This week I sat down and chatted with GM Alejandro Ramirez (AR). We discussed him playing for the Scorpions, the weekly match-ups and a dreaded can of sardines.
EJ: How does it feel to be the Scorpions’ first GM?
AR: I feel great! I am very happy to represent the Scorpions this year, it’s a very tough season and I’m glad we started very well.
EJ: You’ve visited Arizona many times before, but I’m sure I was not the only one surprised to see your name on our roster. So, how did it come to be that you’re a Scorpion and not a member of the Destiny (for example)?
AR: Yeah, I was a bit surprised too! However I’m happy I am able to play for the Scorpions. It’s a bit of a long story. Ultimately I had an offer from both teams, but I love Arizona and love visiting the people here, especially some of my really close friends, and I figured Arizona needed me a bit more than the two time champions.
EJ: Well we love having you here.
AR: Thanks! I love being here.
EJ: But aren’t you still in school?
AR: Yes, but luckily I’m in grad school, so I only have classes Monday and Tuesdays, which gives me a lot of traveling time.
EJ: opps… back to your game. Had you played GM Mitkov before? Either on ICC or OTB.
AR: Nope, never. I have played many tournaments with him, even in my home country Costa Rica last year, but never against him. It was an interesting experience, I think I outplayed him this time, but I also know he is a strong player and would have to watch out if I play him again.
EJ: Well the Scorpions do face the Blaze again later this season. Was week 1 how you thought it would be or were there surprises?
AR: Honestly, it was more or less how I expected. The organization of the team was very nice, and the game went as well as I hoped. I prepared a bit for my debut and the game went more or less how I thought it would.
EJ: Were you concerned of Elliot Liu’s prediction spoiling your opening?
AR: Haha, not at all. Actually this is one of the first Catalan’s that I played, normally I play the Nimzo-Indian. I was surprised that Liu chose the Catalan as one of his predictions, but it turns out he was right!
EJ: Perhaps we’ll have to pay more attention to his predictions… There was a takeback on move 14. Can you explain what happened? And your thoughts at the time.
AR: Yeah. I mean I don’t think it was his fault, but there needs to be some consistency on the rules. From what I understand, someone was relaying the moves for him, and whoever did it mouseslipped badly.
EJ: Mouseslipped a rook move instead of a bishop move? Real thoughts on that mouseslip… should the move have stayed?
AR: No. Since it wasn’t Mitkov’s fault, I can see how it doesn’t matter which piece was moved on the ICC board since that was never what he intended. I think that players can use relayers, but that the relayers should be held accountable for what they do after all. I mean it wasn’t his fault. It’s just that rules against relayers should be more strict.
EJ: How was it communicated to you what happened? Was there an immediate take back request?
AR: It wasn’t. Leo told me after and Greg just kind of made me take the move back.
EJ: I noticed it took a moment before you captured the rook… did you think it was a trap?
AR: No, I just was making sure I wasn’t missing something. Also I wanted to see if taking with the rook or the knight was better.
EJ: Fortunately it didn’t matter, unlike the other game last week. Do you think relayers is a problem in the USCL?
AR: No, I think it’s fine, but they shouldn’t be used as shields.
EJ: Do the Scorpions use relayers?
AR: Some people do, I think Adelberg used a relayer. I personally don’t like people messing with my game.
EJ: How about the rest of the team’s matches? Did you think to yourself that we’d go 3.5 – .5 to start the season?
AR: Honestly, I expected a win but I didn’t know by which margin. Robby playing a Sicilian is fantastic, he is just in his home turf, while Levon was just ultra solid. David had me scared for a bit, but once he found the nice Qa5! I was sure we had that point too.
EJ: Anyone in the league you particularly look forward to playing against? A rival, a friend, someone you admire…?
AR: Well, obviously as a fighter I would love to play GM Nakamura again, specially since I’m 0-2 against him, however I will do whatever the team needs me to do since my visits to Arizona are limited, unfortunately.
EJ: Sounds good. But don’t mention that “anything for the team” too loudly near Robby. I hear he makes house guests clean his car.
AR: If by car you mean sardine can on wheels.
EJ: It looks like we have you for Week 1 and 2. Any thoughts on your week 2 match against the Tempo?
AR: It’s going to be very interesting. I saw their line up and there will be some epic battles. We are very strong on board two and really need a win there, the fourth board is a toss up and Robby will hopefully out-prepare Andrews. As for me I am hoping for another exciting game with GM Ehlvest, we’ve played three times and they have all ended in draws. Being a team game and me having black, I will not mind if we draw a fourth time, but anything can happen with such a strong player.
