The 2012 Arizona Scorpions!

The 2012 USCL season is upon us!

Here are the players.

GM Rogelio Barcenilla
IM Mackenzie Molner
IM Levon Altounian
IM Mark Ginsburg
IM Shahin Mohandesi
FM Robby Adamson
FM Pedram Atoufi
NM Dipro Chakraborty
NM Amanda Mateer
Isaac Martinez


FM Elliott Liu Previews the Arizona-Miami Match

Sharks, Cars, and Suicide

First of all, I want to preface this preview with an apology: this will be my worst write-up for the Scorpions that I have done.  My liver is reeling from this weekend, I can’t breathe out of my nose, I’m sleep deprived, and I just got back from a class where my world famous professor rambled on about Hardy-Weinberg Principle Chi-squared testing for two hours—YAY!  Okay Elliott, stop whining.  Anyway…

both teams will make the playoffs, so not as much to play for other than seeding, but Arizona can actually tie for first in the West with Seattle if the Scorpions win and the rainy city inhabitants lose.

GM Julio “¿Hablo Inglès?” Becerra vs. GM Alejandro “I Don’t Know How To Drive” Ramirez

(Disclaimer: I have no knowledge about Alejandro’s actual driving ability, but I know it’s at least better than Robby’s and Amanda’s)

This game will be exciting, obviously because both players are Latino (although Handi somehow didn’t acquire the dominant “I love to attack crazily” allele).  Becerra will of course go for the jugular and come out with guns blazing.  These two last played with the current colors over the board at the 2008 UTD GM Invitational where the game ended in a hard-fought draw after 44 moves.  Julio will open with 1.e4 as always (once again because nearly every Latino player plays 1.e4), but the question is what will Ramirez respond with on his first move (he played Alekhine’s 1…Nf6 in the 2008 game—maybe a good choice again)?  He has many flexible choices at his disposal (i.e. Sicilian and French along with Alekhine’s), so it’s really up to Alejandro to determine what type of game he’d like to steer the position towards.  This stylistic direction will most likely determine the outcome of the game.  I recommend Alejandro plays something solid like he did last time because I think complications would favor Julio.  If Handi can successfully equalize, I think he can hold a very dangerous opponent to a solid draw.

IM Levon “I Am Going To Go For a Win This Time!” Altounian vs. IM Blas “I Have The Coolest First Name” Lugo

Levon is white, the rating favorite, and really needs to try to win this game for his team, mainly based on the fact that board 4 is a problem (sorry Amanda, love you!).  No matter how he goes for it—either via slow, methodical, python squeeze or busting out of his solid cocoon for an attempted blitzkrieg—Mr. Reliable Consistency has to try to push, force the issue, and win this game at all costs.  However, everyone knows Blas will be ready for a fight, and for those who aren’t familiar with him, he is a capable player whose strength is much greater (at least 100 points) than the meaningless four-digit number that follows his name (Lugo has also whooped me twice a few years ago).  I know Blas plays Slav as Black, which is obviously way too exciting for Levon to even come close to challenging, so maybe Altounian will open with the flexible 1.Nf3 to see how Lugo responds or maybe Levon should play English with 1.c4, which would most likely result in a reversed closed Dragon such as: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.d3 0-0 9.a3 etc. because I think Blas plays something along these lines (although I could obviously be wrong).  Of course, Levon should really play the Botvinnik variation of the Slav or one of those crazy Meran lines or something like that.  *[Wishful thinking by me]*.  Regardless of what the opening is, I believe Altounian will come through in the clutch again for his team and ultimately prevail in this intriguing match-up.

IM Alejandro Moreno “No, I Don’t Have As Many Middle Names as Handi” Roman vs. Robby “Yesterday, I Became Eligible For Senior Benefits” Adamson

Happy Birthday Robby (to the readers: it actually was his birthday)!  Congratulations, you’re old!  You also suck at driving.  Now, just don’t lose this game.  Nothing would make Robby and the Scorpions happier than a big win on Board 3.  I think this may be the most pivotal game of the match.  The winner here will most likely lead his team to victory.  Moreno Roman will actually not play 1.e4 (I will be very surprised if he does) because he clearly favors Queen-pawn systems.  What remains to be seen is if Adamson chooses to repeat his Two Knights Tango or if he tries to go into some sort of Benko or Benoni.  I will predict a toss-up: will the veteran IM secure a victory for his team or will Birthday Baby-face deliver a present with a masterful performance?

Madame Amanda “I Almost Killed Elliott Liu When He Was In My Car” Mateer vs. Eric “The Last Time I Played A Girl With Initials ‘A.M.’ I Lost In 14 Moves!” Rodriguez

Alright so for those who don’t know, these two nicknames are actually TRUE!  FACT!  CORRECT!  So…first of all, Amanda, you ARE the world’s worst driver, congratulations (yes, hard to believe, but worse than Larry)!  To make a long story short, ms. Directionally Challenged made a left turn into an oncoming semi with me in the passenger seat.  Okay, I guess I am being mean.  I only say she is a bad driver because I almost died, but besides that she isn’t too bad (“too” is the key word here).  And secondly, Eric, my homeboy, remember back in the U.S. Open in 2007 when you played another “A.M.” with Black, lost in 14 moves because you forgot how to play chess, and wanted to kill yourself?  Well, in case you or anyone else did, thought I’d revive this gem: I present to you ms. Abby Marshall vs. Eric Rodriguez.

