Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Thing for the Ring

New England vs. Miami:

You may remember that last week I announced a raising of the intellectual level of the jumble, so this week, to compensate, I am lowering the level of taste. I expect the puzzle itself will prove easy enough to figure out, but the challenge is to get (in the sense of "understand") it. I know that I would not have got it a couple of hours ago, before I did some educational googling. On the bright side, perhaps you will be happier not understanding, expecially if you are a Miami fan (we won't think about Miami players).

But the jumble is just the means to an end, after all, and that it is to let you know in advance what's going to happen in the match, so that you may do something else with your valuable time. New England on top, in regulation. By a sharp point.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Division Finals

Boston vs. New England:

Life naturally gets tougher during playoff season but even so I think it fair to advise that I am raising the intellectual level of the jumble this week.

I think Boston is more likely to win on two of the top three tables at the T party than to lose one. That leaves Board Four which it may be Boston loses but, as always, "maybe" implies "maybe not". New England has waltzed through the season so far but tonight they're dancing with the stars. Boston.

Arizona vs. Miami:

We're down to the final four of November Niaiserie, bébé. While Miami has been here before, Arizona is here now. But Adamson had a marathon last week and it is highly gebrselassie that he'll be ready for another. In the long run, the sprinter has the edge. Miami.

                                                The artist in his studio

Monday, November 1, 2010

Division Semifinals

New England vs. New York:

The jumbled words all over the place represent my first attempt to thwart the "smart features" of the scanner that discourage it from scanning the entire document. It didn't work. However, adding the partial straight line on the right (that I have left in as evidence of my ingenuity) worked better. A tiny sliver of word balloon on the left was cut off, but I don't think that will thwart any of you (or just you, as the case may be).

As for the match, I'm picking New York. On the one hand, that's an insult to the Nor'easters, who have stampeded through the season thus far. But on the other, when they make the movie, they may base the character of "doubting prognosticator" on me, and then I'll clean up on consulting fees.

Late edit: To borrow an old Yermo joke, look for Al to be the hero.

Baltimore vs. Boston:

I don't know if I have to pick a winner, or if I can get away with just "to advance". But I don't expect any breaks from the world, so Boston to win. I'd be more specific as to why, but as David Pruess pointed out earlier this week, get too specific and you prevent what was going to happen from happening.

Miami vs. Chicago:

What a night the people will see. What a fight the people will see. Glory be.

Edit: It has been suggested to me that not everyone is up on the Billboard Hot 100 of 1974, or was it still "Your Hit Parade"? Anyway, the above paragraph means "Miami".

Arizona vs. Seattle:

All four matches today, because I do not want to get into lazy habits. Arizona, partly because Altounian is good at not losing, and partly just because.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week Ten, part two

Chicago vs. Dallas:

Chicago needs to draw, Dallas needs to win. The less you need, the more likely you are to exceed what you need. Chicago to win.

San Francisco vs. Miami:

You know, I really feel I hit on a good formula there. I think I'll write it down. Miami.

Seattle vs. St. Louis:

But you can't always trust everything to formulas. Imagine, say, if P equalled W/t every time. Who'd want to love in such a world? Not I. Seattle.

Los Angeles vs. Arizona:

So why devote the jumble to the one match that doesn't mean anything? Because it's still chess, damn it, and I love it.

And maybe they will find it. By next year. Arizona.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week Ten, part one

Manhattan vs. New England:

With nothing at stake as far as this season goes, I don't think Manhattan will do anything to jeopardize their position in the draft. New England, 3-1.

Carolina vs. Philadelphia:

Let's be honest--we were all a little worried about Mike Shahade. But he seems to have found the form that once made him Chess Life cover boy. Philadelphia.

Boston vs. New York:

I think I lapsed into cliché last time and said something about New York wanting to "send a message" to New England. I'm sorry about that. And of course, my prediction was wrong. But how about this: New York this week wants to send a message to themselves. "Oooooooooh". Right? New York.

