Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 9 Lineup/Preview

Monday, 7:15 PM EDT
Time Control 90 min. with 30 sec. increment
(Note: On Board 3, FM Zimmer will have 101 minutes to SM Shmelov's 79 minutes due to a late lineup change)

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Boston Blitz
GM Sergey Erenburg (2646) - GM Larry Christiansen (2665)
IM Sasha Kaplan (2482) - SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (2603)
FM Ralph Zimmer (2279) - SM Denys Shmelov (2471)
NM Adithya Balasubramanian (2255) - Grant Xu (2061)

Note: Players in italic have the white pieces.

In a tightened Eastern Division playoff race, the Baltimore Kingfishers face the Boston Blitz. Both teams are looking to secure playoff berths this week. Boston has a playoff berth by at least drawing the match or if Manhattan does not win its match. Baltimore gets a playoff berth if it can keep a 1 match-point and 4.5 game-point lead on Manhattan and New Jersey. Furthermore, Boston, Baltimore, and New York are each striving for 2nd place, which gives draw odds (or color choice) in at least the first round of the playoffs. Also, Boston still has an outside shot of catching New England for 1st place in the Eastern Division. Therefore, both teams have plenty on the line for which to play!

Board 1: GM Sergey Erenburg vs. GM Larry Christiansen. GM Erenburg is (+2) against Boston and (+3 =3) on the season while GM Christiansen is (+1 =1 -2) against Baltimore and (+3 =3 -1) on the season. Both players have a chance to be the USCL MVP, with GM Erenburg in 4th place (15.0 points) and GM Christiansen in 8th place (10.0 points). GM Erenburg took 2nd in Week 7's Game of the Week contest and GM Christiansen won Game of the Week in both Weeks 6 and 8. Though the team result will be most important, I am sure both these individuals want to score the full point with that special flair. Make sure you catch this game live!

Board 2: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun vs. IM Sasha Kaplan. SM Sammour-Hasbun is (+1 -1) against Baltimore and (-1) this season while IM Kaplan is making his USCL debut. SM Sammour-Hasbun had a brilliant rookie season in 2007, but his USCL performance rating has dropped markedly in the years since then. However, he is still a very dangerous player who has shown many flashes of brilliance as seen by his 3.5 Game of the Week awards including 2007 Game of the Year. This is definitely a tough spot to make one's USCL debut as IM Kaplan will be a 121-rating point underdog with the black pieces. This year's President's Cup (College Chess Final Four) program lists IM Kaplan's chess accomplishments as: 2007 Israel Junior Champion, Under 20; 2008 Army Champion; 2nd Place, Herzeliya International Round Robin Tournament. Anticipate a solid opening and then a sharp late-middlegame.

Board 3: FM Ralph Zimmer vs. SM Denys Shmelov. FM Zimmer is (-1) against Boston and (+1 =1 -1) on the season while SM Shmelov is (+1 -1) against Baltimore and (=1 -3) on the season. FM Zimmer has played once each on Boards 2, 3, and 4 while SM Shmelov has played twice each on Boards 2 and 3. SM Shmelov is a 192-point rating favorite. However, SM Shmelov has the black pieces and starts with a time disadvantage (101 to 79 - the 22-minute difference is approximately one-fourth of the original 90 minute starting time) as he is a late lineup replacement for IM Marc Esserman. Expect this game to deviate from theory early with some original play afterward.

Board 4: Grant Xu vs. NM Adithya Balasubramanian. Grant Xu has only played one USCL game, a win. NM Balasubramanian is (+1 =2) this season. Coincidentally, both players got the win against Philadelphia. However, NM Balasubramanian did it on Board 3, and he is a 194-point rating favorite. Baltimore will probably need to win here to counter its rating disadvantages on Boards 2 and 3, so look for NM Balasubramanian to mix it up in the middle game.

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