Monday, December 21, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks: the Players

We have much to be thankful for in the Chicago Blaze season recently concluded. Let’s start with the players themselves.

NM Jon Burgess
IM Florin Felecan
NM Jeremy Kane
GM Nikola Mitkov
Trevor Magness
IM Jan van de Mortel
IM Mehmed Pasalic
NM Eric Rosen
IM Angelo Young

These guys deserve a round of applause from all Illinois chess fans, for showing up every week, playing hard, often (usually) against higher-rated opponents, and giving us a team we can root for and be proud of.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Young is a First Team All Star

Congratulations to IM Angelo Young of the Chicago Blaze for being named an all-star in U.S. Chess League's first team. The league has first, second, and third all-star teams, and Angelo is Board 3, behind GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Boris Gulko, on the first team. With NM Eric Rodriguez on board four, that's one heck of a team.

This comes as no surprise whatsoever, of course. Angelo was undefeated in six USCL games this year, extending his undefeated streak from the 2008 season. He's never lost a USCL game.

It's hard to find anything new to say about Angelo's extraordinary performance that hasn't been said before. He won the league Upset of the Week prize twice (a record), and won a game on Board 1 against a much higher rated player in a match where Angelo was filling in at the last minute for a sick teammate. Amazing.

Congratulations, Angelo!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Knights Win USCL Championship

In “stunning reversal of fortune,” losers are heroes in tiebreaks

Congratulations to the New York Knights, who have defeated the Miami Sharks to win the 2009 U.S. Chess League Championship. Last night's regulation match ended in a draw. As the USCL site reports:

“For the fourth year in a row the USCL Finals came down to a blitz tiebreaker. Two players lost during regulation, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili and IM Alejandro Moreno Roman. In a stunning reversal of fortune, both of these players were heros in the blitz tiebreaker. Moreno Roman knocked off everyone on New York's team except for Kacheishvili. Kacheishvili then turned around and did the exact same thing to Miami, finishing things off by defeating GM Julio Becerra with the black pieces.”

We have been remiss, I must admit, here at the Chicago Blaze blog, at covering the fairly exciting post-season action in the USCL, and as it happens I don't have time to redress that neglect at the moment with a lengthy post (all the usual excuses), but go to the USCL site to see all the playoff games.

In due course we'll try to bring Blaze fans up to speed on the thrilling 2009 USCL postseason.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quote of the Week

“The Chicago Blaze did not make the U.S. Chess League playoffs, but I think they had a much better season than the Chicago Bears are having.”

Bill Brock at the new Chicago Chess Blog, where he analyzes IM Florin Felecan's victory in the final match of the season.

Check it out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blaze Fundraiser December 12

Through the generosity of the North American Chess Association, this year's Illinois Class Championships on December 12 will be a fundraiser for the Chicago Blaze. Please come and play and help us build a team that can compete for the U.S. Chess League Championship. We can't do it without the help and support of the whole Chicago and Illinois chess community.

Details below. And here is a flyer you can print out and tack up on the fridge.

2009 Illinois Class Championships

A Chicago Blaze Fundraiser Event
Dec 12, 2009
Holiday Inn Hotel – 5300 West Touhy, Skokie, IL

$2,000 guaranteed in 6 sections:

  • M/X: $400‐200, Top Expert $150, $50 upset prize
  • Class A (U2000): $200‐100
  • Class B (U1800): $200‐100
  • Class C (U1600): $200‐100
  • Class D (U1400): $200‐100
  • Class E/F/Unrated: Book Prize to top 2

EF: $40 by 6pm 12/11, $60 onsite. Play Up 1 Class for $10. Re‐entry with 1/2pt bye in Rd 1 for $20. Only 2 byes allowed. Last round bye must commit by start of Rd 2.

Registration: 8:30am‐9:30am.
Rds: 10, 12:30, 3, 5:30.

Mail entries with registration information to:
North American Chess Association (make checks payable to)
4957 Oakton Street
Suite 113
Skokie, IL 60077.

Online registration available at:
ICA and USCF membership required.
Questions via email only: .
No smoking. Dec 2009 Supplement used.

All profits from this event will be donated to the Chicago Blaze, the team that represents Illinois in the US Chess League.

Friday, November 6, 2009

That's All, Folks!

Blaze draw division-leading Sluggers to end a down-and-up season

IM Florin Felecan

NM Eric Rosen

The Blaze have finished their 2009 USCL season with a 2-2 draw against the division-leading Seattle Sluggers, capping off a late-season mini-surge that gives us a respectable 4-6 record on the year after a poor start in the first half of the schedule.

With the Blaze officially eliminated from playoff competition by Miami’s draw against Boston the previous week, the pressure was off the Chicago squad, and they were relaxed going into the final round against the heavily favored Sluggers. That and the good turnout of fans at the Holiday Inn Skokie created a festive atmosphere for the night that helped the team hold the Pacific Northwest powerhouse.

One of the Blazers who took full advantage of the circumstances was IM Florin Felecan, who scored his first USCL victory against FM Slava Mikhailuk in a 28-move Sicilian Rossolimo.

It took NM Eric Rosen a few more moves to prevail over NM Joshua Sinanan in a Closed Sicilian, but prevail he did, and the two wins secured the draw against Seattle.

As always, here are the games:

1. GM Gregory Serper (SEA) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0
2. IM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) 1-0
3. FM Marcel Milat (SEA) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0
4. NM Eric Rosen (CHC) vs NM Joshua Sinanan (SEA) 1-0

Thanks for the umpteenth time to our Celebrity Tournament Director for the night Betsy Dynako, who has been a godsend to the Blaze the past two years. Also attending the game was IM Angelo Young, who, though he wasn’t scheduled to play that night and wasn’t feeling well, came out to cheer his teammates.

While the season is over for the Blaze the USCL playoffs are under way, and we’ll have some more posts in the days ahead to recap the year, so ya’ll come back now, you hear?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Comeback Kid

Jan annotates his Monday-night victory

photo: Betsy Dynako

[Update, 10/31: This game has won the USCL Game of the Week! Congratulations, Jan!]

