When you put a 2471 on board 3 - you need a win. Finally, Baltimore has a rating edge on board 4 vs the kid, Grant Xu, who is very talented. I predict a tie match, 2-2.
Chicago Blaze (4.5-3.5) vs Miami Sharks (4.0-4.0)
A very exciting encouter between 2 teams on different streaks. Miami has played very well as of late, while Chicago has struggled the last few weeks, though they played well enough to win either match. If Chicago winstheir last 2 matches, they probably get the number 2 seed. Miami needs this win as well because if SF wins this week, and Miami loses, Miami will be on the outside, looking in. The Chicago key to victory is for Chicago’s GM Dmitry Gurevich, playing white, to hold GM Julio Becerra to a draw, and win on board 4 because of Eric Rosen’s 200 rating point advantage over talented junior, Nicolas Rosenthal. If that happens, the match tilts heavily in Chicago’s favor. The key for Miami will be for GM Renier Gonzalez to come through with a win over GM Megsen Amanov. Another exciting match will be IM Florin Felecan vs. FM Marcel Martinez - expect another tactic fest. I pick Chicago to win, and qualify for the playoffs.Chicago wins 2.5-1.5.
Seattle Sluggers (3.0-5.0) vs. San Francisco Mechanics (4.0-4.0)
Seattle shows they are serious about trying to make the playoffs, flying GM Varuzhan Akobian up to Seattle for this match – recognizing they still can make the playoffs with 2 wins and a little bit of help (not as much as you might think given the interplay between all the teams). San Francisco needs a win badly to help solidify their stake in the game. You dont get regular season rematches too often but thats what board 1 will feature – GM Akobian gets his chance to redeem himself after a very hard fought and well played loss vs. GM Panda Friedel (a game that earned Josh game of the week honors). Simply put, Akobian has to come through for Seattle to have a chance. The other match-ups have some interest as well. San Francisco probably needs to make use of their white on board 2 with IM David Pruess facing off against FM Slava Mikhailuk. Expect something tactical – David’s favorite type of game. Board 3 has 2 highly rated juniors with FM Daniel Naroditsky facing FM Michael Lee – this will probably be some boring, I mean, solid English Opening. This game will be decided by who handles their clock situation the best. Finally, NM Yian Liou will have something cooked up for Seattle’s Alex “I have won many blog awards” Guo’s French Defense. I didnt search either player but I am sure it will be a fun battle. All in all, SF wins 2.5-1.5.