New Jersey vs. Baltimore:

So, picking up more or less where I left off, but this time it is only the two balloons that need to be filled in, as I have done the third one for you. I have not labelled which clue words go with which word balloons, but the left/right divider at bottom is where it is for a reason. In the words of Phil Donahue, "I'm not going to patronize you smart people". Baltimore.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week Nine, part two

New England vs. Carolina:

Of the four matches scheduled for tonight, the most competitive features a seventy-two point average rating difference, and this is not that match. New England by two.

Philadelphia vs. Manhattan:

This isn't, either. Manhattan by two.

Arizona vs. St. Louis:

And neither is this. Even so, I will make it my modified upset special. St. Louis by only one. Lest we forget I've got a pair.

Dallas vs. Los Angeles:

For æsthetic reasons I hope will become clear, I thought it necessary to make a jumble of each of the three word balloons. Dallas by two.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week Nine, part one

New York vs. New Jersey:

So New Jersey find itself in the spoiler role. Will New Jersey win because they hate New York, or will New York lose because they hate New Jersey? Neither, I think, because the presence of Manhattan in the regional mix dilutes the hate factor to less than decisive influence. New York.

Baltimore vs. Boston:

Sammour's season debut last week showed one of the hidden dangers of being a great blitz player. At tournament time controls, such players are apt to indulge themselves by spending forty-five minutes on such questions as: should I point my knight's face toward the opponent's king, to intimidate, or should I point it away, to misdirect? Should I carry my piece to its new square, to avoid collisions, or should I gently slide it, to conserve energy? (en passant, I'm not sure how to describe the little flourish some give to indicate that they intend their piece to stay a while on its new square but "screwing the piece in" seems a misnomer, unless the player actually gives the piece several clockwise turns before releasing it. I can't say I've run into that one). Anyway, with the rust shaken out, I expect better time management resulting in better moves. Boston.

Chicago vs. Miami:

Chicago has lost its last two matches in rather heartbreaking fashion but, to echo that wrestler that I quoted here about five years ago, they've still got a liver, a stomach, and two kidneys to play with. Chicago.

Seattle vs. San Francsico:

I'll try to draw darker next time, if I remember. I tend to go softly in case I need to erase but then if I don't, it's too light. Anyway, FAGEND BEIRON MANROD CATELK HUGBOT, and 7,1,9. And Seattle.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week Eight, part two

New York vs. New England:

Imposing lineup for New York tonight. They clearly want to send a message for the postseason and I don't think they'll be hearing from Mailer Daemon. New York.

Carolina vs. Boston:

Boston needs to improve its game record to have any hope in the tiebreak wars, so I don't think they'll be fooling around tonight. Boston by three.

St. Louis vs. Francisco:

...which augurs a victory for St. Louis, if only a minimal one.

Miami vs. Los Angeles

Both teams may be going nowhere, but who will enjoy the trip more? Miami, I think.*

* That means I pick them to win, but I couldn't think of a graceful way to make that clear.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week Eight, part one

New Jersey vs. Manhattan:

New Jersey's governor recently quashed funding for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson. I guess they are satisfied that they are self-sufficient so that they don't need to facilitate free exchange of ideas with the outside. But it's a big, happening world out there and you'll miss a lot if you turn your eyes in on yourself. Manhattan.

Baltimore vs. Philadelphia:

Apparently, the Knights' sword and shield got thrown out in a housecleaning at the Marshall. But with the cardboard and aluminum foil went the last emotional link tying Jay Bonin to the team. If someone had tossed out Excalibur, imagine how different the imaginary world might have been. Philadephia.

Dallas vs. Seattle:

The underrrated Guo on board four looks like Seattle's secret weapon. I say "secret" because clicking his player link shows only his two games through week five but, dogged investigator that I am, I dug deeper, clicking on the games link, and uncovered a third win this season, in week six. Seattle.

