Philadelphia and Seattle Brace for Chess Championship
by David Pruess, man-about-chess
reprinted with permission of The Chess Onion*
This Saturday, at 4 pm Eastern, the Philadelphia Inventors and Seattle Sluggers clash in 4-player match that will determine the U.S. Chess League Championship. With so much at stake, it's natural for tensions to run high, and indeed fans' fervor in both cities is reaching a boiling point. With forums, twitter, blip, fb, and other social media overflowing with the incoherent ravings of enthusiastic fans of the two franchises, it seems guaranteed that each city will be experiencing far larger-- and more violent-- riots than SF after the Giants' World Series win. While both teams' stellar seasons have been terrific for the cities' economies, the potential costs and benefits of this weekend's championship remain incalculable.
"Economist" David Friedman said "really, we don't know anything, and can't predict anything either." But while sales of Sluggers' collectible coffee mugs reached $119.00 on Wednesday, the municipal government was already preparing for a possible Sluggers' win on Saturday.
Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement in which he called on the city to buckle up for a wild weekend. "I'm calling on everyone to prepare for the best and expect the worst. By which I mean... I've already talked to the Police Chief, and I told him that when the Sluggers fans take to the streets, I want a measured response. We're not going to use the drones, or some of our cooler military technology. I told him: look, broken bones? Fine. Some elderly or kids trampled to death? Unavoidable. But lobbing bombs at random into the streets? Save that for political rallies."
Some Sluggers fans were still a bit concerned. "I'm afraid that when we start overturning city buses, and setting buildings on fire, the city government's response may not be as calm as they suggest it will be," mused Sluggers fan Mel+Billinda Gates. "I'm even considering staying home, to be honest." But 11 year old chess master, piano virtuoso, and prodigy, Roland Feng, the Sluggers' 4th board, urged fans not to be deterred by the authorities. "I'm gonna merk this old man. And then it's on my fans to BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN!!" Annie Wang, 8, and Jasmine Wong, 7, were among many Sluggers fans who claimed they were behind Feng. "He's so cute," they gushed with one voice, blushing, "so we'll be sure to deliver the victory riot of his dreams. Lol."
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, it's impossible to walk one block without seeing shirts, jerseys, and hats, not only for the Inventors, but also for the Flyers, Eagles, 76ers, and even the Phillies. In a show of solidarity, the Philadelphia sports community has come together around the Inventors success "to celebrate all sports, even those in which we are less successful than chess," said Philadelphia Sports Promotion spokesperson Robert P. Casey. So far, the response has been fantastic. "We've seen a lot of formerly depressed Flyers, Eagles, 76ers, and Phillies fans stopping Inventors fans in the street and telling them how much this show of support means to them."
But not everyone is as excited about this Saturday's match. Sports fans in Arizona and New York have been organizing a kind of internet occupy against the match, urging the states' residents to "not visit www.uschessleague.com, www.chess.com, or www.chessclub.com for just one afternoon." Civic leader and prominent chess master Robby Adamson said "look, I know it's going to be hard, but so is standing on your head naked in the middle of a busy intersection for two hours. But standing up for your principles is worth it. We urge all Arizonans to do what they can to avoid supporting the oppression of the Seattle Sluggers."
Organizers in Manhattan were too busy to answer my questions, but Adamson thinks that a lot of Applesaucers will take time out of their busy schedules to avoid the match and continue about their business this Saturday afternoon. "I think after what the people in Philadelphia, and the commissioner, and the NSA did to the people of Manhattan last week, a lot of people are, you know, feeling a lot of emotion, and ready to actually move to action."
But expect chess fans from the rest of the country to turn out in droves to their beanbag chairs to watch this intense match over the internet. The first board battle features two of the top players in the country: Grandmaster Sergey Erenburg who has played every single match of the season for the Inventors, and hired gun Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian who flies in to Seattle only when the Sluggers need their heaviest hitter. Almost as many eyes will be riveted on board 2, which features the return of phenom and league bad-boy, FIDE Master Will Fisher, from a 5-match suspension for a flagrant foul just in time for the Championship match. Fisher, in response to his suspension in Week 6 had this to say:
"Whatever, whatever, I do what I want."
He takes the black pieces against higher rated International Master Georgi Orlov, but the Inventors General Manager Michael Shahade says that he expects Will to feed off the jeers and score the upset that brings Philaldephia its first USCL title. Board three pits two of the top board 3s in the league (each having performed 200+ points above their rating!!); Philadelphia's FM Dov Gorman with white is the favorite against National Master Joshua Sinanan. Board 4 is young Roland Feng with white against wily veteran IM Richard Costigan. Feng will have to win this game for Seattle to win the match.
Vegas has the Inventors as favorites, 1.2:1. In a poll of fans on popular chess site www.chess.com, 83% of respondents said they were hoping for a tied 2-2 match, which would force a thrilling blitz tie-breaker. But to a large extent the cities' responses on Saturday may have a large impact on the future development of the US Chess League.
* The Chess Onion was notified that this article would be reprinted here, and their email response was left unread. Permission is assumed until knowledge to the contrary.