Week 5 Preview

After today’s match we will be halfway through the 2014 season of the US Chess League and it is going by in a flash! Our win last week against St. Louis was crucial and has put us in a solid second place position in the Southern Division with a 2.5 – 1.5 match record. Of all the teams in the league, Connecticut has faced the toughest opposition, with our opponents’ average ratings adding up to 2436. This is set to increase after this week to a 2446 average! Having also started with three blacks out of the first four matches, I would say we have fared very well. The real test comes today however, as although we have white, we now must face a team with an even higher average than our last week match against St. Louis. The New York Knights are coming to the match with a 3.0 – 1.0 match score so far this season, a 2485 average rating and the current US Champion on board one! Let’s break down the matches one by one.

Board 1: GM Aleksandr Lenderman for the Dreadnoughts will face off in a highly anticipated match against GM Gata Kamsky. Although Kamsky is the current US Champion and has the higher rating, Lenderman also tied for first at the US Championships and won their most recent encounter at the World Open. Also, Kamsky is just returning from the European Club Cup. Will he have time to prepare and will he be able to shake off the jet lag in time? This will undoubtedly be an exciting game as perhaps Kamsky will be seeking a little revenge while Lenderman will be looking to continue his good form.

Board 2: This is where our greatest hope lies. GM Oliver Barbosa of the Dreadnoughts will play black against SM Matt Herman. Herman has played in the league since 2006, while Barbosa is new this year. Barbosa is known for his solid style, but being the only board where we have a rating advantage, the pressure will really be on him to win this one. If not, any other road to victory suddenly becomes much more difficult to find. An upset on board 1 or 4 would almost certainly be necessary.

Board 3: This match-up between SM Joshua Colas of the Dreadnoughts and SM Nicolas Checa of the Knights (both regulars at the Chess Club of Fairfield County) will be especially interesting. These two players know each other well and have played each other a total of 21 times in the last year alone. Both have similar styles, are excellent tacticians and can play extremely fast. Luckily for us, Colas has won 12 of those games to Checa’s six, including a victory in their most recent encounter. Colas also won in 2012 when the two met playing for the same teams but on board four. With the white pieces and a nice record, the edge here probably goes to Colas, but of course anything can happen and this game will probably come down to who out prepares the other.

Board 4: This match pits two relatively unknown players against each other. NM Qibiao Wang of New York is one of the highest board 4 players in the league with not many games to look at if you are trying to prepare for him. NM Yoon-Young Kim will be looking to rebound after his most recent USCL game where he lost against a master in week 3. Kim is certainly capable of winning this match as evidenced by his recent victory over New England’s board 1(!) GM Alexander Ivanov at the Continental Open. Will Kim show the maturity of an experienced veteran and bounce back to defeat his higher rated opponent? To do so would give us excellent chances to win this week.

Our only other match against New York was in 2012 which ended in a super exciting draw. A win for either team this week will have them sitting pretty in their division, while a loss will almost certainly allow other teams to catch up or pass them. Hopefully Connecticut can continue to ride the momentum from our win last week. New York has been playing well and is undefeated so far this season, but then again, so was St. Louis. A final interesting note: with Yoon-Young Kim’s recent acquisition of the master title, our team average this week is actually closer to 2475 instead of the deceptive 2449, making this perhaps the strongest team pairing in league history!?

If you live in the area you will not want to miss rooting for the Dreadnoughts in person, tonight at 7:15.