Saturday, December 6, 2008

All the Marbles

I notice that a lot of people weighing in so far pick one team or the other because they like some player, or think somebody is an admirable person. There’ll be none of that here.

Quite a long break since the division finals, hasn’t there been? I hope the players don't show as much rust as I felt putting this jumble together. To quote one of my less prescient jumbles (which is most of them, granted), the end is coming just in time.

_ _OO_ _

OO_O_ _

_ _O_O

_ _ _OO

Answer: THEY LOVED THAT “_ _ _ _/ _”/ _ _ _ _ (i.e., 4,1,4; slashes indicate spaces)

Mindful of the possibility of a marathon tiebreaker such as we saw last year, the league has scheduled this match for the reasonable time of 3PM Eastern. I’m afraid the image conveyed by those old USCF catalogs showing little Davey Gertler tearing open gift-wrapped Informants and Heuer Chess Champions (too good to be called a mere clock) handed him by Santa Bisguier never really reflected the reality of chess in this country. But the league seems determined to do its part to make the game more family-friendly, so I applaud them for that, and I’m sure Phil Mushnick* does too (or would, if he knew or cared about chess).

But who will win this rematch of last season’s final, where callowness prevailed over experience? I think that this time, youth will be trumped by senescence. Boston, Thank you and good night.

* New York Post sports/media columnist

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Division Finals

Boston vs. Carolina:

I’m almost over Carolina losing to Baltimore that time. Give me another week. Boston, 2.5-1.5.

Miami vs. Dallas

OO_ _O_


_O_ _O

_ _ _ OO

Answer: THE _ _ _ _ _ OF “_ _ _ _ _”

Miami, 2.5-1.5.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Division Semi-finals

It’s the playoffs! Carolina and Miami clearly outperformed this week’s opponents this season but if they lose tonight it’s over for them just the same. In the predictors contest, though, it’s just another week. No need for silly artifice to enhance the excitement here. So...are you READY? Here it comes!!

Boston vs. Queens:

Queens is playing without the league’s MVP but I am sure there is a good reason. Probably Coach Stripunsky feels that Lenderman does such a great job with the team blog that he doesn’t want him to have any distractions. Always trust the coach. Queens, 2.5-1.5.

New York vs. Carolina:

Interesting match between the guys who did the job all year and the guys who did it only when they had to. I’m more comfortable with the latter type. New York, 2.5-1.5.

San Francisco vs. Dallas:

O O O_ _ _

O O_O_ _

_O _OO

O_ _O_

Answer: HE _ _ _ _ THE “_ _ _ _ _ _ _”

San Francisco, 2.5-1.5

Miami vs. Seattle:

With White, Hikaru has favored 1 g3 this year, which seems to me the worst of both worlds (too weak for advantage, but not weak enough to be insulting). It reminds be of the way Dzhindzhi would give Asa Hoffmann 15-1 money odds while receiving pawn and move; just a tiny ego gain if he scores 100% but the chance to get hit hard in the wallet with a little bad luck. Anyway, Hikaru has Black tonight, which is probably a good thing for his team. But Miami is a team full of geniuses and I don’t think they’ll lose. I forecast a tie.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Week Ten

Carolina vs Philadelphia:

_OOO_ _

_O_ _O_

O_O_ _

_OO_ _

Answer: THERE WAS TOO MUCH _ _ _/_ _/_ _ _ _

Philadelphia, 2.5-1.5.

Boston vs Queens:

If Boston loses here, they may face Queens in the first round of the playoffs, where, let’s face it, they’ll be a big underdog. I don’t think they’ll risk that happening. Boston, 2.5-1.5.

New York vs New Jersey:

New York has had the magic touch of late while for NJ it has been tragic, much. I like NY’s colors also. New York, 2.5-1.5.

Tennessee vs Baltimore:

So it worked out that the only inter-division pairing in the last week matches both cellar-dwellers. Not even the top draft choice is at stake here, but at least that means you can safely root for your team to win, and both teams can go all-out with little risk of career-ending injury. So I want all of you to watch, though I expect only Baltimore’s fans to go to bed happy. Baltimore, 2.5-1.5.

Miami vs San Francisco:

Some may think me timid picking so many one-point margins but in fact 2.5-1.5 shows true dominance, as it indicates the winning team can name the score. Miami by the minimum.

Dallas vs Chicago:

Dallas has a healthy rating edge and is even getting a bit of time odds. So I guess they’ll win, but they probably don’t need to win big so I guess they won’t. Dallas, 2.5-1.5.