IM John Bartholomew vs. IM Jan van de Mortel
U.S. Chess League / Internet Chess Club
October 26, 2009

annotations by Jan van de Mortel

[Go here to see the game and annotations in PGN.]

1.e4 A slight surprise as Bartholomew had only opened with d4 or Nf3 lately.

1...c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 By now I figured my opponent had seen my game with Albert Chow from a few years back.

13...Qa5 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.a3 Rab8 16.Bd3 b5 17.Qg5 This line is supposed to be trouble for Black (White scores about 75% in my database.)

17...Rc5?! 18.Bxc5 dxc5 [18...b4? is very tempting and a variation I looked at a decade ago with the USCL Commissioner Greg Shahade. We concluded it was unsound in the line 16.Bd3, and a bit more playable in the line 16.g4. We also tried the game continuation and what I vaguely remember is that it is unplayble in the line 16.g4 (as Nd7 will be under attack by the rook), and a bit more playable in the line 16.Bd3. 19.Be3 (19.axb4? Rxb4 20.Be3 Qa3 is what Black wants, for example 21.Kc1 Rxb2 22.Kd2 Qxc3+ 23.Ke2 (23.Kxc3 Nxe4# ) 23...Bc4^ ) 19...Bf5 (19...Qxg5 20.Bxg5 bxc3 21.b3 is insufficient compensation for Black.) 20.Nb5! Chow refutes the rook-sacrifice over the board. 20...bxa3 21.exf5 axb2 (21...Ne4 22.fxe4 Qb4 23.Bc1 axb2 24.Be3 Qa5 25.c3+- ) 22.c3+- although I somehow managed to win this game on time (Chow-Van de Mortel, Chicago 2005)]

19.Qxc5 Nd7 20.Qb4 [20.Qxe7 b4 21.axb4 Rxb4 22.Qe8+ Nf8 and Black's attack is overwhelming]

20...Qc7 21.Nd5 taking the pawn on b5 is risky, but might very well be OK for White too.

21...Bxd5 22.exd5 Nc5 23.Rhe1? [23.d6!? This pawn-sac brings both the d- and e-file in play for the White rooks. 23...exd6 24.Rh4 (24.Rhe1!? a5 25.Qh4 Kf8 ) 24...a5 25.Qd2 Qe7 26.Rg4 Qf6 27.Qc1 b4 28.axb4 axb4 29.Bc4+/- Swinkels-Citak, Gibraltar 2007; Perhaps the best is 23.Rh4! a5 (23...Bf6 24.Rdh1) 24.Qf4 and Black might have to trade queens into a bad endgame to avoid getting trampled, for example 24...Be5 25.Qh6 Bg7 26.Qh7+ Kf8 27.Bxg6! fxg6 28.d6! exd6 29.Rf4++- ]

23...a5 24.Qh4 Bf6 25.Qh6?! [25.d6! Qxd6 26.Qh6 Bg7 (26...Qc7 27.Bxg6 fxg6 28.Qxg6+ Kf8 29.Rd5! and Black is under attack, as 29...b4 30.Qh6+ Kg8 (30...Kf7 31.Qh5+ Kf8 32.Rxc5 ) 31.Rh1 bxa3 leads to checkmate 32.Rg5+ Kf7 33.Qg6+ Ke6 34.Qf5+ Kf7 35.Rh7+ Kf8 36.Rh8+ Kf7 37.Rg7+ Kxg7 38.Qh7# ) 27.Qg5 Na4 28.c3 Bxc3 29.Bc2 Qf6 30.Qxf6 Bxf6 31.Bxa4 bxa4 32.Re2+/- and White is clearly better due to the weakness of the a-pawns.]

25...Qd6! Black is finally OK!

26.Bxg6! Since my own attack is ready to launch, White has to go for it. [26.Rh1 Qe5 27.c3 b4 28.f4 bxc3 29.fxe5 Rxb2+ 30.Kc1 Nb3# ]

26...fxg6 27.Qxg6+ Kf8 [27...Bg7 28.Qxd6 exd6 29.b3! b4 30.a4 is a safe way to play when White's queenside is under control, though Black should be able to withstand the passed pawns.]

28.Rh1 Qe5 [28...Bg7 29.Qf5+ Qf6 30.Qxf6+ Bxf6 31.d6 is bad news for Black as the White rooks will get very active.]

29.c3 b4 [29...Na4? 30.Rh7 Bg7 31.d6! exd6 (31...e6 32.f4 ) 32.Rxg7 Qxg7 33.Qxd6+ ]

