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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Really Wacky Wednesday

Veteran chess player and blogger Polly Wright invented Wacky Wednesday, the idea of devoting one day a week to the posting of abolutely ridiculous, blunder-laden games, many of which end in the opening because someone has flamed out in epic fashion. With decades of tournament play under her belt, Polly has a huge personal database from which to pluck suitably absurb games, and she sprinkles them throughout her blog now and then for a laugh.

I don't have Polly's vast experience, but I do have two things going for me that are helping me catch up in the accumulation of crazy games: (1) I play a lot of fast blitz (often G/3); and (2) I play badly. These two factors conduce to the creation of truly bad games, one of which I am happy to present for your entertainment today.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qc6 5.d4 exd4 6.Qxd4
The center counter gambit isn't the strongest defense in the world for Black. White already has a big lead in development.

6. . . . Bb4 7.Bb5??
Duh! What am I thinking by attacking Black's queen with my bishop? Black can just take the prelate without fear of recapture by my knight, which is pinned to my king. Just because the N on c3 often protects the c5 bishop doesn't mean it always does. A huge blunder on my part, and I am apparently about to lose my bishop.

7. . . . Bc5???
Double Duh! Then again, maybe not. Black misses the easy capture. Even worse, he must think we're about to exchange queens, but it is not to be, for my queen capture will also put his king in check.

8.Bxc6+ Nxc6 9.Qxc5 1-0
Black is down a queen and resigns. It's a game that's just as well over and one truly worthy of Wacky Wednesday, since not one but both players made horrendous blunders.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Blaze on Facebook

The Chicago Blaze now has its own Facebook page. Go here to become a fan, and while you're at it don't forget to follow the team on Twitter, too. Thanks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

O Tactics!

It isn't often a player of my limited ability sees a real tactic in a game, but in this one I spotted a discovered check (19. Bg5+) that won me my opponent's queen and shortly thereafter the game. This is when chess is the most fun. Time control was game in 10.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crazy Mate in 14

It's still Wednesday (just barely), so I can still post this crazy miniature under the Wacky Wednesday imprimatur.

Remember, kids: be on the lookout for threats from your opponent, and when you see 'em deal with 'em; don't just keep pushing pawns.

Monday, August 17, 2009

True Guitar Hero

Michael's tribute to Woodstock

Friday, August 14, 2009


Here was a fun three-minute (G/3) blitz game. I was about to mate this much higher rated player when I flagged. He had no mating material, so it's a draw rather than a win for him.

And yes, I know, 58. Qg2# and I win. Time pressures.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can We Save the Chess Meetup Group?

I just got an e-mail notifying me that the Chicago Chess Meetup Group, which has been a force in the local chess scene for the past three years, is currently without a coordinator and will be shut down automatically by on August 26 if no one steps forward to pick up the reins. Will anybody out there volunteer to keep the group going?

Under the leadership of Jae Lim and Peleg Holzman and with the help of prominent local chess players such as IM Angelo Young and FM Albert Chow, the Chess Meetup Group has held regular get-togethers for chess players as well as a series chess lectures, many of them conducted by Angelo at his club, the Touch Move Chess Center.

They've done their part; now it's somebody else's turn. It would be a shame to see the Chess Meetup Group die. I can't serve as the coordinator myself, but I and nearly 300 other chess players who belong to the group would be deeply grateful for anyone else who could.

Is there anyone out there who can take this on board? Go here if you're interested. And thanks.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Being Eric Rosen

Chicago-area junior beats GM, earns master title at U.S. Open

Several years ago some creative, young chess players of the kind New York City has in abundance put on an act at the Marshall Chess Club entitled "Being John Fedorowicz," an allusion to a popular movie of the day about experiencing the bizarre thrill of actually "being" the actor John Malkovich, even if only for a few minutes.

The exact context all that may be fuzzy to us a decade later, but it remains nevertheless clear that John Fedorowicz, the well-known East Coast grandmaster is, like John Lennon's working-class hero of lore, someone to be.

On this particular Monday, however, an equally cool person to be is Niles North High School sophomore, Blaze player, and newly minted chess master Eric Rosen, who beat GM Fedorowicz in a miniature yesterday at the U.S. Open.

Young Eric, with the Black pieces, kept his powder dry while the grandmaster's early kingside pawn push created an open diagonal for Eric's queen, which he thrust with alacrity onto White's sixth rank, there to wreak havoc. The senior player resigned on move 16.

