Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lineup for Second Match Announced !

The Lineups for the Second Match have been announced ! This was a match that we immediately spotted when the schedule was released as it was against the Defending Champions, the Dallas Destiny. This team, similar to us, has a very balanced roster almost every round and, as was shown last year, can compete with any team. This will be a competitive match! Okay on to the match ups!

The names listed to the left have White for the game while the names in bold are Scorpion players.

Dallas Destiny vs Arizona Scorpions

Board 1
IM Drasko Boskovic (2507) --- IM Levon Altounian (2535)

Board 2
FM Danny Rensch (2411) --- IM John Bartholomew (2488)

Board 3
FM Igor Schneider (2397) --- FM Robby Adamson (2377)

Board 4
NM Warren Harper (2351) --- NM Bayaraa Zorigt (2217)

All the ratings are current and are not the ratings being used for the league. As you can see this will be a very tight match. As I have said from the beginning it will all come down to who plays well and who doesn't. I have my own feelings about the match but I will leave the predictions to others. Come cheer our team on at the Eastside Chess Club at the Jewish Community Center in Tucson!

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Comments on the Opening Match

You can find more commentary on the opening match from a video by the US Chess League Commissioner Greg Shahade at

You can also see commentary by our second board IM Mark Ginsburg of the match at his blog:

For the match this week the lineups for both teams will be announced Sunday night at this blog. Stay tuned and get ready for the match this Wednesday!

Game of the Week Results for Week 1- Levon Altounian finishes 3rd!

The Arizona Scorpion's own IM Levon Altounian finished third overall (out of 28 games judged) in the just released Game of the Week competition for his fine effort as white against the Chicago Blaze's IM Jan Van De Mortel. Check out the judge's rankings at

Please check out Levon's comments on this game at Congratulations Levon!

Also, Jan was kind enough to provide his own insights to the game in the comment section of Leo's in depth analysis of the Scorpions Week 1 encouter. Thanks Jan! Both Lev and Jan seem to agree in their assessment of the game.

I finished 8th overall in the voting for my win against NM John Burgess. The analysis for my game can be found at the same link.

Each week in the US Chess League (USCL), all of that week's games are evaluated by three judges (IM Greg Shahade, NM Arum Sharma, and NM Jonathan Hilton), and at the end of the season there is a vote by a different set of judges (to avoid bias by the seemingly emotional response to games by the 3 judges - just partially kidding of course) to determine who wins Game of the Year (for those acronymistic-obsessive compulsiveOCD-driven-nutty chess fans, the abbreviation is GOTY, not to be confused with GOTW - Game of the Week). Should we introduce a new one - GOTWJs?

Not that anyone needs any additional motivation to play well, but there are a few cash prizes awarded for the best games at the end of the season (a whopping $1,000 for first!). Because I was not playing on a team in the USCL last year, I was honored to be one of the game of the year judges and it is a tough job. Even if a game doesnt win GOTW honors, it can still qualify as a wild card entry and be eligible for GOTY.

Root the Scorpions on at the Eastside Chess Club held at the Jewish Community Center this Wednesday, September 3, at 6 pm AZ time, for our Week 2 encounter against the Dallas Destiny - the 2007 Champion. The lineups for both teams will be announced Sunday evening.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More Pictures! See Also Post Below !

This post and the one below are the many pictures taken at the playing site of the Arizona Scorpions first match. In this post the pictures are taken by James Martin displaying the obvious intensity of the players during the match. James really captured Lev's concentration during the game.

In the post below are pictures taken by Amanda Mateer that really showed how our team connected and showed the fun parts, including winning and the celebration afterward, of the match.

Both of them did a great job and took some amazing pictures. They both also contrasted in types of photos which was perfect as well. Big thank you again goes out to James Martin and Amanda Mateer !

Week 1 Photos

Hey all!

Here are some pictures from the Week 1 matchup against the Chicago Blaze. (Pictures taken by Amanda Mateer and James Martin)

Analysis and Summary -- Arizona Scorpions vs. Chicago Blaze

This match was pretty interesting. The games were played at Levon Altounian's house and were supposed to start around 630 PM Tucson time (930 PM ET). Around 6:29 PM our internet went out probably affected by the weather as it was raining in Tucson the entire day. However, everything turned out alright with the internet not out long and the games started slightly late around 6:35 PM or so.