Arizona vs. Chicago:

And Chicago it is.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week Seven, part two

Boston vs. New Jersey:

For New Jersey, it is do-and-maybe-die-anyway-or-die. Or tie. How about a tie. I haven't picked one of those in a while.

Philadelphia vs. New England:

"Put the bone in", she begged him,
As she paced across the floor.
"Put the bone in", she yelled out once more.
"Put the bone in"

The last time I quoted "Put the Bone in", I picked against Philadelphia anyway. I feel guilty about that. This time, I am picking Philly. Philly, 2.5-1.5.

St. Louis vs. Chicago:

This is not the director's cut of this drawing, but for some reason, the scanner did not wish to scan the full page. My guess is that somehow, by accident, I turned on a "smart feature" that refuses to scan the whole £u¢king page, but instead produces various segments of it. It did manage to zero in on the scrambled words, evidently recognizing them as significant elements of the picture, so give it credit for that. It also produced a giant blowup of the gentleman on the right, but was apparently was less impressed with the importance of the lady on the left; never zeroing in on her and not even producing her in toto in this scan, which is the most complete one it was willing to do. Anyway, the jumble speaks for me, so I won't insult your intelligence by spelling it out any plainer.

Los Angeles vs. Seattle:

I picked one definite upset already today. I don't see why I should have to take all the risks. You can bet LA. My pride is on Seattle.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Week Seven, part one

Carolina vs. New York:

Pride and joy and greed and chess; that's what makes this town the best. 3-1 New York.

Manhattan vs. Baltimore:

The second team in town will often name itself after a wider area, e.g. "New England Nor'easters", because they have to scrounge harder for fans. The Sauce have done it the other way, apparently going for quality of fan over quantity. But the upscale fan typically is more insistent that his team win, and Manhattan has not done much of that. But they realize this; I am simply explaining for the masses. I think they'll turn it around tonight, at least for a night. Manhattan by the breadth of a Hell's Kitchen spatula.

Miami vs. Dallas:

That's "ENDNOT", "ERICP" and "RIDEON". Miami by one.

San Francisco vs. Arizona:

I don't expect Arizona's mini-slide to become a maxi-slide. But it could become a midi-slide. My pick's the 'Nics, by the odd game.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week Six, part two

New England vs. St. Louis

So is this the biggest difference ever in average rating? Just because Nakamura and Shulman chose to do their patriotic duty and represent the ol' USA in Khanty-Mansiysk. Put on a white wig and go walk the "freedom trail", but if Samuel Adams were alive today, he'd be drinking Budweiser. I'll pick New England by two, though it tries my soul to do so.

Boston vs. San Francisco

Nothing wrong with a little regional pride, as long as the nation doesn't suffer. The East lost quite a bit on Monday but I think Boston will do their part to get some of it back. The Blitz, 2.5-1.5.

Seattle vs. New Jersey:

When you play a tournament game, do you write the opponent's title next to his name? I used to do it, but it's just so obsequious that I stopped. I'm pretty sure I scored better when I didn't. I'm not sure Seattle is hip to this bit of wisdom, though. New Jersey by a point.

Arizona vs. Baltimore:

Alright, this is probably the most contrived jumble since the Yangtze River one. But it works, I promise. I mean, the letters match up the way they're supposed to. One more for Baltimore.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week Six, part one

New York vs. Miami:

Miami needs it but New York wants it, and we're a country where luxury comes before necessity. New York by an artificial hair.

Dallas vs. Carolina:

I hadn't actually noticed that East and West have not faced each other this season. Now that I have, let me express my dismay at the mockery being made of tradition this week. Dallas by a circus peanut.

Philadelphia vs. Chicago:

Though Philadelphia as a team is -2 while Chicago is +2 on the season, Philly's particular lineup tonight has outperformed Chi's particular lineup. This is the kind of tidbit that the full-time professional has at his fingertips but a player moonlighting as a prognosticator is apt to overlook. Philly by one.

