Saturday, November 28, 2009

Miami-New York: The brawl for it all

Monday, December 7

First, let us take a moment to remember Arizona.

Second, this match. On board one, we can expect a Caro-Kann. Becerra has not faced the Caro in the USCL, but since he is a classicalist I imagine he plays either 3. Nc3 or Nd2.

Charbonneau always opens with the king’s pawn, which none of Lugo’s USCL opponents have done since 2006. Who were they all trying to impress, I wonder. I can just see them lifting their little pinkies in the air as they delicately slid their pawns forward to d4. There won’t be any of that here, as Charbonneau is a reliable king pawn player, and Lugo normally meets 1. e4 with …e5. With the economy the way it is, they are smoking fifties on Wall Street this year, so I’d expect Charbonneau to be looking for extra thrills on the chessboard. Maybe an Evans or some such.

A Sicilian seems likely on board three. But with only one match going and for the championship, no less, I’d recommend that the spectator follow every game regardless of what opening.

Norowitz is the biggest advocate of the Stonewall since the Nixon White House. Rodriguez usually defends 1. d4 Nf6 and then tries something sharp, so probably neither player will get what he wants, at least, not in the opening.

The beginner thinks no further ahead than the next move. The experienced player keeps the endgame in mind from the start. The truly thoughtful look all the way to the blitz playoff that would follow a drawn match. Blitz generally is a young man’s game, and blitz immediately after a grueling slow game ought to be even more favorable to youth. New York has the younger squad, so I think Miami ought to press a bit harder to avoid overtime. Increasing the contempt factor by two-tenths of a pawn sounds about right. Still, I expect New York to take it in regulation by a midnight whisker.



_ _OO_

_ _O_ _O_

THE  "_ _ _ _'_    _ _ _ _ _'  "

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Sheppard is my Lord

What with the longer-than-the-Soccer-War-the-War-of-the-Stray-Dog-and-the-War-of-the-Cricket-Match-combined break before the championship match, I have decided to expand my horizons a bit while hopefully keeping my skills in shape while not entirely neglecting New York and Miami.

It is easy to forget that beyond the narrow confines of the sixty-four squares, there is a whole wide wonderful world of computers, printers, and pairing sheets. It was in just this world that I was luxuriating last January when I saw, a few feet away, a twelvish kid brandish a rolled-up vinyl chessboard, then suddenly turn the rolled-up board to point at an age-mate and scream* “say hello to my little friend”. But long before twelve-year-old kids were playing with chessboards to pretend to be gangsters from twenty-five-year-old movies, grown men were playing with chessboards to fantasize about playing baseball.

These days, at Steve Immitt’s big January scholastic tournament at the New Yorker Hotel, there is a team room (where kids/coaches/parents chill/eat/make noise) less than ten feet from the directors’ room. There is even a secret back entrance to this latter room for the savvier among those unable to talk their way past the door guard into the sanctum sanctorum**. But back in the Twentieth Century (where I come from), this tournament was held downtown at the Borough of Manhattan Community College***, near the World Trade Center. There, the directors’ room could only be reached by walking down a long hallway, too cold for those without a director’s T-shirt to brave; too dark for those without director’s infra-red glasses to navigate. In a room this private, even a big, burly, thirty-five-year-old ex-New York Yankee could indulge himself in a little audible daydreaming. Joe Ausanio, former relief pitcher and then assistant tournament director, picked up a rolled-up vinyl chessboard and intoned, in a deep staccato, “now-bat-ting-for-the-Yang-keezz, num-ber-Fif-ty-Fouurrr, …..”. If you have ever watched the Yankees (or their opponents, for you haters), I’m sure you hear the voice of the great Bob Sheppard, who announced today that he retired two years ago. Nice career, Bob. Good luck in the rest of your life.

* “Scream” rather overstates it but I wanted to avoid the awkwardness of “say ‘say’”.

** That's "sanCtorum". Get your mind out of the gutter.

*** A fierce chess rival of UMBC (albeit without the cool theme song) in the halcyon days when “Dallas” was just an old TV show, or at most a Debbie-doer.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Division Finals

Monday, November 16:

San Francisco vs. Miami


O_O_ _O

_OOO_ _


O_ _ _O

"_ _ _ _ _ _     _. _."     _ _ _ _ _ _

...leading to a San Francisco victory, 2.5-1.5.

Wednesday, November 18

New Jersey vs. New York

Sometimes, when you write about nothing week after week, you have to take a little break, to recharge the old batteries. So this week I will try writing about something.