Yo, so Amanda you have the whole “A.M” thing on your side this week.  Also, you showed the world your undercover beastly strength with that previous 300 point upset, so there’s no reason why history won’t repeat itself.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling E-Rod will play more like A-Rod this week, so just pretend you’re Madonna or something (hopefully sports enthusiasts understand).  I assume Eric will try to Benoni you, so, um, good luck with that.  But seriously, make the game cool.  In a shocker, I predict Rodriguez to win this game, but ms. Mateer is no pushover…until you actually try to push her.

Verdict: So what does all this mean?  I predict an exciting 2-2 draw this week.  No, I’m being serious, I actually think 2-2 has a good chance of happening.  Both teams have two toss-up games on Boards 1 and 3 and two games where one player is more favored than the other on Boards 2 and 4.  I still think Robby’s game is the most crucial because in this specific situation I don’t see Alejandro beating Becerra with the Black pieces unless Julio has to unnecessarily push, which I’m assuming he shouldn’t considering both teams are already in the playoffs.  I will conclude by saying it has honestly been a pleasure guest-writing for the Scorpions from time to time this USCL season, and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Peace!

Alright, back to Mendelian recombinant population genetics and lactose coevolution

Sean Higgins Previews the Week 9 Scorpion-Slugger Matchup

What a match we have in store this week!

In the unofficial USCL power rankings, Seattle sits at #2 and Arizona sits at #3 in the league. Clearly, this match is going to be a battle between teams that have proven to be heavyweights in 2009.

Board 1 pits two young phenoms against each other. In the red corner, GM Hikaru Nakamura, the current US Champion and undisputed superstar of the USCL this season. Naka weighs in with an October-supplement USCF rating of 2824 (!) and a whopping 5-0 record in the league. In the blue corner, we see the return of GM Alejandro Ramirez, weighing in with an October-supplement rating of 2623 and a solid 3-1 record this season, which includes a GOTW win over GM Joel Benjamin. It is safe to say that Naka–who leads the league in MVP points–is the favorite, but no one should ever underestimate the spaghetti-making Central American wonder that is Alejandro Tadeo Ramirez Alvarez. DO NOT MISS THIS GAME!

On Board 2, IM Levon Altounian reps the Scorpions against FM Slava Mikhailuk. Early this season, Arizona’s IM Mark Ginsburg dealt Mikhailuk his only loss of the 2009 season. Scorpions fans hope that Levon (who has drawn all 3 of his games this season) can do the same. This board could easily be the critical game for the match and looks to be a must-win for the Scorps!

On Board 3, FM Robby Adamson (2.5-1.5) will also be looking to convert a full point with black against FM Marcel Milat (0-1). Though both players weigh in with similar ratings, Robby has two advantages in this game:  (1) he has been staying much more active in recent years than Milat, who hasn’t played a USCF or FIDE tournament since 2006 and usually only gets played once a year in the USCL; and (2) he is the blitzmaster.

On Board 4, Amanda Mateer makes her debut for the Scorpions, taking on NM Joshua Sinanan. Earlier this season, Arizona’s NM Leo Martinez drew Sinanan. Weighing in with a 5-1 record this season and a USCF rating of 2248, Sinanan looks to be the favorite on this board. However, Amanda has proven her talent against much stronger players than Sinanan, so this game could easily still go either way. Besides, as Alejandro will remind us, Amanda is sooo creative!

Tune in tomorrow evening to watch this important battle between two teams leading the West! If you have been watching the Scorpions’ action-packed matches the past few weeks, I shouldn’t have to convince you that it could be epic.

Manager Leo Martinez Previews the Scorpion-Blaze Match

Hello everyone!

The next match-up pits the Arizona Scorpions against the Chicago Blaze in Week 8. As the Arizona Manager I will try to give you a recap of how things have gone this year and telling you about this tough match-up as well.

The Scorpions are in a great spot in the playoff race in the West being in 2nd place on tiebreaks over San Francisco and Miami. With a record of 4.0-3.0 the Scorpions are a point and half ahead of Chicago who need to win this game in order to have chances to get in the playoffs. The Scorpions need this win if they want to secure their first playoff berth and to put themselves in a good seeding if they do get to the playoffs.

Opps Avg Rating Opps Record
@ – Seattle 6.0 1.0 17.0/28 (61%) 2410 21.0-21.0 (50%)
Arizona 4.0 3.0 16.0/28 (57%) 2403 23.0-19.0 (53%)
San Francisco 4.0 3.0 15.0/28 (54%) 2416 23.0-17.0 (58%)
Miami 4.0 3.0 15.0/28 (54%) 2404 17.5-22.5 (44%)
Dallas 2.5 4.5 12.5/28 (45%) 2419 22.5-19.5 (54%)
Chicago 2.5 4.5 11.5/28 (41%) 2414 20.0-20.0 (50%)
Tennessee 2.0 5.0 12.5/28 (45%) 2402 17.0-23.0 (43%)

We have played the Blaze once before this year in Week 1 beating them 3.5-0.5 with wins by Alejandro Ramirez, Robby Adamson, and David Adelberg. However this week is completely different as only one player playing this week was playing for the Scorpions in Week 1. Although much has been said on the Chicago blog about how the Scorpions have dominated the Blaze in the past this gives no indication of how close this match is. Although Arizona has a rating advantage Chicago has always been a very solid team that contests every board from 1-4. Much like us Chicago doesn’t usually stack their lineups up top or on the bottom boards. On top of this Chicago has just come off a big win against the Tennessee Tempo, fighting against not one but two GM’s (Ehlvest and Shabalov) with wins by Van de Mortel and Angelo Young.