It was the first victory against a grandmaster for the rapidly advancing young chess star and came just days after Eric achieved a draw against GM Jesse Kraai at the same tournament.

Oh, yes, and by the way: The game capped off an impressive 6.5/9 performance for Eric at the Open, which will put his rating over the 2200 mark. He is now a national master. Congratulations, Eric.

See the Fedorowicz game below.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Operators are Standing By to Take Your Calls!

Are Republicans proud of the insanity they've unleased? I guess so.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Eric Rosen Draws GM at U.S. Open

Congratulations to one of the newest members of the Chicago Blaze, Niles North High School sophomore Eric Rosen, of Skokie, who played GM Jesse Kraai to a draw at the U.S. Open in Indianapolis yesterday. Eric, a strong expert playing at a deficit of several hundred rating points vis-a-vis the New Mexico grandmaster, hung on to force a stalemate.

Though down a pawn in the endgame, Eric, with the Black pieces, managed the exchange of rooks in a way that prevented GM Kraai from promoting his last remaining pikeman. Congratulations, Eric.

See the game below.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

An Expert in the Neighborhood

For a blog that aspires to cover chess in Hyde Park, we're doing a pretty pathetic job of it, I must admit. I only just now spotted this three-month-old article in the Chicago Maroon about strong chess expert Jeremy Kane, captain of the University of Chicago Chess Club. He's 13 rating points shy of national master. Let's root for him to make it to 2200. Please read the article, and kudos to the Maroon for covering chess.

Incidentally, I think I have some photos from the spring chess tournament at U of C mentioned in the article, and I'll try to get those up here in due course. Yes, I know; I should've done it a long time ago. All the usual excuses.

Chicago Blaze Schedule

The 2009 U.S. Chess League season begins in less than a month, and the Chicago Blaze kick off this year's campaign, same as last year, with a match against the Arizona Scorpions. The whole schedule appears below.

The Blaze play their matches at the Holiday Inn Skokie, 5300 West Touhy Avenue, Skokie, Illinois. Fans are welcome to attend the games free of charge, so please come and cheer your team. If you can't make it to the Holiday Inn you can tune in to the matches live on the Internet Chess Club (membership required). You can also follow the team on Twitter.

Week 1 - Wednesday, September 2nd
Arizona Scorpions vs Chicago Blaze
9:00 PM ET (8:00 Central)

Week 2 - Wednesday, September 9th
Chicago Blaze vs Miami Sharks
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 3: Wednesday, September 16th
Tennessee Tempo vs Chicago Blaze
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 4: Monday September 21st
Chicago Blaze vs San Francisco Mechanics
8:30 PM ET (7:30 Central)

Week 5: Wednesday, September 30th
New Jersey Knockouts vs Chicago Blaze
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 6: Monday, October 5th
Chicago Blaze vs Philadelphia Inventors
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 7: Wednesday, October 14th
Chicago Blaze vs Tennessee Tempo
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 8: Monday, October 19th
Chicago Blaze vs Arizona Scorpions
9:00 PM ET (8:00 Central)

Week 9: Monday, October 26th
Dallas Destiny vs Chicago Blaze
8:00 PM ET (7:00 Central)

Week 10: Wednesday, November 4th
Seattle Sluggers vs Chicago Blaze
9:00 PM ET (8:00 Central)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Music in Nichols Park

L.V. Banks and His Swinging Blues Band kicked off the umpteenth season of the annual Nichols Park Concert Series this afternoon.

L.V. Banks

There's a lot more music to come this summer. The concerts take place Sundays from 4:00 - 6:00 PM at the north fountain in Nichols Park, just south of 53rd Street between Kenwood and Kimbark. Just follow the sound. The schedule:

August 9 - Vance Kelly and the Backstreet Blues Band

August 16 - Walter Scott

August 23 - Super Percy

August 30 - Vance Kelly and the Backstreet Blues Band

September 6 - Curtis Black Quartet

September 13 - Akasha

September 20 - Julia Huff-Heath and the Company Band

September 27 - (to be announced)
Sponsored by the Nichols Park Advisory Council and a long list of local businesses to which we are grateful. George and Stephanie Franklin started the series years ago, and an able young chap named Ted, whose last name I didn't catch, appears now to have taken it onboard.