Los Angeles vs. Manhattan:

Isn't it? LA, by the length of a Lindsay Lohan sobriety jag.

ETA: Maybe I should omit the bars on the capital I's. The srambled words are IONPA, LABREW, NYBAD, NOBAIL.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Week Five, part two

New Jersey vs. Boston:

I seems to recall a JB-Big Larry game in this league where Black was basically lost after about eight moves. I don't remember who was who but I think it was embarrassing enough for both of them that this game will quickly be steered into drawish channels. That leaves Boston with the odd White in the match which I think will garner them the minimum victory.

Baltimore vs. New York

Do we know that Lenderman was the soda can? Or was he the guy "You're So Vain" was about. In any case, the Knights should either fizz or gavot to victory. I'd reommened the latter. New York, 2.5 to whatever's left over.

Miami vs. Seattle:

Miami by a bottlenose.

San Francico vs. Los Angeles:

So will this rivalry take off? Can it ever be like the old days? I think San Franciso will push the new kids on the block around some. The 'Nics by a foul shot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week Five, part one

New England vs. Philadelphia:

"Put the bone in", she begged him,
As she paced across the floor.
"Put the bone in", she yelled out once more.
"Put the bone in"

That's from the seldom-listened-to-even-then B side of Terry Jacks's "Seasons in the Sun". Almost as cool is the fact that Jacks once played in a group called "the Chessmen". But New England has never tasted the bitters of defeat and I don't think they are in a hurry to. NE, but not by many.

Carolina vs. Manhattan:

I was going to say that the symbolism favors Carolina, since a cobra squeezes and applesauce is squozen*. But really, "Applesauce" isn't going to win many symbolic battles. So dismissing that, the ratings favor Manhattan. The Sauce are boss. 2.5-1.5.

St. Louis vs. Dallas

But, why should she not. Dallas über alles, but especially St. Louis. But minimally.

Chicago vs. Arizona:

Putting the "foreign" in 4-0 since September 13, 2010. Arizona. By a point.

* Not favored by dictionaries, but more logical, to me, than "squeezed".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week Four, part two

Boston vs. New England:

Seriously, don't. New England by a point.

New Jersey vs. Carolina:

Just because I hate monotonous phrases, I thought about adopting a policy where a minimum margin is always implied unless specified otherwise. But that would increase the ignominy of the occasional 3-1 prediction, and I don't like to throw ignominy around. New Jersey, 3-1.

Los Angeles vs. Chicago:

I don't have anything particular in mind, but LA probably is the best team for jumble potential. If your name is a simple English word, then the puns are too transparent. I got rid of "Wolff" without too much guilt because I paired it with something else, but I still felt a little bit cheap. Anyway, that's why I like LA; for what they represent. Subscribe to the Vibe. 2.5-1.5.

San Francisco vs. Seattle:

Seattle needs it, which doesn't mean they'll get it, but I think they get it that they need it, as they've wheeled out not just the big guns but, who are just as important, the little guns. Seattle, but not by a slew.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week Four, part one

Manhattan vs. New York

Yes, you heard that right. Moving on...

So I finally got a scanner. Maybe I'll try to write darker next time but I have to rush now. Anyway, first of all, note the writing on the door to guess whose quarters this is. The guy on the left, imagine he's the coach or the captain, or something. He is saying "Your game. Play the Reti. Or maybe the English". And the guy on the right (who I'm sure you all recognize) responds, "That's just not     _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _     _ _ _    _ _" . And New York by a point.

ETA: I notice the "_ _ _" thing wraps around. The answer is 11,3,2. Three words.

Philadelphia vs. Baltimore

Upset of the week. Ok, I guess I didn't pick one last week or probably the week before. Alright, upset of the MONTH then. Ok? Philadelphia by a schuylkill.

