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