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.


Brad said...

Great post Tom. As Peter Sellers would have said, it's kind of like "Being There"...........


Tom Panelas said...


You're being too kind. I don't think the guy who writes these posts knows anything about chess. Not that knowledge is a requirement for blogging, mind you, but "wild unbalanced game"? What on earth is that supposed to mean?

Ilya said...

Congradulations to Chicago on a great and important win. This win is another testament of local talent trumping greedy mercenary hirings by the Tennessee.

Sevan Muradian said...

Ilya - you are quite correct in your statement.

Local talent also allows for the community to get behind a team and cheer on their favorite sons and daughters representing their state.

Hired guns makes the assumption that they will win all of their games and need to just ink out a draw from the bottom two boards. It also forces a highly unbalanced lineup between the top two and bottom two boards.

While I can say that Chicago will have a tough time to qualify for the post season, at least we can say we worked with talent related to the city and we achieve what we do with what we have.

To close out - once again TN was owned by Chicago taking the all time series score to be 4-0 - that's FOUR to ZERO. Let me repeat that we OWNED TN for the fourth time. Oh here's a recap of the last 4 meets:

2008 Week 3 - clear 4-0 sweep of TN
2008 Week 8 - 2.5 - 1.5 Chicago
2009 Week 3 - 2.5 - 1.5 Chicago
2009 Week 8 - 2.5 - 1.5 Chicago

Ilya said...

If you go to the Tennessee article that came out before the season, you will see I predicted TN will miss playoffs again, I was close to 100% sure...Andrews and Co... time to go fishing guys. Good luck to Chicago the rest of the season.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why there isnt an explicit rule that states players eligible to play for a team must be a resident of said state/city?

The Blaze's decision to use local talent shows real class.

The USCL needs to reevaluate their rules in regards to this.

Sevan Muradian said...

I wouldn't have an issue of the person not living in city if they had some sort of tie there like it was their childhood city, they play in a lot of tournaments in that city or they do other chess activities there.

The key is some sort of real tie, not just a tie to $$$.

Anonymous said...

Jaan Ehlvest, Alex Shabalov, John Bick...all these players that come from out of town - they are my friends. We are a group of buddies that I worked tirelessly to get together to try and put together a decent chess team. I do everything I can to try and bring a team out of the cellar, but nothing seems to work. Perhaps you guys do not understand - there is not enough local talent in Nashville to put up multiple strong lineups. So I try to manage my own life in Nashville, while doing my best to meet the needs and demands of the many visitors I have coming in and out during the season. I open the doors of my home for months to help support the chess league. In fact, everyday I do things to help build chess in Nashville and anywhere else I can. What is the reward for it? A losing team and ridicule. Well, start picking on Carolina I suppose, because I feel strongly that this will be the last year I organize this team. Its really just a lot of work and it detracts from other duties and progress I could be making in local chess. I am sure there are players both around the league and around Tennessee that will be so happy to see us fail, but it does not mean anything much to me. While we may not play great chess... our rating at life is much higher than those with such harsh words time and time again...

-Todd Andrews, Organizer of The Tempo

Anonymous said...

I bet Jaan isnt an american citizen, and I would be suprised if Shaba isnt a Latvian dissident of some kind either without proper credentials to be in the states making money.

But then again, I may be wrong and both GM's are actually residents of Gatlinburg TN, playing chess between their shifts at Dollywood in the great state of TEN O SEE.

Greg Shahade said...

There is absolutely no residency requirement for any team members, nor do I believe there ever will be.

Honestly I find it extremely rude to insult a team for going out of their way to get sponsorship to bring star players from across the country, and act like they are doing something wrong. This is exactly what we want teams to do.

Todd Andrews has sacrificed a lot to make the Tempo as strong as possible this year and it rubs me really wrong to see others behaving the way they are. Do you honestly think it's good for the league to NOT have Ehlvest and Shabalov playing?

While it's certainly something to admire to use only homegrown talent, it's also extremely admirable to raise lots of money to entice the best players in the country to play for your team.

