Webster University Is Once Again U.S. Collegiate Champion
BySamuel ShanklandJan 01 — 2:00 PM
Image by Al Lawrence
But it was its B team, not its top-ranked A squad that captured the title.
In the 2016 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship, Webster University’s biggest competition turned out to be Webster University.
Webster, which is in St. Louis, had four teams in the field and two of them, its A and B squads, tied for first. Surprisingly, it was the B squad that took the title on tiebreaks in the six-round competition.
Saint Louis University, Texas Tech’s A team and Webster’s C team tied for third. The first two teams, along with the A team from the University of Texas-Dallas (the top sixth-place team), will vie with Webster A in the President’s Cup (also known as the Final Four) this spring, as each university is only allowed one team in the final event.
Webster's top-ranked A team, with Le Quang Liem, right, on Board 1, and Ray Robson on Board 2, was upstaged by its B team and finished second on tiebreaks.
Overall, there were 60 teams from 33 colleges and universities in this year’s field. With more than 250 players, including 24 grandmasters and 19 international masters, it was the biggest and strongest Pan-American championship in more than 30 years. Indeed, several teams had all-grandmaster lineups, mostly comprised of foreigners studying in the United States. The influx of talent is the result of many colleges now actively recruiting abroad.
Webster B won its first three matches before coming up against Saint Louis University in Round 4. Saint Louis had the higher-ranked team, but Webster won thanks to a victory on Board 1 by Vasif Durarbayli of Webster, a grandmaster from Azerbaijan, over Dariusz Swiercz, a Polish grandmaster:
Raf828. b5!This is a strategically risky move because it gives the Black knight access to the c5 square, but Durarbayli has figured out that he will be able to play c5 before that can happen. 28... Ng629. Rxf6Rxf630. bxa6bxa631. Kg1Rf432. Qe2Qxe233. Bxe2Re4
( 33... Nf8If Black can play Nd7, he will have a great position, but 34. c5!This was the point of White's play. After ...dxc535. Bxa6White has a big edge. )
34. Bf1White's play is simple but elegant. He has made a permanent weakness for Black on a6, and despite the modest positioning of his pieces, Black cannot stop c5, which gives White a decisive advantage. 34... Nf435. g3!
( 35. c5This move was also quite good. )
35... Ne2+36. Kg2Black has to respect the threat of Kf3. 36... Nc337. c5!It is time to play this. 37... dxc538. Bxa6Rb439. Bc8
( 39. Bf1This was easier but the move played by White is good enough. 39... Nb540. a6Na741. Rc1And Black would probably have resigned. )
39... Nb540. Bd7Na741. Re1!e442. Rc1!Black's pawns are very easily targeted. Note how pitiful the knight on a7 is in comparison to the White bishop. 42... c443. d6!cxd644. Rxc4Rb7
( 44... Rxc445. Be6+ )
45. Be6+Kf846. Rxe4White has an extra outside passed pawn and a much better minor piece. The rest was easy for Durarbeyli. 46... Rb547. Rf4+Ke748. Bc4Rxa549. Rf7+Kd850. Rxg7h551. Be6Ke852. Rh7Kf853. Rd7Nb554. h4Ke855. Rh7Nd456. Bf7+Ke757. Rxh5Ra358. Bd5Kf659. Be4Ra460. Rd5Ke761. Bh7Nc662. Rd2Ne563. f4Nc464. Re2+Kf665. Bg8Na566. Bd5Rd467. Re6+Kg768. Rxd6Black fought on as long as he could in a lost position, but after he loses a third pawn, there is not much more hope. 68... Nc469. Rd7+Kh670. Bc6Ne3+71. Kf2Ng4+72. Kf3
In the same round, Webster A had a close call against Texas Tech A when grandmaster Ray Robson, the only American-born player on any of the top squads, lost a tough game to Andrey Gorovets, an international master from Belarus. Webster A managed to win anyway as Illya Nyzhnyk, a Ukrainian grandmaster, and Alex Shimanov, a Russian grandmaster, won fine games. I particularly enjoyed Nyzhnyk’s effort against Elshan Moradiabadi, a grandmaster from Iran:
The two top Webster teams faced each other in Round 5. A drawn match would be an unwelcome result for both squads, but it shook out that way as Robson, who had been struggling badly all event, won a very nice game over Jayaram Ashwin, an Indian grandmaster, to counterbalance a victory by Manuel Leon Hoyos, a Mexican grandmaster, over Shimanov.
29. Rfe1This is a closed position, and the only player who make anything happen is White who can try to play f4 at some point. But Black has that square totally under control. After a simple and solid move by Black, I would expect the game to eventually end in a draw. But Ashwin erred at this point. 29... Nf8?The knight was quite good on g6.
( 29... Kf8A move like this would have been fine. The king can move to h7 and Black has no problems. )
30. Qc2!A very strong move. Black has to defend the pawn on a5 with his rook since the pawn on c6 is attacked by White's knight. 30... Ra5
( 30... Qa5?31. Nxc6 )
31. Qd2!The point. Now that White has lured the Black rook to a5, he is threatening Nxc6. But after 31... Rb5White can now play f4. Robson did not waste his chance.
( 31... Ng6?32. Nxc6Qxc633. Qxa5 )
32. f4!gxf433. Qxf4The computer only gives White a slight edge a this point, but the position looks very unpleasant for Black. Ashwin crumbled very quickly. 33... Rg534. Nd3Ng6?A miscalculation.
( 34... Qa5!The engine suggests this move, but it's very tough to play over the board. )
35. Qxa4!It might look as if Black is winning White's e-pawn, but Robson has a plan. 35... Nxe536. Rxe5!Rxe537. Qf4!Black's rook is pinned and he will lose a piece unless he fatally exposes his king.
( 37. Nxe5Qxe5And Black would be fine. )
37... f6Without this move, Black loses a piece. But now he is dead anyway because his king will perish. 38. Qxf6!Re439. Rf1!Qe740. Qg6+Kd841. Qg8+Black is about to lose his queen, so he resigned instead of waiting for Kd7 Rf7 or Qe8 Rf8
Webster A and Webster B won their final-round matches, but Webster B had a greater margin of victory, beating University of Texas-Dallas A, 3-1. The most remarkable win was by Hoyos — a quick knockout of Angel Arribas Lopez, a Spanish grandmaster:
exf4White has a big, probably decisive edge, but from this point onward, the position becomes increasingly complicated and time trouble sets in for both players, leading to mistakes on both sides. 31. Rxe7Bxe732. gxf7+?
( 32. Qf5!This (very difficult) move was the only way to preserve White's advantage. Black should lose after 32... Nf633. gxf7+Kf834. Bxf4 )
32... Kf833. Qh7Bg5!34. Bg6The pendulum has swung and Black has a big edge, but the position is almost impossible to play over the board without making errors. 34... Qb8
( 34... Qc8!This move was more accurate. 35. b3b4!36. c4Nf637. Qh8+Ke7 )
( 36... Nf6!And Black should win. 37. Qh8+Ke738. f8=Q+Rxf839. Qg7+Kd6Scary as this position looks, White's attack is indeed out of steam. )
37. Bb2!Simple and strong. White threatens to play d5 37... f3?Now White can play d5.
( 37... Bf6!This move was the only way to hold on. )
38. d5!Nf639. Bxf6!Very well spotted with almost no time left to make the first time control. 39... Bxf640. d6!Black resigned as he is unable to prevent Qg8, with mate to follow. For example: 40... Qxd641. Qg8+Ke742. Qe8+!Rxe843. fxe8=Q#
It was a great tournament to follow, and I look forward to seeing how the Final Four shakes out.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players