Monday, August 31, 2009

Blaze on Familiar Ground for Season Opener

Underdogs vs. Arizona, not for the first time

The pairings for this season’s first match, between the Chicago Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions, have been posted on the U.S. Chess League site, and as the teams get ready for the opening salvos of their 2009 title quests, the Windy City squad finds itself on familiar territory: as underdogs.

Here’s the lineup, in which Arizona has a ratings advantage on every board:

Board 1
GM Alejandro Ramirez vs. GM Nikola Mitkov (Chicago)

Board 2
FM Florin Felecan (Chicago) vs IM Levon Altounian

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson vs. IM Mehmed Pasalic (Chicago)

Board 4
Trevor Magness (Chicago) vs. David Adelberg

This is not a new situation for Chicago. The Blaze were underdogs in many if not most of their maiden-season matches last year, yet they managed to draw or win several of those contests. As a result, the team came that close to earning a playoff berth in its expansion-team season, staying in contention until the final game of the final match. Being down is nothing new for the Blaze, yet they've managed to carve out an impressive record of success despite the odds.

It’s a good thing, too because in the Scorpions, we face a formidable opponent. The Blaze faced Arizona twice last year and lost both times. This year they may be stronger, having added GM Ramirez to their roster. The Scorpions have a lot of resources, too, having just added the popular site to its prodigious list of corporate sponsors. No wonder the team's manager, FM Robby Adamson, predicts victory for the Scorpions over the Blaze.

But to paraphrase the late Bobby Fischer, sponsorships don’t win chess games; strong moves do. The Blaze will be ready Wednesday night. The action begins at 8:00 Central time at the Holiday Inn Skokie (5300 West Touhy). Fans are welcome, so please come and cheer the team or follow them on the Internet Chess Club. We’ll also try to post reports on Twitter.

Hope to see you one way or another, either virtually or in person, as the 2009 Chicago Blaze season gets under way.