Check out Robby Adamson's summary of the games from the first match below. I wanted to put a little bit of analysis and explanation on some of the games this week as well (in order of how they finished):

Week 1:
Arizona (2.5) ---- Chicago (1.5)

Board 4
Ilan Meerovich (CHC) vs NM Warren Harper (ARZ) 1-0

This game was tough as we had not expected a Saimisch with 6. f3 and instead had reviewed over some lines for 4. e3 as we had seen Ilan play this before. Warren thought for 16 minutes on 8...f5? showing that he did not know this specific line. The main line goes 8...b6 planning to play a quick 9...Ba6. He probably got confused in that after both of the other theoretical moves, 8. Qd2 and 8 dc5 (the main line), Black can play 8...f5. The difference is that in the game White can play 9. e4 immediately and has no problems developing his kingside while also keeping a large center. After 8. Qd2 f5 9. e4 is not possible due to 9...fe4 10. fe4 Qh4+. After this inaccuracy Black seemed very cramped and his pieces did not have good squares. On top of this White had the center. Of course if Warren gets a good opening he is a very impressive player however in this case Warren's position after the opening didn't give him a chance to show this. After 15. e5! Black was already suffering and after some accurate moves by Ilan (16. Qg6 and 17. Qg3) the game ended quickly.

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs NM Jon Burgess (CHC) 1-0

This game was very strange all around and to add to this was Robby's terrible time management. Robby had prepared some of this line himself. Despite this Robby was down to 4 minutes while his opponent still had 38 minutes by move 20. However the time control used had a 30 second increment which means that after every move you play 30 seconds is added to your clock. This allows players to play out of their time trouble to some extent.
As he mentions Milov, one of the Kan's experts, has been playing 5...Ne7 recently. I had thought that 7. Nb3 was the common way to play against ...Ne7 in the Sicilian discoordinating the knights but maybe the way Robby played was also promising. Robby was loving his position around moves 15 and 16 however I'm not sure if I share his opinion that "I was winning after 16. g5" as he said at the team dinner afterward. However he did seem to play pretty well having the initiative and attack on the kingside for most of the game. However some of Black's moves (15...Rfe8) were debatable. However after 20...d5 all of a sudden it's not clear where White's attack is going to breakthrough. I was analyzing 23...Qxg6 during the game trying to figure out what White's way to breakthrough was as it seemed to me that White had overextended. I ended up thinking that 24. Rxb7 Nxb7 25. Nc5 was just good for White. Luckily after 25. Qh5 Black completely missed the threat of 26. Rxg7 mating and Robby was able to end the game very nicely. This game was also crucial as it gave the remaining two games some encouragement and in some ways changed the momentum of the match. After that the body language of Lev and Mark seemed much more positive to me.

Board 1
IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0

This game was the best played game of the match with Lev holding a slight edge for most of the game and really pushing for a win due to the match situation. Lev's aggressive intentions were obvious early when he played 13 h4 instead of playing quieter. The game really heated up when White played 24 b4! playing on both sides of the board. Lev was slightly afraid of 27. bc5 f5!? when after 28 cb6 the position looks good for White but looks very wild. But Black played 27...bc5 very quickly and this was a critical moment. It seems that 28. Nc5 was an innaccuracy as it allows a tactic while first 28. Rb8 Rb8 29 Nc5 avoided this tactic. Warren and I were analyzing, unsuccessfully, in a different room trying our best to understand all the tactics in the position around move 28 trying to piece apart what Levon was doing. We hadn't seen Black's saving idea which both players also missed. After 32 Ne4 Black had 32...Rb8! 31 Qa1 Ra8 32 Qb1 and here Black has a draw with 32...Rb8 (which would have been good for the match situation) or can go for something else with 32...Ra2!. Of course with both players having 2-3 minutes seeing all this was pretty difficult. Anyways after 32...f5? Black is losing after the forced line in the game with the very nice 36. Qb4! attacking f8 and mate on h4 being a nice final touch. After this nice game by Lev the match score was 2-1.

Board 2
FM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) vs IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) 1/2-1/2

This game was the last to finish and was tight the entire way. Arizona needed a draw to win the match and Chicago of course had to win. These two players played fairly recently with Mark drawing with Black that time as well. The opening was well played by both players and even 15...Qc5!? is actually a common idea and is used in these types of positions sometimes when you get the tempo on the knight on d4. Around move 24 Mark offered a draw but at this point it seemed that Pasalic had to go all out for a win in order to save the match for Chicago. After a while the pawn structure stabilized and Black had the two bishops but White was slightly better due to his strong knight on c5. At this point most of the team was watching the match in another room, too nervous to go and look at Mark's game directly. Black lost a pawn on move 47 due to some "sneaky" play according to Mark. However, Black has some chances due to his active rook, two bishops, and the mutual time trouble. Both players had 1-2 minutes left at this point. Both players missed that after 53 Rb3 Black has 53...Ba6! which looks ok for Black after 54. Na6 Rb3 55 Qb3 Qa6. Black didn't play 54...Qb4 due to 55. Qc8 Qb3 56 Qh8 Kg5 57. h4 Kf4 58 Qh6 winning for White.
After 58...Qa7 Black finally got some active moves in with 61...Qf7 (Lev and I were analyzing 61...Qa2 which was also interesting) and 62...Qh5 and and after 65...Qg5 a couple moves later Pasalic had to accept that the position was drawn.

