Collegiate Chess League Season 4 Week 5

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Week five was the first BYE week scheduled in the regular season, but there was still plenty of action as many teams rescheduled matches to be this weekend. This was also an exciting week for Princeton’s captain GM Andrew Tang who made his way to the Grand Finals in Chess.com’s Bullet Chess Championship earning this week’s player spotlight. 

This is the week five recap and a preview of round 5 to come this weekend, with matches starting at 7 a.m. PT on Saturday, March 19.

How to watch?

Matches are broadcast live at Twitch.tv/CollegiateChesLeague with commentary by the league’s commissioner, Joe Lee, with additional guests throughout the season.

Division 1 Highlights

The bye week still had four division one matchups due to teams rescheduling from previous weeks. Rival Texas schools University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the University of Texas at Austin actually decided to play their round five match a week early. The two teams both had a grandmaster in the lineup. UTRGV’s GM Arman Mikaelyan took on UT Austin’s GM Ruifeng Li who struggled against the strong UTRGV lineup only managing to beat their fourth board IM Dante Beukes. Here is the game between the two grandmasters. 

Arman had the black pieces against Ruifeng and on move one played a5 against Ruifeng’s 1. b3. On move two, Arman stuck with his game plan on the queenside and played a4 disrupting Ruifeng’s pawn structure. Despite the unorthodox opening, Arman managed to equalize and eventually line up a tactic on move 22 with a pawn sacrifice leading to a skewer of White’s queen and rook. After winning the exchange, the UTRGV GM took advantage of Ruifeng’s weak back rank by first grabbing a pawn on move 29 and then pushing to f3. This move is particularly nice keeping the pawn on the board and keeping the pressure on Li to solve his back rank problems.

Li pushes h4 for space, but this allows Black to infiltrate with his rook winning even more material. The weak white bishops tried to push Mikaelyan’s rooks away, but Mikaelyan’s rooks were too much to defend along with pawns on f2 and a2. The game finished with the nice tactic 38…Rxd4 taking advantage of the overworked rook defending both the bishop and the f1 promotion. UTRGV would go on to win the match 10-6.

As the match between UTRGV and UT Austin was going on, UChicago was playing UC San Diego. Both of these teams were champions last season with UChicago winning D1 and UCSD winning D2. The Chicago team was led by their top board GM Praveen Balakrishnan as well as their board three FM Kapil Chandran who both went 4-0 against the strong San Diego team.

Including the weekly arenas, Praveen has played in 20 CCL games so far this season and has a score of 19.5/20 (only getting a draw against GM Andrew Tang in their round one match against Princeton). Here is a crazy game of Praveen’s from the match against San Diego’s second board Chanin Tangtartharakul.

Praveen’s king was cut off from castling kingside by the bishop on a3, so he prepares to go queenside instead by first developing the bishop to d7. White has a very solid response with Qd4 threatening the e4 pawn as well as the a7 pawn if Praveen castles long. Praveen does the GM thing to do and ignores both threats entirely and castles anyways. White takes with their queen on a7 winning the pawn and bringing the queen closer to Black’s king in what seems to be a crushing attack. In the position shown above, there is only one move for Black that holds, and Praveen found it.

He played the brilliant Bxh3!! and the evaluation reads triple zeros with a perpetual! Any other move there and White is winning by at least +7. The point is twofold, if White takes with the g pawn, the black rook can now swing down to d2 with a devastating check leading to mate, and if White doesn’t take, any bishop move reveals a discovered check giving all the momentum back to Black. After evading a few of White’s checks, Chanin brings the queen back to defend his now exposed king. This allowed Praveen to sacrifice the bishop exposing the king further. The grandmaster brought in his rooks and found a fork winning the bishop back shortly after. A few trades later and Praveen was clearly in a won king and pawn endgame. UChicago won this match 10-6. 

Shortly after this match, UC San Diego would go on to play against the University of Texas at Austin who also lost earlier in the day. These two teams were a bit more evenly matched compared to their previous opponents in UTRGV and UChicago who both remain undefeated so far this season. UT Austin’s top two boards GM Ruifeng Li and FM Dachey Lin both swept the San Diego team 4-0, but their bottom two boards were both swept 0-4 leading the match to an even 8-8 draw. Although Ruifeng had a perfect result, one of his games, in particular, was far from perfect. In this position, his opponent Arseniy Kryazhev played Nd4 which not only saves the knight but throws a counter punch at Li’s rook. 

Somehow Ruifeng didn’t react and completely dropped the rook for free. The fourth board from San Diego was up a clean rook against the grandmaster but only had about a minute on their clock to convert. Li played on and put the pressure on his opponent. He managed to win an exchange for a pawn and went from being down a rook to being down a bishop and pawn. After trading the last pair of rooks off, Ruifeng was down to his last knight and put it to good work. He immediately won the pawn back and was now only down a bishop.