St. Louis vs. Miami

Well, we all remember the last time Nakamura faced Becerra here. Having studied chess psychology under my masters Krogius and Benko, I don't think Hikaru will give Julio the satisfaction of acting all crazy for revenge. He'll play one of those quiet things he sometimes does and the game will end in a draw. And then he'll act like that doesn't bother him. Meanwhile, Miami will score below to pull out the minimum victory. Ok, that's two upsets this week. You owe me one.

Dallas vs. Arizona

When I talk about an upset, I mean a for-real upset, not 2385 beating 2386. So I won't act like a hero for picking Dallas here. You still owe me just one. Dallas by a point (like on a star).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week Three, part two

New England vs. New Jersey:

I think New Jersey has the better chance of taking a lead on the top two boards and then the sibling rivalry below should be mutually beneficial. New Jersey by the snookiest of margins.

Manhattan vs. Boston



OO_ _O


O_ _OO

Blitz by bits.*

Dallas Destiny vs. St Louis:

When I raved in my season preview about how clever the St. Louis team name was, I don't think I even realized that they were following in the pattern of "St. Louis Cardinals". Being that clever, they surely ought to win this match. Granted, a cardinal outranks an archibishop, but since they don't play the same game that's not a big problem. St. Louis by a head of foam.

Chicago vs. San Francisco:

Tough call. Chicago is old enough to be a sentimental favorite, but not so old as to be the slobering kind. The Blaze by a flicker.

* I used the plural "bits" for the sake of the rhyme, but a one-point victory is still meant. I figure a "bit" is a small enough thing that even two bits don't add up to more than one point.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week Three, part one

New York vs. Philadelphia:

New York looks almost St. Louisan here. The difference is, these guys don't just look St. Louisan; they can play St. Louisan. The Knights by a sword's tip.

Baltimore vs. Carolina:

Tough luck for Carolina so far. I think it'll be close again this week but the reason upsets are upsets is that people don't expect them. Baltimore by the minimum.

Seattle vs. Miami:

I think Guo will have something positive to blog about this week. We'll see if he can handle more than tragedy. Seattle by a glove lace.

Arizona vs. Los Angeles:





All in a good cause. Arizona by a point.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week Two, part two

Boston vs. Philadelphia:

O_ _O_O

O_ _OO


_ _OOO

"_ _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _ _    _ _ _"

... sparking Boston to a one-point victory.

Baltimore vs. Manhattan:

I don't think Milman plays much outside the league which, while it shows admirable dedication to the league, nonetheless allows a certain amount of rust to develop. I think the tough and in-practice Larry Kaufman will hold off Milman and that Baltimore will break through on one of the other boards. Baltimore by a bird of prey's beak.

Chicago vs. St. Louis

As usual, it boils down to who beats Shulman. I believe that will be no one. St. Louis, 3-1.

Los Angeles vs. Dallas:

It's hard to intimidate with mere names these days, but if anyone can do it is LA. The Vibe by a Newton.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Week Two, part one

New Jersey vs. New York:

I'm afraid that Gulko will soon forget how to play with Black, but I guess that is his problem, not New Jersey's. I expect Kacheishvili to hold and New York's advantage on the lower three boards to see them through to victory. New York by a minute*.

I don't think I noticed the Shen brothers before, or maybe the younger one was not yet 2200 last season. But I guess they are the youngest brother pair to make USCF master. If so, whose record did they break? Offhand, I guess the Whiteheads, but that seems too long ago. If we are counting sisters and foreigners, though, I guess the Polgars probably hold the sibling record.

Carolina vs. New England:

I try not to use the super-obvious puns in the jumbles, but I hate to waste them entirely. Look for the Nor'easters to breeze to victory. 3-1, New England.

Miami vs. San Francisco:

No Ruy for Becerra this week; at best he can hope for a Petroff. I expect Wolff to hold on board one and that SF will break through somewhere below. San Francisco by a heartbeat.