I'm not speaking as the commissioner here, just a fan who is a little bothered by some of the commentary here. Using only local players doesn't automatically show "class". It's just one way of going about things in the USCL, it also shows plenty of class to do whatever you can to help your team to win.

Also the absurd comments about how the hired guns assumes they will win those two and eke out a draw on the bottom two boards are annoying. John Bick has been having a monstrous season and he isn't really a hired gun is he?

That is all, I try to avoid posting in the blogs, so this will be my one and only comment in this thread, but everything you guys are saying that is anti-Tennessee, is exactly the opposite of what the league is all about to me. We want teams to pay players from out of town to play to help their local players if there is no local GM.

I find it really insulting to sit there from Boston and Chicago and pass judgements while living in a place where there are tons of GMs and IMs, and ridicule a city for working hard to get a GM on their team where there is a total of one IM living locally.

Anonymous said...

Greg Shahade Steinbrenner. thanks brutha!

Ilya said...

Hmm, Nothing beats the wrath of the commisioner:). I understand Greg, and maybe I even understand where he is coming from and also I understand he HAS to say this and defend hiring "mercenaries". But Greg please also understand that when we sit in Boston, Chicago or wherever else we maybe and we ARE NOT hiring Kasparov, Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian, Ivanchuk and Topalov we at least reserve the right to proudly say-- we are doing this on our own. We dont have a million Gms and IMs here either and they are basically playing for free so if you want me to cry about this situation in Tennessee, i am sorry Greg--I wont. I understand that my message was interpreted a lot more hostile than it meant to come across, I dont want Tennessee to cry over this and quit as Todd Andrews is suggesting. Quiting when things are hard or just not working out for the time being is extremely weak, and reading a few silly blog comments cant be so devasting as some here would lead us to believe. All the best

Matan said...

Congrats to the Blaze on a nice win. They are clearly succeeding at building a very solid franchise. I doubt anyone would have predicted that Ehlvest's first loss in the league would come to an IM!

It's totally inappropriate for people to knock the Tempo for all the work they do to field a competitive team each week. People I personally know (I went to high school in Nashville) speak very highly both of Todd's work and the buzz the Grandmasters help create around local chess.

If you remember, some people were trying to kick the Tempo around when they were cellar-dwelling without sufficient firepower on boards 1 and 2. Now that Todd works hard to bring in grandmasters, they are dismissed as "classless" and accused of "greedy mercenary hirings." There's no pleasing some people, it seems.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the encouragement from, you, Greg... you are the same guy that is 'requiring/rewarding' teams in the 2010 season for these types of blog postings. Giving the chess community, one of the most socially challenged sub-cultures in the world (as Iyla has demonstrated time and time again - saying to me upon the first time he ever met me - "You are Todd Andrews, right? Wow you guys really suck in Tennessee - Learn some manners, dude), the encouragement to say whatever they desire will only continue these sort of postings. While, yes, I understand free speech exists...sometimes keeping up with the league is like watching some screwed-up circus of people fighting for nothing at all except personal ego. Why have I sacrificed so much to put this team together year after year even though we continue to finish last place? Because I love chess and I love my home. Taking part in something, with the sole desire to be negative and bring everyone else into the mud-puddle that your life is...well that is not for me. I love life wondering what great thing is going to happen next for me, my students and my friends. I like keeping up with the league, but seeing your name and your team drug through the mud over and kind of gets old...especially when other teams sit with worse records, yet they do not endure the same retribution. And as far as Sevan's comment about the "$$$." The only reason Mr. Muradian plays any role in American chess is because of all the money and time he has put into it. He is not a noteworthy player and his popularity exists only because of his organizing and personal funding of tournaments. Its great for chess, but really So how you could insult me for paying players, which is exactly what you do, makes no damn sense at all.

I find the fewer professional chess players/organizers I have to deal with, the easier and more enjoyable my life is. This is exactly why you will rarely see me on the tournament scene and why I will not continue to organize this team. It is not because I am weak, it is because there is a much better world out there not having to be a part of this group any longer. The league will be poorer without a Tennessee team.

-Todd Andrews

Ilya said...

