Thursday, December 27, 2007

USCL News: Arizona, Chicago, and Nicknames and Logos

There is news from the United States Chess League during the long off-season.

Just today, it was announced that the two new expansion teams will be the Arizona Scorpions and the Chicago Blaze. The teams will be joining the Western division of the USCL, and the Carolina Cobras will move from the West back to the East, where they were in the 2006 season. I think the nicknames are reasonable - there are scorpions in Arizona (I think), and Chicago did burn in that supposedly cow-induced fire.

Certain nicknames in the USCL are hard to figure out, and seem random. I have surveyed them all, as well as their logos.

Baltimore "Kingfishers" - Kingfishers are birds, but only one species is common in North America, the Belted Kingfisher. While the general shape of the bird is close to what is shown on the logo, the colors are wrong. Obviously, kingfisher is a pun on "fishing for the king", but since "fish" is also a term for a bad chessplayer, it just doesn't seem right to name your team that - even if the meaning is different. The Kingfishers do get points, though, because their name is a bird, like other Baltimore sports teams (Orioles, Ravens). Grade: B-

Boston "Blitz" - Blitz clearly has a double entendre - a name for speed chess, as well as a term for beating your opponent (e.g., I "blitzed" him). Perhaps it also refers to the team's rumored penchant for partying? I don't know. But, the alliteration of the name is a plus, and the name scans quite well. The logo looks too much like the Red Sox logo, though, which takes away from the uniqueness of the team. Grade: B+

Carolina "Cobras" - Cobras? I'm not really up on my North Carolina wildlife surveys, but I highly doubt there are a lot of cobras in the Carolinas. Not sure, either, what cobras have to do with chess. Still, the alliteration is there again. So the name falls into the somewhat random category. The logo is cool, although it could have looked more like a capital C. Grade: C-

New Jersey "Knockouts" - Again with the alliteration, but this time with a different letter. Obvious boxing reference in the name and logo, but besides a one-on-one sport (and chessboxing, I suppose), what is the reference? I suppose that knockouts allude to the fact that the FIDE World Cup is a knockout tournament, but I'm not sure that I would name team after a tournament type (Savannah Swiss Systems? Rochester Round Robins?). No one asked me, but if they had, I would have suggested the New Jersey Initiative as the team name, and shorten it to the New Jersey Nits. The logo is bold and powerful, but the colors strike me as harsh and dissonant. Grade: C

New York "Knights" - More alliteration but with a different letter. Clearly the Knights refer to the chess piece, which has the chess reference. (Not all teams have to have a chess reference in their name, but there ought to be some connection with either the city/state or chess.) The name also scans well. The logo is very good - the knight in front of the shield, and the shield's heraldic elements are classical and appropriate. I only wish the knight had a little more detail on the face. Grade: A-

Philadelphia "Inventors" - The name has a nice allusion to that famous chessplayer, inventor, diplomat, mailman, etc., Ben Franklin, and at least Franklin spent a lot of time in Philadephia. Invention at the chess board is also considered a good thing (as long as you aren't overly creative in the opening!). Saying the name, however, isn't easy, but not a tongue twister either. The logo is simple, but effective. I wish it had used a profile of Franklin himself, rather than the generic face it uses, but whatever. Grade: B+

Queens "Pioneers" - Hunh? Perhaps the name refers to the fact that the players have to make it all the way out to the far reaches of Queens to reach the Polgar Chess center, but what it has to do with chess escapes me. You were given a name of a chess piece as your place name! Use it! Imagine this: you could have been the Queens "Gambit" or the Queens "Sacrifice". The logo is pretty and looks like a pioneer, I suppose, but it also looks like a generic cowboy, or someone who lives in Texas - like Polgar. Grade: D

Arizona "Scorpions" - As I said above, I think there are scorpions in Arizona, and I certainly wouldn't want to encounter one, so this is the most "terrifying" team name. No chess reference, but that's ok. The name rolls off the tongue well. Also, while we'll all be calling them the "Scorps" if they win a lot, we can also call them the "Peons" if they lose. No logo yet. Grade: Incomplete, pending logo.

Chicago "Blaze" - Again, I said above that there was a fire in Chicago a long time back, so I suppose this gets the nod for being relevant to the city. And, "blaze" also has a connotation of running rampant over your opponents, so that works. However, it sounds too much like "Blitz". You can't have that many Zs in team names and still stay sane. No logo yet. Grade: Incomplete, pending logo.

Dallas "Destiny" - The 2007 USCL champions have another alliterative name, that really feels pleasant to say in your mouth. Not sure, though, what Destiny has to do with chess or Dallas, but it certainly gets points from the existentialists. I have no idea how many points they have, though. The logo combines a lot of nice elements (the lone star in the center, the fact that it looks like a sheriff's badge, the green color mimicking the Dallas Stars hockey team), although I think it is a bit too dull. Grade: B

Miami "Sharks"
- A good name that fits with the theme of other sports teams in Miami (Marlins, Dolphins) and also is a scary aminal. Shark, also being the name for a card hustler, hints at a "game" aspect. The logo is stylish and just plain cool. The whole package is simple but effective. Grade: A

San Francisco "Mechanics" - If you don't know it, the Mechanics are named after the chess club in which they play, which is a famous chess club in the USA. So, the name fits the team, and has the chess and the city element combined. Besides the cutesy "gear" theme on the outside, the logo is a complete ripoff of the San Francisco 49ers logo. It just doesn't work for me. All in all - very good name, bad logo. Grade: C+