30.axb4? Under time pressure White goes for an 'automatic' in-between trade, missing Black's reply. [on 30.Rde1 I was planning 30...Qxd5 (Very tempting, but not sufficient is 30...bxc3? 31.Rxe5 Rxb2+ 32.Kc1 Nb3+ 33.Kd1 c2+ (Black does not have time for 33...Bxe5 34.Qf5+! Kg8 35.Qc8+ Kf7 (35...Kg7 36.Qh8+ Kf7 37.Rh7+ Kg6 38.Qg8+ Kf5 39.Rh5+ Kf6 40.Rh6+ Kf5 41.Qg4# ) 36.Rh7+ Bg7 37.Rxg7+ Kxg7 38.Qxc3+ and White wins) 34.Qxc2 Rxc2 35.Kxc2 Nd4+ 36.Kd3 Bxe5 37.Rb1 and White is winning due to the weak a-pawn.; Even more tempting, and maybe playable is 30...bxa3!? 31.Rxe5 Rxb2+ 32.Kc1 Nb3+ 33.Kd1 a2 (33...Rd2+ first is also possible 34.Ke1 a2 35.Qh6+ (35.Rh8+ Bxh8 36.Rf5+ Bf6 37.Rxf6+ exf6 38.Qxf6+ Kg8= ) 35...Ke8 36.Rxe7+ Kxe7 37.Qe3+ Kf8 (37...Kd8 38.Qb6+ Kc8 39.Qc6+ Kb8 40.Qe8+ Kc7 41.Rh7+ and White checkmates) 38.Qh6+ Ke7= ) 34.Qh6+ Ke8 35.Rxe7+ Kxe7 36.Re1+ Kf7 37.Qh5+ Kg7 38.Qg4+ Kf8 39.Qc8+ Kg7 40.Qd7+ Kg6 41.Qe8+ Kg7 and somehow White has nothing better than perpetual check! 42.Re7+ Bxe7 43.Qxe7+ Kg8= ) 31.Qh6+ Kf7 32.Qh7+ Ke8!? (32...Kf8 33.Qh6+= ) 33.Rd1 Qf7 (33...Qb3 34.Qh5+ Kf8= ) 34.Qxf7+ Kxf7 35.axb4 axb4 36.c4 and Black might be a hair better.; White's best way to safety is 30.Rh7 Bg7 31.d6! (31.Rh5? bxc3! 32.Rf5+ (32.Rxe5 Rxb2+ 33.Ka1 Nb3# ) 32...Bf6 33.Rxf6+ (33.b4 c2+ 34.Kxc2 Qb2# ) 33...exf6-+ ) 31...bxc3 (31...exd6 32.Rxg7 Qxg7 33.Qxd6++- ) 32.dxe7+ Qxe7 33.Qf5+ Kg8 34.Rxg7+! Qxg7 35.Qd5+ Qf7 36.Qg5+ Qg7 37.Qd5+= ]

30...Rxb4! Threatening Rxb2 with checkmate.

31.Rd4 [Nothing else helps, for example 31.Rc1 Na4 32.Ka1 Qe2 33.Rc2 Nxc3! 34.Qh6+ Ke8 35.Qg6+ Kd7 36.Qf5+ Kd8 37.b3 Qe3 and it's all over.]

31...Rxd4 32.cxd4 Qxd4 33.Qc2 Qxd5 34.Rd1 Qb7 35.Rd2 Qb4?! Even though I saw the best reply, I took a little gamble as White was struggling to stay alive on the clock as well. [objectively better is 35...Ne6 36.Qg6 a4]

36.Re2? [White could have put up a lot of resistance with 36.Rd8+ Kg7 37.Qf2 Be5 (37...Ne6 38.Qg3+ Ng5 39.Rb8 and White's pieces are coordinating nicely) 38.Qe2 Qf4 39.Rd5 Bd6 and the pressure on pawn b2 is gone.]

36...Na4! 37.Qc8+ Kg7 38.Qg4+ Qxg4 39.fxg4 Kg6! [39...Nxb2 40.g5 ]

40.Rf2 Nxb2 41.Rf5 a4 42.Ra5 Bd4 with the plan e7-e5 to cut off the rook from the fifth rank.

43.Ra6+ Kg5 44.Re6 Bf6 45.Re4 Nd1 46.Kc2 Nc3 47.Rc4 a3 48.Rc5+ [48.Kb3 a2 49.Kb2 e5! ]

48...Kxg4 49.Ra5 a2 50.Kb2 Kg3 51.Ra8 Kxg2 52.Ra5 White is hoping for stalemate or a chance to test my KBN vs K skills.

52...Kf2 53.Ra8 Ke2 54.Ra5 Kd3 55.Ra8 Bd4 56.Re8 e5 57.Rxe5 Bxe5 58.Ka1 Bd6 59.Kb2 Ne2 60.Kxa2 Kc2 61.Ka1 Bf8 The Dragon bishop returns home! 0-1

Go here to see the game and annotations in PGN.]

Oh, yes, and please leave some comments below. Thanks.

It’s Over

We have one more match to go this season, but our playoff hopes have been dashed

Note to those perennial optimists among you who were sure the Chicago Blaze would come from behind in the Western Division playoff race to clinch a postseason berth at the last minute, then go on a three-match November winning streak against the best teams in the league and emerge as the 2009 USCL champions: wake up and watch the flag fall. It’s not gonna happen.

Last night the Miami Sharks played to a draw against Boston, clinching the division’s fourth playoff spot and mathematically eliminating the Blaze. And as you know, math rules. This morning Blaze assistant manager Brad Rosen spoke for all Blaze fans—nay, for all residents of Chicago and citizens of the great state of Illinois—when he said, as we so often do here in the Windy City, “Wait till next year.”

In other news, the seemingly invincible Seattle Sluggers, whom we play next week, lost their first match of the season last night to the Arizona Scorpions. What effect if any this will have on Seattle’s attitude, state of preparedness, or lineup for next week I leave it to you to speculate. (Hint: That’s why blogs have comment threads—so I don’t be talking to myself all the time out here.)

In yet other news, here’s how the New Jersey Knockouts lorded it over the Inventors in the run up to their second victory against Philadelphia this year. (The first time, you’ll recall, the KOs infringed on their opponents’ patents, or something like that, after, of course, kicking the Carolina Cobras’ asp.)

What do you think of this? I can’t decide. Please vote in our poll to the right.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stayin’ Alive

The Blaze keep their playoff chances on life support and pull the plug on the defending champs

They may not be the team they were last year, but the Dallas Destiny are still the defending champions of the U.S. Chess League, and last night the Blaze beat them—convincingly.

The 3.5/4 score for the evening was the most resounding victory of the season for Chicago. It eliminated Dallas from playoff contention and kept our own long-shot hopes for postseason play alive, at least until Miami plays this week and possibly into the final week of the season. We had to win last night’s match, and we did, with three victories, a draw, and no losses.

Highlights? Where do I start?

Most likely with IM Jan van de Mortel, who has been settling splendidly into Board 1 of late. Two weeks after beating GM Jaan Ehlvest, Jan played a thrilling game against IM John Bartholomew, coming back from a significant material disadvantage to win.

Look like mate in 2? The final position, with White to move, in IM Jan van de Mortel's exciting victory over IM John Bartholomew.

NM Jeremy Kane, captain of the University of Chicago chess team and Wisconsin state co-champion, made his USCL debut with a solid victory over Gerald Roberts.

