Since Monday marked the official beginning of autumn, we can expect some signs of the season. Students return to their studies at school or college. Politicians gear up for the elections on the first weekend of November. Retailers order merchandise for the holiday shopping season. Sports fans cheer for their favorite football teams or prepare for the baseball playoffs. And chess players also have the opportunity to support their favorite players and teams.
The US Chess League consists of 14 teams in cities ranging from New York to Miami to Arizona and Seattle. The Dallas Destiny, a team comprised largely of students at the University of Texas at Dallas, won the league last year. However, the two teams with the highest historical winning percentage over the first three seasons of the league's existence are the San Francisco Mechanics (68%) and the Boston Blitz (63%).
As luck would have it, the Mechanics face the Blitz this Wednesday at 5:30 Pacific / 8:30 Eastern. Despite their long history of success, these two teams have gone different ways to begin the 2008 campaign. The Blitz stands at 50%, having lost two straight matches and struggling to find wins on the top two boards (one win and two losses). On the other hand, the Mechanics engine appears to run smoothly with a 3.5-0.5 match record fueled by youthful success on the bottom two boards (five wins against two losses).
Here is the fight card for this week. The first player in each pairing is from San Francisco; the second from Boston. San Francisco has white on boards 1+3 and black on 2+4.
- GM-elect Vinay Bhat versus GM Larry Christiansen. The brilliance of a prodigy who recently earned the top title in chess versus the cunningness of the skilled veteran.
- IM David Pruess versus SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun. Fire against fire. There's no doubt which game "Misha" will be watching when he logs in from heaven.
- FM Sam Shankland vs NM Marc Esserman. Two 2400+ rated rising stars go head to head in what should be a cage fight. This is definitely the game to watch.
- FM Daniel Naroditsky vs NM Ilya Krasik. Normally Russians score well in chess against non-Russians. What if both players are Russian? May youth be served!
I plan to watch the action live on ICC between my chess lessons! What about you? And what is my prediction? Mechanics win 3:1 with four decisive games.
Update on Wednesday night: Unfortunately, San Francisco lost by 1:3 to Boston, with a pair of draws earned by Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky. Kudos to Boston's top boards GM Larry Christiansen and SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun for their victories.