Seattle "Sluggers" - Another boxing themed name, which came before the NJ Knockouts. More alliteration too. The name is nice to say. However, I can't get by the fact that it is just boring to me. The logo is too creepy for me - the knight looks like it downed some caffeine pills to try and combat its looming psychosis. Grade: C-

Tennessee "Tempo" - While those of you reading this may see the word "tempo" and think in terms of chess lingo, many more people would see "tempo" and think of music. The fact that Tennessee plays in Nashville (symbolic home to country music) makes Tempo a great name for the team. Although, I think that Tempi would have been better, as the "ee" sound that ends both Tennessee and Tempi would pay off each other nicely. The logo, however, tries to do too much. The musical notes are ok, but you need only one, not two. And it looks like the big blue T is supposed to be hearkening to that blue thing on that building on the right of the Nashville skyline (see picture below), but unless you actually know Nashville (or are crazy enough to look up a picture of the skyline, like I was), you would never know. Grade: B+

Photographer: Bill Penn

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Krazy Kwiz from ChessCafe

Every year, ChessCafe creates a chess trivia quiz that is really really difficult. They go to an enormous amount of work, and offer some fabulous prizes.

This year, they have done it again. You can access the quiz here, but the link is probably only active for a little while.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Final Regular Season Famous Original Power Rankings

The regular season of the United States Chess League, sponsored by and played on the Internet Chess Club, has concluded. Boston and Dallas have won the East and West divisional titles, with Philadelphia and San Francisco coming in second in the same respective divisions. The New York Knights completed their late season rally with a win in the final week over the New Jersey Knockouts, and squeaking by into the third and final playoff spot in the East, and Miami shocked Seattle to take the final spot in the West.

In this final week of the power rankings, the Boston Blitz have regained the top spot after blitzing the Inventors of Philadelphia, while the Dallas Destiny were drowned in their pensieve by the Mechanics of San Francisco. Despite being in the playoffs, the Sharks of Miami are still only in eighth place, while the team they devoured, the Sluggers of Seattle, finished the season in the top half of the power rankings.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Dallas 0.974
3 - San Francisco
4 - Philadelphia 0.944
5 - New York
6 - Seattle 0.895
7 - Queens 0.876
8 - Miami 0.856
9 - New Jersey
10 - Carolina 0.837
11 - Baltimore 0.825
12 - Tennessee 0.724

The playoffs start next week, with the wildcard round in the East and the West. New York challenging Philadelphia (with the Inventors getting draw odds) and Miami attempting to dethrone the 2006 USCL champion San Francisco (with the Mechanics getting the draw odds). Tune in Wednesday evening on ICC.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chamberlain prevailed at Little Round Top

Here's a little poem I wrote about Chamberlain's battle at Little Round Top. If you notice, you will see that each line is an anagram of each other.

Dear, lovable, triumphant, intrepid, Colonel.
Repelled brutal and vile riot. Not champion,
But heroic man... Patrol landed. Violent peril!
A bold invention! Impaled lethal corrupter!
Abort hilltop and violence, ample intruder.
Chamberlain prevailed at Little Round Top.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Famous Original Power Rankings: Post-Week 9

Another crazy week in the United States Chess League. The Sharks upset the Cobras, despite having a depleted roster. Once mighty (and one-quarter Awesome) Boston could not win a single game over the lowly Pioneers, and had to settle for a drawn match. The pre-season favorite Knights were out-thought by the resilient Inventors.

This puts the playoff picture into a pretty pickle. Boston and Philadelphia are tied atop the Eastern Division standings, and somehow the magic scheduling fairy spread its pixie dust and made it so that they play each other in the last week. The winner gets a first round bye, and the loser gets draw odds in the first round of the playoffs against another Eastern team (while a draw gives the division crown to Boston based on better game points). The New Jersey Knockouts have the most direct route to the playoffs -- win and they are in. They are playing the Knights, and if they draw, they are still in, provided Baltimore loses to, draws, or even beats Queens by 2.5 - 1.5 (and that the average calculated rating of Baltimore's opponents is lower than NJ, which is a pretty safe bet). If New Jersey draws, and Baltimore beats Queens by 3-1 or more, then Baltimore is in. If New Jersey loses to New York, and Baltimore draws or loses, then New York is in. If New York wins and Baltimore wins, then New York must win by a half-point more than Baltimore to get a playoff spot. I think. It is confusing.

In the Western Division, it is a lot clearer. Dallas is in, and has won the division. San Francisco is in, and will come in second or third. The final playoff spot comes down to the match of Seattle and Miami. If Seattle wins or draws, they are in. If Miami wins, they are in. Who gets second place is a little more confusing. If San Francisco wins, they get second place. If San Francisco draws, then Seattle must win 4-0 to have a chance at second place, and that will come down to the average rating calculation, which is just too lose to call now. Note if San Francisco draws, and Miami wins, San Francisco gets second place no matter what. If San Francisco loses and Miami wins, then San Francisco gets second place. If San Francisco loses, and Seattle wins, then Seattle gets second place. If San Francisco loses the match, but scores at least 0.5, and Seattle draws, then San Francisco gets second place. If San Francisco loses 4-0, and Seattle draws, then again, it will come down to the average rating calculation, which is just too lose to call now.

So, that's the playoff picture, as far as I can tell. Not gospel. Your mileage may vary.

But, now onto the power ratings.

