Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blaze Bow to Queens Machine

The Chicago Blaze became the latest victims of the Queens Pioneers’ rolling juggernaut last night, falling to the formidable Forest Hills squad in their USCL match by a score of 3-1.

It was the worst defeat yet for Chicago and the first match in which no member of the Blaze won a game. The going was roughest on the top two boards, where FM Florin Felecan lost to strong GM Alex Stripunsky and IM Emory Tate became the latest notch in the belt of IM Alex Lenderman (pictured at left), the 19-year-old pheenom who has won all of seven of his games this season. Stripunsky and Lenderman are two of the reasons the Pioneers (6.5-1.5) are tied for the best record in the league. (See Elizabeth Vicary's interview with IM Lenderman here.)

For the Blaze, the only bright spots were boards three and four, where IM-elect Mehmed Pasalic and IM Angelo Young, both undefeated this year, drew their opponents.

You can’t win ‘em all, of course, and the defeat followed a few weeks of mostly solid performances for the new Blaze team, which had raised its record to 4-3 after last week. That record now falls back to an even .500, and we hang on dearly to our playoff hopes. The last two matches of the regular season, against Arizona and Dallas, will be decisive.

The Pioneers are an impressive team and deserve their success. To get where they are they have had to overcome obstacles, such as an undistinguished record last year, their first, and what has to be the most ill-conceived name and logo in the league. (Trust me, I was born and raised in New York City’s largest borough. Nothing about Queens even remotely suggests cowboys or pioneers or sunsets. None of it resonates. But when you’re winning, who cares?)

On the bright side, Blaze Manager Glenn Panner gave the team’s non-player personnel—all of whom very much need chess improvement—an enjoyable lesson in the Scotch Game using Charousek vs Von Popiel (Budapest, 1896) and Bruce Pandolfini’s Chess Life column on the game from August 2006 (USCF membership required).

Many thanks to Maret Thorpe for serving as tournament director last night for the second time this year. Here are the games:

  1. FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs GM Alex Stripunsky (QNS) 0-1

2. IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 1-0

3. IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) vs NM Parker Zhao (QNS) 1/2-1/2

4. NM Michael Thaler (QNS) vs IM Angelo Young (CHC) 1/2-1/2