Monday, September 14, 2009

NJKO vs. Carolina Cobras Preview

The 2-0 NJ Knockouts take on the 0-2 Carolina Cobras in US Chess League action tonight at 7:00 p.m. on ICC. I have not been one for predictions in this blog. For a prediction, see the NJKO's team blog. But with three powerful players on the top three boards, I think the Jersey boys are leaving little to chance.

On second board, Boris Gulko was incredibly strong last year, intimidating his opponents into complete submission by move 20. It's hard to believe that this year will be any different and I look forward to another great lesson from the GM. And New Jersey Champ Ippolito playing third board? Fuhgeddaboudit. The only games with any surprise value are on first and fourth boards.

IM Jonathan Schroer and GM Joel Benjamin on top board are near contemporaries but have not played each other often. I only found two games in the databases, both won by Benjamin as white. Schroer has been very solid in the USCL on second board in previous years, but with Milman defecting to Queens he has one draw and one loss so far playing GMs. I expect a solid choice as White, so likely a Queen's Indian, especially since that's part of Schroer's repertoire and Benjamin had some interesting games with that opening in recent tournaments (against Kamsky, Peng, and Akobian). I think Benjamin should go more Bogo-Indian against Schroer, as in the game Schroer - Thinnsen, Los Angeles 1992. If he plays it safe, the question will be whether not Benjamin can grind out the win. Hopefully we will have two points on Board 2 and 3 before he has to worry about that and can settle for the draw. The only wild card factor is if he gets a speculative attack going as in his past games with the Queen's Indian. Then it could get interesting.

Rising expert Arthur Shen against NM Craig Jones on board four will also be interesting since the younger Shen is a relative unknown. His older brother Victor drew Jones last year in USCL action, and Arthur will be playing White. I'd love to see him pull out a draw.

You can bet I will be watching.

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