1 - Dallas 1.000
2 - Boston
3 - Philadelphia
4 - San Francisco
5 - Seattle 0.917
6 - New York
7 - New Jersey
8 - Queens 0.854
9 - Baltimore 0.853
10 - Miami 0.827
11 - Carolina 0.824
12 - Tennessee 0.739

Dallas remains in first place, which shows that their rise last week to the top spot was not a fluke. Boston is still in second, but only a slight bit ahead of the surging Inventors. Despite their loss to that powerful Philadelphia team, the New York Knights remain above New Jersey, primarily due to their strength of schedule. Queens is a hair above the Kingfishers, likely because of their surprising draw today, and the tough schedule they have faced. And finally, from a high of fourth in the rankings after week 2, and fifth after week 4, the Carolina Cobras have slithered down the rungs, and now are only out of the cellar because of the Tempo.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Famous Original Power Rankings, Week 8

A new leader has emerged in the Famous Original Power Rankings! The Dallas Destiny has vaulted over the Boston Blitz, helped by their win over the Seattle Sluggers, and the Blitz's draw with the New Jersey Knockouts.

In fact, the biggest change is that the Knockouts have jumped to seventh place in the Power Rankings. And, the New York Knights are showing that their victory last week was not a fluke and are now living up to the pre-season hype, still in fifth place.

Without further ado, or in fact, any ado, here's this weeks list.

1 - Dallas 1.000
2 - Boston 0.993
3 - Seattle 0.945
4 - Philadelphia 0.939
5 - New York
6 - San Francisco
7 - New Jersey
8 - Baltimore 0.848
9 - Carolina 0.842
10 - Queens 0.833
11 - Miami 0.793
12 - Tennessee 0.726

Until next week! Only two weeks to go until the end of the season.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

USCL Famous Original Power Rankings - Week 7

What a week of upsets! The biggest has to be the New York Knights stunning 2.5 - 1.5 win over the previously undefeated Boston Blitz. The Blitz still didn't solve the Pascallian Enigma, as GM Charbonneau won on Board 2, and Boston's Chris Williams is not Awesome any longer, after losing on Board 4. In other upsets, the Pioneers trampled the Kingfishers and the Sharks short-circuited the Mechanics.

These upsets... well... upset the previous quasi-stability of the Famous Original Power Rankings.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Dallas 0.964
3 - Seattle 0.962
4 - Philadelphia 0.907
5 - New York
6 - San Francisco
7 - Baltimore 0.869
8 - Carolina 0.865
9 - Queens 0.850
10 - New Jersey
11 - Miami 0.796
12 - Tennessee 0.715

You can see that while the Blitz remain in first place, the Destiny is only 2/1000 behind. The Knights have galloped up the rankings, while the Knockouts have fallen. Interestingly, San Francisco leads Baltimore by 2/10000 of a point. Finally, despite their improved showings this week, Tennessee and Miami still remain in the Southern-most region of the rankings.

Only three weeks to go before the playoffs!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lawsuits at the USCF

I suppose it had to come to this. With all the vitriol and bile that were splashed throughout the elections of the United States Chess Federation, a lawsuit is clearly the most logical and obvious consequence in the USA's litigious society.

How unfortunate. With the popularity of scholastic chess, the scholarships given at major research universities, and the recent unification and reaffirmation of the world championship title, you would think these people would have better things to do.

Read all about it, here. Then, if you really want to depress yourself, try browsing the USCF forums (you have to be a USCF member to get to the USCF issues forum, which has the most combat).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

USCL Predictions for Week 7

Here are the predictions for the this week, based on the Famous Original Power Rankings. There was a slight change to the model this week, where the best model was not chosen by a statistical method such as ordinary least squares (or weighted least squares). Instead, the best model this week was done on the basis of how well it would do in the USCL prediction contest.

Therefore, I expect a healthy return this week.

PHI 2 Tie Match
BOS 2.5
NYK 1.5 BOS wins
QUE 2 Tie Match
CAR 2.5
TEN 1.5 CAR wins
SFM 2.5
MIA 1.5 SFM wins
DAL 2 Tie Match

Remember, these predictions are done not using the lineups, and are based solely on the Famous Original Power Rankings.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

USCL Power Rankings post-week 6

No comments tonight... Too late! But suffice it to say, Boston still at the top. Carolina comes down to earth, and New York creeps up a little.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Dallas 0.937
3 - San Fran
4 - Seattle 0.872
5 - Baltimore 0.867
6 - Carolina 0.858
7 - Philadelphia 0.832
8 - New Jersey
9 - New York
10 - Queens 0.777
11 - Miami 0.697
12 - Tennesee 0.665

Until next week!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

USCL Predictions for Week 6

Predictions for week 6 (again, no looking at the lineups, using only the Famous Original Power Rankings).

NJK 1.5
CAR 2.5 CAR wins
QUE 2 Tie Match
PHI 2 Tie Match
BAL 2.5
TEN 1.5 BAL wins
SFM 2 Tie Match
NYK 1.5
SEA 2.5 SEA wins

Directly outputted from the spreadsheet itself!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Famous Original Power Rankings, USCL Week 5

The results are in for the Famous Original Power Rankings, after the United States Chess League, Week 5.

This week, the power rankings did not change too much, only a few transpositions. Carolina and Dallas swapped places, as did Baltimore and San Francisco, as well as New York and New Jersey. You may ask how, after San Francisco's sweep of Tennessee, it was possible for San Francisco to drop a place in the power rankings. It is because of the strength of schedule factor -- Tennessee makes San Francisco's schedule easier. Conversely, Baltimore's tie with first place Boston, pushed them up in the rankings.