Us patzers watching in the peanut gallery wondered why IM Mehmed Pasalic didn’t take a draw offer from IM Keaton Kiewra on Board 3, which came after the Blaze had secured victory in the match. He must have foreseen something we didn’t — namely 51. Qh4 Ng6, forking the White queen and rook. His opponent resigned after the move.

Illinois state co-champion IM Florin Felecan, who seems always to be playing up and doing so without complaint, did so again last night against IM Daniel Ludwig, whose rating is 113 points higher. Florin held on for a draw in a tough game on Board 2 to keep the Blaze undefeated for the night.

It wasn't a big night for pictures, but NM Jeremy Kane, who won his first game as a Blazer, said hi to the camera while his fellow Hyde Parker, IM Jan van de Mortel, looked over one of the games.

End of the Line?
We always thank our Celebrity Tournament Director for the match, but this week we have to heap extra-special praise on Leo Vilker of Highland Park, who had no previous contact with the Blaze until he got a call from us late yesterday morning, explaining that our scheduled TD for the night had to cancel and could he step in. With a few hours’ notice Leo rearranged his schedule and showed up in plenty of time at the Holiday Inn Skokie. We’re extremely grateful to him and to ICA President Tom Sprandel for putting us in touch with Leo.

Unless we make the playoffs, next week's match is the last of the season, and it’s against the Seattle Sluggers, who are tied for the best record in the league this year. It will be a very tough match. If we win, however, and Miami loses this week and next, we'll be tied with them in the standings, and, if I’m not mistaken, game points will be the tiebreaker. However, a Miami draw either this Wednesday night or next week eliminates the Blaze and clinches a playoff spot for them. Stay tuned. Hope springs eternal for the Blaze.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Young Wins “Upset of the Week”—Again

For his astonishing victory Monday night against GM-elect Rogelio Barcenilla, IM Angelo Young has won the USCL’s “Upset of the Week” award for the second time this year. Angelo is the first repeat winner of the award, which was introduced this season. And since his teammate IM Jan van de Mortel won the prize last week for his victory against GM Jaan Ehlvest, the Blaze have now won it more than any other team and are the only squad so far to win two weeks in a row.

It’s a good thing Endgame Clothing, which sponsors the prize by awarding one of its cool t-shirts to the winner, is expanding its line. At the rate Angelo is going he may soon have every shirt they make. Congratulations again, Angelo.

Here’s the game.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Iron Man

In a loss to Arizona, we learn that Angelo Young is even more amazing than we thought.

Okay, sure, we lost. To Arizona. For the fourth time in a row. And we’ve never beaten or even drawn them, it’s true. And yes, the loss puts our fading playoff hopes on life support.

All duly noted.

If you’re predisposed to negativity, those might be your impressions from last night’s Blaze match against the Scorpions.

But the real news of the night was this:

IM Angelo Young, who we knew was amazing, is even more amazing than we imagined.

He wasn’t even scheduled to play last night, but when a teammate took sick Monday morning he rearranged his schedule and obligingly stepped in to play Board 1, with a huge time penalty (because of the last-minute substitution) against freshly qualified GM-elect Rogelio Barcenilla, whose rating exceeds Angelo's by 258 points.

It didn’t seem to bother Angelo, either, that he was putting his undefeated USCL record on the line under extremely difficult circumstances. And I think I know why: because somehow he must have known that he was going to win.

With no time for dinner, much less to prepare for the game, Angelo played fast, played great, double fianchettoed, won material, and won the game, all while wolfing down appetizers from Tandoor India to keep his blood sugar from crashing.

It was a great game and a superb achievement. It not only extends Angelo’s undefeated streak from the time the Blaze joined the league last year, but it gives him a shot at his second Upset of the Week prize of the season. He has now played every board for the Blaze at least once, and he’s never lost. Congratulations, Angelo, and thanks so much for pinch hitting on such short notice.

True, the rest of the night didn’t go so well for the Blaze. Here are the games:

1. IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0
2. IM Dionisio Aldama (ARZ) vs IM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0
3. IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) vs IM Danny Rensch (ARZ) 1/2-1/2
4. David Adelberg (ARZ) vs NM Eric Rosen (CHC) 1-0

As always, we must give special thanks to our Celebrity Tournament Director for the night, a role played ably and diligently for the second time this season by Mike Cardinale of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago.

Next week is Week 9, and we play the reigning champion Dallas Destiny on Monday night. We will have to win (not draw) to have any remaining playoff chances at all. Watch this space for more.

P.S. Though it has been expected for some time, a note of congratulations is in order for our very own Florin Felecan (the 2009 Illinois state co-champion, by the way), who has had his international master title formally approved by the the World Chess Federation. Henceforth, he is IM Felecan. Congratulations, Florin.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Game

When IM Jan van de Mortel of the Chicago Blaze decided to play the Leningrad Dutch this week against GM Jaan Ehlvest of the Tennessee Tempo, he was “blissfully ignorant,” he confesses, of the fact that his opponent had published a book on the opening and had played it to winning ends in recent games.

That’s just one of the pithy observations Jan makes in his analysis of the game, which is now posted on the Blaze site.

Would he have chosen a different opening had he known about GM Ehlvest’s 1994 treatise, The Leningrad Dutch? I don’t know, but all’s well that ends well in the words of the immortal Bard, because Jan beat the higher-rated grandmaster to win the USCL’s Upset of the Week prize. It was GM Ehlvest's first loss in the U.S. Chess League.

The Jan-Jaan contest also finished second for the league’s overall Game of the Week Award, and, incidentally, just two notches ahead of IM Angelo Young’s victory over FM John Bick, which came in fourth in the judges’ voting.

It was a good week for the Blaze.

See Jan’s annotations here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winning is Grand

Blaze beat a GM-laden Tennessee lineup

Earlier in the week we asked the following about this week’s match between Chicago and Tennessee:

“Can the Tempo do it? Can they finally beat the Blaze with two top grandmasters?”