On to the match!

Board 1

IM Jaan Van de Mortel 2456        vs      GM Rogelio Barcenilla 2583

Both of these players are coming off big wins in their last matches, both against Grandmasters. Also both of these wins allowed their teams to win their matches by 2.5-1.5. Jaan beat one of the top Grandmasters in the country and former top ten player in the world in Jaan Ehlvest in a very nice game. GM Rogelio Barcenilla just came off an extremely wild game beating GM Vinay Bhat. I remember thinking around move 15 how Rogelio could have gotten into such a horrible position so early with White. However, one of the most important characteristics of a chess player is resiliency and Rogelio definitely has some of that. He ended this game by barely winning Queen against Rook ending giving me and everyone else at the site a near heart attack! After coming off a rough start this season with losses to Nakamura and Bercys, Rogelio has more than made up for this with very strong wins against IM Ippolito and GM Bhat, in both cases leading to Scorpion wins.

In the past Jaan has had trouble against the Scorpions losing to IM Levon Altounian and IM Mark Ginsburg last season, both times with Black. He no doubt will be ready to rumble to change that with White on Monday night.

Board 2

IM Dionisio Aldama 2506            vs          IM Florin Felecan      2430

This will be the second game that Dionisio will play in his USCL career with a draw against IM John Donaldson last week. His uncompromising style should make for an interesting game as Felecan plays similarly. If there is one game to watch in this match I would focus on this game as two wild players equal a wild game I’m predicting! Dionisio is one of those players that I cannot guess any of his moves but somehow he ends up making it work in the end which is all that matters.

Board 3

IM Mehmed Pasalic     2346         vs            IM Danny Rensch   2434

IM(!) Danny Rensch comes back to play after his first win in the USCL last week against Daniel Naroditsky. Danny seems to be breaking barriers everywhere lately having just broken through to the IM title as well. Danny’s solid record this year in the league, although not absolutely groundbreaking, is definitely one of the reasons we have done so well this year. Danny has the ability to beat anyone on board 2 or 3 when playing well and I hope he can continue his winning streak this week against Pasalic.  Pasalic lost to FM Robby Adamson in Week 1 and is no doubt looking for some vengeance in this game against a fellow Scorpion.

Board 4

NM David Adelberg      2202        vs            NM Eric Rosen.    2237

After David’s loss last week all I saw was him very disappointed. However, after this he was hopeful and then happy again when our team pulled the win out anyways. He played very well against Greg Young playing into a winning position before losing in the endgame. Of course this kind of stuff happens to everyone and is typical in such important games. However, David has no doubt been one of the bright spots to our team this year. I knew David was good and had all the potential in the world when I put him on the team but I had no idea how much he had improved. I played David once when he was around 1900 a couple of years ago. I had heard his name floating around the Arizona chess community a couple times but I didn’t really know him and to be honest I didn’t take him super seriously. I just thought he was like all 1900s. After barely winning a 6 hour game that ended around 12:00 am I was pretty shocked. I kept thinking after the game while analyzing the game with him that “this kid is gonna be good.” Well I don’t think David is done improving but he has already proven me right. With wins against Magness and Zorigt and a solid +1 record he has done very well in his USCL season debut. He also has just last weekend broken to become over 2200 USCF and a “Master” at only 12 years old. He is no doubt a player to watch in the future….starting with tomorrow at 6:00pm! You can check out all the games at 6:00 PM AZ time on ICC or at Abstrax in Mesa, Arizona. Come check us out!

Week 7 Match Preview by IM Mark Ginsburg

Thank ye, thank ye, good to be hither.

From the USCL website, the tale of the tape for Arizona’s week 7 match:

Arizona Scorpions San Francisco Mechanics
IM Rogelio Barcenilla: 2583 GM Vinay Bhat: 2504
IM Dionisio Aldama: 2473 IM John Donaldson: 2408
FM Daniel Rensch: 2434 FM Daniel Naroditsky: 2371
David Adelberg: 2160 NM Gregory Young: 2242
Avg Rating: 2413
Avg Rating: 2381
Arizona Total ——- ——- San Francisco Total

Arizona plays white on boards 1 and 3.  Due to some obscure rule, the Mechanoids play white on boards 2 and 4.

Robby predicts, “Arizona Scorpions vs. San Francisco Mechanics
Let’s see – I picked against them last time (though I really didnt). Lets try sort of picking them again – ok thats dumb. AZ wins.”    This is a toughie – a veritable Minotaur’s Maze to predict.

The Minotaur's Maze

The Minotaur's Maze

Well, we can attempt a prediction. Let’s try the board by board method and thorougly confound matters with a heavy dose of perplexing Alburtian percentages. You might also like a quick video preview.

Board 1. Our RoBa, fresh from a nice spanking of IM Ippolito, looks to revert to form after a couple of losses to Nakamura and Bercys.  His opponent, though, is a very tough and experienced international competitor, GM Vinay Bhat aka VB aka Visual Basic. I am very impressed with how VB calmly makes a move on a physical board then deliberately wheels himself around in a chair to then duplicate that same move on a computer screen, even when low on time.  Nerves of steel!   RoBa is very opportunistic and usually has a time advantage, but VB usually does not let a time disadvantage lead to his defeat.  RoBa is very tactical but Visual Basic is no slouch at calculation – an excellent matchup.  This USCL time limit does work well for RoBa though unless he falls into a Naka funk and plays something he’s not familiar with.  In summary, as GM Alburt used to say, “75% chance of draw”.  For a decisive result, the other 25% I divide up equally between the two players.