EJ: How many of those previous meetings were with Black?
AR: Uh, none now that I think about it. Oops!
EJ: Sounds like it’ll be an exciting match-up.
AR: Definitely. Ehlvest is a legend, and it’s always fun to play Legends!
EJ: Any predictions for the game and match? (or are your keeping that close to your vest?)
AR: I’m excited, but I’ll try not to divulge too much. Preparing will be a nightmare, everyone knows that Ehlvest is completely unpredictable. I’ve tried three times and I’ve failed to predict his choice all three! I still predict we take this, but it will definitely be close. A lot rests on Levon, as I said.
EJ: What have you been up to between the matches? Hopefully not cleaning out a sardine can….
AR: Nooo! That thing is beyond saving! I took the opportunity of Labor Day to go to the South California Open in San Diego, where I tied for first place.
EJ: Congrats! Levon also spend the weekend winning the Arizona State Championship. Go Scorpions!
AR: Yeah, we did good.
EJ: Enjoying the sites of Tucson during the day or just staying out of the heat?
AR: Mainly staying out of the heat, I have a lot of school work being a master’s student, and especially after winning the tournament! To be honest I just got home about half an hour ago, so I’m just in my relax after tournament time.
EJ: Well, I’m sure you deserve it. This isn’t your first time in the league… what was your previous experience like?
AR: Pretty horrible, a combination of freshman year in college and a sharp decline in my chess playing skills that year led me to finish in a “-1″ season with two losses, one win and too many draws. This is much more pleasant. However I have had a lot of fun being the TD of the Destiny last year!
EJ: Any thoughts on the week 5 match-up against the Destiny? You’ll either be on Board 1 or in Dallas…
AR: Well, I’m obviously torn, but I represent the Scorpions now. If they need me I will play any of my arch-rivals from Dallas for the 20th time! That is actually no exaggeration, as I have played Destiny’s first board, Stopa, over 18 times, out of which only 4 games have been draws.
EJ: Despite the number of high level players, draws are rather uncommon in the USCL… any guesses as to why?
AR: Well, Internet chess always adds an extra edge to the games, since people don’t feel the same way as in a normal game. Also, and more importantly, the games are rather quick, which tends to produce a lot of decisive results. Whatever makes more fighting chess is a plus in my views.
EJ: Do you think Internet chess will someday overtake OTB chess?
AR: I doubt it, I think they are integral to each other, but OTB will always be fancier and favored by serious players, whereas Internet is more relaxed and more fun for the spectators.
EJ: Looking back at the beginning of the USCL, what are your thoughts on how it’s progressed to today?
AR: I think that it has expanded greatly, and I am very happy to see its progress. People are more involved in blogs, following the games and true team spirit is obviously forming in the different cities. I look forward to the expansion of new teams and more and more interest by the media and ICC followers.
EJ: What is the appeal of the USCL for yourself and (in your opinion) GMs in general?
AR: What it comes down to is that we love chess. USCL gives us an opportunity to play top chess against other players in the country without the hassle of traveling or committing to a result, as you would in a tournament. The bonding of team mates is absolutely fantastic as well. And finally, of course, the prestige.
EJ: Thoughts on the future of the league. Where is it going? Where SHOULD it be going?
AR: I think it should be looking for coverage outside the ICC, hopefully some kind of media will want to follow it. Chess needs as much attention as it can get.
EJ: After this match you’re off to UTD until who knows when. Do you know when you might be back? (or is that a secret too?)
AR: I think we are keeping that close to our vest. (another way of saying, no we don’t know yet)
EJ: What’s it going to take to get you here (in AZ) full time?
AR: well, we will see what happens. I have to finish my masters degree first.
EJ: Well, I’m sure that Leo and Robby will try to kidnap bribe you somehow in the off season.
AR: I can’t say I would be against that. I love Arizona and I love the people.
EJ: I think that about wraps it up.
EJ: Any thing else you’d like to say?
AR: Big shout out to all the Scorpion fans, specially Steve Farmer for those awesome videos. Another shout out to our lovely 9th board for giving me a ride to San Diego this weekend.
EJ: Congrats again!
EJ: The Scorpion fans are glad you’re playing for us! Good luck on Wednesday!
AR: I’m glad too. Thanks again.
The Scorpions next match is tomorrow at 6:00 PM (local time) against the Tennessee Tempo. You can check them out either in person at the Chavez building at the University of Arizona or on ICC.