Correction Todd: I did not say you guys suck...I asked you what you thought about Tennessee ratings, because it seemed to me that Tennesse was underperforming in USCL. I have a pretty good memory and I dont like reading lies and misrepresentations, also learn how to spell my name, you tool. This is hardly the forum to cry about your problems, if you are weak in the gut departement and want to quit so be it, but I personally find it hard to believe you would do so over someone's blog comments. I personally want Tennessee to remain part of USCL with or without Mercenaries.

Tom Panelas said...

I hope Tennessee stays in the league. It's not easy for any of us to keep a team going. We're still figuring it out in Chicago, and I expect we'll do it better next year. But no matter the circumstances it's hard work.

How would teams feel about setting up a mechanism for exchanging information about best practices and so on? I don't know if it would work, given that we all compete. Would Team A, which has managed to land a big local sponsorship, be willing to share information about how they did it with Teams B and C, or would they reason that teams B and C will use that information to gain competitive parity or an advantage? They could choose to see it as a way to help improve the league generally. You know, rising tide lifts all boats and all that?

While I'm at it, let me point out that the brief game description above fails to say how the Black king felt as he was being encircled. Given that the game took place on the 943rd anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the obvious parallels between Harold II (Black) and William the Conquerer (White) should have been explored.

glennpan said...

On behalf of the Blaze let me say that we have nothing but respect for Tennessee. While I don't know you Todd, I do know some of your players like Peter Bereolos who is as nice and professional as they come. Personally, I think we need to at least make the playoffs once before shooting off our mouths, but I appreciate the passion of the Blaze fans.

Truth is there is an unbalanced playing field in the league, some cities have more access to top players than others. Some teams have more money than others. I wish we could do more to bring top players into the league, it would be good for everyone.


Maret Thorpe said...

People here in Chicago get rather passionate about competition--it goes a long way toward explaining the Cubs.

Anyways, don't mind the Blaze fans. They're great, we love 'em, but they do cross the line sometimes.

Please don't let that reflect on the Chicago lineup. Having been to several of these matches, I can say with complete confidence that every single one of the Blaze players is a good sport, a class act, and totally there for the team and their teammates.

In a sport of lone wolves, they have continually impressed me with their team spirit.

Anonymous said...

Ilya, if there is anyone that does not need to worry about being misrepresented, it is you. Everyone who pays attention to the league knows exactly what kind of person you are. A little man with a big mouth who is a horrible representation of your team, the league and chess players everywhere. To believe that I would quit organizing this team because of your babbling attests to how little you really know.

The Tennessee team will no longer be organized by me, because logistically, it is too difficult to host so many travelers for such an extended period of time. Also, while we have a few local fans...the support from Nashville and the state of Tennessee is pretty pitiful. When something is not popular at the club I manage, we move on to other avenues to make chess popular. The league just is not working in Nashville anymore. We do have some fans that are there week in and week out and it is to them that I am the most sorry.

-Todd Andrews

Anonymous said...

In addition to probing the historical similarities between the Jan/Jaan game and famous battles of the Middle Ages, I'd like to see the blogger discuss the subjectivity of the bishops, particularly the White bishop at 14.Bxe4. What was going through his mind as he took that pawn?

I mean, think about it. Here he is an eminent member of the clergy extirpating a poor pikeman, a humble child of God whose only crime is having been born into the peasant class of the opposing country and being pressed into the service of its army to fight battles he can neither shape nor understand.

How does the His Grace, this man of the cloth, feel as he snuffs out the life of this poor schmuck?

(Oh yes, I know, in chess we refer to such acts euphemistically as "captures," as if we aren't really killing the guy, simply taking him into custody where he'll get a bed and three squares. Who are we kidding? But I digress.)

As I say, what does the bishop feel? Does he get pangs of genuine remorse, rationalizing the deed reluctantly on the grounds that in a an imperfect world one must commit atrocious acts for some larger good? Or does he in fact experience a sense of pleasure, an impious feeling of self-aggrandizement at dominating and extinguishing another human being? Is he not, after all, flesh and blood like the rest of us and given to the same corruptions of character as everyone else? Inquiring minds want to know.

I.M.A. Fish
President, Chess Fans for Literary, Historical, and Psycoanalytic Annotation

Robby said...