The answer, we can now tell you, is no.

Last night the Tennessee Tempo threw everything they had at the Chicago Blaze in an attempt to reverse a three-match losing streak against the Windy City, and it wasn’t enough. Despite Tennessee’s having two of the strongest players in the United States on Boards 1 and 2, the Blaze prevailed, winning the match 2.5-1.5.

The big news of the night was that that IM Jan van de Mortel of the Blaze overcame a 241-ratings-point deficit to beat GM Jaan Ehlvest. In a wild unbalanced game that is bound to be in the running for the league’s Upset of the Week prize, Jan emerged from an intense series of captures up three pawns on Move 30. GM Ehlvest resigned ten moves later.

The still-undefeated IM Angelo Young beat off a tough comeback attempt by FM John Bick to give the Blaze their second victory on Board 3, and Trevor Magness drew Gerald Larson on Board 4 to give us the margin of victory. But since anything I say about a chess game is suspect, you should look at them for yourself, board by board:

1. IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) 1-0
GM Alex Shabalov (TEN) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1-0
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs FM John Bick (TEN) 1-0
Gerald Larson (TEN) vs Trevor Magness (CHC) 1/2-1/2

Mad props, as they say, to Professor Gary Alan Fine, who kindly pinch hit at the last minute as our Celebrity Tournament Director last night. Gary is researching a book about the sociology of chess and had to conduct last night’s field work while officiating, and we’re grateful for his willingness to do so.

It’s a short week, because on Monday night we take on the Arizona Scorpions, to whom we are the Tennessee Tempo because we’ve never beaten them. The Blaze, with a record of 2.5-4.0, are now on a two-match non-losing streak, having drawn Philadelphia last week. Not long ago our odds of making the playoffs seemed nil, but we’re still alive if we can win our remaining matches. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tennessee’s WMDs

It’s not often you see a 2600+ super GM and a recent U.S. chess champion on Board 2 of a USCL match, but that’s what it’ll look like this Wednesday night when the Tennessee Tempo throw everything they’ve got at the Chicago Blaze in an attempt to break their three-match losing streak against our Windy City squad.

It’ll be Jan vs. Jaan on Board 1, IM Jan van de Mortel of the Blaze against one of the nation’s strongest players, GM Jaan Ehlvest of Tennessee. On Board 2, Chicago’s IM-elect Florin Felecan won’t have it any easier, facing another of the nation’s strongest players, former U.S. Champion GM Alexander Shabalov, whom the Blaze have never faced before. Florin will have the Black pieces.

Here are the pairings. The Blaze players are in bold. We’ll have White on Boards 1 and 3 and Black on Boards 2 and 4.

Board 1
IM Jan van de Mortel (2456) vs. GM Jaan Ehlvest (2697)

Board 2
FM Florin Felecan (2430) vs. GM Alex Shabalov (2624)

Board 3
IM Angelo Young (2325) vs. FM John Bick (2260)

Board 4
Trevor Magness (2138) vs. Gerald Larson (2140)

Blaze Avg Rating: 2337 / Tempo Avg Rating:2430

Can the Tempo do it? Can they finally beat the Blaze with two top grandmasters? Do we stand a chance against such firepower? To find out, tune in Wednesday night at 7:00 Chicago time, on the Internet Chess Club, Chicago’s Midway Chess Club, and Twitter. Or better yet, come and cheer the team in person at the Skokie Holiday Inn. All fans are welcome. Go Blaze!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cool and Quiet

It’s the Blaze Game of the Week—just not this week

IM Angelo Young sent me these annotations to his September 16 victory against FM Todd Andrews of the Tennessee Tempo some time ago, and now, in keeping with my well-deserved reputation for promptness, I present them to you. I’ll spare you my excuses for the unseemly delay because Blaze fans don’t deserve excuses. Besides, we’re playing Tennessee again this week, so it's fitting to show you a game from our last match against them. Let’s get to the game, shall we?

Click here to punch through the game in PGN format.

Annotations by Angelo Young

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3.
King's indian g3 system. one of my fav. against King's Indian Defense.

3...Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.0-0 d6 6.Re1!? Interesting! First to deviate from normal... [ 6.c4 c6 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.e4 Qh5 9.Ng5 Qxd1 10.Rxd1 IM Young - GM Zapata, Miami 1/2-1/2]

6...Nc6 7.d5

7...Na5 8.Nd4. Took me 15 minutes for this move, looking at possible ... [8.b4 Nc4 9.Nd4 e5 10.Nb3 e4-/+]

8...e5 9.Nb3 Nxb3 10.axb3. I'm hoping for (c4, b4, Nc3, c5, e4, h3, Be3) to be played.

10...Nh5. As I expected Todd will not sit around and wait.

11.e4. Gaining space and stopping f5 for the meantime.

11...Qe8 12.Bf3 f5. I thought its not possible, but I missed:

13.Nc3. [13.exf5 Bxf5 14.g4 Bxc2-+]

13...f4. Now I'm beginning to look for some counter play.

14.Bg4. And to my suprise my opponent played:

14...f3?? [14...Bxg4 15.Qxg4 Qf7 Not bad for Black.]

15.Bxf3 Qf7 16.Kg2! [16.Re3 Bh3 17.Rd3 Nf6 still good for White, I dont know what black was
thinking when he sac'ed a pawn.]

16...Qd7 17.Be3 Nf6 18.Kg1. As the saying goes "One pawn is enough to win"

18...h5 19.Bg2. Cool and quiet!!

19...Ng4 20.h3 Nxe3 21.Rxe3 Bh6 22.Rf3. Keeping the game simple

22...Rxf3 23.Qxf3 Qe7 24.Nb5 c6 25.Rxa7! Gaining another pawn.

25...Rxa7 26.Nxa7 Bd7 27.dxc6 bxc6 28.Qc3 Qe8 29.Qb4 Qa8 30.Qb6 Kf7 31.Qc7 Ke7 32.h4 Ke8 33.Bf1.