It has been suggested on a couple of blogs that draw odds is too great an advantage to give the higher seed in these playoff matches, though there still should be some reward for season-long achievement. A well-known Holland-born 6’5 IM and former co-editor of a chess magazine, connected with a USCL team in the Southwest, for instance, suggests giving the top seed choice of color in the Armageddon game. Now this is not exactly nothing, but I am not sure if it is a bigger edge than getting the lane nearer the equator (with its subsequently weaker gravitational pull) in a high hurdles race. A postseason series in pro basketball or hockey offers home court or ice in the odd game, which is a little bit more, but still seems pretty scant reward for having outperformed the other side by twenty games in the regular season. But those leagues make lots of money, so fairness does not have to rate high among their concerns. And I’ll grant that I always root for 2-2 in the championship match here because that elimination blitz thing they do is fun fun. But trying to make the postseason more exciting always carries the danger of making the regular season (which is most of the season, after all) less. So if a 5-5 team needs to actually defeat an 8-2 team to advance, then so be it, I say. We want a chess champion, not a cheese champion.

On to the match. Looking at the lineups reminds me of another difference between pro sports leagues and the USCL. There, a team can be counted on to field their strongest lineup for the biggest games. In fact, in baseball, what with the greater number of rest days allowing a team to go with fewer starting pitchers, they effectively can go with an even stronger lineup than their strongest. I take it that Gulko (the perfect) was unavailable to play this Wednesday. Even so, Finn seems, from all I know (based entirely on his three league games) to be considerably underrated. I think therefore that New Jersey will manage the 2-2 they need to advance.

P.S. I also look forward to the day when someone can write about chess without feeling the need to make endless sports analogies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Division Semifinals, part two

Miami vs. Seattle:

O_ _ _O

O_ _ _O

O_ _OO

_O_ _OO

_ _ _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _ !

So I pick Seattle, despite Roman's Marache-Morphy-like win vs. Adamson last week. And nothing salacious is intended by the oversized pieces in the drawing; proportion is just something I struggle with.

Arizona vs. San Francisco:

San Francisco's lineup features some pretty serious youth but do note that the eldest are on top. Were this not so I might worry for the team's spirit. As is, though, with everyone in his proper place, I worry only for whoever has to play the 12-year old with the 2385 performance rating. The Nics need only a tie to advance but I pick them to win outright.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Division Semifinals, part one

New York vs. Boston

A serious match calls for a serious analysis. For New York to advance, they have to win, and to expect that, I have to find a serious New York edge somewhere. Board Four is a natural place to look but Krasik, despite his non-master status, has played at a 2300+ level this season. He is well past the age where it is possible to improve, so there must be another reason. Maybe all his talk inspires him to live up to it more than it does his opponents to make him eat it. Whatever, I don't see enough to pick NY to overcome the draw odds. 2-2 Boston.

New Jersey vs. Baltimore





AN    '_ _ _ _ _    '_ _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _

And I agree. A right result for New Jersey.

P.S. What's up with this underlining? I didn't mean for that to be there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Week Ten

Most of the teams playing tonight, playoff-bound or not, are not competing for
much tonight so I don't think it really fair if I have to. Just something to keep in mind.

Boston vs. New York

_ _ _OO

O_ _OO



_ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Therefore? Well I think Evan learned from the soda can. New York.

Philadelphia vs. Carolina:

I'm sure Philadelphia was hoping to see a GM or two play for Tennessee tonight, but they themselves are fielding well below their strongest lineup. GMs look nice on a roster, but if you are assembling a team, make sure to find out first if they are hardcore baseball fans who would never miss a World Series game just to play chess. But the Philly lineup obviously like to play chess, so that ought to be worth something. Philadelphia.

New Jersey vs. Queens

Everything is close here but the teams' records. I think Queens would like to salvage something from the season but if not they, then I would. Queens by a nose in a driving finish.

Tennessee vs. Baltimore:

Baltimore needs it, but do they want it? Well, yeah, I suppose they do. Why wouldn't they? Baltimore.

San Francisco vs. Dallas

Most dictionaries or word processors I have seen do not recognize "chessplayer" as one word. But it feels silly in a chess blog to write "chess player". This feels like something I've said already but my web search does not turn it up so I'll continue and if you've heard this before, then please skip to the next match. "Chess player" sounds like something an overenunciating kid in a "Peanuts" TV special would say. Anyway, a well-known New York City chessplayer once said "if I go, I'm taking someone with me". The quote was even immortalized as the name of one of Steve Immitt's insanity tournaments. Dallas is the two-time defending champ but after this match, they are going, at least until next season. I'm betting they will take someone with them. Dallas to win.

Seattle vs. Chicago

Shulman is never going to break Cal Ripken's ironman streak at this rate. But who needs iron when you've got the mortar man? I say Chicago brings Seattle down to earth, or even a few feet below.

Miami vs. Arizona

In Boston-New York, it doesn't really matter who wins. Here, it is clear that it matters but not so clear what result would be most helpful to who. Probably both teams will fall back on native instinct and try to win. Boards two and four look lopsided, but Mateer did pull a big upset last week. Still, save the "has been rated as high as" defenses for people my age. Much will depend on whether we see the Becerra of old, or the old Becerra. I think the former. Miami.