In Round 9 of US Chess League action, the New Jersey Knockouts drew the Baltimore Kingfishers for the second time this season to keep their playoff hopes alive. New Jersey plays rival New York next week in a match that will decide which of those teams makes the playoffs.
When New Jersey played Baltimore in Round 3, they were only able to draw due to a lucky break that turned a possible loss into a win for Dean Ippolito. This time it was Baltimore that got lucky, scoring wins in two games that seemed headed for an even result.
White was victorious in every game, even though all of the Black players were able to gain equality using rather unusual defenses. On Board 1, Benjamin reached his favored Ruy Lopez-like position out of the anti-Sicilian against Blehm and used it to gain enough of an edge to carry him through to victory in a very close game. On Board 2, Friedman used the Chigorin Defense to reach a very drawish position before he blundered badly and lost to Enkhbat's swift tactics. On Board 3, Molner played an interesting line against Kaufman's unusual Nimzo-French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6!?) and ended up sacrificing a Bishop to gain an intuitive attack that eventually carried him to victory through some very complicated thickets. And on Board 4, Khodarkovsky seemed to gain easy equality with the Alekhine Defense only to lose to some very interesting endgame tactics by Battsetseg.
Other coverage of Round 9 action: