Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frisco Holds Blaze at Bay

Chicago bows to Mechanics 2.5-1.5

It was a seesaw match that seemed at first to be going our way, but the storybook ending was not to be, as the San Francisco Mechanics held on, as widely predicted, to beat Chicago Blaze last night 2.5-1.5.

The match, which went well past 11:00 PM Chicago time, ended when San Francisco’s GM Jesse Kraai succeeded in pushing an imminently promotable pawn down the g-file, against the valiant endgame efforts of Chicago’s FM Florin Felecan to prevent it, giving Kraai the game and San Francisco the edge in the match. The Blaze now fall to 1-3 after four weeks, with six matches left in the season.

As usual, there were bright spots for the Blaze. In a game that should be in the running for the league’s new Upset of the Week prize, IM Angelo Young defeated IM Sam Shankland and maintained his undefeated record in USCL play. On Board 1, where Blaze players have often struggled, IM Jan van De Mortel held the much higher rated GM Josh Friedel to a draw.

Here are the games, by board number:

1. IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC)vs GM Josh Friedel (SF) 1/2-1/2

2. GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0

3. IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs IM Sam Shankland (SF) 1-0

4. NM Yian Liou (SF) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0

Special thanks to NM Len Weber, who served as our Celebrity Tournament Director for the evening. Thanks also to GM Nikola Mitkov and Betsy Dynako, neither of whom had official duties with the team last night, for showing up and cheering the Blaze all the same. As always, we were honored to host Professor Gary Alan Fine of Northwestern University, who is following the Blaze and the USCL as part of a larger study on the sociology of chess. Finally, personal thanks to Chessdad64 (Brad Rosen), for a tough and interesting G/40 game.

Our next match is a week from Wednesday against the New Jersey Knockouts, who are jabbing their way through the league this year with a one-two combination of superb chess and bad puns. They’ll be tough, but we’ll be ready. Please join us next week and lend your voice to the cheering section. Go Blaze!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Awesome Cat Video

First there was Boomer the Wonder Dog. Now this. Four minutes of Zen.

Hat tip: Ms. Averill, Room 413.

Massive Chess Set in Trafalgar Square

By the artist Jaime Hayón. Want to play? Details here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Blaze Ignite

Chicago finally gets on the board with a 2.5-1.5 victory over Tennessee

Photos: Daniel Parmet

It’s good to win. That was the sentiment at the Holiday Inn Skokie last night as the Chicago Blaze finally posted their first victory of the 2009 season, beating the Tennessee Tempo 2.5-1.5 and breaking a five-match losing streak that extended to the end of last season.

As might be expected, it was the ever-reliable IM Angelo Young, still undefeated in USCL play, who hit the Volunteer State crew first, with a victory over FM Todd Andrews to spur his teammates and even the score, after FM Florin Felecan, with the Black pieces and a near-impossible match-up against Jaan Ehlvest on Board 1, had fallen to his super-GM opponent.

That left IM Mehmed Pasalic on Board 3, and NM Jon Burgess, Board 4, with the burden of determining the outcome of the match. Both games looked iffy, and a somber mood momentarily descended on the venue until both players rallied, Mehmed to victory over FM Peter Bereolos and Jon to hold FM John Bick to a draw.

Here are the games:

1. GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0

2. IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs FM Todd Andrews (TEN) 1-0

3. FM Peter Bereolos (TEN) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 0-1

4. NM Jon Burgess (CHC) vs FM John Bick (TEN) 1/2-1/2

Tennessee was one of the weaker teams in the league last year, but with Ehlvest and former U.S. Champion GM Alexander Shabalov now playing for the Nashville cats, they started this season strong and, as the USCL site put it, look like “a different team” this year. Last night’s match was their first defeat of the season. It came harder, and is in some ways more satisfying, than the two Blaze victories over the Tempo last year.

Special thanks to Larry Cohen, who served as our Celebrity Tournament Director for the evening’s match. Kudos also to Blaze Assistant Manager Daniel Parmet, who ran the match superbly in the absence of Manager Glenn Panner.

It’s a short week, and there won’t be much time to celebrate. We come back and play the mighty San Francisco Mechanics on Monday. Tune in to the Internet Chess Club, or watch the live coverage by Chicago’s Midway Chess Club.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Glenn Beck on Chess: Pawns Don’t Matter

Another subject on which the vile Fox News know-nothing propagandist purports to be an expert.


“OK. Any doubt in your mind that they're just going to throw these people — you know, I was thinking about — you and I were talking before I went on the show. And I asked somebody to go get a chess set, and a very nice one at this. Can we get a shot at this chess set?

“This is like ACORN. I keep thinking of these people, because I play chess — poorly, but I play chess. And the pawns don't matter. They just don't matter to me. When you're playing chess, it doesn't matter. You can take all the pawns. Who cares? It doesn't matter.

