Thursday, December 27, 2007

Big League Chess Comes to Chicago

USCL picks Windy City for expansion

It’s a great day for Chicago. IM Greg Shahade, commissioner of the United States Chess League (USCL), has announced today on the league’s Web site that the Chicago Blaze will be one of two new expansion teams to join the league next season. Big league chess has come to Chicago at last.

The USCL is a organization of competitive professional chess teams from across the country that play matches during a ten-week season that runs from late August to late October and is then followed by playoffs and a championship. The league currently has twelve teams from New York and Boston to Seattle and San Francisco but until now no team from Chicago. It’s the equivalent of Major League Baseball for chess, a fact that the league’s logo makes no attempt to disguise.

The difference, of course, is that USCL players aren’t pampered and over-paid celebrities; they’re just strong chess players who represent their cities for a little bit of money and a lot of civic pride. Their accessibility will make the Blaze a great opportunity to promote chess generally in Chicago.

The team roster includes GM Dmitry Gurevich, IM Angelo Young, FM Mehmed Pasalic, and young experts Adam Strunk and Ilan Meerovich. Glenn Panner, chess expert, tournament director, and organizer extraordinaire will be the team’s manager. The Blaze will play their matches on the Internet Chess Club from Angelo’s Touch Move Chess Center.

The Blaze is an initiative of the Illinois Chess Association, and thanks must go to ICA President Chris Merli for supporting the project, to ace blogger and chess dad Brad Rosen for proposing the arrangement, and to über-organizer Sevan Muradian for recruiting players and spearheading the discussions with the USCL that led to today’s announcement. There would be no Blaze without Sevan. Nor without Evanston chess mom and ICA activist Maret Thorpe, who came up with the team name, and chess mom Andi Rosen, whose ideas and outreach to players at crucial stages were, well . . . crucial.

I’m also proud and honored to be a part of the Blaze supporting cast (no, not as a player, heaven forbid), and I’m looking forward to working with all of these fine people to bring big-league chess to Chicago.

There’s more on Glenn’s blog, and Brad’s site will probably have something on it soon. There will be more in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.