Sunday, October 26, 2008

NJKOs Drop Key Match to Miami

Benjamin - Becerra
Black to play after 28.Kg1?

Playing the Miami Sharks for second place in the Eastern Division in week #9 of US Chess League action, the NJ Knockouts blundered on three boards to lose 3-1 and put themselves in grave danger of not qualifying for the playoffs despite their promising start this season. I have posted the games online with annotations. The match was played on Wednesday night, October 22.

The most interesting game was definitely Benjamin - Becerra, which was also very difficult to judge, even in post mortem. Becerra got some excellent play for the Exchange in a rare Moller Defense against the Ruy Lopez, but it seemed that Benjamin had a few opportunities to gain an edge or at least hold equality -- including at the critical moment when Benjamin refused to yield Becerra a forced draw following 28.Nd3 and instead walked into a deadly attack by 28.Kg1? It may be that a draw was as bad as a loss by that point in the match, but it was an unusual slip for the former US Champ. Piece-dropping blunders on Boards 2 and 4 cinched the match. One bright light was NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner's brilliant conduct of a Rook ending on Board 3 to bring New Jersey its only point of the night.

New Jersey has to win or draw against New York next week to make the playoffs, when they will have an uphill battle to win the championship since their opponents will have draw odds.

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