Board 2. Here we field a mystery man, never before seen in USCL play, IM Dionisio Aldama aka Aldo Nova aka Freshmeat aka New Guy.  At tournaments, I’ve only seen Aldama’s games from a distance and they are often sharp.  He is playing black against Joe Solid, or should I say John Solid, IM Donaldson.  I note Freshmeat’s relatively high rating but cannot speak to his USCL skills – although he does ICC blitz a lot.  Does that help?  Maybe.  John is not “Danger Man” to use European tournament parlance and is not terribly ambitious in his opening schemes.  It is a question of whether our mystery man will meet him on solid terms or go all out for a black victory which can, as we know, sometimes not work out.  As GM Alburt would say, “perhaps a napkin” (GM Alburt’s introductory ‘food order’ at a communal Lone Pine lunch).  What else would Alburt say?  “60% chance of draw.”  For the other 40%, we’ll have to give some credence to New Guy’s relatively high rating but also note that John is white and New Guy might go nuts trying to combat some sleepy-time system.  Let’s give John Solid 15% of the decisive pie and Freshmeat 25%. I would hasten to add that it’s important for us to learn New Guy’s favorite food and drink ahead of time and provide them at the playing site.

Breaking news:  New Guy is blitzing on ICC Tuesday at noon vs. IM Cyrus Lakdawala. And I learned something, he has an extra name “Degournay”!

Statistics for maton(IM)         On for: 2:25     Idle:    0
maton is currently involved in a match against Kawas(IM).

rating [need] win  loss  draw total   best
Wild            1779  [6]     1     1     0     2
Crazyhouse      2082  [6]     0     1     0     1
Bullet          2126  [8]    35    41     4    80   2181 (06-Aug-2002)
Blitz           2388  [4]  1753  1839   269  3861   2998 (06-Jun-2003)
5-minute        2345       1389   887   193  2469   2544 (12-Oct-2009)
1-minute        2001      12195 11150   919 24264   2381 (21-Jan-2004)
15-minute       1300          4     3     0     7

Name   : Dionisio Aldama Degournay
Groups : Mexico IMs

Board 3. Here we see a newly minted IM, Danny “Statistical” (“Stat”) Rensch, go against Lil’ Talent, Daniel (Danya) Naroditsky, aka Shortbread. I’ve watched Danya’s chess improve palpably over the last few years and it is a pleasure to behold.  No more g4?? butcheries such as a 2008 Shortbread-Angelo Young game best forgotten. Instead, clean, logical chess and better opening prep.  From Stat, likewise, we see more confidence following the IM result at the Spice cup.  He held a tough game against Molnar last week and this has to be a confidence booster after his bad luck early in this season and last season. On Stat’s side, statistically unseen numeric forces are at work to improve his USCL record to date.

I do know this:  these two guys are very sharp and we will be looking at a crazy tactical battle here.  And Stat is much better with white than black.  OTOH (on the other hand), Shortbread has shown excellent prep as black in recent times.  It will be a battle royale to be sure.  To quote Boris Spassky, we have here “drunken machine gunners.”  Boris meant the players fling pieces around and que sera, sera.  At the time, (historical note), Spassky was referring to Swedish wild man GM Ferdinand Hellers.

Shortbread was on the wrong side of a drunken machine gunner in the NY – SF match and I am sure he is looking to correct his ledger in that sort of game.    I would only award this game a 30% peace proportion, and for the remaining 70%, I will give Stat a very slight nod 36% to 34% over Lil’ Talent simply because he is white.

In case you are wondering what happens if BOTH players are drunken machine gunners – well then we have a classic DDMG (Double Drunken Machine Gunner) battle.  The victor is usually the more ‘drunk’ (you can take this to mean utterly random) player. – cf. the Fernandez-Zaikov USCL game from this week’s action

Board 4. Here we have David Adelberg aka Kid Cactus aka Astroboy (“I was made ready!”) playing black against another kid, Gregory “Youngster” Young aka G-Yo.  I was unfamiliar with G-Yo’s  play and looked up his USCL games.  He has a pretty good score but one time fell into a sweet tactic and got mated in the opening vs NM Chris Williams. Did you happen to notice the opening in that debacle?  It was a foxy Sicilian Kan!  Kan Konquers Kiddies because the positional complexities required to handle the white side are usually far beyond the pale of the kiddie tactician. I also found another, fairly bizarre, effort of his in a Dragon.  He held that game, but his opponent Zorigt was one of Astroboy’s victims this season. And, as we all know, young David has been a revelation and a tremendous addition to Arizona’s team this year on the bottom board.  Well, it looks like it’s going to be a Kiddie Najdorf. since that is what Kid Cactus plays and it looks like G-Yo always sticks with Open Sicilians.  I am not sure who Ehlvest’s handlers are in Tennesse, but they should tell him “don’t play into Kiddie Najdorfs!”  He would have come out of the opening better against Ludwig if he had avoided theory altogether. There’s a time for theory, Jaan, and a time for understanding.  The USCL with its fast time limit should be a forum to claim superiority based on understanding, not whip out oodles of theory – unless we have two juniors playing and then it’s practically inevitable – cf. this board 4 encounter.  OTOH, if I had to make one Caissic wish, it would be that Astroboy retools and whips out a Kan!   Kiddie can ken* Kan!