Enough said, let's get to the numbers.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Seattle 0.961
3 - Carolina 0.934
4 - Dallas 0.930
5 - Baltimore 0.908
6 - San Francisco
7 - Philadelphia 0.839
8 - Queens 0.778
9 - New Jersey
10 - New York
11 - Miami 0.710
12 - Tennessee 0.635

The interesting thing now, is that the other teams have bunched closer to Boston. Indeed, they are bunched closer to each other. In fact, only 7/1000 of a point separate New Jersey and NEw York, only 4/1000 of a point separate Carolina from Dallas, and a measly 2/1000 of a point separate Baltimore and San Francisco.

Next week, it is all Wednesday night games, so tune in for all the action as the games are played over the Internet Chess Club, and the league itself is sponsored by

Sunday, September 23, 2007

USCL Predictions Week 5

The Famous Original Power Rankings have been used to generate this week's predictions (again, all done by mathematical model, with no human jiggering of the results).

Dallas over Miami 2.5 - 1.5
New Jersey ties New York 2.0 - 2.0
Boston over Baltimore 2.5 - 1.5
Queens ties Philadelphia 2.0 - 2.0
San Francisco over Tennessee 2.5 - 1.5
Carolina ties Seattle 2.0 - 2.0

In the next week or two, I will try to add a better parameter estimation model (rather than doing it by hand, like I am now).

Here's the USCL News Scoring Scale (quoted from their blog).

For each correct result picked you receive 2 points. You also receive the following bonuses for picking the exact final score as follows:

Each exact score of 2.5 - 1.5 receives 1 bonus point.
Each exact score of 2 - 2 or 3 - 1 receives 2 bonus points.
Each exact score of 3.5 - 0.5 or 4 - 0 receives 3 bonus points.

Predicted: DAL 2.5 - MIA 1.5 Actual: DAL 2.5 - MIA 1.5 CORRECT (+3)
Predicted: NJK 2.0 - NYK 2.0 Actual: NJK 2.5 - NYK 1.5 WRONG
Predicted: BOS 2.5 - BAL 1.5 Actual: BOS 2.0 - BAL 2.0 WRONG
Predicted: QUE 2.0 - PHI 2.0 Actual: QUE 1.5 - PHI 2.5 WRONG
Predicted: SFM 2.5 - TEN 1.5 Actual: SFM 4.0 - TEN 0.0 CORRECT DIRECTION (+2)
Predicted: CAR 2.0 - SEA 2.0 Actual: CAR 2.0 - SEA 2.0 CORRECT (+4)

That's +9 on the USCL News Scoring Scale. How did everyone else do?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

USCL Power Rankings After Week 4

Well, in a week, the power rankings have changed quite a bit. Boston remains at the top, but Seattle is very close to them, after crushing San Franciso 3 - 1. In their first match loss since the 2005 semi-finals, San Francisco drops to 5th place.

In the battle of the New York City metropolitan region teams, Queens win over New Jersey, coupled with New York's tie with Boston, put Queens ahead of New York and both are ahead of New Jersey. Next week's match up between New York and New Jersey will alter that balance.

Also, in the battle of the basement, Miami beat Tennessee, and thus, has the pleasure of moving up a notch, and the Tempo go back down to the cellar.

So, here are the power rankings after week 4.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Seattle 0.950
3 - Dallas 0.902
4 - Carolina 0.881
5 - San Francisco
6 - Baltimore 0.841
7 - Philadelphia 0.792
8 - Queens 0.774
9 - New York
10 - New Jersey
11 - Miami 0.684
12 - Tennessee 0.631

Until next week! Be on the lookout for predictions... Coming soon!

UPDATE: The Boylston Chess Club bloggers have published their rankings...

1 - Boston
2 - Seattle
3 - Dallas
4 - Carolina
5 - Baltimore
6 - San Francisco
7 - Queens
8 - Philadelphia
9 - New Jersey
10 - New York
11 - Miami
12 - Tennessee

Their power rankings are very similar to our Famous Original Ray's Pizza Power Rankings. Just transpositions at 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Rankings

Oops. I goofed. After checking the math in the ranking system I published a few days ago, I realized that I had a math error, which overvalued the records of individual teams, and undervalued their opposition. So, here is the revised Power Rankings after Week 3.

1 - Boston 1.000
2 - Dallas 0.855
3 - San Francisco
4 - Seattle 0.838
5 - Carolina 0.777
6 - Philadelphia 0.770
7 - Baltimore 0.707
8 - Queens 0.703
9 - New Jersey
10 - Tennessee 0.643
11 - New York
12 - Miami 0.586

Not a lot different than before, but now correct!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Tart Green Line

The Boylston Chess Club blog has claimed to initiate legal proceedings against the Bionic Lime Power Rankings, because in an earlier post, I claimed that my USCL power rankings were the only strictly objective ratings. I was wrong. I admit it. The BCC's power rankings are also said to be objective, and I have no reason to doubt them. Here is their article on Week 3 rankings.

The subjective power rankings I was referring to were the "official" USCL power rankings. It isn't on the USCL site, but they claim to be official. Hmm..

Anyway, lets compare the three ranking systems...

