The US Chess League has been going on for six weeks now and the regular schedule will end early next month, after which playoffs will take place to determine the final division championship and then the league championship. The league’s rules are designed to force the teams to use lineups of comparable strength. This approach is different from European leagues such as the famous German Chess Bundesliga. “Bundesliga’’ means “national league.’’ There are many such athletic leagues in Germany. The chess Bundesliga teams pay high amounts to get the world’s best players, i.e., Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, and Alexei Shirov.
The US Chess League players may get some remuneration, but it is small and, in part, participation is sort of a patriotic duty. Each team designates 10 players for its roster. From the 10, the team plays each match with four players (in rating order), whose average ratings do not exceed 2400.75, though any player’s rating above 2590 will count only as 2590. Teams thus attempt to get the best players, but try to have a balanced team that can win over 2 points in a single match.
The fledgling New England Nor’easters entered the lists for the first time and achieved a balanced perfection last year, a flawless Platonic form of lineup, crafted by captain David Vigorito, emerging to the league championship with a perfect record. This year he has not been so prescient, partly because his 1st board, Sam Shankland, was away at the FIDE Grand Prix and because last year’s efficient winner on 4th board, Alex Cherniack, was forced, due to a higher rating, to play on the tougher third board. At the end of six rounds, the team has just two points, with only one win against its brother, the Boston Blitz, and ties with Eastern Division leader Philadelphia and Baltimore. The Blitz has 3 points, 1.5 behind Philadelphia. Blitz captain Jorge Sammour-Hasbun has three wins out of four on 1st board, including two sensational ones chosen by the league as games of the week. He got overconfident against Shankland, played a Benko gambit and suffered his one loss. Larry Christiansen has played only one game for the Blitz and lost.
The Chicago Blaze is seeking that pinnacle of perfection the Nor’easters achieved last year. We will not use a metaphor and say it is fired up, but it has to date a score of 6-0, partly because it has top players that include Yury Shulman, Josh Friedel, and Dmitry Gurevich.
The US Chess League serves a salutary purpose. Many marvelous games by US stars appear on the league’s website, and each team plays at a single site and enjoys a local following.
Brevity: M. Filip vs. N. Grushkova-Belska (1951) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bd7 6.Bxc6 bxc6 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Qf3 Bg5 9.e5 d5 10.e6; 1-0 (If 10 . . . fxe, then, 11. Qh5+, g6 12. QxB wins a bishop).
Winners: Boylston Thursday Night Swiss - 1st, Ross Eldridge 4-0, 2d, Andrew Hoy 3-1, 3d-6th, Alex Slive, David Glickman, Terrence Fricker, and Harold Dondis, all with 2.5. First Qualifier, State Scholastic Under 14 - Yi Yang of Shrewsbury; Under 11 - Sandeep Vadlamudi of Lexington; Under 8 - Eddie Wang, Acton
Coming Events: Oct. 23, Greater Boston Open, Best Western Hotel, 181 Boston Post Road, West, Marlborough, email@example.com; Saturday Night Action Chess, Oct. 22, and 2d CMC Scholastic, Oct. 23, both at 291 Wayland Ave. Providence, Jorge@chessmasterconnections.org