* Ken (v): Chiefly Scot.

a. to know, have knowledge of or about, or be acquainted with (a person or thing).
b. to understand or perceive (an idea or situation).

It’s funny how tight matches often come down to a fourth board that is utterly unpredictable before the first move. Kiddie temperaments and energy at the board wax and wane** frequently; there is no way to know  who will be more engrossed in chess iron logic when the moment comes to fight – truly Chaos On Board. And once again Board 4 might be the crucial matchup! As Lev Alburt would say, “only 20% chance draw.”  I would divide up the decisive portion almost equally between these two young combatants. I will say Kid Cactus 38% and Gregory 42% as a nod to G-Yo’s  master ratingDateline Weds.: Incredible postscript:  Kid Cactus just became a NM after the LA Open.  So now it’s dead heat, 40% to both!

** Wax and wane: Increase and decrease, as in size, number, strength, or intensity, as in Enrollments in these programs wax and wane from year to year. This expression alludes to the phases of the moon, with its periodic changes in size. It was first recorded in the 1300s.

And Did You Know?

To make absolutely sure that you learn something from this post, I recently visited a Harley dealership and complained that my 883 custom “Sunglo Red” paint job was distinctly less lustrous than new.  The mechanic brought out a bottle of “Throttle Body” (a product made by Würth Industries).  “Throttle Body”, dear readers, is an amazing automotive and motorcycle cleaning product!  An arbitrary tidbit?  No!  I first rode dearly departed “Wild Black”, a CB750, on the streets of San Francisco getting tangled up with the cable car groove on Market St.  And Arizona is playing SF… well, you get the picture . Now go out and buy your own “Throttle Body” and let the USCL games begin.


Week 6 Preview – AZ Scorpions Tackle the Undefeated NJ Knockouts

The Arizona Scorpions (2-3) face their toughest challenge yet in their Week 6 encounter with the New Jersey Knockouts. Lead by GM Joel Benjamin, the Knockouts are 5-0 in the league, and look to become the first team in U.S. Chess League history to start the season 6-0.  New Jersey experienced heartache their first two years in the league when they failed to make the playoffs, but this year have established themselves as the team to beat in the East and perhaps in the U.S. Chess League.

The Scorpions are currently tied for 4th with the Tennessee Tempo in the extremely competitive Western Division. The Dallas Destiny, who we were fortunate to draw with in our last match after a memorable ending, is only half match point behind. The last 5 weeks will play an instrumental role in who makes the playoffs.

Let’s look at the matchups.

Board 1 – GM Alejandro “I am Not Always Distracted” Ramirez (2623) vs. GM Joel “I am not stuck in the 1980′s like Mark Ginsburg” Benjamin (2621)

Every GM vs. GM matchup is intriguing, but this should be a great one.  Alejandro “She was not even at the latest match” Ramirez plays both 1.d4 and 1.e4, and is a solid player, while Joel “I do not look like Glenn Panner” Benjamin is known for playing unorthodox lines but lines where he has a lot of experience with – something that makes him difficult to prepare for.  Alejandro has fared well thus far, scoring 2/3 (2 wins, 1 loss), while Joel is an outstanding 4/5 (3 wins, 2 draws), and he really should be 4.5/5 if he had converted against GM Giorgi Kacheisvili. Given the closeness in rating and strength between the 2 players, I would call this game a toss-up.

Board 2 – IM Dean Ippolito (2537) – GM-Elect Rogelio “GM-Blues Are Over” Barcenilla (2583)

Dean Ippolito has been playing a lot recently and for the most part has had great results. I believe that in the pursuit of GM norms and the GM title, Dean has begun playing much sharper lines. On the other side of the board, it seems that ever since the GM-Blues have hit GM-Elect Rogelio Barcenilla, Rogelio has not played like his true self.  The Scorpions hope Rogelio snaps out of his funk and plays with the skill and energy that gave him the GM title.  I fully expect another toss-up. Yes, that’s 2 toss-ups so far, out of 2 games.

Board 3 – IM-Elect Danny “AZ Obsessions” Rensch (2414)- SM Mackenzie”Mac” Molner (2428)

Now that Danny has made IM and got that monkey  off his back (though there are others beyond the scope of this article, such as obsessions with Steve Nash and Kurt Warner– thus his son’s name “Nash” and “Warner”), Scorpion fans hope Danny can get on track and win his first game in the USCL.  Danny faces my good friend Mackenzie Molner, who, rumor had it – ok not rumor – he actually called me and begged me to play because it would be “cool”.

In any event, knowing both of these players, I expect a mess. While Danny probably will not intentionally try to create a mess, Mackenzie can’t help but create one – it’s his nature. When analyzing with Mac recently, I honestly could not predict any of his moves, as he defeated his higher rated opponent.  Mac looked incredulously at me, puzzled at why I would not have converted his winning advantage in the same, completely unsound and reckless way. Truth be told, I have no idea what will happen here – another toss-up!!