Rank Official Boylston Lime
1 - Boston Boston Boston
2 - San Francisco Seattle Dallas
3 - Dallas Dallas Seattle
4 - Seattle San Francisco San Francisco
5 - Baltimore Carolina Carolina
6 - Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia
7 - Carolina Baltimore Baltimore
8 - New Jersey New Jersey New Jersey
9 - New York Queens Queens
10 - Queens New York Tennessee
11 - Miami Tennessee New York
12 - Tennessee Miami Miami

The computer rankings are rather similar, the only difference is the transpositions of Dallas and Seattle and New York and Tennessee. The human rankings put New York (based on reputation, presumably, and rightly so I suppose) higher than the computer models. And, the human puts San Francisco second, again based presumably on reputation. Everybody agrees, though... Philadelphia 6th, New Jersey 8th.

This week's Boston versus New York may have a dramatic effect on the rankings, if New York draws or even wins. But, if Boston wins, it should not change the ranking too much at all.

We shall see tomorrow night!


There is another set of subjective (i.e., human generated) rankings, which have been posted here. To summarize them:

1. Boston
2. Seattle
3. Dallas
4. San Francisco
5. Carolina
6. Philadephia
7. New Jersey
8. Baltimore
9. New York
10. Queens
11. Tennessee
12. Miami

Not too different, except that Baltimore is lower than the other systems. And, not surprisingly, New York is high, like the other human system.

Friday, September 14, 2007

USCL Predictions Week 4

Using the power rankings I generated, and developing a predictive model that takes into account the difference between the two power ratings, applies it to a lookup table, the model has generated the following predictions for Week 4 of the United States Chess League.

UPDATE: The goal of these predictions is to do this without knowing the lineups -- the power rankings take into account team performance only (not individuals) and so, therefore, does the model. It is risky, for sure, but it is a one parameter model, and I'm curious more than anything on how well it can do.

So, here they are for week 4.

New York Knights vs. Boston Blitz - Boston wins 3-1
Queens Pioneers vs New Jersey Knockouts - Tied Match 2-2
Philadelphia Inventors vs Baltimore Kingfishers - Tied Match 2-2
Tennessee Tempo vs Miami Sharks - Tied Match 2-2
Dallas Destiny vs Carolina Cobras - Tied Match 2-2
Seattle Sluggers vs San Francisco Mechanics - Tied Match 2-2

What a dull set of predictions!

Ok, yes, it is dull, but look at the power rankings...

NY (11) vs. BOS (1) -- wide disparity
QUE (9) vs. NJK (8) -- next to each other in the list
PHI (6) vs. BAL (7) -- also next to each other
TEN (10) vs. MIA (12) -- only one team separates
DAL (2) vs. CAR (5) -- two teams separate
SEA (3) vs. SFM (4) -- next to each other

So, the only one that seems like it is might be a decisive prediction is Dallas - Carolina, and indeed, a slight tweak in the model would make it so that it would predict 2.5 - 1.5 for Dallas, but there is no human intervention in the model output.

Lots of teams close to one another, and it should be an interesting week!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

USCL Power Rankings, Week 3

So, I've decided to follow the crowd, and create power rankings for the United States Chess League. There are others that have power rankings, but my rankings have no subjective elements -- they are completely objective.

The formula for computing them is a combination of Match Points and Game Points of a team, and to a lesser extent the MPs and GPs of the team's opponents (strength of schedule), and to an even lesser extent, the MPs and GPs of the team's opponents' opponents. These are combined to produce a raw score. The best team is given a final indexed score of 1.000 and other teams are given a lower final score, depending on the ratio of their calculated raw score to the best team's raw score.

So, without further ado, here are my power rankings for the teams in the United States Chess League after the conclusion of Week 3.

1 - Boston Blitz 1.000
2 - Dallas Destiny 0.855
3 - Seattle Sluggers 0.823
4 - San Francisco Mechanics 0.808
5 - Carolina Cobras 0.753
6 - Philadelphia Inventors 0.742
7 - Baltimore Kingfishers 0.670
8 - New Jersey Knockouts 0.636
9 - Queens Pioneers 0.589
10 - Tennessee Tempo 0.539
11 - New York Knights 0.535
12 - Miami Sharks 0.472

Note that there is a wide gap between the first place Boston Blitz (1.000) and the second place Dallas Destiny (0.855), but a very narrow gap between the tenth place Tennessee Tempo (0.539) and the eleventh place New York Knights (0.535).

Unsurprisingly, the Blitz remain in first place with their convincing win over Philly. The Dallas Destiny moves up to second place, rising in the rankings. The New Jersey Knockouts remain close to eighth place for the third week in a row. And, the preseason favorite New York Knights have escaped the basement, which now is occupied by the Miami Sharks.

I've retrofitted power rankings for week 2. I've also done week 1, but there is too little data to make accurate predictions.

Week 2

1 - Boston Blitz 1.000
2 - San Francisco Mechanics 0.944
3 - Dallas Destiny 0.905
4 - Philadelphia Inventors 0.864
5 - Seattle Sluggers 0.792
6 - Carolina Cobras 0.775
7 - Baltimore Kingfishers 0.666
8 - New Jersey Knockouts 0.666
9 - Queens Pioneers 0.647
10 - Tennessee Tempo 0.614
11 - Miami Sharks 0.497
12 - New York Knights 0.468

Week 1

1 - 3
San Francisco Mechanics 1.000
1 - 3
Dallas Destiny 1.000
1 - 3
Baltimore Kingfishers 1.000
4 - 5
Boston Blitz 0.967
4 - 5
Philadelphia Inventors 0.967
6 - 7
Queens Pioneers 0.800
6 - 7
New Jersey Knockouts 0.800
8 - 9
Miami Sharks 0.633
8 - 9
Seattle Sluggers 0.633
10 - 12
Carolina Cobras 0.600
10 - 12
Tennessee Tempo 0.600
10 - 12
New York Knights 0.600

(Full disclosure: I am the team writer for the New Jersey Knockouts, although as I've said, the power rankings above have no subjective elements.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Baby Names

There are several pages on this persons website where she completely trashes people's suggestions of baby names. Page 5 is my favorite. For example, one person wrote:

here are some names i saw today


To which her response was:

I'm guessing (hoping, praying) these are names you saw today while you were hitting random keys on the computer at Bellevue just before the Thorazine kicked in. Wait, let me try:

joofenkel (for boy or girl)
Abcadeffgheejecklemenopqrestuvwexiz (the most incredible word I've ever seen!)

