The Chess Party of the Year is About to Begin
February 15, 2011
The US Amateur Team Championships have a fun, light-hearted atmosphere that you rarely see at competitive weekend events. The action begins in just a few days, from February 18-21 with the US East in (Parsippany, NJ), West (Southern California) , North (Northbrook, Illinois), and South (Orlando, Florida). Each team must consist of four players, plus an optional alternate. The champion teams of each tournament will then face each other in an on-line playoff to determine the 2011 U.S. Amateur Team Champion. 2200 is the magic number, which the average rating of the four highest rated team members cannot exceed.  As usual CLO will bring you coverage from each event. Check out some preview highlights below including thoughts from our reporters in the West (Kostya Kavutskiy) and the North (Andrea Rosen.)

East

The US Chess Scoop will be at the US Amateur Team East, so look for interviews with some of your favorite professional and amateur players on CLO next week.

Additionally, Al Lawrence will be reporting from the Amateur Team East in Parsippany, New Jersey, for both Chess Life Magazine and Chess Life Online. Beginning Saturday, he'll be sending updates and photos to CLO. If you're playing (and who in the East isn't?), find Al to tell him your team story and show him your team's best game.

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Al Lawrence

There are always surprises at the USATE, but one very strong team will include: GM Robert Hess, Zach Weiner, Emily Tallo and Richard Rivera. Robert's devotion to the US Amateur Team East and his team-mates is obvious. He is arriving home in New York from the Aeroflot Open in Moscow on the evening of February 18th and then is off the following morning to play with his team-mates.

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GM Robert Hess in Moscow, more photos on chessbase.com

Robert told CLO, "We are looking to repeat our performance from last year (we tied 1-3, 3rd on tiebreaks with 5.5/6). Board 2 seems like it will be our biggest test, but Zach is always rather reliable (and not just because he is one of my best friends!!). At around 2000, Emily will be outrated in a few games, but OK, rating is just a three or four digit number. We all have faith in her. Our team is always one of the most fun, we have a blast no matter the result."

IM Dean Ippolito will also have a strong team, with a maxed out average rating of 2199. Dean will be board one, followed by GM Magesh Panchanathan, rated one point lower. NM David Gross and Richard Davisson fill out the team. Dean says, "This is my 26th consecutive year at the USATE and it's my favorite tournament." Find out more about Dean's chess initiatives in New Jersey on deanofchess.com and the latest news on his April 9th World Record attempt.

Another team to watch will be a formidable all-female team consisting of Laura Ross, Abby Marshall, Elizabeth Vicary and Allana Katz (not to be confused with NM Alena Kats or Elina Kats, who was incorrectly listed as a team member before). 

See more details on the event on the New Jersey Chess Federation homepage, and stay tuned to CLO over the weekend for updates.

West  by Kostya Kavutskiy
The 28th Annual U.S Amateur Team West will take place at the lovely Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA from February 19-21.  So far there are 28 teams already registered in the West, with more sure to come. The favorites are:

HOT TUB TIMOSCHENKO (2196.3)

David Adelberg            2347
Nick Thompson            2203
John Gurczak               2149
Jim Geary                     2084

BAKERSFIELD CHESS CLUB (2195.8)

IM Enrico Sevillano                       2579
FM Joel Banawa                        2427
Indra Lahiri                               1935
Alexander Pearson                        1842

CHESS PALACE TEAM (2195.0)

IM Zhanibek Amanov             2461
Edison Ruge                             2231
Jeff Phillips                               2191
Aldrich Ong                              1897
Albert Lu (alternate)                     1858

More importantly, there is a fierce competition, as always, for the Best Team Name, which will be decided by vote. Here are a few early contenders:

NAKA WINS TATEV'S STEEL

LET'S MATE THOSE LITTLE FOCKERS

MODERN'S SO FLY LIKE 1...g6

WE LOVE TATAS OF STEEL

16 YEARS AND WE STILL HAVEN'T WON U1600

In my experience, the most popular team names are the ones referring to pop-culture, or the ones that are exceedingly humbling. Also puns inevitably score big brownie points with the chess crowd.