Board 4 – Sean “Next year at the camp, can we have a Texas Holdem Tournament” Finn (2133) vs. David “Don’t Mess with My Najdorf” Adelberg (2191)

Ok – a great story about Sean (I still play the Goring Gambit) Finn and another USCL member to be named later.  Sean was one of the original 10 students who attended my chess camp in 2004. Apparently Sean became obsessed with poker before the camp that during his plane trip to Arizona, he had to change planes in Dallas, where he happened to not only meet during his layover another camp participant, Miami’s Matan Prilleltensky, but managed to drop $60-$80 while playing poker against Matan (apparently they were so obsessed with poker that they both almost missed their flight). So at the end of the camp, one of the improvements suggested by Sean was whether we could have a poker tournament the following year – thus the quote above. Fortunately, I didn’t take him up on the offer. No word on whether Sean ever paid Matan.

Now onto the game – This game will feature a battle of styles. Sean is a wild, tactical, and imaginative player who could not name a single positional concept even if he was spotted a few key words. David on the other hand is a very solid player who has done well for the Scorpions thus far (2.5/3). Congratulations are in order for David who finished 2nd in Game of the Week voting for his win last week on board 4.

Whoever wins the battle of styles wins this game. Yep, you guessed it, another toss-up!

With 4 toss-ups, log into ICC Monday night at 6 pm Arizona time to watch another exciting match against the NJ Knockouts!

Manager Leo Martinez previews the Scorpion-Destiny Match

Okay so before I start this preview there is one thing that I should say that I am not going to do.  I am not going to predict a 4-0 sweep by the Scorpions.  To predict something like that against the two time defending champs would be pretty foolish.

In our match against Dallas last season the two teams were evenly contested on all four boards similar to this season.

Both Dallas and Arizona teams have had very similar roster lineups the past two years since Arizona became a part of the US Chess League. Both teams prefer a more balanced lineup of players in their lineups rather than stacked lineups with many strong players on the top boards and weaker players on the bottom boards as some teams prefer to do.  Which lineup is better (stacked lineups or balanced lineups) is still up for debate and I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer.  Both seem to work depending on the teams. Dallas has obviously perfected the balanced lineup being two time defending champions. While teams like New Jersey seems to do well with a stacked lineup.    Queens is another good example that used the stacked lineup well last season.

However, due to some scheduling issues Dallas has not been dominating (other than their Boston match) this season. However, this does not suggest that the Scorpions underestimate them in the least and we are taking this match as one against the two time defending champs and as one that is crucial for both team as we look ahead towards the rest of the season. Both teams have strong lineups up for this match.

Let’s analyze the matchups:

Board 1

GM Alejandro Ramirez    2600 vs.          IM John Bartholomew   2499

These players both know each other well as they have both been playing in the Dallas area for a while.  John has been taking the board 1 duties for Dallas this season playing the likes of GM’s Hikaru Nakamura and Julio Becerra.  This should be a very tough game for both players as John has a very, very solid style that can at times frustrate strong players. However, Alejandro is undeniably a favorite here as a 2600 GM with White.

Board 2

IM Salvijus Bercys            2503        vs.            GM-Elect Rogelio Barcenilla 2583

This match pits Rogelio Barcenilla on the board 2 spot for the first time in his short career. All of last season Rogelio played board one and had a very respectable even score against five grandmasters. Since then he has achieved his final GM norm at the Copper State tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. He will be awarded the GM title fairly soon. This also is the first time that the Scorpions will have a double GM lineup with two players almost both in the 2600s. Sal Bercys has played one game this season losing a long game to Sam Shankland. However, in this game he was in a position where he had to win for team reasons and in this game Bercys pushed fairly hard, finally losing. However this matchup between 2500s should be very close and is definitely one of the games to watch.

Board 3

FM Robby Adamson 2354 vs.           FM Keaton Kiewra  2365

FM Robby Adamson has been one of the MVPs of the Scorpion team so far this season going 2.5/3 so far this season.  From his wide experience playing ICC (literally playing tens of thousands of ICC games) he has transferred some of this “experience” to his USCL games. Keaton Kiewra seems to be the the Destiny’s regular third board playing three out of their 4 matches. In past years Dallas has chosen a lineup and stayed with that lineup throughout most of the season. This season they have varied more but Keaton has been a constant third board for them.  With a 2/3 record he has done well himself and this matchup should be very close and could easily go either way.

Board 4

WFM Bayaraa Zorigt 2270                 vs.          Expert David Adelberg 2160

The fourth board brings back the twelve year old phenom David Adelberg to the Arizona lineup! David is only twelve years old and after not playing two matches he was eager to get back in the mix. Here he faces the 2008 4th board MVP from last season in Bayaraa Zorigt. Although Bayaraa lost her last game in the USCL her +5 record from last season stands out and she is a very tough, technical player. However, David has proven himself again and again against strong players and he will have to do so again in this situation. Both of these players are very solid and positional players who are not afraid to mix it up but would rather think about pawn structures than piece sacs. With David’s rating only 5 points from reaching master (at only 12 years old!) we are likely to see many more achievements from this kid…starting with this week!

One further comment that I would like to make concerning the Scorpions is the newly crowned International Master Danny Rensch! Danny recently got his final IM norm by drawing IM Ray Robson at the SPICE Cup in Texas. Watch a video of Danny after his great tournament:

Thanks everyone and go root for the Scorpions Wednesday at 6:00 PM AZ time!

Week 4 Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

This is the weekly featured article by FM Robby Adamson, who is a member of the Arizona Scorpions.

Highlights of Week 3 included a Boston sweep of Dallas, err, I mean a Dallas sweep of Boston; New Jersey moved to 3-0 with an easy win against Carolina, and SF moving into first place with a victory over Miami. I did a little better in my picks this week, but still, room for improvement!

