Karklins Ties for First at Kings Island

FM Andrew Karklins scored 4/6 in the Open Section of the 2009 Kings Island tournament last weekend and tied for first place.

Andrew has of course been playing chess for while and despite not playing too often he always seems to do well when he does.

Andrew took a draw in the first round against an Ohio expert. He then proceeded to defeat 3 expert players and draw with an IM.

Congratulations to Andrew for a fine performance. He gained 16 rating points from the tournament to move up to 2263.

In other news from the tournament expert Zach Kasiurak scored 4/6 in the U2100 section to tie for second place. Zach gained 27 rating points to move up to 2061.

Expert from Evanston chess club Matthew Pullin scored 3.5/6 in the U2100 section for a tie for fourth place only losing one game to the section winner. Matthew gained 10 rating points to move up to 2049.

Stayin' Alive

The Blaze keep their playoff chances on life support and pull the plug on the defending champs

They may not be the team they were last year, but the Dallas Destiny are still the defending champions of the U.S. Chess League, and last night the Blaze beat them—convincingly.

The 3.5/4 score for the evening was the most resounding victory of the season for Chicago. It eliminated Dallas from playoff contention and kept our own long-shot hopes for postseason play alive, at least until Miami plays this week and possibly into the final week of the season. We had to win last night’s match, and we did, with three victories, a draw, and no losses.

Highlights? Where do I start?

Most likely with IM Jan van de Mortel, who has been settling splendidly into Board 1 of late. Two weeks after beating GM Jaan Ehlvest, Jan played a thrilling game against IM John Bartholomew, coming back from a significant material disadvantage to win.

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Winning is Grand

Blaze beat a GM-laden Tennessee lineup

Earlier in the week we asked the following about this week’s match between Chicago and Tennessee:

“Can the Tempo do it? Can they finally beat the Blaze with two top grandmasters?”

The answer, we can now tell you, is no.

Last Wednesday night the Tennessee Tempo threw everything they had at the Chicago Blaze in an attempt to reverse a three-match losing streak against the Windy City, and it wasn’t enough. Despite Tennessee’s having two of the strongest players in the United States on Boards 1 and 2, the Blaze prevailed, winning the match 2.5-1.5.

The big news of the night was that that IM Jan van de Mortel of the Blaze overcame a 241-ratings-point deficit to beat GM Jaan Ehlvest. In a wild unbalanced game that has won the league’s Upset of the Week prize, Jan emerged from an intense series of captures up three pawns on Move 30. GM Ehlvest resigned ten moves later.

The still-undefeated IM Angelo Young beat off a tough comeback attempt by FM John Bick to give the Blaze their second victory on Board 3, and Trevor Magness drew Gerald Larson on Board 4 to give us the margin of victory.

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Inventive Play

By hook or crook the Blaze find a way not to lose

The winner: IM Jan van de Mortel

Confounding the league prognosticators who had picked us to go down, the Chicago Blaze fought to the very end last night and found a way not to lose to the favored Philadelphia Inventors. With a victory on Board 2 and draws on Boards 3 and 4, the Blaze played the Brotherly Love contingent to a 2-2 draw.

It was IM Jan van de Mortel who supplied the key win, playing Black against the higher-rated IM Bryan Smith. In a cool endgame, Jan sacrificed the exchange on Move 39, freeing himself to create a passed pawn that tied up White’s remaining rook while Jan’s unmolested king went to work picking off White’s kingside pawns. Meanwhile, the out-of-position White king, powerless to stop the carnage, looked on in horror from the back rank. Smith resigned on Move 47.

Jan’s win was abetted by FM Florin Felecan and NM Eric Rosen, who held on to draw their opponents.

Here are the games:

GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) vs IM Alex Lenderman (PHI) 0-1
IM Bryan Smith (PHI) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 0-1
FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs IM Richard Costigan (PHI) 1/2-1/2
4. Kavinayan Sivakumar (PHI) vs NM Eric Rosen (CHC) 1/2-1/2

Special thanks to William Shehan, majordomo of the Midway Chess Club, who served as our Celebrity Tournament Director for the evening.

Our record now stands at 1.5-4 with four games left in the regular season. A victory last night would have done a great deal more for our playoff hopes, though if we can put together a string of wins in the weeks ahead we’ll keep our chances alive.

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Pummeled by the Pugilists

Knockouts squeak past Blaze 2.5-1.5

The hero of the night: NM Eric Rosen

In another close contest against a league leader that looked like it could have ended in a draw, the Blaze ultimately came up short Wednesday night, losing 2.5-1.5 to the New Jersey Knockouts, the only USCL team with a perfect record, which now improves to 5-0.

The Blaze, by contrast, fall to 1-4 at midseason and are in serious need of victories in the coming weeks if we are to keep our playoff hopes alive.

There are always bright spots, even in defeats, and this week’s was the victory by newly minted NM Eric Rosen over Jersey’s NM Andrew Ng in Eric’s first game as a Blazer. The game marks another milestone in the annus mirabilis that has been 2009 for the Niles North High School sophomore, who this year has earned the national master title, won the U.S. Junior Open, beaten one grandmaster, and drawn another. In the latest USCF rankings, Eric is number five nationally in his age group, his highest ever.

Though it certainly would have been a better match if we’d won or drawn, it was a good one nevertheless. The toughest assignment of the night went to Chicago's IM Jan van de Mortel, who had to face the former U.S. Champion GM Joel Benjamin with the Black pieces. Jan played a strong game that looked drawish in the middle game to some onlookers, but Benjamin was able to take control and win. FM Mehmed Pasalic fell behind in time to his higher-rated opponent, IM Albert Kapengut, and Jersey was able to put that one in the W column as well. In the final game of the night to end, IM Angelo Young struggled mightily for a victory that would have drawn the match, but before his kingside attack could get underway, his opponent, SM Mackenzie Molner, found strong counterplay and hung Angelo up on the queenside. The game ended in a draw. Remarkably, however, Angelo remains undefeated in USCL competition.

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