I think that all the players in the USCL have a deep respect for the game - its why they do it and its basically for free. I applaud the efforts of people like Todd Andrews who do chess professionally and yet volunteer their time to put forth a team in Tennessee. It is a lot of work!

Taking players who travel into their home is admirable and show a real dedication to chess. Todd - I hope you stay on as manager of the team and continuing alal you do for chess.

Bringing in very strong GM's like Ehlvest and Shabalov is helping promote chess in the TN area. How can this be a bad thing? I think its wonderful.

Keep up the good work Todd.

Jan van de Mortel said...

I guess only I can truly answer Mr Fish's question about this eminent member of the clergy, my white-squared bishop. I will tell you this: he did feel quite lonely on square e4, all vulnerable and exposed after a hearty meal. However, he soon found a new purpose in life, overseeing the b1-h7 diagonal, inviting her majesty the Queen to join forces.

Regarding the other members of the party, the subjective truth about them will be revealed soon on these vary pages.

As for the other subjects raised in these blog comments, it seems like Ilya is attempting to (mis)use the narrow victory of the Blaze over the Tempo to vent some grievances at the expense of Tempo player/captain Todd Andrews.

Personally, I believe that the Tempo is much more of 'a team' than many of the other teams (including ours) in the league. Also, Greg Shahade et al. have worked tirelessly for many years now, creating a national chess league when there was none before.

Although the money involved is not huge, it is additional income to many (semi-) professional chess players -- in Europe the national leagues form the basis of income to most professional chess players.

The idea that inviting two of the best players in the country to play for your team is wrong, is misguided at the very least, and a testament to a mindset of amateurism. The presence of these grandmasters could enrich the local chess scene and actually help in building a stronger local force.

As for the vile comments by Anonymous, attempting to falsely discredit both Ehlvest as Shabalov, perhaps you would like to know that yours truly is not an American citizen, nor does he intend to become one. And unlike your statement, that's a fact.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Is drug a Southern dialect past tense of drag? that would explain a lot of things....

It's unfair and inaccurate to criticize Todd for bringing in some of the best players in the country. Between the two of them they only are +1.

favorite line: "also learn how to spell my name, you tool." :)

Ilya said...

Todd, you should look at yourself, you pathetic hypocrite. First, when you come to ICC yelling in channels that Ivanov is a pathetic cheater because he didnt record moves and that "All Russians cheat" and then come on here and lecture me, its a bit hallarious?! I am sure you wouldnt like to be reminded of those statements since you got Shaba and Jan on the team but I am sure there were plenty of witnesses on ICC that can corroborate this fact. Or the fact that we were all submited to watching your stupid back and forth with Marcel Martinez of the Miami Sharks... You want to quit you little cry baby, go ahead, dont do this over because I or some Blaze fans poured some salt over the wound. I know finding a few scapegoats is just too convient for you and your team. Playing good team chess isnt easy Todd , quiting and announcing it to everyone it here is just childish. You seem to like fishing, so do fishing whats the most important thing??! It's patience, maybe you dont catch anything today but tommorow you may catch something really big, thing about this USCL season like a bad fishing trip, maybe next year....

Tom Panelas said...

Good grief, if we start worrying about who's a citizen and who's not, we won't have many decent chess players left in the U.S. I didn't realize this kind of loony nativism had invaded the chess world.

Thank heavens for the international brain drain in chess: America has been its principal beneficiary.

Robby said...

I agree with the comments by Jan

Anonymous said...

I think Andrews is just looking for attention that he isnt recieving through uscl play.

Dan Shmise

Anonymous said...

I am done with all of this. The decision to no longer do the team was made up last week before all of this nonsense and well before the loss to Chicago. The decision was made so soon, so that Greg Shahade has plenty of forewarning and he can begin to prepare to replace the team. The league has the right to know as well. I am not looking for attention, I am simply trying to do the right thanks for the positive words from the positive people. I wish I could say it has been fun... but as I drift away from serious chess, I doubt I will miss all of this that much. Congratulations to all those who encouraged and rooted for us to fail... you have won, so cash in your prize... I am sure it is worth a lot.