“The only thing that really matters is the king, and in this case — in ACORN — the king is a white guy, sitting there. I mean, it doesn't matter if everybody else is mowed down as long as he gets his cash.”
What did Philidor know, anyway?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Game with a Stranger

This is a game I played with a pleasant chap named Eddy at the Starbucks on Lincoln & Wilson in Chicago, across from the Old Town School of Folk Music. I resigned on move 24 because I had to pick up my son from his guitar lesson, but Eddy was up a pawn, clearly better overall, and I was headed for defeat anyway.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 d6
This was my crucial blunder, I think. Developing the king's knight was clearly the thing to do here, and may failure to do so invited White's next move, which caused me much grief.

5. Ng5 d5
I misread the position; I thought it was like the Fried Liver Attack, but it wasn't.

6. Bxd5 Be6 7. Nxe6 fxe6 8. Bxe6 Qf6 9. Bf5 Nge7 10. O-O Nxf5 11. exf5 Qxf5 12. Be3 b6 13. Bxc5 bxc5 14. Nc3 Rd8 15. Nb5 Qf7 16. b3 a6 17. Nc3 Nd4 18. Rc1 O-O 19. Ne4 Ne6
A generally weak and mediocre level of play on both sides, but White has had an advantage since early in the game, and Black has dome nothing to change the balance.

20. Qg4 Rd4 21. Rce1 h5 22. Qg3 Nf4 23. Nxc5 Qf6 24. Ne4 Black resigns 1-0

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Miami Puts the Shark Bite on the Blaze

But IM Young comes through again

Angelo Young always shows up.

As any Blaze fan will tell you, the popular international master and seven-time Illinois champion plays hard and always gives the team 100 percent. True to his reputation and record, Angelo came through again last night, posting an impressive victory with the Reti/King’s Indian Attack against NM Eric Rodriguez of the Miami Sharks to give the Blaze a lift and maintain his undefeated record in USCL play.

That, however, was the good news, and unfortunately, there wasn't anymore of it, as Angelo’s teammates, GM Nikola Mitkov, IM Jan van DeMortel, and expert Trevor Magness each fell to their Miami opponents. The Sharks won the match 3-1, handing the Blaze their second consecutive defeat of the new season and leaving us with an 0-2 record heading into the third week of the ten-week season.

Here are the games.

Board 1. GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 0-1

Board 2. FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0

Board 3. IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) 1-0

Board 4. Miguel Recio (MIA) vs Trevor Magness (CHC) 1-0

Special thanks to Mike Cardinale of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago, who served as our celebrity tournament director for the evening. Mike will be back with us again later in the season.

Next up, the Tennessee Tempo:

Week 3:
Wednesday, September 16th
Tennessee Tempo vs Chicago Blaze
7:00 PM Central Time

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Saved by the Bell?

I won this three-minute (G/3) game on time, with nine seconds left on my clock when my opponent flagged. The Computer says the position is dead even. Does this qualify as a Wacky Wednesday game?

Al Franken, Cartographer Extempore

Al Franken and I were born on the same day, both of us in New York City, but the recently seated U.S. senator from Minnesota has used his long life much more productively than I have, at least when it comes to mastering the art of map-making on the fly. Here he draws a map of the United States -- freehand and from memory. Very impressive.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Felecan Shares State Championship

Congratulations to FM Florin Felecan of the Chicago Blaze, who finished in a tie for first place with IM Mesgen Amanov in this weekend's Illinois Open. The two players, who both went 5.0/6 for the weekend, are now the co-champions of Illinois.

Other Blazers playing in the tournament were IM Angelo Young, Trevor Magness, NM Eric Rosen, and Assistant Manager Daniel Parmet. Special congratulations to Blaze tech guru Sevan Muradian, who went undefeated in his section and raised his rating to 1744. Sevan's rating has spiked about 250 points in the past year. Is he doing de la Maza?

Left: Florin Felecan ponders his position in last year's Blaze match against the Baltimore Kingfishers.

photo: Betsy Dynako

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Deja Vu

Blaze Stung by Scorpions in Season Opener Again

In the short rivalry between the Chicago Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions, there really hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all. In fact, the “rivalry” can be summed up easily: they own us.

Aside from the fact that both teams joined the U.S. Chess League at the same time last year, there are few similarities between them, especially when they go head to head. The Blaze dropped both of their matches to Arizona last year, and last night the Scorpions’ streak against the Windy City squad went to three as they handed us our most lopsided defeat ever, 3.5-.5. For the second year in a row, the Blaze lost their opening match of the season to the same team.

A Few Bright Spots
There weren’t many bright spots in last night’s match, but there were a few. FM Florin Felecan managed to hold IM Levon Altounian for a draw. And as Blaze Manager Glenn Panner sees it, the remaining three games, which the Blaze lost, could have gone either way for most of the night.

