Friday, October 24, 2008

Blaze Stung By Scorpions Again

Photos: (c) Betsy Dynako

As Charles Dickens once said, there are the best of times, and then there’s last Wednesday night. Yuck. That evening, the Chicago Blaze lost to our fellow expansion team the Arizona Scorpions for the second time this year, leaving us with only the slimmest chance to make the U.S. Chess League playoffs. The score was 3-1.

And after last week’s loss to the Queens Pioneers, the Blaze are now in the first losing streak in our history; until now we haven’t lost two matches in a row.

Of course, Wednesday wasn’t a total waste. IM Emory Tate won an exciting game against FM Danny Rensch. More on that later, maybe, if we can get someone who knows about chess to annotate the game.

One of the big highlights of the evening was a visit from Ilan Meerovich’s teammates at Niles North High School. Coach Harry Kyriazes pushed the ceremonial first pawn to start the match.

Another bright spot was having Betsy Dynako serve as tournament director, which meant we also got the great pictures above. Oh, yeah, and we got to hang around with IM Ben Finegold, who was on hand for one of Sevan Muradian’s FIDE tournaments, which was contemporaneous with the Blaze match. (For you Joe & Sarah Sixpacks who shun elitist erudition, that means it was happening at the same time.) Anyway, besides being an insanely great chess player, Ben is one of the funniest and most entertaining people you’re likely to meet—if you meet him, that is, which I recommend.

Our playoff hopes ride on the final match against the reigning champion Dallas Destiny next week, and on the outcome of the Arizona vs. Seattle contest. We must win.

Elsewhere, the Scorpions’ blog reviews the games in the match, and FM Joel Johnson annotates his game with Ilan at Elizabeth’s blog.

Finally, if you haven’t gotten the word yet, the Illinois Chess Association’s Web site has moved to Glenn explains.

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

Game of the Week Returns

After falling down on the job for the past few rounds, we bring back the Blaze Game of the Week. This time it's Ilan Meerovich's victory over National Master Jerry Wheeler in a King's Indian game from this week's match between the Blaze and the Tennessee Tempo. The Blaze won the match 2.5-1.5, and Ilan's win was crucial to the effort.

Thanks to Ilan for annotating the game himself. The final position appears below. Go here to see the whole game.

Position after 36. Rb7. Black resigns.

photo: (c) Betsy Dynako

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blaze Slip Past Tennessee

We beat the Tempo, just not as resoundingly as last time

Ilan Meerovich (above) made a triumphant return to the Blaze lineup. IM Jan Van De Mortel (below) beat FM Todd Andrews for the second time this year.

It was a different kind of match from the last time the two teams met, but the result that mattered was the same, as the Chicago Blaze defeated the Tennessee Tempo last night for the second time this season.

The Tempo, which had definitely retooled since the 4-0 drubbing they took at the hands of the Blaze in Week 3, this time inflicted some damage in the match, which ended 2.5-1.5 in Chicago’s favor.

Meerovich Returns
The evening saw the triumphant return to the Blaze lineup of Niles North High School chess star Ilan Meerovich, who beat FM Jerry Wheeler on Board 4, giving Ilan a 2-0 record on the season.

The other Blaze victory came from IM Jan Van De Mortel, who beat the Tempo’s FM Todd Andrews, just as he had in the first match. This time, however, Tennessee got in some licks. IM Ron Burnett avenged his earlier loss to Chicago’s GM Nikola Mitkov by beating him this time on Board 1; and FM Peter Bereolos, who lost to IM Angelo Young in the team’s previous encounter, this time managed to eke out a draw against IM-elect Mehmed Pasalic.

Playoff Picture Improves
The victory gives the Blaze a 4-3 record in seven matches and lifts the team over the .500 mark for the first time in its young history. It certainly boosts our playoff chances with three weeks left in the regular season, though just how much it helps will become clearer after the rest of the leagues plays on Wednesday night. More on this later.

Many thanks to Tom Sprandel of the Evanston Chess Club, who served as tournament director for last night’s match. Here are the games, by board number:

1. IM Ron Burnett (TEN) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0
IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs FM Todd Andrews (TEN) 1-0
FM Peter Bereolos (TEN) vs Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1/2-1/2
Ilan Meerovich (CHC) vs FM Jerry Wheeler (TEN) 1-0

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blaze Keep the Heat on Miami

Chicagoans Pull Out a Draw in Tough Match

IMs Emory Tate and Angelo Young put the shark bite on Miami last night to salvage a draw for the Blaze.
Some but not all of the Blazers on hand last night: Manager Glenn Panner, IM-elect Mehmed Pasalic, GM Nikola Mitkov, IM Emory Tate, IM Angelo Young.

On yet another night when the new Chicago Blaze could easily have gone down to defeat, the team hung tough to salvage their match yesterday evening with a 2-2 draw against the Miami Sharks, a team that was considered one of the league’s strongest as the season began.

Once again it was the middle of the lineup, IMs Emory Tate on Board 2 and IM Angelo Young on Board 3, that provided the victories. Both players are grinding it out in style these days. Emory has now won his last three games. Angelo is undefeated in USCL competition and is currently among the league’s top ten players in game MVP points.

Playing Black, Emory beat off an early but premature mating attack by IM Blas Lugo in their Caro-Kann, Two Knights game, going on methodically to squeeze his opponent’s kingside and enter the endgame up a knight to a pawn. White resigned after Move 60.

Angelo’s game against FM Charles Galofre went late into the night, generally looking drawish to most of the observers on the scene at the Holiday Inn Skokie. In an endgame that went on for about 60 moves, however, Angelo managed to capture his opponent’s last pawns while retaining one of his own. Charles resigned after Move 111, as Angelo was about to promote. (Warning: Game not for those with short attention spans.)

The draw keeps the Blaze at .500—three points in six meets—and maintains our playoff hopes without actually advancing them. Every week is different, interesting and fun. Next up: the Blaze play the Tennessee Tempo again on Monday.

Thanks to Chris Baumgartner for providing first-rate tournament direction last night. Here are the games by board number.

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

IM Blas Lugo (MIA) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 0-1

IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs FM Charles Galofre (MIA) 1-0

NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) vs NM Jon Burgess (CHC) 1-0