Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Week's Opponent: San Francisco

Here are the matchups for this week's meet between the Chicago Blaze and the San Francisco Mechanics. The Mechanics beat the defending champion Dallas Destiny in their first meet last week, and they have significant ratings advantages against Chicago on two of the fours boards. "Really tough match this week, but there should be some interesting games," Manager Glenn Panner told the players tonight.

Please tune in at 7:30 Wednesday night on the Internet Chess Club, or better yet come to the Holiday Inn Skokie and cheer the team in person.

Here's the lineup. The Blaze players are in bold.

Chicago Blaze (0.0-1.0) vs San Francisco Mechanics (1.0-0.0)
Starts at 7:30 PM Central time

Wednesday, September 3
Time Control - Game 75 with 30 second increment

FM Florin Felecan (2449) vs. IM Josh Friedel(2595)

IM Vinay Bhat (2481) vs. IM Emory Tate (2392)

FM Mehmed Pasalic (2375) vs. FM Sam Shankland (2364)

FM Daniel Naroditsky (2321) vs. IM Angelo Young (2356)

Blaze Avg Rating: 2393

Mechanics Avg Rating: 2440

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blaze Game of the Week

Ilan Meerovich vs Warren Harper
Board 4, Chicago vs Arizona, 08/25/08
Annotation by Chicago Blaze Manager Glenn Panner

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3
Here Ilan surprises the Arizona preparation, which was looking for 4. e3.

4. ... Bxc3 5. bxc3 c5 6. f3 d5
The Saemisch variation, from a different move order. Normally White will play f3 on move 4, with the idea of pushing e4 and getting a rolling pawn mass in the center. Black's plan would be to play b6 and Ba6 to pile up on the weak doubled c pawn.

7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qd3
Protecting c3 and reinforcing the e3 push. The Q also is now in a better spot to get to black's kingside if needed.

8. ... f5?
While this move can be played in e3 Nimzo-Indians, here it does not prevent the e4 push and weakens the e6 pawn, and can even create a super-highway to the kingside.

9. e4 fxe4 10. fxe4 Ne7 11. Nf3 0-0
White is free to develop here naturally without much pressure and a choice of plans, either to roll his pawns down the center or to attack kingside. Black does not have a clear plan here, and is cramped.

12. Be2 Nec6 13. O-O Nd7
I believe the Black plan here is to try to force e5 to get some counterplay. Blockade the d6 square, allow the B to activate, and perhaps find some holes for the Ns to park in.

14. Be3 Qe7 15. e5!
Ilan has decided here that the e5 push seals off several black pieces from getting to the kingside to defend, cements the e6 pawn as a permanent weakness, and takes clear advantage of the more mobile white pieces. This is a great example of when to lock up the center for White.

15. ... h6
Harper had to stop White from playing Ng5 not only with the idea of the Qxh7 mate threat but the nearly as threatening N tour from g5 to e4 to land on d6 crippling Black. The problem now for Black is the weakening of the light squares.

16. Qg6! Qf7 17. Qg3! Qh5
Two very accurate moves preparing for the lightning and thunder.

18. Nh4!
I would call this a sacrifice, but Ilan gets the material back so quickly I don't know that I can. This pretty move deflects the lone black defender from the king.

18. ... Qxe2 19. Bxh6 Rf7 20. Rxf7 Kxf7
Removing the defender.

21. Qxg7+ Ke8
Meerovich puts Harper out of his misery very efficiently here.

22. Qg8 Nf8 23. Qxf8 Kd7 24. Qd6+ Ke8 25. Rf1
Black resigns. 1-0

photo: © Betsy Dynako

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Greg Pulls Back the Curtain

A producer of chess videos named “curtains,” who is generally understood to be U.S. Chess League Commissioner Greg Shahade, has annotated the games in last Monday's match between the Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions at
Good stuff and well worth watching. Notice how Greg describes the key move in Ilan Meerovich’s victory over NM Warren Harper: 18. Nh4.