Still makes me laugh! For more fun like this, go here...

Monday, August 27, 2007

United States Chess League starts tonight

The United States Chess League starts its third season tonight, when the New Jersey Knockouts are preparing to floor the Queens Pioneers.

I am the "team writer" for the NJKOs, and you can read previews and recaps on the New Jersey Knockouts blog.

If I can get an internet connection, I will be logged in as "bioniclime" on the Internet Chess Club, where all the exciting USCL action will take place! Drop me a line and say hello.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why Emma Pierson Plays Chess

Fantastic essay by sixteen-year-old Emma Pierson of Arlington, Virginia. She's truly a gifted writer. While I don't agree with everything she said, she does say it wonderfully.

Highly recommended reading.

Why I Play Chess, by Emma Pierson

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Checkers is solved!

Checkers has apparently been solved. A computer will play perfectly, and win or draw every game.

Chess has been solved for at least any five pieces on the board, maybe even six.

But 32 pieces? Not in our lifetime.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Server error on Internet Chess Club

The server on the Internet Chess Club doesn't realize when a game is a draw or not in a very obscure situation.

I had a game where it was King and Bishop versus King and Bishop - those were the only pieces on the board. The Bishops were on opposite colored squares. The ICC server declared this a draw -- however, this is only an automatic draw if the bishops are on the same colored squares.

For instance, consider the problem here -- white to move. Black has very foolishly played Bxb8 (instead of Kxb8, it doesn't matter what was on b8), and now White plays Bg2#.

Of course, if we were playing on ICC, the server would stop the game after Bxb8 and say it was an automatic draw.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Chess clip on CBS News

Great video on two scholastic chess players in Brownsville, Texas -- both named Fernando. See it here. The tournament they were playing in is the Texas Scholastic Championship.

Oh, and you will also be convinced how much you would LOVE making Tylenol.

New Jersey Futurity International

This weekend and early next week, and international chess tournament will take place in New Jersey, the New Jersey Futurity International.

Four GMs, three IMs, one FM, and two NMs will participate. Details are on the New Jersey Knockouts blog.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Nice Game

For some reason, I thought this was an especially nice chess game. Congrats to the winner, Dimitrov, who at 2254, was rated 221 points less than his/her opponent!

For replayable game, click here.

(In the position, it is White to play after Black's 29... Rf8)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Picasso as Criminal Image Profiler

Random thought of today: Can you imagine what would have happened if Pablo Picasso was a criminal image profiler (i.e., the person who draws sketches of criminals from descriptions)?


Friday, June 22, 2007

The Lama Rocks

I saw this picture of Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the Sajin Lama of Kalmykia, whom the Dalai Lama recognized as the reincarnation of a Buddhist saint, Telo Rinpoche. He is ostensibly saying "ROCK AND ROLL" after attending a concert by the Russian musician Boris Grebenshchikov.

It gave me a heightened feeling of cognitive dissonance. Originally from Chessbase.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Josh Waitzkin and The Art of Learning

Josh Waitzkin discusses himself, and his new book, The Art of Learning, in this 10 minute video clip. You can watch the video here.

I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at my son's chess tournament last weekend. What a warm, gracious, and caring human being. He's also a very good public speaker.

I'm also reading his book, The Art of Learning. I am about 2/3 of the way through it, and it is an interesting read. He's trying to coalesce his understanding of how he got to be so good in both chess and Push Hands Tai Chi. I'll provide a comprehensive review in a week or so.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Slate article on scholastic chess

There's a new article in Slate about scholastic chess, which you can read here. It slogs through the typical "state of scholastic chess today" and makes the point (not new, but certainly interesting) that chess has moved its image from its image as being populated by nerdy, obsessive loners, and moving more into the mainstream. That movement is not a natural evolution, but by the emergence of Fischer in the early 1970s, and a certain movie in the early 1990s (see below!).

On a related note, there is a scholastic chess tournament at Princeton Day School this Saturday, May 5th. While these tournaments at PDS are a monthly occurrence, this one is notable because the tournament organizer (Bonnie Waitzkin) has enlisted her son Josh Waitzkin (yes, the same kid depicted in Searching for Bobby Fischer) to speak and sign autographs prior to the tournament. Josh Waitzkin gave up competitive chess several years ago, and then went ahead, trained, and became the world champion of "push-hands" Tai Chi. His drive and determination are pretty impressive.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Major Storm Next Week

Major storm next week in the Northeast.

"A major spring Nor'easter with the capability of causing damage equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane may develop Sunday off the U.S. East Coast. A storm system currently crossing the Pacific coast near British Columbia is expected to dive southeastward across the U.S... we have the potential for a very serious flooding event. If the worst case scenarios of the models come true, the Tax Day Storm of 2007 could cause extensive moderate to severe coastal flooding, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The areas at highest risk appear to be New Jersey, New York (especially New York City), Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts."

