NJKOs Let Seattle Escape with a Draw
The New Jersey Knockouts let the Seattle Sluggers slip a headlock and escape with a draw in Round 3 of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 10, 2008. I have posted the games online with light annotations. I think it can be argued that New Jersey had an edge on every board at some point and likely a decisive one on bottom board, where Jayson Lian walked into a three-fold repetition that sealed the match. As it turned out, only GM Boris Gulko carried home a full point.
On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin appeared to have a solid game out of the opening -- an odd sort of Benko from GM Nakamura, which could also be described as a Vienna by transposition. Perhaps there were better ways for Black to pursue an edge early on, but a series of small inaccuracies by Benjamin let White gain a decisive space and then material advantage. On Board Two, Boris Gulko put on a truly superb seminar on how to pursue a positional advantage and squeeze your opponent off the board. This was the best game for New Jersey. NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner, meanwhile, gained a pawn advantage out of the opening but decided to surrender material to pursue an elusive kingside initiative which only netted a draw. Likely there was a better way for him to pursue the full point by just hanging onto the material edge. But the real heartbreaker had to be Lian's draw on Board 4, where he had a decisive material advantage and a pawn on the 7th. He just needed a little more time on the clock to get the point -- which is why he walked into the draw by repetition.
New Jersey showed that it has the power to hold its own with even a tough team. But they have to do more to get the full points. NJ returns to even, at 1.5-1.5 over the three rounds of play. Let's hope we can pull into the lead, where we belong, with some wins.