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.
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.