Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NJKO - Blitz Preview

The New Jersey Knockouts and the Boston Blitz meet tonight in 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 could be a very tight contest, despite the two teams' recent records.

Here are the match-ups:
  1. GM Joel Benjamin (2653) - GM Larry Christiansen (2663)
  2. IM Dean Ippolito (2447) - SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (2558)
  3. NM Evan Ju (2268) - NM Denys Shmelov (2251)
  4. NM Victor Shen (2218) - NM Chris Williams (2175)
GMs Benjamin and Christiansen have met many times before, of course, including in a critical US Championship match in 1997, from which I take the main game in my preview. They have played many interesting games over the years, including a fascinating game in the Kevitz Variation in the 2000 US Championship in Seattle which was nicely annotated online at TWIC by John Henderson. I expect this to be a very tough slug-fest. Though they were major rivals about a decade ago, they do not seem to have played each other recently. But one of Benjamin's Anti-Sicilians articles may offer a preview to the opening we might see....

Sammour-Hasbun and Ippolito have only one match-up in the databases, where Ippolito played the opening poorly and then struggled to hold on in a complex double-rook ending. I imagine his opening preparation will be a little better this time, and I think the games on every board could go either way.

Follow the action on ICC or with the NJKO's "Real Time Blog" of the match. Other good sources include the Boston Blitz Blog, the BCC Weblog, US Chess League, and USCF.

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