Before looking at the matches, a few thoughts. First, when someone predicts Person A is going to beat Person B, teams/individually should not take it personally. If someone says Person A made a bad choice in the opening, it’s one person’s opinion, and I think its perfectly acceptable to comment.  Second, if no opinions were ever offered on things, this would be a boring endeavor. People write funny things like Boston’s manager picking a 4-0 sweep (obviously he didn’t really believe that) or Alejandro Ramirez picking AZ to win based on “science.” Its all fun so people need to relax and just enjoy a really cool US Chess League. I enjoy the USCL a lot and I know it serves as entertainment for the players, spectators, fans, etc.

UPDATE – One More Rant. I see that Fox has decided to schedule the show House on the day I am playing. This should be avoided in the future since Dr. House is my hero. Perhaps our Commish can take that into future consideration.

Now that my brief rants are over, lets take a very quick look at Week 4 matches.

Miami Sharks vs. Tennessee Tempo

Board 1 features the best match of the week with two USCL studs facing off in Becerra and Ehlvest. No result in this game would surprise me, though based on Miami’s rating advantages on boards 2-4, I would say Ehlvest needs to play for a win. The colors and match-ups seem to favor Miami, and therefore I pick them to win 2.5-1.5.

Chicago Blaze vs. San Francisco Mechanics

San Francisco looks to continue their early season success against the Blaze, who won their first match last week. Something tells me that Chicago will be in this match until the end though it is hard to ignore their obnoxious rating advantages on board 1-3 – a 2564 on board 3? Oh my! However Chicago does have the experienced IM Angelo Young on board 3 and he will have white. Chicago has to win on board 4 to have a chance. I think this will be closer than most people think, but SF will come through 2.5-1.5.

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Arizona Scorpions

Both teams have a balanced lineup and I think there are no real favorites on any of the boards.  I would not be shocked by any result on any of the boards. Of course I am picking my team to win 2.5-1.5.

New Jersey Knockouts vs. New York Knights

NJ is undefeated and won Round 1 against NY, will they win round 2? This is a very interesting match in that NJ is severely outrated on board 4, while board 1-3 they have a slight advantage. I think this match will be a tie, but I think NY has the better chances to win.

Carolina Cobras vs. Queens Pioneers

The balanced lineup of Carolina vs. the stacked three 2500’s lineup. It would be interesting for someone to write an article on that sometime – which is better? I am going to pick Carolina in the upset over Queens. If IM Jonathan Schroer holds on board 1 against IM Eli Vovsha, Carolina has an excellent chance to pick up 1.5-2 points on boards 2-4. If not, the balance switches to Queens.

Boston Blitz vs. Philadelphia Inventors

I changed my mind on this match several times. I can not seem to decide who I  like on the top boards. GM Kudrin has struggled so far against admittedly tough competition, while Sammour has not quite found his form. Board 2 and 3 will probably decide the match since I think Boston has a nice advantage on board 4.  Boston wins in a close one 2.5-1.5.

Dallas Destiny vs. Seattle Sluggers

An intriguing lineup by Dallas. If IM Bartholomew can somehow score against GM Nakamura, Dallas wins the match. If not, I think the match is really close anyway. IM Daniel Ludwig is more booked up than Kasparov so it will be interesting to see how his match works out against FM Mikhailuk. I predict Slava will play a slow opening, and it will be a matter of who plays better under pressure. FM Kiewra is dangerous if he gets you in his preparation. This will be an interesting sluggest, and probably a Najdorf. The match could come down to Board 4 where Dallas’s secret weapon and USCL stud NM Bayaraa Zorigt faces very solid (though not as solid as Levon the Stable) NM Josh Sinanan. Overall, I think Dallas has the edge here, but somehow I think the match ends in a tie.

Last Week: 3-4.

Season: 8-14.

Amanda Mateer Previews the AZ Scorpion vs. Baltimore Matchup!

Hey everybody! This week, the Scorpions take on a team they’ve never faced before – the Baltimore Kingfishers. Since both share a record at 50% (1.5-1.5), this match is crucial – especially for the Scorpions, looking to make a comeback after a disappointing Week 3 loss.

I’m not going to lie – I’m probably not the best person to be previewing this match, seeing as I know literally nothing about a single one of the players for Baltimore except Shinsaku, who I remember sitting next to at Nationals and praying over and over again NOT to get paired against as he smashed some 2000. And my record against the Scorpions players playing this week? A dazzling 0-9. Not even ONE draw. And 3 of those games were against Leo…

But anyway, I’ll give it my best shot. Here it goes…

Board 1: IM Tegshshuren Enkhbat (2430) vs. Levon Altounian (2538)

I really hope I spelled all of that right. I saw Lev today, and he mentioned briefly to me that Enkhbat was pretty solid when the match came up. If this is true, then this match is in theory going to be disturbingly, sleep-inducing solid. But I am going to be bold and predict this to be the CRAZZZZIEST game of the match. Maybe even the craziest game of the night. 2 solids doesn’t equal 1 super solid, it equals something totally nuts. Or, at least, I hope. Lev’s probably tired of hearing about how Lev-like and boring his first game was, or about the small Week 2 mishap, and will come out like never before. Seriously – WE HOPE. Plus, something needs to keep the other boards on their toes. I do, however, predict that out of the fire there will emerge some peace. Draw on board 1!