Hat tip: Brad and Sevan.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Pictures

The Blaze may not have won our first match, but we did have the good fortune to have Betsy Dynako as our tournament director last night. In addition to being a certified TD, Betsy is also the best chess photographer in the country. If you read Chess Life or Chess Life Online, you've seen plenty of her photos. Here are some she took during last nights' match with the Arizona Scorpions. More photos here.

Ilan Meerovich is nonchalant about his victory, but Sevan Muradian is pretty psyched about it.

Jan does a long think

IM Mehmed Pasalic battled IM Mark Ginsburg to a draw.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blaze Fall to Arizona in Season Opener

The Blaze lineup for its first match, from left: IM Jan Van De Mortel, IM Mehmed Pasalic, Ilan Meerovich, NM Jon Burgess

Jon Burgess and Tournament Director Betsy Dynako joke as Betsy collects the players' cell phones before the game.

Niles North High School star Ilan Meerovich overcame a 170-point ratings deficit against National Master Warren Harper last night to post the sole victory for the Chicago Blaze, as the Windy City's new chess team lost its first match, the U.S. Chess League season opener, to the Arizona Scorpions.

The score was 2.5-1.5, a perfectly respectable showing for the Blaze considering that Arizona enjoyed a ratings advantage on all fours boards. IM Mehmed Pasalic was the other Blaze player to get on the scoreboard, with a 70-move draw against Arizona IM Mark Ginsburg that went late into the night.

The key to victory for Ilan was a ferocious kingside attack that deconstructed Harper's Nimzo-Indian Defense, prompting the Arizona master to resign on move 25. See all the games here:

Thanks to the four Blaze players and also to Betsy Dynako for serving as tournament director. Next up: the Blaze face the San Franciso Mechanics on Wednesday, September 3, at 7:30 Central Time.

Update (8/27): Blaze Manager Glenn Panner, who unfortunately had to be out of town for the first match, has this to say on his blog.

Friday, August 22, 2008

USCL Season Kicks Off with Blaze-Scorpions Match

The Chicago Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions, both new expansion teams in the United States Chess League, will go head to head Monday night in a match that will lead off the league's 2008 season, and the chess world is all abuzz about it.

According to an article just posted on the U.S. Chess Federation's Web site:

"The United States Chess League kicks off its 4th Season starting this Monday, August 25, 2008, with a match between the two newest teams in the league, the Arizona Scorpions and the Chicago Blaze. Both of these expansion teams are excited to participate in such a prestigious league. The remaining matches for Week 1 (see below) will be played on Wednesday, August 27,

The Blaze will gather for its historic first match at the Holiday Inn in Skokie, the new mecca for chess on the North Shore, where they will play against the Scorpions via the Internet Chess Club. The matchups for Monday night's meet are:

Board 1 IM Levon Altounian v IM Jan Van De Mortel
Board 2 IM Mehmed Pasalic v IM Mark Ginsburg
Board 3 FM Robby Adamson v NM Jon Burgess
Board 4 CM Ilan Meerovich v NM Warren Harper

The Blaze players are in bold. They all live in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs.

Tune in Monday night to ICC at 8:30 Central time Monday night, or come to the Holiday Inn to cheer the team in person. The Blaze are here to set the league on fire!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Leader of the Pack

The fortunes of America's top chess players in this year's championship tournament are chronicled in the current issue of Chess Life magazine, and top billing goes to Barrington, Ill.-based GM Yury Shuman, who led the pack and brought the championship home to the Prairie State.

Yury, a member of the Chicago Blaze, had finished a close second at the championship meet two years ago. This year he arrived at the event in Tulsa knowing he had a good chance to win. He also knew he'd have to outplay reigning champion Alex Shabalov as well as former champs GMs Boris Gulko and Alexander Onischuk and other hungry competitors, like GM Sergey Kudrin, GM Varuzhan Akobian, IM Josh Friedel (who earned his final grandmaster norm in Tulsa), and Blaze teammate GM Dmitry Gurevich.

Here are two of Yury's most exciting games from the eight-round event. Check out the tripled-pawn situation he overcame in the endgame against IM David Preuss. And see why Chess Life Online used the word "carnage" to characterize Yury's seventh-round confrontation with GM Julio Becerra-Rivero.