The New Jersey Knockouts beat the Carolina Cobras 3-1 last night in US Chess League action, moving to 3-0 for the season and topping their division. The only other team in the league that might get to 3-0 is the Miami Sharks, who play Thursday. You can read an excellent summary of the match by their new team blogger Joseph Criscuolo in a piece colorfully titled "New Jersey Kicks Carolina's Asp!"
As predicted, early wins were turned in by GM Boris Gulko and IM Dean Ippolito, playing boards 2 and 3; but the games were no romps in the park and definitely kept fans on the edge of their seats right to the end.
Gulko's game was really spectacular and definitely deserves to be considered for Game of the Week. Playing a Reversed Dragon variation, Gulko seized the initiative on the queenside with a GM Exchange sac and grabbed a pawn at b7 with his Queen. His opponent, Oleg Zaikov, then went into a long think and decided to win Gulko's queen with the tempting 30...Rb8 (better was the safe 30...Ra7), after which the GM had to sac the Queen for Bishop and Rook. However, this turned out to be a mistake by Zaikov, as Gulko's two Bishops swept the board and eventually gave him a decisive kingside attack which forced mate or the win of Black's Queen.
Dean Ippolito's victory over FM Ron Simpson seemed more assured early on when he won a pawn and then the Exchange after some questionable opening play by Simpson in an unusual line of the popular Nimzovich Variation of the Petroff. However, Simpson managed to get some interesting counterplay using his two Bishops and passed pawns on the queenside -- that is, until he blundered into a double pin on his Bishop at d4 and pawn at b4 which allowed Ippolito the surprising winning resource 32...c5! with decisive material gain.
On bottom board, young Arthur Shen turned in a very solid performance right up until move 35, when he blundered away his queen and the game in a curious case of "chess blindness."
I hope to take a closer look at Benjamin's game later in the week, since it features a line of the King's Indian that I happen to be studying at the moment. Ironically, the line was a favorite of the late Eduard Gufeld, about whom Benjamin has some choice words in his book American Grandmaster.
This is a great start to the season. Let's hope there will be lots to blog about right through the playoffs.