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.