Time to look back on the season for the Seattle Sluggers. The first thing I would like to point out is that the Sluggers had only one lineup change adding Howard Chen replacing Andy May. Other teams made many more changes, mostly major upgrades on higher boards. The upshot was that as the season started the Sluggers were looking to have an experience factor on their side. To start the season the schedule had the Sluggers face San Francisco and New York right out of the gate, two teams the Sluggers have some history with. Both matches ended in ties with both matches going the same, Seattle wins on first board , loses on second and draws on the bottom two. It seems that the Sluggers lower boards weren't looking for the maximum in either of these two matches and let some superior positions slide. Arizona in the third round was a change as Michael Lee was able to produce a small bit of magic and win from a worse position, giving the Seattle side a win and starting them on a streak. Nakamura had returned and Josh Sinanan had found his stride, so in the fourth round a 3-1 win over defending champs Dallas seemed a harbinger of Seattle's growing confidence. Facing Tennessee's double GM lineup next the Sluggers got another surprise boost when Mikhailuk defeated GM Shabalov to go with Sinanan's victory, 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 was now their 3rd win in a row. In round 6 it was wins by Serper and Sinanan that propelled the Sluggers past Queens, followed by a win over Miami with Nakamura and Sinanan once again supplying the victories. In round 8 Tennessee used the No GM's lineup while the Sluggers had both of their big guns scheduled. The surprise of the match was 4th board Howard Chen providing a text book like example in winning over one of Seattle's previous nemesis' John Bick. At the point Seattle had won 6 matches in a row, had 7/8 match points and had clinched a playoff spot. Round 9 had the return of the Arizona team. The Sluggers lost on that night when Josh missed a tricky win and Marcel was not able to see through the complications, scoring only one draw on the bottom boards while Naka was held to a draw. No one honestly expected the Sluggers to win out in the regular season, this loss was likely a real make or break point for them, at least in my opinion. It seemed to me that the Sluggers were winning on the outside boards and holding fast in the middle, Seattle's opponents would feel the pressure on those boards and consequently the opponent's middle boards would strive for more. My feeling is that the Sluggers middle boards could count on some highly aggressive, perhaps even risky, play from their opponents and could use that knowledge with a little preparation. In round 10 Seattle saw the Chicago Blaze for the only time this season. Marcel did a fine job of winning on 3, but Sinanan muffed a seriously better position and lost and the match ended in a tie. Going into the first round of hte playoffs the Sluggers had a lot to be confident of, they were going to have their double GM lineup available and a level of confidence that was new to them. The match with Miami should be a perfect example for future USCL teams in team psychology. With a surprising loss by the best player in the league as the first result the rest of the Sluggers had to change their mindset with an air of distress while the Sharks players were benefitted in thinking that they only needed draws. The end result was both frustrating and distasteful for the Sluggers as they lost 3 1/2 - 1/2. My feeling is that the season wasn't a failure as in any sense. Yes, they expected more, but that's why we play them. Sinanan proved that he is quite a good fourth board, Chen was a very pleasant surprise as a fill in, Marcel proved to be valuable, Michael had his moments but would do well with more preparation, Slava was his usual self as a rock sometimes and a turtle at others , and both Nakamura and Serper had stellar years. If the Sluggers players are serious about team chess all they need to do is to have some preparation and having a plan for each match. The disappointing thing is that these were almost my exact same words from last year. So, on to next season...
Which brings me to... me. I am done. That's right kiddies, the evil HA81 won't terrorize you with big words, sematic probes or quotes from people older than Greg Shahade. When I started I figured that 3 seasons would be enough to know whether it was a continuing project/hobby or not. Well, the answer has been obvious to me for a while. My hope was to provide an alternative to the more standard blogs in the league, I tried to adopt the role of the "fan in the stands". It didn't seem to succeed, though not through a lack of trying. My identity turned out to be an issue with some people, though I suspect more knew than let on. By now everyone knows who I am and so there is no need in going into that. I would like to submit the words of the greatest William ever, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Ok, since that is out of the way i would like to share an opinion (you didn't really think I would go gently into that good night?). For my money the best blog on the USCL is Arizona, but that is because they have 500 people doing it. While I congratulate the Scorps on their blog, I think it is simply ridiculous that more teams can't recruit players to write for them. Probably I am to blame because everybody is afraid to find a blogger like me on their doorstep, but think about it. If there were more active blogs it should increase interest. Teams could cross link back and forth in their blogs to get a better effect. Not only that but more responses should be appearing on blogs in order to give direction to the bloggers. This will meet with a lot of guffaws, but It seems to me that it will go a long way to increasing the popularity of the league if we could limit the trash talking and work to have complete understandable sentences. Just a thought. With that, no more Twitter, no more blog, no more rants coming to your local pc, no more HA81. I am requesting that Eddie remove my email from the Sluggers blog so that I can't get back on, that way if someone posts as HA81 we can be sure it isn't me. In that same vein, I won't be reading this any more, you are all on your own.
I want to thank all the Sluggers players from Giorgi, Nat, Loren, Andy, Slava, Eric, John, Katerina, Josh, Hikaru, Gregory, Marcel, Michael and Howard as well as Eddie. Thanks to all the other players in the league, to Bioniclime and of course to Greg/the Commish/ Dean Wormer. I will likely get reprimanded for forgetting somebody, but hey that's how it goes when you get to be 52.
People try to put us down,
just because we get around,
things they do look awful cold,
hope I die before I get old,
this is my generation, my generation babe,
why don't you all fade away,
don't try and dig what we all say,
I'm not trying to cause a big sensation,
just talking about my generation,