I was tempted to play but with a little low on time I stay away from any complication. [33.Qxd6 Qxa7 (33...Bg7 34.Qxg6+ Kf8 35.Qd6+ Ke8) 34.Qxg6+ Kd8 35.Qxh6]

33...Bf8 34.Ba6 Qd8 35.Qb7 Qa5. A little scary Qe1+ and Bh3

36.Qb8+ Kf7 37.Bc4+ d5 38.Qb7 Ke8 39.Nxc6 Qe1+ 40.Bf1 Bd6. [40...Bh3 41.Qa8+ Kf7 42.Nxe5+ Kg7 43.Qb7+ Kh8 44.Nxg6+ Kg8 45.Qb5]

41.Qa8+ Kf7 42.Nd8+ Ke7 43.Qxd5 Bh3 44.Nc6+ Ke8 45.Qb5 Bd7 46.Qc4 Kf8 47.Qd5 Black can't avoid losing a piece so he resigned 1-0.

Click here to punch through the game in PGN format.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Inventive Play

By hook or crook the Blaze find a way not to lose

The winner: IM Jan van de Mortel

Confounding the league prognosticators who had picked us to go down, the Chicago Blaze fought to the very end last night and found a way not to lose to the favored Philadelphia Inventors. With a victory on Board 2 and draws on Boards 3 and 4, the Blaze played the Brotherly Love contingent to a 2-2 draw.

It was IM Jan van de Mortel who supplied the key win, playing Black against the higher-rated IM Bryan Smith. In a cool endgame, Jan sacrificed the exchange on Move 39, freeing himself to create a passed pawn that tied up White’s remaining rook while Jan’s unmolested king went to work picking off White’s kingside pawns. Meanwhile, the out-of-position White king, powerless to stop the carnage, looked on in horror from the back rank. Smith resigned on Move 47.

Jan’s win was abetted by FM Florin Felecan and NM Eric Rosen, who held on to draw their opponents.

Here are the games:

1. GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) vs IM Alex Lenderman (PHI) 0-1
2. IM Bryan Smith (PHI) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 0-1
FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs IM Richard Costigan (PHI) 1/2-1/2
4. Kavinayan Sivakumar (PHI) vs NM Eric Rosen (CHC) 1/2-1/2

Special thanks to William Shehan, majordomo of the Midway Chess Club, who served as our Celebrity Tournament Director for the evening.

Our record now stands at 1.5-4 with four games left in the regular season. A victory last night would have done a great deal more for our playoff hopes, though if we can put together a string of wins in the weeks ahead we’ll keep our chances alive.

Our next match is a week from tomorrow against the Tennessee Tempo, a much-improved team this year that will be looking for revenge for three previous Blaze victories over them, including one this season. They have the ability to put a super-GM on Board 1, so they’ll be tough. Please tune in and watch the game on the Internet Chess Club or the play-by-play with commentary provided by Midway.
top photo: Betsy Dynako
slide show photos: Daniel Parmet

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blaze Game of the Week

NM Eric Rosen annotates his victory over NM Andrew Ng

Eric’s outstanding chess summer is turning into a great fall, beginning with his thrilling victory with the Closed Sicilian in his first USCL game last Wednesday night.

Go here to see the game with Eric’s annotations.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Match Promises to be a Scorcher

By Blaze Assistant Manager Daniel Parmet

The Blaze is an eternal fire that will forever burn strong.... we start off slow with a 1-4 record, but now the heat is reaching as a fiery phoenix out of the crowd. Victory is coming to the fire brazen soldiers of the Chicago Blaze! This fire is ready to consume all who would dare stand in its way! Out of the ashes rises our stars: GM Nikola Mitkov, IM Jan van de Mortel, IM-elect Florin Felecan and NM Eric Rosen. Our fire-breathing dragon warriors are ready to meet the Philadelphia Inventors head on in the center of a volcano! Who can stand the heat?! This match promises to be a scorcher!! Here are the match-ups:

Chicago Blaze (White on 1&3, Team average: 2422) vs Philadelphia Inventors (Team average:2401)

(This is the first time the Chicago Blaze has ever had an average rating advantage!)

Fire on board. GM Nikola Mitkov (2547) will face off with White against GM-elect Alex Lenderman (2579) .

Burning sensation. IM Jan van de Mortel (2456) will bring home the bacon with the Black pieces against IM Bryan Smith (2511).

Flaming. IM-elect Florin Felecan (2452) sends on his White warriors to the fiery field against FM Tom Bartell (2434).

The Phoenix himself to lead the victorious charge after his smashing debut last week (a victory over NJ's NM Andrew Ng) will see NM Eric Rosen (2233) with Black against Expert Kavinayan Sivakumar (2079). Does anyone need to be reminded of what Eric did to GM John Fedorowicz a few short months ago with Black at the U.S. Open?

The Chicago Blaze is bringing on the eternal heat. This flame is eternal! The fiery Norse Gods are using the Fehu rune to determine a 3-1 scorching victory over Philadelphia (we just hope we leave the city still standing afterwards).

* * *

[Here are some more picture Daniel took at last week's match against the Knockouts.]

IM Mehmed Pasalic in a deep think

From l. to r., IMs Young and Pasalic and NM Rosen gaze at their screens in Patio A/B

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pummeled by the Pugilists

Knockouts squeak past Blaze 2.5-1.5

Photos: Andi Rosen

In another close contest against a league leader that looked like it could end in a draw, the Blaze ultimately came up short Wednesday night, losing 2.5-1.5 to the New Jersey Knockouts, the only USCL team with a perfect record, which now improves to 5-0.

The Blaze, by contrast, fall to 1-4 at midseason and are in serious need of victories in the coming weeks if we are to keep our playoff hopes alive.

There are always bright spots, even in defeats, and this week’s was the victory by newly minted NM Eric Rosen over Jersey’s NM Andrew Ng in Eric’s first game as a Blazer. The game marks another milestone in the annus mirabilis that has been 2009 for the Niles North High School sophomore, who this year has earned the national master title, won the U.S. Junior Open, beaten one grandmaster, and drawn another. In the latest USCF rankings, Eric is number five nationally in his age group, his highest ever.