Arizona vs Seattle:

Seattle looked like a sure playoff leam last year before a late-season collapse. Will that thought be lurking in the back of their minds, or will it boldly occupy the front and center? I’m betting on the latter. Arizona, 2.5-1.5.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Week Nine

New York vs. (versUS) Baltimore:

First, I’d like to compliment Greg for his use of the “X” symbol in the standings for “eliminated”. In leagues like the NHL, the NBA, and this one, this is much more informative than the indication of what teams have clinched playoff spots. The only suggestion I would make is to list the standings in reverse order, so that I can quickly glean the important info without having to mess with the scroll bar or the Page Down key. Anyway, don’t trust anyone over thirty. At least when it comes to playing chess. New York, 2.5-1.5.

Philadelphia vs. Boston:

This match illustrates the paradox of the all-but-mathematically eliminated team: Philadelphia needs this match so badly that they hardly need it at all. I have always a paradox to be named after me, but go watch them name it for someone else. Boston, 2.5-1.5.

New Jersey vs. Miami:

OO_O_ _

OO_O_ _

_O_ _O

_ _ _OO

Answer: _ _ _ _ _ SAID, “_ _ _ _ _!”

Miami, 2.5-1.5

Dallas vs. San Francisco:

I heard that NN would be playing board four San Francisco, so I looked up some of his games. His style seems to be a mixture of “The Allies” and “Three Swedish Amateurs”, who share a healthy regard for material although they occasionally neglect development. But I have played and watched enough live games to be immune to the bias of game publishers; in real life, material usually prevails. SF, 2.5-1.5.

Seattle vs Tennessee:

To quote a former member of a defunct chess club formerly to be found midtown in America’s largest city, “if I go, I’m taking someone with me”. Burnett was around some in those days, and I am guessing some of the attitude wore off (onto him, I mean). Tennessee, 2.5-1.5.

Chicago vs. Arizona:

The all-but-all-but eliminated face the all-but eliminated here. I see the all-but-all-but putting the all-but out of their misery, perhaps with nembutal. But maybe not. But probably. Chicago, 2.5-1.5.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Week Eight

Baltimore vs. Boston:

Although I expressed a contrary belief earlier this season, recent data suggest that the family that fianchettos together, be in ghettos together. Boston, 2.5-1.5.

Chicago vs. Queens

Though Lenderman told USCL reporter Elizabeth Vicary, “I have a lot of practical experience whereas the others don't maybe as much”, Tate evidenced more practicality and experience in declining to be interviewed just before the big match. Meanwhile, with such other inflammatory remarks as “I don't feel like I'm ready to lose a game”, “I am confident every game”, "I'm ready as I can be”, and “I will be ready :)” the only question is whether Chicago has enough room on their bulletin board to fit it all. Given the stakes, I’m sure they’ll make the room somehow even if they have to tear down the mayor’s picture. Chicago, 2.5-1.5.

San Francisco vs. Tennessee:

I admit I sometimes skip Greg’s ten minutes of possible playoff scenarios at the end of all his videos, but my intuition tells me that with so many teams so far ahead, Tennessee can’t possibly overtake enough of them. Meanwhile, the Nics will be trying to qualify as high as possible. So San Francisco, 3-1.

Seattle vs. Arizona:

O _ O _ _ O

_ O O _ _ O

_ _ O O _

_ _ O O O

Answer: HE WAS PLAYING “_ _ _” / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ (3, 3, 5; needed to slash because the blog won't let me separate normally)

But will the _ _ _ _ _ be fast enough? Seattle, 2.5-1.5.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Week Seven

Baltimore vs. Carolina:

We’ve all read (with the exception of those of you who don’t read any of this stuff [but I’m sure you’re all busy with Faulkner and Hemingway]) plenty about hurt feelings of players picked to lose or the quality of their game questioned, but please spare a thought for the prognosticator who draws a whole jumble thing indicating a certain player will win, and then that player LOSES????? "Never again", “Fool me once...”, all that. Baltimore, 2.5-1.5.

Dallas vs. Philadelphia:

Doesn’t that Philly logo skull look a bit on the Neanderthal side? Dallas, 2.5-1.5

Arizona vs. Miami:

Adamson has been doing double-duty, picking the matches and then playing in them. I think this is beyond the capacity of any one human to handle. Miami, 2.5-1.5.