There was no shortage of excitement. Trevor Magness, this year’s Illinois Denker champion, playing in his first game for the Blaze, gave a sharp and aggressive response to David Adelberg’s Sicilian. IM Mehmed Pasalic of the Blaze blitzed valiantly against FM Robby Adamson, as both of them drew short on time for about the last twenty moves of their game. GM Nikola Mitkov of the Blaze made GM Alejandro Ramirez work and sweat to grind out a victory in the last game of the night to end.

“I think we can be about as happy as you can be after a 3.5-.5 defeat,” said Glenn optimistically at the end of the night. Here are the games:

Board 1. GM Alejandro Ramirez (ARZ) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0

Board 2. FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) 1/2-1/2

Board 3. FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0

Board 4. Trevor Magness (CHC) vs David Adelberg (ARZ) 0-1

The Blaze as the Object of Scholarship
Off the board, we had a distinguished guest at the Holiday Inn Skokie, where the Blaze play their games. Professor Gary Alan Fine of Northwestern University, a leading expert on the sociology of leisure and popular culture, was on hand in his capacity as a researcher studying chess. That’s right: the Blaze have attracted the attention of scholars, so have a little respect. Happily, Gary will be with us a good part of the season.

Of course we were delighted to have our celebrity tournament director Betsy Dynako on hand. Betsy not only officiated during a mouse-slip in one game but as always took great pictures, this time doing it with my ancient point-and-shoot camera and despite technical difficulties with her own. We were also joined by the new Blaze assistant manager, Daniel Parmet, about which you'll be hearing more. He knows alot about chess, Indian food, and apparently many other things.

Props also to William Shehan of the Midway Chess Club, which did a webcast from their perch on the Southwest Side to which several people tuned in and NM Len Weber provided excellent play-by-play. I'd also like to thank the Internet Chess Club for providing me with access to the lives games, which enabled me to give real-time commentary on Twitter, such as it was.

It’s good to have our ignominious defeat for the season out of the way. Now the Blaze can concentrate on winning, which we’ll do beginning next week when we take on the Miami Sharks. And we get another shot at the Scorpions later in the year. So things are looking up. Stay tuned: the Blaze have not yet caught fire.

Photos: Betsy Dynako

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Chicago the Beautiful, 1948

Not all that different in some ways, though I don't see any palm trees at Oak Street Beach. And don't expect to see the North Avenue Chess Pavillion: that was built in 1957.

Blaze Season Kicks Off with Scholastic Fundraiser, Opening Match

The Chicago Blaze, Illinois’s very own chess team, is about to begin its second season in the U.S. Chess League. Our first game of 2009 takes place tonight, and I would like to invite all chess fans in Chicago and Illinois to follow the team, root for it, enjoy it, and support it.

Chess at the Ballpark
Also part of the season opening will be a scholastic tournament to raise funds for the team on Saturday, September 12, at U.S. Cellular Field. Here is a flyer with the details that you can tack up on the fridge. Please help spread the word about this tournament to kids and the parents of kids in grades K-12 who play chess. We need a good turnout, and it should be a lot of fun. Every kid who plays in the rated tournament will get a spiffy, new Chicago Blaze t-shirt.

Here’s how you can follow the Blaze.

  • First, go to our main Web site to find out more about the team. In particular, take a look at the season schedule. The regular season runs through early November, and since we hope to make the playoffs this year, we expect to be playing beyond that. (Please bear with us if portions of the site aren’t entirely up to date; the Blaze is a volunteer effort, and we’re doing our best.)
  • Come back regularly to this blog as we post news.
  • Follow us on Twitter. We’ll be posting news about the team and the league, and if we can manage it we’ll be doing some live tweeting during the matches.
  • Become a fan of the Blaze on Facebook.
  • Attend the matches at the Holiday Inn Skokie, 5300 West Touhy. Fans are welcome to attend the games at no charge.
  • If you can’t make it to the games, follow them live on the Internet Chess Club.

First Match Tonight Night
The first match is tonight, 8:00 Central time, against the Arizona Scorpions. The Blaze will gather at the Holiday Inn and play the Scorpions online, via the Internet Chess Club. I hope you can join us either in person or virtually. (If you don’t have an ICC subscription, tune in to Twitter.)

The Blaze has the blessing and support of the Illinois Chess Association, along with many individual people whom we hope to thank profusely in due course. (And one person I'd like to thank right now: Maret Thorpe, for creating the gorgeous flyer for the Celluar Field tournament)

Please let me know if you have any questions. The goal of the Blaze is to be a contributing part of the Chicago and Illinois chess communities and to help chess grow and prosper in the Windy City and the Prairie State. Please join the fun. Thanks.