A crazy match ! Stay tuned for more updates as well as many photos which were taken by Amanda Mateer and will be posted by her soon. Thanks go out to Amanda, Ben Marmont, and Pasha Savine for their help in relaying the games and taking pictures as well as to all our spectators.

Until next Wednesday on September 3rd when we play the defending champions, the Dallas Destiny!

Monday, August 25, 2008

AZ Scorpions Win Week 1 Thriller!

Wow, what a first week in the US Chess League! If the future matches are anything like tonight's match, fans of the AZ Scorpions are in for a treat. Even though our team outranked Chicago on all boards, Chicago Blaze gave us all they could handle. The below games are analyzed in the order they finished.

Board 4: Meerovich - NM Warren Harper 1-0
Warren Harper had trouble on board 4, losing to Chicago's Ilan Meerovich. Warren did not know the Saemisch Nimzo Indian and it showed. I am quite sure Warren will bounce back because he is a lot stronger than this game shows.

Board 3: FM Adamson - NM Burgess 1-0
This game began as a Kan Sicilian where black black played 6.Bd3 Ne7 - a favorite of Vadim Milov. I had no previous experience with this line, but I got a fantastic position. I fell in love with my position too much however, and got into ridiculous time pressure. I was fortunate to overcome a terrible time disadvantage to finish off the game in style. If my opponent had defended better, the game would have been quite interesting. After I won, the match was tied 1-1.

Board 1: IM Altounian - IM Van De Mortel 1-0
Our first board, IM Levon Altounian, tried to mate black on the kingside in a Symmetrical English, but Van Der Mortel put up great defense and could have forced a draw and perhaps better. But remember something, when you are under pressure, it is difficult to find these moves and a lot easier when you are an observer! Levon found a nice tactic, and of course avoided a potentially embarrasing stalemate to finish off Van De Mortel. After Levon came through to put us ahead it all came down to board 2 and Mark Ginsburg.

Board 2: IM-Elect Pasalic - IM Ginsburg 1/2-1/2
Despite having a disadvantage for much of the game (though I thought Mark equalized in the opening after his Qc5, Qh5 maneuver - a typical maneuver), Mark hung in there against IM-Elect Pasalic, and was able to earn a draw under time pressure, and thereby win the match for the Scorpions.

Root for us next week when we face off against 2007 USCL Champion, the Dallas Destiny!

Check out predictions of the First Match

Predictions for the first match of the Arizona Scorpions vs the Chicago Blaze today can be found at
by Arun Sharma,


by Ed Scimia,

and at

Check them out and send good vibes to the Scorpions tonight at 6:30 PM Tucson Time !

Also the poll to the right was written by Mark Ginsburg.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lineups for First Match Announced !

The lineups of both teams for the first match on August 25th against the Chicago Blaze have been announced. Some of the Blaze seem to be unavailable for this first match so some of their better players such as GM Nikola Mitkov and IM's Emory Tate and Angelo Young are not playing. However, the team that Chicago has put up is very solid on all boards and the match should nevertheless be a struggle.
The Matchups:

Board 1
IM Levon Altounian 2535 vs. IM Jan Van De Mortel 2460

Board 2
IM Mark Ginsburg 2414 vs. FM Mehmed Pasalic 2375

Board 3
FM Robby Adamson 2344 vs. NM Jon Burgess 2263

Board 4
NM Warren Harper 2301 vs. Ilan Meerovich 2131

The bolded names are the players playing White in their game.
The match starts at 6:30 PM Arizona time (9:30 PM EST) and will be broadcast online on the Internet Chess Club. This match will be held in Tucson at Levon Altounian's house at 2772 N. Neruda Lane Tucson, Arizona 85712. Come cheer us on !

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ACE Chess Excited to be with Scorpions!