Board 2: IM Mark Ginsburg (2427) vs. GM Larry Kaufman (2444)

A week ago, I would have told you that this result was completely unpredictable, because I never know if “I love the Eingorn sooooo sooooooooo much” Mark is going to show up or not. But last week’s Mark was pretty amazing, start to finish. And because Mark is an alternate (and therefore, this is the only other match he can play in), I know he’ll want to keep his mini hot streak up before he goes back to making ridiculously strange comments on other people’s handles during the games he’s observing (example: telling some GM to stop asking questions and merely watch the game, or they’re not getting a card come Christmas time.) Poor Leo, at least 6 titled players he doesn’t even know censored him that night. But anyway, I predict that this Larry won’t be the one to shine this match – and that Mark will come away with the full point and say something utterly ridiculous afterwards. 1-0

Board 3: IM Ray Kaufman (2297) vs. FM Robby Adamson (2354)

Now, THIS Larry, on the other hand – he’s got this. And I’m not saying this just because I tell Robby every week he’s going to be MVP, or even because I really love his scary driving or his hugs. But Kaufman’s record in the league is subpar and Robby’s start has been fantastic – and I can’t help but think he’s not slowing down here. Even with the black pieces, I think the rating difference and the histories in the league heavily favor Robby. I do predict that of the 4 games, this one will be the quietest – but still a strong showing for the Scorpions. Robby will come away with the full point. 0-1

Board 4: NM Leo Martinez (2230) vs. FM Shinsaku Uesugi (2354)

Like I mentioned before, Shinsaku sort of scares me a lot. And though I do think he is ridiculously good, I also know that Leo can be pretty dangerous himself. This is the match that one would probably expect to be a bit of a bloodbath; neither player seems to shy away from complications, but given that the time control is only 60 minutes as opposed to 75 or 90, I feel like the game won’t even be able to get too far along before it faces time troubles. I don’t know why I keep predicting that all the craziness will end peacefully, but somehow I’m getting that vibe from this week’s match. I think that Leo might fall into a pretty scary position, but that he’ll find a way to hold it – and the end result will be a draw.

So my final prediction is that the Scorpions will win this match 3-1. I feel like they’ve proven they can win big (Week 1 vs. Chicago), and I know all 4 of them are prettttttttttty fiery after a loss. And I REALLY love Applebee’s, but we can only go there when we win. So even though it’s a pretty ambitious prediction, I’m confident the Scorpions have got this!

Week 3 Predictions by FM Robby Adamson

Week 2 was a tough one to predict which was borne out by my terrible predictions.  New Jersey, Boston, and Miami move to 2-0 records though I don’t think all three will be 3-0 after this week. Lets look at the matches!

Carolina Cobras vs New Jersey Knockouts

Poor Carolina – seems like they are getting tough pairings. This week they face a 2473 lineup, and Boris Gulko on 2nd board. Isn’t this overkill? I know GM Joel pleaded to not pick them, but I can not help it. New Jersey wins 3-1.

Queens Pioneers vs. New York Knights

Interesting match-up with Stripunsky vs. Kacheisvili.  Even though Stripunsky is white, Giorgi is really solid, almost as solid as Levon the Stable. I think this game is a toss-up. GM Charbonneau is a little better than his roommate, IM Schenider, but this is also a toss-up. Assuming each team nets a point on these first 2 boards, it comes down to Andrei Zaremba, getting 3 whites to start the year (can’t the schedule be adjusted to avoid such situations? I mean, I think AZ has 3 straight whites and 3 straight blacks!) who faces NM Matt Herman while the Knights counter on board 4 with Mr. Stonewall Norowitz vs. Elizabeth Vicary. I think the match is going to be close but I think the scales tip slightly in NY’s favor. One of these times I pick NY, they are going to come through. This time is it! Knights win 2.5-1.5.

Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Philadelphia Inventors

Philly has dropped their first 2 matches, and I just don’t see them winning this match either, with Baltimore having advantages on boards 1 and 4. However, I also don’t see them losing the match either. If Kritz beats Kudrin, Philly will have a hard time winning; if the reverse happens, Philly has a great chance to win. Lenderman can make up for this on board 2. All in all, I predict a tie.

Dallas Destiny vs. Boston Blitz

Boston chose to put up 2 2600′s and 2 low masters.  Dallas, in a 0-2 hole, brought out the big guns for this match. This will be an interesting contrast to the more balanced Dallas lineup. Jacek Stopa makes his 2009 debut vs. LarryC.  I predict a tie, though it would not surprise me if Dallas pulls this one out, given their balanced approach. Also making their USCL debut is  FM Darwin Yang – a stud in the making, and someone Dallas will really need if they want to stay in the match.

Tennessee Tempo vs. Chicago Blaze

Ehlvest is back which is never good news for the other team, and with the white pieces, is a huge favorite over IM Felecan, someone known for not being afraid to mix it up. The match with IM Angelo Young and FM Todd Andrews will be some tactical mess, while the other 2 matches are toss-ups. All in all, Tennessee is a favorite and they should come through in a very tight match. TN wins 2.5-1.5.

Miami Sharks vs. San Francisco Mechanics

With the depth that SF has, it will be hard for me to ever predict that they will lose a match. You know it will happen at some point, but I don’t think Miami is strong enough. SF wins 2.5-1.5.

Arizona Scorpions vs. Seattle Sluggers

AZ wins 2.5-1.5 (do you really expect me to pick against my team?). Go Scorpions!

Last Week: 1-6 record

2009 Record: 5-9 record