Read the rest here.

Now we will see if the waterproofing in our basement actually works.

UPDATE: The waterproofing did not work. The outflow of the pump was going into the sewer, which I understand is either illegal or severely frowned upon. Of course, everyone else's pumps were also going into the sewer, so the sewer got full, and the water went where it could -- up through the slop sink and onto the floor of the basement. Six inches of water later, we came up with another system of getting it out. They fixed the pump system so now it drains into the street, as it should. What a mess.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Want to Play Anand?

The Internet Chess Club is hosting a simultaneous exhibition with Vishwanathan Anand, the world's top-rated chess player, on April 21. It is to raise money for Vidya Sagar, "a non-profit organization that strives for inclusion of children with autism and cerebral palsy". They are auctioning 15 seats in the simul on eBay.

You read more about the simul here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Critical Positions

Dan Heisman, a chess teacher from Philadelphia, writes a great column for Chess Cafe called "Novice Nook". It is not always for novices, but can benefit any player. He has a great column this month -- it is about how to recognize "critical" positions in a game. Once you recognize a critical position, you should spend more time on it, because its... uh... critical.

Anyway, the link will go away in a few weeks, but you can read the article now, here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Jersey Knockouts

The United States Chess League (USCL) will be starting its third season in the fall. It is an online league - all games are played over the internet on the Internet Chess Club.

One of the two new expansion teams is the New Jersey Knockouts (NJKO). I have volunteered to write for the team. Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Brad Delp: A Lonely Soul

Apparently, sources report that Brad Delp's suicide note called himself a "lonely soul".

These days, there are so many things about public figures that we just do not know. One's public face rarely matches one's inner life. This seems to be the case with Brad.

Friday, March 09, 2007

RIP, Brad Delp of Boston

Brad Delp, lead singer of the amazing band Boston, died today. You can read about it here. He was 55.

As many of you know, I was and am a Boston devotee, a member of the fan email list since 1997. I attended the fan-email-list get-together, "Bostock", in the summer of 1998, driving all the way from New York City to Mt. Gilead, Ohio (about 550 miles, I think). I met a lot of fun people there - people who were just as (and many of them more) fanatical about Boston than I was. I can't imagine how this news might hit some of them. I think mostly about Becky Asbury, who hosted the party that weekend; I had never met anyone who was so utterly devoted to a band, and who spoke many times that Boston had pulled her through the bad times. I met her again at a Boston concert in 2003, and she was friendly and remembered me. My thoughts are with you, Becky. Boston can pull you through again.

I never had the opportunity to meet Brad, but from all accounts, he was an exceptionally warm and accessible person. Boston's official website just changed tonight, to a single sentence, "We've just lost the nicest guy in rock and roll."

My condolences to your family and friends and all the fans around the world who loved your voice and music.

Rest in peace, Brad.

UPDATE 15 Mar 2007

Brad's death was a suicide. What a tragic and shocking turn of events. He apparently left two notes, for his fiancee and family, and killed himself through carbon monoxide.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Killer Asteroids

According to this story, NASA doesn't have the cash to track killer asteroids. It's only a billion dollars. Will we regret not spending it?

Monday, March 05, 2007

The King and Pawn Endgame, Part II

In the post a couple of days ago (access it here), I presented a king and pawn endgame. It was determined that white must draw the ending - white cannot win. In that diagram, I played 1. h5 and instead of taking on h5 (i.e., 1... gxh5) and then eating the rook pawn (and ultimately drawing), my opponent pushed the pawn, leaving the position diagrammed here. The only reason, the my opponent must have pushed the pawn was that s/he knew I had about 12 seconds on the clock, and would probably lose on time.

Given this new position, with White to move, now what is the outcome?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

King's Gambit: Kasparov Variation

Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and likely the best chess player to have ever lived, retired from chess in 2005. Since then, he has spent time trying his hand at Russian politics. He is not a big fan of Putin, and back in April 2005, was bashed over the head with a chess board. Its not clear why someone did it, but it happened.

Yesterday, he led a protest in St. Petersburg. A bold gambit from Garry K. Read about it here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Another Pawn Ending

Here's another pawn ending from a 5-minute game I played on ICC today. I ran out of time, and I had about 15 seconds left at this point. It is white to move. Can white win or is it a draw? Post any comments.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Is this Life's Instruction Manual?

A book he wanted to get. Given the way I play, it shouldn't be too hard.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Puzzle Solution: Red Buttons

No, it doesn't have to do with the position on the board, but I heard a lot of interesting theories, many dealing with how the white bishop got to its improbable position, and the fact that black has merely one pawn as far as his/her third rank. Finally, what is that strange white piece that is being occluded by the white bishop? It could only be another pawn, unless it is a third promoted knight, which seems pretty unlikely.

Some people suggested that the board was actually correctly placed, but the image was flipped for some reason by the newspaper or website. Indeed, this was my initial thought too - and it appears like Susan Polgar, on her blog, actually went ahead and flipped the image so that the board appears properly set up.

Of the private emails that I received with possible solutions, two suggested what I think is the key - the woman's button on her jacket. It appears like the button is on the left and the buttonhole on the right, which is typical for a woman's jacket (men's jackets have the button and buttonhole reversed). So, it does not appear as if the image has been flipped, and indeed, the board was set up incorrectly.

Thanks to everyone who responded!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Puzzle about Chess, Sort Of...