Arizona vs. Seattle



OO_ _O


"_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _ _"

The lazy bum ought to just get up, because the thrills won't wait. The Scorps by a nibble.

* I guess I can afford to explain once a season. "Team X by an anything" always means "by a point". I just don't like to say "point" all the time. It's like the "he said, she ejaculated, he vociferated" problem in dialogue but that can be dodged by just dispensing with it altogether.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week One, part two

Manhattan vs. Carolina

Giving time odds on two boards is an interesting psychological gambit by heavy dog Carolina. But to really play with Manhattan's heads, the Cobras need to give material odds and that is not within USCL rules. 3-1, Applesauce.

New England vs. Baltimore:





"THE - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - "

New England, 3-1.

San Francisco vs. Dallas:

If Naroditsky's cherubic appearance in his USCL pic is intimidating, there is a more recent one on his own site where he towers above the 3 and 3/4" King (to say nothing of the rest of the pieces). But even if you avoid intimidation, life is sometimes hard and so it seems to be to anyone facing the SF lineup. The 'Nics by a point at the buzzer.

Miami vs. Arizona:

I usually like Miami when it looks like Becerra will get to play a Ruy. This time, too. Miami, 2.5-1.5.

Week One, part one

New York vs. Boston

I pick the defending champs to win this one but it does offend my sensibilities some for three newcomers to play in the opening match. Let them make the coffee runs for a couple of weeks while the heroes of 2009 bask in the limelight. New York, 2.5-1.5.

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey

Each board here matches Youth vs. Experience, but New Jersey has put its experience on top and Philadelphia theirs at the bottom. My pick is based on the idea that professional players work harder to keep up to date, so you want your old guys to be GM’s. Also I am assuming that Finn is underrated somehow, even though his rating is not quite completely unchanged from 2009. Maybe he just played in the Amateur Team. New Jersey, 2.5-1.5.

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles:

_O_O O O


O O_ _O O

"_ _ _    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _"

St. Louis by a point.

Seattle vs. Chicago

It may be they way they are brought up on "touch move" in Chicago, but for whatever reason, a big edge for the Blaze here. Chicago, 3-1.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's Gonna Happen

The odds-obsessed league commisioner has asked me to include percentage chances of each team both to make the postseason and to win the whole thing, so those numbers appear at the end of each team's paragraph.

Eastern Division:

New York Knights:

This team looked strong last year, and won the title. This year, they look stronger, what with the way-underrated kids and top performer Alex Lenderman, whose vagabond shoes, longing to stray, have landed him in New York.

80%, 13%.

New Jersey Knockouts:

See below.

75%, 11%.

Boston Blitz:

See above.

70%, 9%.

Baltimore Kingfishers:

Since losing Pascal Charbonneau, who led the team to the inaugural USCL title in 2005, Baltimore has struggled quite a bit, despite fielding reasonable teams. This year’s version looks similar to recent ones, but Sasha Kaplan is some new blood, which can’t hurt. And if you underperform long enough, then you’re not really underperforming, and I believe Baltimore has in fact been underperforming, so I think that this season they will perform well enough to see the post-season.

54%, 7%.

New England Nor'easters:

The Northeast has traditionally suffered from an inferiority complex regarding severe weather, so it is gratifying to see the attempt to make “Nor’easters” sound as frightening as “Hurricanes”, “Cyclones”, or “Earthquakes”. New England’s strength is its flexible lineup, but I suspect the GGGg-style lineup has the edge over the balanced one, so I see NE finishing just outside the unpromised land. Bourneval has been one of the more prominent kibitzers in past seasons, so whether he can make the adjustment to player may be key.

51%, 5%.