Anonymous said...

Truly is all this negativity necessary? What has it gained any of you? Didn't we all volunteer our time to help promote chess and the players we feel get to little attention? I would truly like to commend Tom Panelas who takes the high road of commending victory and victors instead of the negative comments I often see from fans and other blogs (laughing at the loser and losses).

-Daniel Parmet

Anonymous said...

Economy must be tough in Tennessee. I suggest bringing a new team to Saint Louis. They got tons of dough, Rex can buy all the best Gms, they will be more than just competative.

Tom Panelas said...

I think it's a sad day for the league and for chess in general when a USCL team folds. I'm sorry to hear that the Tempo will be no more. Hearing the news evokes a lot of the worries I've had about our team at various times. The Blaze is a seat-of-the-pants operation, and there have been moments, especially in that last month as a new season approaches and everything has to fall into place before opening night, when I've wondered if it could all fall apart.

Fortunately, we've had four and now five people in management to shoulder the work, but it's still a lot. I can't imagine what it must be like for one person to hold a team together.

I wish Todd and everyone in Nashville good luck.

Anonymous said...

Todd, please stay dont leave us, please please stay.Without TN the USCL aint the same no more. Even though shit sucks right know, hell tommorow is another day man. Maybe Greg can throw some extra cash your way, u never know.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

The German Bundesliga (a very strong team event) has considered how to deal with the skewing potential for a team to purchase a lot of strong GMs and just fly them in. They decided to cap the out-of-towners. That seems reasonable.

If each team can purchase/fly-in one or two at most, problem solved.

I don't think it's a very good idea to leave this uncapped.

Anonymous said...

There is a rating cap so why would any team need to fly in 4 GM's?

Mark said...

To defeat the rating cap, a team can fly in 3 GMs (note the GGGg Amateur Team East debacle) and play a low rated player. Or, they can fly in 2 and play a GM of their own, again forming a dreaded GGGg.

It would also be nice if there was a maximum rating difference permitted between boards 3 and 4 to prevent a GGGg.

The cap works to prevent the bus-load of mercenaries shenanigans. I definitely don't want to see GGGg lineups polluting the USCL.

Anonymous said...

GGGg lineups clearly won't have as strong an affect in the USCL as they do in other team competitions, since all top teams have very strong Boards 1-3 who are capable of beating a GM, unlike the Amateur East where Boards 2-3 usually have no chance.

I think it'd be interesting to see how that type of lineup would fare in the USCL.

Mark said...

If a team had deep pockets they could assemble a G-cubed-g

where the G's are suitably strong to make them a prohibitive favorite. I just wanted to avoid that scenario with some simple restrictions, such as a maximum gap between boards 3 and 4.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

I support Todd Andrews 100%. Todd's actions are fueled by love of chess and motivation to be a good/better person.

Some, although very few, show actions energized by pure anger or hatred. It is as if they are desperately looking for any excuse to express hostility and confrontation. It is easily detected when criticizing words are used consistently with little sense of humor or gentleness. The mix of "calm logic" and emotion-induced insults make me wonder how mentally healthy these people are.

I choose to ignore these people who I consider mentally unstable. I do so for my own peace of mind and to decrease the odds of being a victim of a homicidal attack at tournaments :)

I know words were said all around and I'm not going to say who's right. I just think it is unfair to attack a 27 year old based on actions of his past. If you want to dig into his past, I've got some great Todd Andrews stories as I've known him since we were kids. But again, don't judge him now for what he did in the past. Judge him for his consistent positive actions over the course of his adulthood.
Also, for as long as I've know him, he's been a kind-hearted person with great intentions. It does not surprise me how much of his time he volunteers to making the world a better place.

I can see Todd trying his best to act civilized in this stressful situation because he knows that he is a role-model to many children. I think he's doing a great job.

Finally, I might come off as a hypocrite because my USCL judgment comments have sometimes been offensive. Please don't let that subtract from the purpose of this message: to support Todd Andrews and encourage everyone else to recognize his contributions to chess. Most of me wants Todd to keep the Tempo around, but then I also know that he deserves a break from all of the negativity.