San Francisco vs. Seattle:

OO_O_ _

OOO_ _ _


OO_ _ _

Answer: HE WAS _ _ _ _ _ _ _ A “_ _ _ _”

Ergo, San Francisco, 2.5-1.5

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week Six

Carolina vs. Queens:

Off to a 5-0 start, Queens is apparently concentrating on getting everyone into the game and improving team morale, even perhaps at the expense of a record-setting (and pressure-bringing) regular season. I pick Stripunsky to win Coach of the Year and Carolina to win this match, 2.5-1.5.

New Jersey vs. Baltimore:

The color assignments give NJ the edge in the grandmaster battle and the prospect of another Big Mac attack on board three. Two and four look solid enough, so I’m going with the Knockouts by decision, 2.5-1.5.

Boston vs. Philadelphia

O _ O _ O O

O _ O O O _

_ O O O _

O O O _ _

Boston fans relished the savory taste of battle, the thrilling sight of blood, and...

THE SWEET “_ _ _ _ _ _ _” _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(Boston, 2.5-1.5)

Chicago vs. Miami:

In a match as tough as this one looks, the human prognosticator must venture where power ratings fear to tread. My own chess results may not have improved perceptibly after age 23, but I did develop a more mature understanding of why I wasn’t better. Rodriguez, as the youngest, seems most likely to be underrated and I am therefore giving Miami the nod, though if you weren’t looking closely you might think I was just falling asleep. The Sharks by one.

Tennessee vs. Dallas:

It looks like Tennessee just misses being able to play Burnett with this lineup. That kind of sucks for them (“sucks”, used in this manner, used to be considered vulgar for a family web page, but Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, practicing Mormon and the idol of young, intelligent, clean-cut America, uses it this way so I think that battle can be declared lost, for whoever may have been still fighting it) Dallas by a point. And until next week--so long, suckers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Week Five

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey:

Big rating edge for NJ. Philly has shown they will not roll over and die, but the downside to that attitude is that you often end up more thoroughly dead as a result. New Jersey, 3-1.

San Francisco vs. Boston:

Watching Larry C drop his queen last week, I was reminded of an Olympic wrestler who had some sort of accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He explained on TV how he came to deal with his reduced physical abilities by analogizing with chess. He used to get very upset whenever he lost his queen, he said. But then one day (after losing his queen) he realized “hey, I’ve still got a rook, knight and bishop to play with!” This week, with Wolff and Friedel otherwsie engaged, San Francisco lost the equivalent of a queen from their lineup. But by now I’m sure they realize that hey, they’ve still got a Bhat, a Pruess and a Shankland to play with. San Francisco, 2.5-1.5.

Seattle vs. Dallas:

Clicking the names, I see that Varizova is now putting her own face to her name, which I take as a sign of increased confidence. I don’t have much idea here so I’ll let that be my decider. Confident Dallas by a point.

Baltimore vs. Chicago

_ O _ _ O O

O O O _ _ _

_ O _ O _

O _ _ _ O

Looks like I forgot to write the caption. It's supposed to say "Fans knew things would get sharp on 2 because....".

Answer: IT WAS THE “_ _ _ _ _” _ _ _ _ _

Chicago, 2.5-1.5

Arizona vs. Carolina:

Looking at each individual pairing, it is surprising to see Arizona’s rating edge as big as it is. Looking at the pairings as a whole, though, with Arizona ahead on each board, it’s surprising to see the ratings as close as they are. With surprises wherever you look, a Carolina victory should not surprise. But I am not simply being glib; à propos of en passant (and it’s not piling on if no one else is talking about it anymore), a commenter on another website wrote: “If your pawn misses a capture because the other player used a two-space move, tough shit,'s always struck me as being a jarring, out-of-character rule that looks like it was invented by someone bitter his pawn-heavy strategy kept getting foiled by the two-space rule.” So it’s a matchup issue; a team that relies heavily on the two-space rule (Arizona) happens to be facing a team of pawn-heavy strategists (Carolina). The ‘Bras, 2.5-1.5.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week Four

New Jersey vs. Boston:

I’m as tired of picking Boston as you are of me picking them. But whether it’s the chill northern climate that discourages outdoor activities, or the rah-rah spirit of the small town, something is working for them. I think I have to pick them till they lose (but I’m not doubling my bet each week). Oh wait, they already lost. New Jersey, then, by one.

