NJ Knockouts - Boston Blitz Preview
The New Jersey Knockouts and the Boston Blitz meet tonight (October 17, 2007) in critical US Chess League action with important playoff implications. If New Jersey can pull out a win or draw, they will have a very good chance of making the playoffs despite their ups and downs this season. If Boston wins, they are guaranteed a playoff berth. I thought it would be interesting to preview the action by looking at a couple of games from the past which suggest that this is going to be a very tight contest.
GMs Christiansen and Benjamin have met many times before, of course, including in a critical US Championship match in 1997 that had World Championship cycle implications. Benjamin won on that occasion, but it was a tough match. The most recent game I could find between these two was from 2002 (and I even checked to see if they have met on ICC). And they have had a number of interesting contests. But I think this game, from their 1997 match, suggests just how strongly both try to win.
Larry Christiansen (2550) - Joe Benjamin (2580) [B08]
ch-USA Final/Chandler USA (4) 1997
A classic opposite-side castle position, with both sides throwing their pieces into direct attack.
18... b4! 19. hxg6!? (19. Ne2 Rfd8) 19... Na3+! 20. Ka1 Nxc2+ 21. Qxc2 bxc3 22. Qxc3! (22. bxc3 fxg6 (22... hxg6!?) 23. g5 Nd5! 24. exd5 Rxf3 25. dxc6 Rxf2! 26. Rd7+ Kg8 27. c7 Qxc7 28. Rxc7 Rxc2) 22... Qxc3 23. bxc3 hxg6! 24. g5 Nh7=
White seems to have a huge positional edge due mainly to his much safer King position. But Benjamin hangs tough. Likely the two were in time pressure at this point.
Black has used White's delay to improve his position considerably, putting pressure on the isolated pawns at e4 and g5. His Knight is much more active and his Rook is ready to block on the h-file.
An interesti ng decision, going for an extremely sharp ending with passed pawns on opposite sides of the board.
I could find only one game in the databases between Sammour and Ippolito, who will face each other tonight on Board 2 with the same colors. Perhaps Ippolito will be a bit more prepared in the opening this time....
Jorge E Sammour Hasbun - Dean Ippolito [D37]
Bermuda (1) 1996
Both players have entered this territory before on numerous occasions:
a) 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4
O-O7. e3 b6 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Rc1 Be6 12. Qc2 Rc8 13. Bd3 c5 14. dxc5 bxc5 15. b3 Nd7 16. O-Oa5 17. Bb5 Nf6 18. Rfd1 Qb7 19. Qe2 Ne4 20. Ne5 Nd6 21. Ba4 Rc7 22. Nd3 Rac8 23. Nf4 Ne4 24. Qe1 Qa8 25. Rc2 Nf6 26. Bb5 Bf5 27. Rcc1 Rb8 28. a4 Rbc8 29. Qd2 Be6 30. f3 Qa7 31. Nxe6 fxe6 32. Qc3 Qb6 33. Kh1 d4 34. Qd2 e5 35. f4 Ng4 36. fxe5 Nxe3 37. Re1 Kh8 38. Rxe3 dxe3 39. Qxe3 Rf8 40. Re1 Re7 41. Bc4 Rf5 42. e6 Qd8 43. Qe4 Qd2 44. h3 g6 45. Qe3 Qxe3 46. Rxe3 Kg7 47. Rd3 h5 48. Rd8 Ra7 49. Kh2 h4 50. Rg8+ Kf6 51. Rf8+ Kg5 52. Rh8 Re5 53. Rf8 Rf5 1/2-1/2 Sammour Hasbun,J-Shabalov,A/Woburn 1999.
b) 5. Bf4
O-O6. e3 c5! 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. a3 Bd7 10. O-O-ORc8 11. Kb1 Be7 12. g4 Na5 13. g5 Nh5 14. cxd5 Nxf4 15. exf4 exd5 16. Ne5!? (16. Rxd5 Qc7 17. Bd3) 16... d4! 17. Bd3 g6 (17... dxc3 18. Bxh7+ Kh8 19. Rxd7) 18. f5!? dxc3 19. fxg6 hxg6 20. Bxg6 fxg6?? (There may have been mutual time pressure, and perhaps Ippolito assumed White was trying simply for a perpetual. In any case, he misses a likely win with 20... cxb2! 21. Bh7+ Kh8 22. Qxb2 Nc4!! 23. Nxc4+ Kxh7 24. Rd4 Rxc4 25. Rxc4 Bf5+ 26. Ka1 Bxg5) 21. Qxg6+ Kh8 22. Qh5+ (22. Rxd7 Qb6) 22... Kg8 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25. Qg6+ Kh8 26. Rxd7! Qxd7 (26... Qb6 27. Qxb6 c2+ 28. Ka2 axb6 29. Ng6+) 27. Nxd7 Rxf2 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. bxc3 Bxa3 31. Qe5+ Kh7 32. g6+ Kxg6 33. Rg1+ 1-0 Zamora,J-Ippolito,D/Mermaid Beach 1997.
7... exd5 is much more frequently played.
10. e3 c5! 11. Be2 Nc6 12.
Ippolito seems totally out of his opening preparation at this point and it is possible he mixed up his lines.
Black's pawns are permanently disfigured, White has control of the c-file, and Black's pieces struggle to find good squares. White is probably winning, but Ippolito puts up good resistance.
White has a pawn advantage, but double rook endings are notoriously difficult. White manages the rest of the game very nicely, playing actively for attacking chances.
Black has managed to equalize material, but he is positionally lost.
White's control of the 7th rank and his advancing kingside pawns now lead to a mating attack.
Fritz announces a forced mate in 8!
Games in PGN