My team, currently seeded 7th, looks like this:

METROPOLITAN CHESS (2155.0)

Ankit Gupta                  2343 - Chief organizer of the Metropolitan Chess Club
Kostya Kavutskiy            2252 - Yours truly
Allan Karman               2113 - An affable chess enthusiast and good friend
Udit Iyengar                 1912 - A young and rising star

There are a couple of things I really look forward to every year. The first is the environment-we're talking about a tournament here in which there are no monetary prizes. Prizes in the form of trophies and chess clocks will be given out to the Top 3 teams, as well as the best teams U2100, U2000, U1800, U1600, U1400/unr, the best college, industrial, junior, and senior teams, and the best individual performers on their respective boards. This means that over 100 players will be playing just for the fun and excitement of a team tournament. Furthermore, the element of playing with a team does add another level of pressure. Win or lose, your play affects your team members greatly, so a high-level of chess is always seen throughout the tournament.
 
Please visit scchess.com for all info regarding the 2011 USATW, and I hope to see you there! 

North by Andrea Rosen
The U.S. Amateur Team North will be the second major team chess event in Illinois this month.  And while it will draw players from several nearby states, it won't come close to matching the attendance at the just concluded Illinois high school team championship in Peoria.  That tournament, with more than 1,000 high school players, is one of the largest team chess events in the world.

Still, the USAT North is shaping up to be a nice event, and always a player favorite.  For the first time in four years, the tournament will be in the Chicago area instead of Milwaukee.  And for the first time in many years, it doesn't conflict with the Illinois high school tournament.  Those two factors will likely lead to better attendance than its seen in the past few years, with organizers Tim Just and Glenn Panner expecting between 30 and 40 teams.
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Left to right: Elina Chertok, Eric Rosen, Ilan Meerovich, Matthew Hass

My household will be contributing to that increased attendance.  My son Eric, a high school junior, will be leading a team of three younger players: Apurva Virkud of Michigan, and Zhaozhi Li and Matthew Stevens of Illinois.  They're calling themselves the 4G Network: No Dropped Pawns.  The G stands for Illinois Grandmaster Dmitry Gurevich, who coaches most of them and will be their team coach this weekend.

It's been eight years since Eric played his first Amateur Team event at age 9, when a group of older kids recruited him to be their Board 1 in the reserve section, and he led them to a second place finish.  (see photo above).  It's still one of his best chess memories.

They'll have their work cut out for them this weekend, as several powerhouse teams have formed, including the top-rated Wisconsin Chess Academy (2188), with GM Friedel leading a team with two national masters, Erik Santarius and Alex Betaneli, at boards 2 and 3.  Check back next week for a full report on all the action.  

South  by Melinda J. Matthews
The US Amateur Team South will take place in the always-popular Orlando metro area, this time in the downtown Sonesta Hotel.  Seventeen teams are pre-registered in the Open section and five in the Scholastic section.  Get more basic info on the event at http://usats2011.eventbrite.com/ and find a list of pre-registered players on the Central Florida website

The Open section includes Armageddon Your Pieces (2186.3) – Javad Maharramzade, Peter Dyson, Jeremy Mandelkern and Matt Helfst; Team Storch (2147.3) – John Nardandrea, Lawrence Storch, Makaio Krienke, Steve Chakis and Charles Hall; and The Warriors (1905.3) –  Luciano Aguilar, Paul Muro, Hunter Rockley and Arturo L Saliva.  Of course, there’s my personal favorite, Team Nobody (2171.5), featuring Robert Perez, Daniel Gurevich, Dalton Perrine and my son, Nicky Rosenthal. 

Good luck to all at the US Amateur Team Championships. If you have a story or game to share, please send to jshahade@uschess.org. And if you can't make it this year, rest assured you'll have more than enough material to vicariously enjoy on CLO.