Carolina vs. New York:

Back to righty this week . I tried to get some inspiration by looking up famous right-handed artists, but I couldn’t find anything. It must be discouraging for aspiring dextral talents, but I’m too busy with my men’s rights work to fight for their cause.

New York, 2.5-1.5

Dallas vs. Miami:

I clicked on Vazirova’s name, and she sure looks like Zorigt to me. The guys who run this league are tough to fool, though, and Dallas was busted and sentenced to hard time odds. I predict that this proves good for their souls but bad for their chess game. Miami, 2.5-1.5.

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco:

This “Sally Solomon” sounds like a very wise woman, and she picks Philadelphia. I don’t quite understand why, but I think I have a clue. Kudrin has the Pioneer Palace training, while Smith can see Russia from his house. Still, those ratings on the right are pretty scary. I think I’m going to split this baby in half. Cat’s match.

Tennessee vs. Arizona:

The question here is not who will win the match, but when the league will step in and do something to restore a bit of competitive balance to the league.

Tennessee, 2.5-1.5

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Week Three

New York vs. Philadelphia:

Though my job here is to predict the match outcomes I am going off the meter for a bit to announce that my best bet, lock of the week is that Charboneau-Kudrin will be a draw. Meanwhile, GM Fred Horowitz makes his debut on board 2. I assume he is Al’s kid, in which case, Smith had better watch out for those bishops! With a slightly smaller rating difference, White would feel honor-bound to play for a win and perhaps overpress, but at about 100 points he’ll feel it’s ok to play safe, so a draw is the likely outcome (see, read this blog diligently and once in a while you’ll stumble upon a really profound insight). White has a comparable edge on the bottom two boards, but standing on Isaac Newton’s shoulders, I see that teams at rest tend to stay at rest. Philadelphia, 2.5-1.5.

Carolina vs. Baltimore:

I switched the mouse settings before doing this drawing because, like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, I am left-handed. But after so many years of being too lazy or stupid to change to the lefty setting, I think I am asking for trouble doing it now so I will remain a right-handed computer user and desk sitter.

O O _ _ O

_ _ O O O

O _ O _ O O

O _ _ O O O

Answer Here:

THE "_ _ _ _ _ _ " ALWAYS _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Carolina, 2.5-1.5.

Chicago vs. Tennessee:

Look for Strunk to demonstrate the elements of style as the Blaze amaze, 3-1.

Queens vs. Arizona:

Is Lenderman the guy who plays the Morra Gambit? Too bad he plays Black here against the man who has been teasing us with talk of an exciting new refutation. Speaking of Morra Gambiteers (I wonder who invented that word? Has a nice swashbuckling ring), there is on youtube a clip of Ken Smith at the final table of the WSOP in the 1970s. A poster commented “what’s with the Monopoly guy?” (i.e., “Rich Uncle Pennybags” of whom see . Close resemblance, one must admit). Arizona, 2.5-1.5.

Seattle vs. New Jersey:

[color=white]I wonder what “rating” list these “Knockouts” are using [/color] Oops, didn’t work. Moving along, though, this great matchup of team names may actually be overshadowed by the matchup of players. Gulko is still very strong, but are the Gulkos still America’s first chess family? Two GM’s give New Jersey the edge (sorry, I’m out of profound insight for this week). 2.5-1.5, NJ.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Week Two

New Jersey vs. Queens

Last week, New Jersey won their match despite Benjamin’s losing on board one, and Joel must have wondered how warm the consoling remarks from his teammates would have been had the team not won anyway. I think Joel will win this week and not find himself in that uncomfortable position. Queens, 2.5-1.5.

Philadelphia vs. Baltimore

The family that plays together, slays together. Baltimore, 2.5-1.5.

Boston vs. Carolina

These “Elo” numbers next to the players’ names are the coolest thing since sabermetrics. Boston, 2.5-1.5.

Miami vs. New York:

Miami just missed making the final last season, while New York’s brief history has featured a couple of agonizing near misses. A couple of unfamiliar names grace Miami’s lineup this week, while NY’s features the same old same old. This reflects the contrasting philosophies of the two teams: in Miami, if you can’t cut the mustard, it’s au revoir, sayonara, and hasta la vista while the New York team is more tradition-bound. So while one may envy NY their bonhomie, camaraderie and esprit de corps, the hard-minded bettor has to respect the more competitive attitude embraced by Miami. The Sharks, 2.5-1.5.

