So this week we have a Monday night struggle between the Philadelphia Inventors and the New Jersey Knockouts, the two teams I predicted to finish in the last two spots in the East at the beginning of the season. It seems that that belief (like most of mine) wasn’t exactly correct as these two teams are not only far from last, both are in prime position to make the playoffs with this match likely to be a big determiner ff those playoff dreams will be fulfilled. Let’s see how they match up on each board.
Board 1: Kudrin vs. Benjamin. Kudrin finally displayed last week that he was capable of playing a decisive game in the league (and in a good way despite the overall team result!), and I’m sure the Inventors would really appreciate a repeat performance. Benjamin likely may prove a bit tougher to score the full point against, but as always slight edge to the GM who happens to have White. (Slight Edge PHI)
Board 2: Ippolito vs. Smith. Smith has unfortunately, after starting the season solidly, somewhat reverted to his last season’s form in only scoring 0.5 in his last 4 games. Although Ippolito hasn’t played that many games in the league yet, he’s known to be very tough with White so it looks good for the Knockouts on this board. (Edge NJ)
Board 3: Costigan vs. Friedman. Based on his first game, Friedman appeared to be in at least reasonable form likely alleviating at least some worries about his potential rust (so hopefully all of his fans who were stopping by during his last week’s game and saying "Is this Aviv Friedman playing?? No way!!" can be somewhat at ease). Costigan though has certainly been no slouch in the league and despite the uneven ratings, to me Costigan is clearly stronger than his league rating and given he has White, I’m inclined to think this game is pretty level. (Even)
Board 4: Lian vs. Yeager. Lian had a very promising initial game in the league taking down a player who has been very strong in the league, with the Black pieces, in what turned out to be quite a well played game by him. One game is however only one game, and it’s hard to ignore the Inventors rather large rating edge on this board (especially using updated ratings) so definite edge to Philly here. (Edge PHI)
Over the board, like most USCL matches, this is not one which really provides much of an edge to either team on paper. You might think I’d be inclined to call this match (like many matches) a tie based on that, but I’ve predicted the last two Monday Night Matches to be ties, and the commissioner made some ugly threats toward me as to what might happen if I do it again so based on the large board four edge I think they have, I’ll take Philadelphia 2.5 – 1.5
(FM Ron Young also predicts Philadelphia to win 2.5 - 1.5).