What? Me posting? It's almost as if I dont' even play chess anymore. Another season, a different city for me to watch from and about 1/4 the free time I used to have. This season looks to be exciting, more top players getting involved, more promising youth involved, and lineups juiced more than a certain bay-area slugger.
I wish I was ready for some serious week 1 predictions, but it doesn't seem all the lineups are ready yet. But we have a week one match between two expansion teams that should bring some serious excitement to the league. You would think that the new addition of two new tri-city teams would thin out the talent pool in the league, but if anything it seems to have made it deeper and brought out GMs from their hiding places. The very first match of the season features two GMs on board one, not something that has been too common in past seasons. Anyways, here are the lineups:
New Jersey Knockouts Queens Pioneers
GM Joel Benjamin: 2653 GM Alex Stripunsky: 2626
FM Thomas Bartell: 2386 IM Eli Vovsha: 2501
NM Mackenzie Molner: 2355 FM Teddy Coleman: 2285
NM Evan Ju: 2268 WFM Julia Shiber: 2108
Board 1: I'm familiar with both these players, not too familiar with their individual games. I do remember a few nice games by both of them from the 2005 US championship. I also know I've seen both players play 1.e4 and try a few things BESIDES the open sicilian. I think there's a good chance of seeing something like taht in this matchup. Slight edge to Benjamin who I think is probably the slightly stronger player and has white.
Board 2: I'm not familiar with Vovsha at all, seen Bartell play a few nice games, this one is probably a little closer than it looks on paper, but I think the slight edge goes Vovsha who will have the white pieces this should be one of the most important boards for this match.
Board 3: Molner - Coleman
Molner is a former New York Knight. Coleman and he are both young players, Molner seems to be the stronger player but has had problems in some matches last season. Still I think Molner gets the nod on board 3, especially if NJ wants a real edge.
Board 4: Shiber-Ju
I think even with black slight edge to Ju, he seems to have more experience and his youth suggests he's underrated. Board 4 belongs to the kids this year as it has a few times this year.
Overall should be a good start the season.
My prediction: NJ wins 3-1 over Queens