Chicago vs. San Francisco:

One nice thing about writing up these predictions here is that I can misspell “Bhat” all I like and there is no penalty, whereas if I’m playing Scrabble® or some other word game, “baht” is a SE Asian currency while “bhat” is a lost turn or lost points. If any of you have this problem too, remember this mnemonic I just thought of—“Vinay Bhat wears a size B hat”. San Francisco, 2.5-1.5.

Tennessee vs. Seattle:

O O O _ _

O _ O _ O

O O _ O _ _

_ O _ O O _

Answer Here:

“_ _ _ _ _ _ _” was off “_ _ _ _ _”

Sorry, but that is the best I could do format-wise. For the first word , unscramble "timvo" to make a five-letter word and use the "circled" letters in positions 1, 2 and 3 toward the final answer. From "tepns" use letters 1, 3 and 5 from the unscrambled word. Etc.

After that, you know the drill. Rearrange the circled letters to form the final answer as suggested by the cartoon (but I'm not going to explain what is said or happening there, because that would be to admit failure as a cartoonist).

Oh, and Seattle, 3-1.

Dallas vs. Arizona

“Bartholomew” is thought by some to derive from “Bar Ptolemy”, which is Ancient-speak for “son of Ptolemy”. As such, John Bartholomew may be related to Cleopatra. If so, it is possible that he is snake-bitten (oh, I see they’re the “scorpions”. Too late to go back now. Anyway, close enough). Therefore, I pick Arizona, 2.5-1.5.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Week One

Though I am sure everyone eagerly awaits the wisdom of last year’s prediction champ, candor requires me to report that I recall hardly anything from last year or previous years at just this moment. So, although you should give my opinions due respect, do exercise sound money management and don’t start off betting the ranch. Put just a few dollars on this week’s matches and double your bets each week as the season progresses.

New York vs. Boston

I’m having a hard time finding new ways to say “this team will win because their ratings are higher” or “because I picked against them last week” or “because I insulted one of their guys and now I feel bad” but I’ll give it my best shot. Shabalov’s incendiary comments might backfire in a purely physical context, but adrenalin isn’t everything in chess, with its inescapable mental component; and excessive anger may get in the way of clear thinking. New York by a point.

Baltimore vs. New Jersey

I feel like we’ve seen this match before. So here is something I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen before; from my pursuit of the elusive red dot on Yahoo chess (sorry I don’t know how to include diagrams, because this little opus deserves several):

White Some guy Black Our hero

1.d4 d5 2. Bg5 h6 A useful deflection. The bishop will be less on h4 than it is now.

3.Bh4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c4 A revealing moment. White’s Bg5 on move two showed a conscious wish to be seen as a free spirit, but now this very Queen’s Gambit-like move betrays an unconscious but deeply ingrained instinct to conform. 6.ed Qa5+ 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Bf6 ef Bb4 A motif borrowed from the Panov Caro-Kann.

10.dc White, though, is too proud to borrow. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”, and Rybka agrees.

10...Bc3+ 11.bc Qc3+ 12.Ke2 0-0 13.f3 Qb2+ The ordinary player would be all over ...Re8+, but this zwischenzug shows the hand of the master.

14.Ke3 14 Kd3 was cleverer, inviting ... Bf5+ 15 Ke3 Rae8+ 16 Kf4, when suddenly White is attacking. If, however, Black first cuts the king’s retreat with 14... Re8, White is caught between the Scylla of ...Bf5+ and the Charybdis of ...Ba6+. And Rybka agrees.

14... Re8+ 15 Kf4 Qf2 White Resigns

“It is folly to kick against the pricks”, quoth Terence (and Rybka agrees).

New Jersey, 2.5-1.5

Queens vs. Philadelphia

Is Dmitry Schneider related to his brother? And didn’t they use to spell their name differently.... As for this match, youth will be served...on a plate. Philly by one.

Carolina vs. Tennessee

Bad Ronald will look to debut with a splash, and these Cobras won’t be charmed. Carolina, 3-1.

San Francisco vs. Dallas

SF’s young guys seemed underrated last year, so I’ll assume they still are until proven otherwise, especially in a league where each team brings its own rating list. I pick the ‘Nics, 2.5-1.5.

Miami vs. Seattle

The Sharks are feeling free from want.....tonight.....
The Sharks are taking
en passant.....TONIGHT
We said “okay, no Dragon (too slick)"
But we’ll be autoflaggin’, so better be quick

Miami, 2.5-1.5