Just three days before the US Chess League was scheduled to start, its website came to life, the rosters were identified and the first round was completed last Monday. As previously mentioned in this column, the teams will be the same as last year. However, the teams’ personnel will not be the same.
Nearly all the leading US players will participate. Missing, however, are GMs Gata Kamsky, Alex Lenderman, Robert Hess, and Jan Ehlvest. Notable players who will be in the arena are GM Hikaru Nakamura (who may also be busy elsewhere) for the St. Louis Arch Bishops; GMs Yuri Shulman and Josh Friedel for the Chicago Blaze; GM Patrick Wolff for the San Francisco Mechanics, and GM Varuzhan Akobian for the Seattle Sluggers.
Of local interest are the New England Nor’easters, which ran away with last year’s USCL Championship, and the Boston Blitz. The New England roster for 2011 contains some new faces: IM Jonathan Yedidia, rejoining the wars after a layoff of some 10 years; Mika Brattain, a Lexington youngster who shows steady improvement; the veteran Ben Goldberg; and Alex Fikiet, a young Connecticut player of enormous potential. Absent this year is IM Jan van de Mortel, who is now playing for the Blitz, and despite their good performances in the past, Chris Chase and Carey Theil. New England will continue have Sam Shankland on board 1 and Robert Hungaski on board 2. Other strong players on the roster are Charles Reardon, Braden Bournival, and Alex Cherniack.
This year, the Boston Blitz has moved to Providence from the very comfortable Harvard Observatory in Cambridge. The Blitz will still be managed by Jorge Sammour-Hasbrun and will still have GMs Larry Christiansen and Eugene Perelshteyn leading the way. The team will still have the dangerous IM Marc Esserman and the steady NM Vadim Martirosov. New to the team will be Rhode Island player David Griego, who is returning to play after a long absence. The shift to Providence may create logistical difficulties for the Boston-based players. We will see if this affects the team’s weekly lineup. Looking through the USCL teams, Boston, New England, and the New Jersey Knockouts (with Joel Benjamin and Boris Gulko) will be strong. Less-regarded teams, like the Miami Sharks, should not to be counted out as they have lesser-known but very capable players.
Results of the first set of matches for the 2011 USCL season are in: the Manhattan Applesauce and the Philly Inventors drew, 2-2; the always dangerous Arizona Scorpions beat the Miami Sharks, 2.5-1.5; and the vibrant LA Vibe drew the self-proclaimed team of destiny, Dallas, 2-2.
Brevity: S. Hutchings v. A. Stewart (1988): 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 f6 6.exf6 Qxf6 7.Bg2 Bg4 8.Nbd2 0-0-0 9.h3 Bh5 10.0-0 h6 11.Qa4 Be8 12.Ne1 Qe6 13.Nd3 Qxe2 14.Re1 Qh5 15.Nf4 Qf5 16.Ne6 Rd6 17.Nxd4 Rxd4 18.Rxe8+ Kd7 19.Nf3 Rd1+ 20.Qxd1+ Kxe8 21.Nh4; 1-0 (The game might have proceeded with 21… Qf6 22.Qh5+ Qf7 23.Qb5)
Winners: Waltham July Game/20: Denys Shmelov, 4-0, Sven Brask Summer Swiss: David Harris, 4.5-.05; The Charles Draft Memorial: 1st, Chris Chase, 4-0, 2d-3d, Eric Godin and Evan Meyer, both 3-1.
Coming Events: Boylston Thursday Night Swiss, Sept. 8, 15, 22, 29, at Boylston Chess Club, 240 Elm St., Suite B9, Somerville, www.boylstonchessclub.org; Saturday Night Action Chess, Chess Master Connections, 201 Wayland Ave. Providence. www.chessmasterconnections.org.