Though it certainly would have been a better match if we’d won or drawn, it was a good one nevertheless. The toughest assignment of the night went to Chicago's IM Jan van de Mortel, who had to face the former U.S. Champion GM Joel Benjamin with the Black pieces. Jan played a strong game that looked drawish in the middle game to some onlookers, but Benjamin was able to take control and win. FM Mehmed Pasalic fell behind in time to his higher-rated opponent, IM Albert Kapengut, and Jersey was able to put that one in the W column as well. In the final game of the night to end, IM Angelo Young struggled mightily for a victory that would have drawn the match, but before his kingside attack could get underway, his opponent, SM Mackenzie Molner, found strong counterplay and hung Angelo up on the queenside. The game ended in a draw. Remarkably, however, Angelo remains undefeated in USCL competition.

Panner: "I'm not Joel Benjamin"

Here are the games by board:

1. GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs SM Mackenzie Molner (NJ) 1/2-1/2
IM Albert Kapengut (NJ) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1-0
NM Eric Rosen (CHC) vs NM Andrew Ng (NJ) 1-0

Special thanks to Maret Thorpe, who served as our Celebrity Tournament Director for the night. It’s a short week. Monday night we play another Eastern Division team, the Philadelphia Inventors, arguably the chessical descendents of Ben Franklin. See you then.

In other developments, Blaze Manager Glenn Panner confirmed that, contrary to popular belief, he and Joel Benjamin are not one and the same person.

Here's a report on the match from the Knockouts blog and from the ever-excellent Michael Goeller.

Panner photo: Betsy Dynako

Monday, September 28, 2009

Next Up: Jersey

Can the Garden State powerhouse keep it up, and is the Blaze manager their Board One?

This week, at long last, the Chicago Blaze come up against the New Jersey Knockouts, the Eastern Division leaders and the only 4-0 team in the league. The pressure the Knockouts must feel at having to risk their perfect record against a 1-3 team recently described on the USCL Web site as “struggling” has got to be enormous, but they’re pros, and on game night no doubt they’ll be ready to give it their all.

They’d better be. Because like so many teams that have faced the Blaze this season and last, the Knockouts are burdened with a large overall ratings advantage. This week, in fact, they outrank their Chicago opponents on every board. Here’s what they’re up against (the Blaze players are in bold. We have White on Boards 2 and 4):

Board 1
GM Joel Benjamin (2641) vs. IM Jan van de Mortel (2456)

Board 2
SM Mackenzie Molner (2446) vs. IM Angelo Young (2325)

Board 3
IM Albert Kapengut (2379) vs. IM Mehmed Pasalic (2346)

Board 4
NM Andrew Ng (2182) vs. NM Eric Rosen (2164)

New Jersey Average Rating: 2412
Chicago Average Rating: 2323

Has anyone ever seen Glenn Panner and Joel Benjamin in the same place at the same time?

This could be a great match, though inevitably talk of what happens on the boards will be eclipsed by the perennially vexing question of whether Blaze Manager Glenn Panner and Jersey’s GM Joel Benjamin are one and the same person. Does anyone know for sure? Like the many purported Elvis sightings by people claiming to have seen the King of rock and roll alive, rumors of Glenn and Joel being spotted together have never been confirmed.

To add to the mystery, Glenn says he will miss this week’s match and will hand the reins for the evening over to Assistant Manager Daniel Parmet, who ably steered the Blaze to victory two weeks ago against Tennessee. The reason for Glenn’s absence? I don’t know, but GM Joel is playing Board 1 for Jersey. . . .

What do you think? Please vote in the poll in the right-hand column.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Young Scores USCL “Upset of the Week”

As adumbrated on this very site earlier in the week, IM Angelo Young of the Chicago Blaze has won the U.S. Chess League's Upset of the Week prize for his victory last Monday night over IM Sam Shankland.

The prize goes to the USCL player who defeats an opponent with a higher rating advantage than in any other pairing in the league for that week. Shankland is rated 235 points higher than Angelo, yet his Slav Defense was not adequate to IM Young's attack the other night. For his achievement, Angelo gets a t-shirt from the stunning array of chesswear by Endgame clothing. (Delicious irony: IM Shankland appears on the Endgame site modeling one of their shirts.)

Congratulations, Angelo! It's great to see our star player, who is still undefeated in league play, get some of the recognition he so richly deserves. Here's the game:

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 IMSam 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

Behind Enemy Lines

Tomorrow the Blaze go up against the formidable San Francisco Mechanics. Earlier this summer, I paid a visit to the Mechanics Institute Library and Chess Room, where the Mechanics play their games. It's a classy joint if ever there was one. It's nice, old, opulent, and about as different from Patio A/B at the Skokie Holiday Inn as a place could be. Wood and brass appointments abound. Did I forget to mention that it's refined and cultured? The chess tables with embedded boards have pockets for the captured pieces. Very classy. You can tell chess and other intellectual pursuits have been going on there for a long time. Here's more:

“The Institute has a rich and colorful history. Founded just after the Gold Rush to provide technical education and training for mechanics and to promote local and California industry, the Institute today is a vibrant intellectual and cultural center serving the entire Bay Area.

“Housed in its one hundred year-old landmark building on Post Street, the Institute serves its members with a large general-interest circulating and research library, offering book discussion groups, writers’ groups, and Internet research classes; the oldest chess club in the United States with activities for players of all abilities from beginners to grand masters; and an active program of literary and cultural events, including author programs, film series, salons, special events and art exhibitions.”

I offer this in the hope that visualizing where the Mechanics are playing will help the Blaze beat them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It’s Dark and We’re Wearing Sunglasses

So what if the Blaze are underdogs in Monday night’s match? We’re on a mission from Caissa.

The Chicago Blaze find themselves in familiar territory as they prepare to face the undefeated San Francisco Mechanics Monday night in Week 4 of the U.S. Chess League season. The Blaze are again clear underdogs, as they have been so many times before.