Hampton University's business school is using chess to help business school students plan and prepare for the business world. You can read the story about it here. It is an interesting article, and the teacher seems particularly dedicated to using chess in the schools, even for adults. I've included a picture from the story.

Of course, what do we notice about the picture? The usual problems -- the board is oriented incorrectly - white square not on the right. Ugh; it unfortunately doesn't speak well for the class. However, the queen is on the proper color, so at least they got that right. To me, that seemed a little suspicious.

Looking a little more closely at the picture, there is another detail that raises even more suspicions. If anyone is reading this, put your suspicions in the comments, and I'll post the what I think the answer to this puzzle is in the next day or two.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ice cream

We went out for some ice cream this evening, which we rarely do. It is going to be snowy and messy here tomorrow, so what better way to start the week than with a Duster Sundae.

By the way, ice cream sundaes were invented in my hometown of Ithaca, New York.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

King and Pawn puzzle

Here's an interesting game I played back in October. It lead to a pure king-and-pawn endgame. A key position is displayed here - it is not too hard to find the winning move for white, although I didn't find it in the game.

Click here to replay this game. Notes here are mostly by Dennis Monokroussos, although he incorporates some things that I said (referring to me as RB in his notes, and himself as DM).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dinosaur Days

This week, my five-and-a-half year old son was out of school due to Winter Break. We enrolled him in a two day course about dinosaurs. He seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, and learned some interesting facts. For instance, there are two types of dinosaurs classified by what they eat, vegetarians and carnivals.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Police - What Else?

Well, one of the things I have pined for many years about doing is seeing The Police live in concert. In case your head has been under a rock (or you've paid no attention to the media), The Police Are Back and touring starting in May 2007. I had an inkling that it would happen some day, but I couldn't have guessed when.

Anyway, I joined the tour fan club, of course, and got a code for the Best Buy presale tickets, but only managed to score one ticket for August 3rd at Madison Square Garden. I have to use my fan club membership to try and get to the other show at MSG.

I would say that it was one of the top five things I've wanted to do, and this summer, it happens.

The Police Tour

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A short game

I saw this today on Chess Cafe.

Jain-Norinkeviciute, Hastings 2007
1 e4 g6 2 d4 1–0
Black’s mobile phone went off.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Despair, sadness, grief... is it heartache?

Despair, sadness, grief... even suicidal thoughts. Could it be heartache, that most despised, yet expected demon?

Not even close. Not heartache... Hard drive.

Yes, I had a terrible hard drive crash last week that had apparently devastated my all my data for the past four years. Documents, email, geneological research, chess games.... What a disaster.

I am now trying to recover from it. I talked to some drive recovery people at, and they were very friendly and realyl a low-pressure sales approach, but the cost to recover was estimated approximately $2000. Ouch.

So I took it to a local guy here in New Jersey. Rey at Intertech was a good guy, who tried his best, but even he said the disk was so far gone that it needed the services of a full-time disk recovery company. We'll get the results in a few days, after their analysis.

For some funny stories about disk crashes, you can read this article in Time magazine.

So, watch and wait for the experts with their clean rooms, the men with their sales. Buffy reference - Season 4 finale... Sorry... Mind has been elsewhere this week.

So, sage wisdom... Back everything up - today. Don't wait.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A pretty ending

(244) NN - Bernard,R (1402) [B06]
Metro Chess Club G/25+5 delay (3), 16.01.2007

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 c5 4.c3 d6 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.0-0? Dropping a pawn for nothing... 6...Nxe4 7.Bxf7+?! Morphy-wannabee 7...Kxf7 8.Ng5+? Just exchanging off this knight for nothing. 8...Nxg5 9.Bxg5 Rf8 10.Qf3+ Kg8 11.Qd5+ Kh8 12.Re1 Nc6? [ 12...Rf5 This wins a piece... For instance... 13.Qe4 Rxg5 14.Qxe7 Qxe7 15.Rxe7 Rf5 16.Re8+ Rf8] 13.Nd2?? Rf5 but now it comes a move later... 14.Qe4 Rxg5 15.Nf3 Rf5 16.d5 Ne5 17.Nxe5 Rxe5 18.Qf3 Bf5 19.Rxe5? Tranding pieces while down... not a good idea. [ To be considered would be 19.g4!? Bd7 20.Re3 Qf8 21.Qxf8+ Rxf8 22.h3-+] 19...Bxe5 20.Re1 Qf8 21.Rf1? Just bizarre 21...Bd7 22.Qxf8+ Rxf8 23.h3 Bb5 24.Re1 Bc4 25.b3 Bxd5 26.c4 Bc6 27.g3 Rf7 28.f4 Bd4+ 29.Kh2 g5 30.Re6 [ 30.fxg5 Rf2+ 31.Kg1 Rxa2+ 32.Kf1 Bg2#] 30...gxf4 31.g4 And here's where I saw it. I prayed he wouldn't resign, and he would play into it. 31...f3 32.g5 [ 32.Re1 Be5+ 33.Kg1 f2+ 34.Kf1 fxe1Q+ 35.Kxe1 Effective, but not nearly as pretty...] 32...f2 [ 32...Be5+ 33.Kg1 f2+ 34.Kf1 Bg2+ 35.Ke2 ( 35.Kxg2 f1Q#) 35...f1Q+ 36.Kd2 Rf2+ 37.Ke3 Qe2#] 33.g6 f1N# and he did! [ I should have played... 33...a6 34.gxf7 f1N#] 0-1