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United States Chess League

United States Chess League
Sport Chess
Founded 2005
No. of teams 18
Country United States
Most recent champion(s) Manhattan Applesauce

The United States Chess League (USCL) is the only nationwide chess league in the United States. It currently has twenty teams, whose members include some of the highest-rated chess players in the United States. Participants in the most recent season included Wesley So, Le Quang Liem, Gata Kamsky, Anton Kovalyov, Varuzhan Akobian, Daniel Naroditsky, Julio Becerra, Joel Benjamin, and many other grandmasters. The league was founded in 2005 by the current League Commissioner, International Master Greg Shahade. Shahade is now assisted by Arun Sharma, who is the Vice President of the USCL.


Origin and first season

On January 30, 2005 the San Francisco Mechanics became the first team to join the U.S. Chess League. Carolina joined the league on April 30, 2005, bringing the league to its full first-season roster of eight teams. The Boston Blitz and the New York Knights played the inaugural match on August 31, 2005.

The league concluded its first season on November 24, 2005 when the Baltimore Kingfishers defeated the Miami Sharks three and a half to a half in the USCL Championship Match.

The league recognized the game between GM Larry Christiansen (Boston Blitz) and IM Pascal Charbonneau (Baltimore Kingfishers), won by Charbonneau in Week 4, as Game of the Year.

Second season

On March 10, 2006 Commissioner Shahade announced that two expansion teams, the Seattle Sluggers and the Tennessee Tempo, would join the league for the second season. The 2006 season concluded on November 29, 2006 as the San Francisco Mechanics defeated the New York Knights in the blitz tiebreaker to win the Championship. Game of the Year honors went to the drawn game between GM Pawel Blehm (Baltimore) and GM Pascal Charbonneau (New York Knights) from Week 2.

Third season

In 2007, two further expansion teams, the New Jersey Knockouts and the Queens Pioneers, joined the USCL. The Philadelphia Masterminds also changed their name to the Philadelphia Inventors. In the season ending Championship Match, the Dallas Destiny defeated the Boston Blitz in the blitz tiebreaker. Game of the Year went to SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun's (Boston) defeat of IM Davorin Kuljasevic (Dallas) from the Championship Match.

Fourth season

At the end of 2007, the league announced two additional teams for the upcoming season: the Chicago Blaze and the Arizona Scorpions. These teams competed in the Western Division. The Carolina Cobras moved back to East to balance the Divisions.

The Championship Match for the 2008 season featured the same teams as the previous year, with the Dallas Destiny again beating the Boston Blitz in the blitz tiebreaker to claim the Championship. Game of the Year honors went to GM Larry Christiansen (Boston) for his win in the Championship Match over IM Marko Zivanic (Dallas).

Fifth season

For the first time, the participating cities and divisions remained the same in the 2009 season. One key rule change was the elimination of bonus rating points for female players, instead establishing a bonus roster spot for the team if at least one woman was on the roster.

The Championship Match was contested by New York and Miami, with New York winning in the blitz tiebreaker, the fourth season in a row the Championship Match was decided in that fashion. Game of the Year honors went to GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (New York) for his win over GM Josh Friedel (San Francisco) from Week 5.

Sixth season

The league expanded from fourteen to sixteen teams this year, with the addition of three new teams (the St. Louis Arch Bishops, the Los Angeles Vibe, and the New England Nor'easters) and the folding of the Tennessee Tempo. Additionally, the Queens Pioneers moved to Manhattan and became known as the Manhattan Applesauce. The rules were also changed to eliminate alternates, favoring instead another permanent roster spot, increasing the size to nine, or ten if at least one woman is on the team.

The expansion team from New England set a new league record with 9.5 points out of 10 matches, drawing only with their local competitors, the Boston Blitz. New England then worked its way through the playoffs, winning the Championship by a score of three to one against the Miami Sharks. The Championship match featured an unusual occurrence as a Miami player was unable to reach the playing site in time, resulting in a forfeit on Board Three. Game of the Year honors went to GM Varuzhan Akobian (Seattle) for his win over GM Yury Shulman (St. Louis) from Week 10.

Seventh season

As in the fifth season, the participating teams and divisions remained the same as in the previous season. The only major rule change was the increasing of roster size from nine spots to ten along with the elimination of the bonus roster spot that had previously been given if there was at least one woman on the team.

The Championship Match was contested between the New York Knights and Chicago Blaze with the Knights winning their second Championship by a two and a half to one and a half score. Game of the Year honors went to GM Melikset Khachiyan (Los Angeles) for his win over GM Cristian Chirila (Dallas) from Week 5.

Eighth season

Despite reaching the Championship in the previous season, the Chicago Blaze did not play the eighth season of the USCL. Chicago's slot was filled by a new team, the Connecticut Dreadnoughts, featuring grandmaster Robert Hess as its top-rated player. This change resulted in a slight re-shuffling of the divisions, with the Carolina team moving back to the Western Division.

The Championship Match featured the Philadelphia Inventors against the Seattle Sluggers - both making their first appearance in the title match. Seattle won by a three to one score, winning on boards three and four. Game of the Year honors went to SM Matt Herman (New York) for his win in the Quarterfinals over IM Eli Vovsha (Manhattan).

Ninth season

As in the fifth and seventh years, the participating teams and divisions remained the same as in the previous season.

The Miami Sharks won their first title defeating the New York Knights three and a half to a half in the Championship Match. Game of the Year was awarded to GM Tamaz Gelashvili (New York) for a sacrificial win with Black against IM Marc Esserman (Boston) in Week 6.

Tenth season

With the addition of two new teams - the Rio Grande Ospreys and the Atlanta Kings - the league divided its 18 teams into three divisions: East, West, and South. Prior seasons featured only East and West divisions. The Rio Grande team is based in Brownsville, Texas and draws its player pool heavily from the University of Texas - Brownsville program, coached by GM Bartomiej Macieja.

The St. Louis Arch Bishops won the 2014 Championship, their first, with a blitz tiebreaker victory over the Dallas Destiny.

The new divisional lineups for 2014 were:




Eleventh season

The Manhattan Applesauce team won the eleventh season championship, beating the defending champion St. Louis Arch Bishops 2.5-1.5 in the final match.


Teams consist of rosters of ten players, and each week the manager selects a lineup of four, depending on rating, form, and availability. The average rating for each match is capped at less than 2401, with certain exceptions for highly rated players.

The season starts the last week of August or first week of September and ends in late November or early December. Each team plays one match per week, and matches are almost always scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. All matches are played online at the Internet Chess Club. Team members gather at a common public location where a league-approved tournament director is present.

If either team in a given match scores two and a half points or more from the four games, that team wins the match. If the score is split at two points apiece, the match is drawn. At the end of the regular season, the four teams in each division with the highest match point totals qualify for the playoffs, which are conducted in a knockout format. In the Championship match, a drawn match proceeds to a series of blitz games to determine the ultimate winner.