The redoubtable might of the Mechanics squad is clear in the board-by-board matchups below. The Blaze players are in bold.

IM Jan van de Mortel (2456) - GM Josh Friedel (2612)
FM Florin Felecan (2430) - GM Jesse Kraai (2552)
IM Angelo Young (2325) - IM Sam Shankland (2564)
IM Mehmed Pasalic (2346) - NM Yian Liou (2149)

Chicago Blaze average rating: 2389
San Francisco Mechanics average rating: 2469

  • The Mechanics have grandmasters on the top two boards.
  • Three of their four players are rated over 2500.
  • The average rating of their lineup is 80 points above that of the Blaze.
  • They enjoy an advantage of more than 120 points on each of the top three boards.

So what? For inspiration, we channel the greatest of Chicago epic heroes:

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

Live broadcast on the Internet Chess Club; play-by-play coverage Chicago's Midway Chess Club; and with any luck some running commentary on Twitter.

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

Big Man on Campus

Newly minted National Master Eric Rosen, a member of the Blaze, has gotten a lot of national attention in the chess world for his recent victory over one grandmaster and draw with another. Finally, his classmates at Niles North High School in Skokie are hearing about Eric's achievements, thanks to this article in the local school district's house organ.


‘Rosen’s win against a player in the top echelon was no fluke. In July 2009 he won the U.S. Junior Open in Milwaukee, which qualified him for the 2010 Junior Invitational, in which the top junior players in the country compete. He is coached by Grandmaster Dmitry Gurevich and he practices one to two hours a day. He also reads books on the game to stay sharp and prepares for matches by doing puzzles and reviewing past games. He is a member of the Niles North Chess Team and also plays for the Chicago Blaze, part of the U.S. Chess League andcomposed of the best chess players in Chicago. He is the number two-ranked highschool chess player in the state, with a rating of 2,230, which is considered a National Master (ranking of 2,200). “My goal,” he said, “is to break 2,300 and that’s called a FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs or World ChessFederation) Master and it’s one of the highest titles you can receive inchess.”’

Congratulations, Eric. Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blaze Game of the Week

IM Angelo Young annotates his victory over NM Eric Rodriguez in last week's match between the Blaze and the Miami Sharks.

1. Nf3 {I called this game "The lone Survivor"}

1... Nf6 2. g3 {Always the safest play for your team.} 2... c5 3. Bg2 g6 4. c3 d5 5. O-O Bg7 6. d4 O-O 7. Ne5 (7. dxc5 a5 8. c4 Na6 9. Nc3 dxc4 10. Qxd8 Rxd8 11. Ne5 Nxc5 12.
Be3 Nfe4 13. Nxe4 Nxe4 14. Nxc4 Nd6 15. Rfd1 Be6 16. Nxd6 Rxd6 17. Rxd6 exd6 {Zisman-Mikhalevski 1/2-1/2})

7... Qb6 8. a4 cxd4 9. a5 Qa6 {Not a very good choice for the queen.} 10. cxd4 Ne4 11. f3 Nd6 12. Nc3 {I was thinking of (12. Bf4 g5 13. Be3 Nf5 14. Bf2 Qd6 15. Qd2 f6 16. Nd3 with a slight plus for white.}) 12... e6 13. e3 Rd8 14. f4 {Safe and sound! another try} (14. Rf2 Bxe5 15. dxe5 Nc4 16. Bf1 Qc6 17. f4 $18)

14... f6 15. Nd3 Qc6 16. Rf2 Qe8 17. Rc2 Na6 18. b3 Bd7 {Black is close to equalizing.}

19. Ba3 Nb5 20. Bc5 Bc6 21. Nxb5 Bxb5 22. Rac1 Bxd3 23. Qxd3 Bf8 24. Qd2 $1 {So i can advance the b pawn and will also stop Nb4.}

24... Bxc5 25. dxc5 Nb8 {Black is trying to make a fortress with a6-Nc6 then will start advancing his center. but I seem futher from this position.}

26. Qd4 Qe7 27. a6 $3

27... Nxa6 {If} (27... Nc6 28. Qa4 Rac8 29. Bf1 bxa6 30. Bxa6 Rc7)

31. b4 Nb8 32. Bd3 {I like my passer on the queenside.})

28. c6 Nb4 29. cxb7
(29... Qxb7 30. Rc7 Qb6 31. Qxf6)

30. bxa8=Q Nxd4 31. Rc8 $1 {This is the plan I saw beginning with Qd4.}

31... Rxc8 32. Qxc8+ Kg7 33. exd4 {The rest is simple just watch for any perpetual checks.}

33... Qb4 34. Qc7+ Kh6 35. Qc5 a5 36. Qxb4 axb4 37. Kf2 f5 38. h3 Kg7 39. g4 Kf6 40. Kg3 h6 41. Bf1 g5 42. Bd3 Kg6 43. gxf5+ exf5 44. Ba6 Kf6 45. Bc8 h5 46. fxg5+ Kxg5 47. h4+ Kg6 48. Kf4 Kf6 49. Bxf5 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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Felecan Shares State Championship

Congratulations to FM Florin Felecan of the Chicago Blaze, who finished in a tie for first place with IM GM 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

Friday, September 4, 2009

Your Moment of Zen

Do we keep the Scorpions up late at night?

The Arizona Scorpions may have clobbered us this week, but we're certainly on their minds. In fact, “Chicago” is one of the biggest items on the Scorpion blog tag cloud. Do they write about us because despite their good fortune in beating us three times this year and last, they secretly fear we’re a smoldering fire ready to ignite and that their string against us is about to end?

Yes, that must be it.

Anyway, their bloggers have done an interesting job of analyzing the games from this week's match, so have a look, here and here.

Thursday, September 3, 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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Season Kicks Off with Scholastic Fundraiser, Season Opener

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.

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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We're on Facebook

The Blaze now has its own Facebook page. Go here to become a fan, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter, too. Thanks.

Sunday, August 9, 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 the 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.