Sunday, October 05, 2008

NJ Knockouts Draw Kingfishers

Molner - R. Kaufman, USCL 2008
White to play.

The NJ Knockouts were lucky to tie 2-2 with the Baltimore Kingfishers on Wednesday, October 1, 2008, in Round 6 of US Chess League action. I have posted the games online, with my most extensive annotations so far this season. The Knockouts had beaten the Kingfishers in Round One 3-1, but this time they faced a much more determined team that probably should have won the match 3-1 but for an amazing turn of events on Board 2 late in the evening, when IM Ippolito managed to find a win in a likely loss after one mouse-slip by his opponent.

All of the games were of interest because they were played in complicated positions with continued interest to theory. I found a little extra time this weekend to do more detailed analysis of the games than I have been able to do thus far. I was inspired to do this, in part, by GM Joel Benjamin's excellent notes in his article "GM Joel on Knocking Out the Competition" at the USCF website, which brought home to me how much I was missing in these games in my cursory reviews.

The match was one of the most exciting so far and each game went down to the wire. On Board 1, Benjamin used the Panov Botvinnik Attack to get a classic isolani game against Erenburg, eventually gaining a great attack along the b1-h7 diagonal. Erenburg chose a fascinating strategy of marching his King out of the danger zone and through the middle of the board, after which Benjamin's Queen was out of position, giving Erenburg the chance to seize the initiative and win material. On Board 2, Enkhbat and Ippolito contested a known position in the Catalan where Black accepts a damaged structure in exchange for open lines and piece activity. Ippolito seemed to have gotten a good attack in exchange for a pawn, but Enkhbat seized the initiative with a series of strong moves and gained a winning endgame advantage. However, one mouse-slip changed the outcome of the game and the match. On Board 3, Molner and Ray Kaufman contested a well known position in the Steinitz French where Black sacrifices a piece for three pawns. Though Kaufman's rare move 13...O-O!? held some promising ideas, he did not succeed in making it work, leaving his King vulnerable to Molner's direct assault aided by the extra piece. And on Board 4, Shen used the standard Queen's Indian Hedgehog counter to Kahn's Torre Attack (which was actually the preferred method of defense as far back as Moscow 1925 when Torre first started using his line). Shen showed some excellent tactical thinking in this game and should have at least equalized, but he allowed Kahn to gain a favorable piece position to support his outside passed pawn, which Kahn brilliantly turned into a winning advantage.

It was a great match with some very good chess! And, despite the draw, the NJKO are still in title contention, especially with a loss by the previously undefeated Queens Pioneers. If they beat the Pioneers in their rematch tomorrow night on ICC, the NJKO could take the lead overall.

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