Talk about tough fights! New Jersey will certainly be looking to recover from their loss last week and are using their double GM lineup against us this week. This week will be even tougher, although even a loss this week would keep us in fourth place in the East. Meanwhile, Queens could catch up to us, but they would have to topple Boston.
Board 1: IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2430) BAL vs. GM Joel Benjamin (2641) NJ
Originally this was going to be a very exciting rematch from last year between GMs Erenburg and Benjamin, however, Sergey was unable to play this week due to his heavy work load. Instead, IM Enkhbat will take the reins on board one and we have high hopes. Recently his performances have been quite impressive winning both the UMBC Championships and more recently the MD Open. Enkhbat is a very solid player and will have white so I give him a good shot for at least a draw despite the large rating gap.
Board 2: GM Boris Gulko (2609) NJ vs. GM Larry Kaufman (2444) BAL
Another exciting GM vs. GM match here. Again the Knockouts have the advantage as Gulko has been a force to be reckoned with. Larry will have his work cut out for him, but he has been performing well this year so I would not be surprised if Gulko's USCL winning streak is ended once and for all.
Board 3: FM Shinsaku Uesugi (2354) BAL vs. IM Albert Kapengut (2379) NJ
This is the only game in this match that is actually close on paper. Both players have been doing well so far. Uesugi has been critical to our success so far this year and his result this week will be no different. Seeing as New Jersey has nice advantages on boards one and two, it seems that we cannot afford anything less than a draw on board three. No pressure Shin! You can do it!
Board 4: Anna Matlin (2003) NJ vs. Jared Defibaugh (2155) BAL
Board four is a clear advantage for Baltimore. Jared is a pretty aggressive player so I expect he should come out on top of any complications. At least I hope he will because this is where New Jersey has been the weakest and without a good result on this board it will be very difficult to beat them.
So far this week there have been two upsets and I don't think they will end there. I think we have a good shot at pulling out a draw against New Jersey. Who knows, maybe Queens will upset Boston and Chicago pull out a similar upset against Tennessee. Seattle vs. Miami is certainly crucial for the standings in the West. I actually think Miami is going to push hard for the win and I think they will be successful. Wouldn't it be nice if San Francisco takes out Arizona? Although that is not a really uneven match, it is important for the Mechanics to get an upset here and move one step closer to the championship match against Baltimore.
Good luck to everyone! Should be a night full of interesting fights!