Manhattan Applesauce:

I’ll grant that “Applesauce” has more relevance to Manhattan than “Pioneers” did to Queens, but I still don’t really get it. My best guess is that is meant to lull their opponents. If it were up to me, they’d be simply “the Manhattan” and use a cocktail glass as their logo. I suppose their players are more partial to vodka than to whiskey, though. Anyway, a strong enough roster, but it looks to me like too many of them wear suits all day and have to use too much of the chess part of their brains during the day to be able to handle a tough game at night.

46%, 4%.

Philadelphia Inventors:

Philadelphia can approach the rating limit with its roster but it needs its top two players playing to do so. History indicates that this is unlikely to be the case every week. Though the past is an imperfect predictor, the future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s all I’ve got.

23.7%, .98%.

Carolina Cobras:

As the only team in the East unable to approach the rating limit with any lineup, Carolina looks in for a long season. But if you like what you’re doing, that isn’t such a terrible thing, is it?

.3%, .02%.

Western Division:

Arizona Scorpions:

I was curious whether Arizona could use their top three plus Mateer, and it seems that they can, just barely. With the other underrated kids, they look pretty flexible, unless maybe they are still splitting between Phoenix and Tucson, because I don’t know who lives where. I’m sure they’ll work out some reasonable scheme, though. They ought to make it to the post-season.

75%, 11%.

San Francisco Mechanics:

Always a good team and they ought to prove so again. Tough guys on top, underrated guys on bottom, and better flexibility than most. Also, a number of pros or semi-pros who are probably up to date on the principles of the New Chess.

70%, 10%.

St. Louis Arch Bishops:

“St. Louis Arch Bishops” reminds me of those silly bar drinks that are invented for the sake of the name. But whereas “slow comfortable screw against the wall” simply takes up a small bit of menu space, this team is committed to playing ten weeks of four-hour matches. Of chess, no less! But they do have some quite good chessplayers, including two of the four recent US Championship finalists. Better still, judging from the Week One announced lineups, Shulman is even going to play this year! It feels almost like cheating to look at the posted lineups, but I really needed to know, with such an all-walks-of-life type of roster, whether St. Louis could field a normal and competitive lineup. And it seems they can.

60%, 9%.

Miami Sharks:

Another team that changes little from year to year, and yet another team that is using the September 2009 rating list (what is it about that list, anyway? The centerfold?). Anyway, though they lack a super-versatile roster, Miami does have a record of fielding a tough lineup each week, so I expect them to field tough enough to make it to the postseason.

55%, 5%.

Los Angeles Vibe:

First of all, I don’t see what “Vibe” has to do with chess, Los Angeles, or intimidation. But having said that I guess it is incumbent on me to suggest an improvement, so how about the “Bl0-0ds”, which covers all three? As for the team, they’ve got a good pair of underrated kids so if the top guys do ok, the team should do well.

45%, 5%.

Chicago Fire:

Though not as strong on paper as last year’s team looked on paper, the players on this team play, which makes up for a lot of paper. I don’t know much about Amanov other than nothing whatsoever, but I am guessing that his 2500 rating is more accurate than his 2400 one, what with his GM title and all.

40%, 4%.

Dallas Destiny:

Though a youngy, collegeish team, Dallas is sadly lacking in vastly underrated players, which seem almost a necessity in these tough times.

30%, 3%.

Seattle Sluggers:

It is hard to replace a guy like Nakamura but you can’t complain about Akobian. That is, though, contingent on his playing and I see he is missing from the Week One lineup. Again, I know it’s cheating to look but there is no Good Conduct medal for USCL predictors.

25%, 3%.

Oh yeah. It is a pet theory of mine that when you fall just short one season, you are a big threat to win the following season, but if you don’t win then either, self-doubt sets in and a shake-up is probably necessary before you win the whole thing. Makes me kinda hope New Jersey does win, because I’d hate to have to be the one to tell Benjamin or Gulko, “sorry, a shake-up is necessary. You’re off the team”. But that is why I favor Jersey over Boston: because they have just missed only once.