Hey All-

This is Danny Rensch, President of American Chess Events, LLC and "over-rated-dummy" chess player on Scorpions team. :) Seriously though, I am extremely psyched to be a part of the Arizona Scorpions, and I hope we don't disappoint our "huge" number of fans! :) Seriously though again, I am ready to give my best to the team in all aspects of preparation and competing. Please look to my site for articles and updates about the team. Also, for anyone looking for some serious "over-the-board" play, come to a Master Trek tournament @ ASU. Masters play for free, and if they give some of the kids their rating points, I will buy them lunch too... Just joking. Check me out, and shoot me an email. Later Scorpions!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dionisio Aldama ties for 1st in Southern Open in Florida

IM Dionisio Aldama tied for first scoring 4/5 points in the strong Southern Open in Altamonte Springs, Florida, held August 15th to the 17th. Dionisio tied for first with GM Julio Becerra and IM Blas Lugo. He only gave up one draw to Becerra (and took a half point bye in the first round) after beating two experts as well as IM Kirill Kuderinov (2525). Congratulations and hopefully he can carry this on to the league!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arizona Scorpions Complete their Roster

The Arizona Scorpions have chosen the final two members of their team. The first player added to the main roster of the team is the strong International Master Dionisio Aldama who has always been rated around 2500. He adds more strength to the top of our lineup and gives the team many more options.

Our last player we are adding is the 2007 US Senior Open Champion NM Joel Johnson rated around 2220. He will be our last alternate and is a valuable weapon to put onto the team when we need him due to his vast experience.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Overview of the Arizona Scorpions

As one of the assistant managers of the Arizona Scorpions (Danny Rensch is the other), I want to thank everyone for the kind words of support for our team in the first year of existence. Thanks to everyone in the State for your support.

Our team will be competitive in the ultra-strong US Chess League (, and we expect big things in our first year. Our team is excited to face Grandmasters such as Hikaru Nakamura, who recently made 2700 FIDE, Alexander Stripunsky, Julio Becerra, and many other strong GM’s.

The US Chess League rules provide that the average rating of the team, consisting of 4 players each week, must be 2400.75/under. While many teams feature top heavy lineups, our team is very balanced and we have numerous potential lineups.

Our potential board 1’s (IM Rogelio Barcenilla, IM Levon Altounian, and IM Dionisio Aldama) are all very strong and will manage the top board nicely. The rest of our lineup will consist of an International Master (IM Mark Ginsburg), Fide Masters (Robby Adamson, Danny Rensch, and Ken Larsen), and National Masters (Warren Harper, Leo Martinez and Joel Johnson) on board 2-4. The trick in deciding a team each week is where you want your strength to be. Our team has the flexibility to field a slightly stacked team on the top or bottom boards or a well balanced team on all boards, depending on the other team's lineup. Virtually all of our lineups feature average ratings of between 2385-2400.

We encourage everyone to follow the progress of the Arizona Scorpions on the Internet Chess Club ( each week, or to attend the matches in person (make sure and check our website for the location and directions since some of the matches will be held in Tucson and some will be held in Phoenix).

Stay tuned for more information on how to make donations to support the Arizona Scorpions. If you wish to make a donation to support the team, please contact Leo Martinez at, Robby Adamson at, or Danny Rensch at We need donations to pay for a site, reimbursement of travel expenses, paying a TD, etc. Any support is appreciated.

Friday, August 8, 2008

RZA from Wu-Tang Clan comes to local Chess tournament from the new organization 9 Queens

The newly created 9 Queens Foundation, created by Tucsonan Jean Hoffman and WGM Jennifer Shahade, recently ran a large tournament in Tucson with the famous rap star and avid chess player and fan, RZA. You can find out more about the 9 Queens foundation at Many of Tucson's junior players helped run the main blitz tournament as well as some other events, such as a simul, blindfold chess, teaching sessions and much more. A three part video about the event can be seen at

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Commentary about Arizona Team

There is a little bit of commentary and analysis on the Arizona Scorpions team on the US Chess League website. It is done by Arun Sharma and can be seen at

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Most of Team Announced !

Most of the players on the Arizona Scorpions team have been announced !
The team so far consists of:
IM Rogelio Barcenilla 2560
IM Levon Altounian 2535
IM Mark Ginsburg 2410
FM Danny Rensch 2411
FM Robby Adamson 2377
FM Ken Larsen 2322
NM Warren Harper 2351
NM Leo Martinez 2209

Every team is allowed 10 players to be on the team with 2 of these players as alternates. The entire ten player team is not known yet however.

This team is very strong with some experience and some youth as well. Warren Harper is a talented young player that has done very well and has only started playing in recent years.

How the team will do in this very competitive league is a question but I believe that we can be competitive with any team in the league and will have great chances of success. If anyone has any suggestions or comments concerning the team or the league you can respond to this post. Thanks and good luck !