Tuesday, November 07, 2006

USCL Playoffs Wildcard Round

Playoffs Wildcard Round

After the insane finish in the USCL East, this should be an intense final. I don't know if the prediction competition ended with the regular season, I still have a hefty lead and there probably aren't really enough matches left for the official prognosticators to catch up without a Carolina-style miracle to occur anyways. But I will make traditional score predictions and give you what I think the percentage of the time each team moves on is just for some extra information during this exciting time of the season.

New York Knights vs Carolina Cobras (NY has draw odds)
Board 1: GM Charbonneau - IM Milman
These two already have an interesting history this season alone. In their first encounter Milman looked quite lame as white losing quickly and getting mated in the middle of the board. In their second encounter Milman turned the tables unexpectedly winning as black. Now these two face off in the playoffs with the same color as their second encounter. The edge I'll give to Charonneau, even as white. (Note that in the regular season black won the season match 100.5-99.5)

Board 2: FM Hoekstra - IM Krush
In their last encounter with these colors Krush played a QGA and went into one of the symmetrical pawn-structure lines where white usually has a very nagging edge. Not in this particular game though. Hoekstra didn't play in the spirit of the position it seems and quickly got a passive position which Krush finished off easily. As Carolina picked their colors for this match, I'm thinking he'll have some improvements prepared, but Krush is a versatile player who can play many different openings, I think she has the edge in this matchup.

Board 3: FM Hess - FM Zaikov
Zaikov started the season very hot this year, and still finished the season with his only loss being against IM Costigan. Hess on the other hand started the season struggling with board 2 duties, but since his move down to board 3 he has been quite successful. This should definitely be a close game, both players are young and confident, my guess is a small edge to Hess with the white pieces.

Board 4: NM Jones - Herman
At the end of the season Herman managed to hold his own against some tough opposition, but Jones finished the season 5.5/6, that cannot be ignored, especially when he has white for this game. Jones is favored by a bit.

So it seems that NY has a very real edge on a bunch of boards, but Carolina always has an X-factor by having an incredibly young lineup where they're behind. The edge has to go to NY, but Carolina should have good chances for an upset, that being said, I'm not sure they deserve any more luck after last week.
NY over Car 2.5-1.5
NY has draw odds, I predict they move on roughly 75% of the time.

Dallas Destiny vs Seattle Sluggers (Seattle has draw odds)
Dallas failed to win just last week with the same colors, this week Seattle has draw odds. We are seeing some different faces than last week though. The seemingly untouchable IM Vavrak sits out for the Destiny this week and FM Zaremba also steps down to let IM Kuljasevic and FM Igor Schneider try to step it up this week.

Board 1:
IM Stopa - GM Serper
Last week Serper played some sideline of the semi-slav, strangely declining to go into the semi-slav as black. I'm not sure if he'll be willing to try this again as it seemed as though white was never in serious trouble and will probably have an improvement prepared. However, Serper is not one to be afraid of a fight, I think this matchup is fairly balanced, maybe a slight edge to Serper.

Board 2:
FM Mikhailuk - IM Kuljasevic
Kuljasevic has sat out more than a few weeks this season, this is only his 4th match in the USCL. He's had reasonably results, going 2.5/3 beating Pruess as white and drawing the struggling Roman with black. Mikhailuk on the other hand has struggled late in the season and is probably hoping to get some footing so the team knows he can be depended on, especially as white. I think Kuljasevic has the edge here.

Board 3:
FM Schneider - FM Readey
Schneider hasn't looked too imppressive in his matches so far going just 1/3, but he's young and this is only the second time he takes the white pieces this season. I don't know if he has some concrete idea in mind against Readey who's been reasonably solid this season, but he might need something. I'm guessing this game will be a draw, but probably slightly better chances for Schneider.

Board 4:
NM Koons - NM Kiewra
Dallas and Seattle send out the same board 4s this week with the same colors. This makes a lot of sense for Seattle, but probably not as much for Dallas. Their last week's game was messy, but it seemed that white got a nice initiative which he held for most of the game. I'm guessing Kiewra is going to have some concrete ideas in mind playing the same player with the same color for the second week in a row, still these things don't always go so well.

Overall I'd say it's a pretty even match, no boards with a particularly huge edge to either side and with Seattle having draw odds for this match, that will likely be good enough. Probably the key matchup in my mind is the rematch on board 4, if Kiewra can bring in a full point there it could mean victory for the Destiny. So if we say that'll happen roughly 30-35% of the time, we probably almost get their odds in the match.
Seatle ties Dallas 2-2 (to move on)
Roughly 70% chance of Seattle moving on to the next round.

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