He kept attacking with the tricky knight and in time pressure, Arseniy saved the g-pawn and missed Nd3+ forking the king and bishop on move 52. Although the grandmaster had brought the game back from being down a rook, Arseniy was still pushing for the win and was able to win a pawn while Ruifeng’s knight captured the bishop. Ruifeng needed to bring the knight back for a sacrifice to stop Arseniy’s newly passed pawn, and once again Ruifeng was down a piece. However, his king was perfectly placed to start winning some pawns and managed to harass White’s knight. The Texas player was then able to start pushing his passed pawns down the board in unison, and the San Diego player in time pressure was unable to hold on. Kryazhev finally resigned on move 79. For time pressure reference, he had less than 20 seconds on the clock since move 37. Ruifeng completed the comeback in what was a crucial game for their 8-8 tie. 

The last division one match was between the University of Michigan and the University of Waterloo. This was the closest match of the weekend coming down to the very last game between Michigan’s captain Kevin Hass and Waterloo’s board two IM Michael Song. 

Both players were in a must-win situation in order to break the 7.5-7.5 tie. The game was fairly even throughout with Kevin gaining a bit of a time edge on his international master opponent. Kevin decided to gambit two pawns for strong rook activity on the a-file pointing towards Black’s king. Michael was able to trade queens making his king feel a bit safer, but Kevin’s rook activity was able to win the pawns back and create an outside passer on the h file. Both players were in a time scramble when Kevin instinctively went for the h6 pawn push which undefended the bishop allowing Song to give rook check and win the bishop. Song soon won the h pawn shortly after and held on for the clutch win and taking the match 8.5-7.5 in Waterloo’s favor. 
Game of the Week

The game of the week comes from UChicago’s GM Praveen Balakrishnan against UCSD’s board three FM Vatsal Singhania. This was a beautiful game from start to finish. 

Praveen starts the game off with Nf3, c4, fianchettoes the bishop to g2, and castles kingside early. This solid development allows him to attack early, and he does this by bringing his knight to the center on e5 after his opponent takes on c4. Vatsal develops towards the center with Nc6 allowing Praveen to triple isolate Black’s c pawns. Instead of taking on c6 with the fianchettoed bishop attacking Black’s rook, Balakrishnan makes five consecutive knight moves to win two of the three tripled pawns and end on a beautiful outpost square on c5. Black develops their bishop to trade for White’s strong fianchettoed bishop, but after trading Praveen spots the knight sacrifice 21. Nxe6 can be recaptured in two ways. If fxe6, the queen can now take the knight back on c6, and if the queen takes on e6 trying to defend the c6 knight, White has a fork with their pawn to d5 which was played in the game.

Black tries to hold onto the knight, but Praveen grabs another pawn and wins the knight back anyways. Black goes for a queen trade when Praveen finds another strong move 25. Be5 attacking Black’s queen and defending White’s. If Black trades queens, the bishop recaptures with a fork of the rooks. So Vatsal moves the queen but allows for quick development of the rook to d4 where it pivots with tempo on the queen and swings opposite Black’s king on the g file. Black tries kicking the queen out, but by then it’s too late. White takes with the rook on g7+ and the king goes towards the center to avoid any rook discoveries with the bishop on e5. Praveen ignores the threat on his queen and calmly grabs the pawn on h7 threatening Rh8 mate. Singhania plays f6 to clear a space for the king and create a double threat on Balakrishnan’s bishop and queen.

So now the queens are finally traded, but the grandmaster finds a nice tactic to win an exchange. 31. d6 hanging a bishop but threatening to take the bishop back with a fork on the king and rook on the back rank. Black takes with the bishop, Praveen checks with the rook, and instead of trading rooks, he finds the amazing skewer and deflection tactic 33. Bxf6+ winning the exchange. Praveen brings in his last rook paralyzing Black’s pieces and runs up his h pawn for the nice conclusion to this game. He delivers check to the king and instead of winning a piece, he finishes off with a smooth rook ladder mate. This was one of Praveen’s four wins in that match helping his team win 10-6. 

Player Spotlight
The player of the week goes to Princeton’s captain Tang who competed in Chess.com’s Bullet Chess Championship over the last few weeks and ended up winning second place only losing to GM Hikaru Nakamura. Tang defeated GM Fabiano Caruana 10-9 in round one, GM Jose Martinez 9.5-8.5 in round two, IM Tuan Minh Le 9-8 in round three, lost to Hikaru in the Winner’s Finals 11.5-9.5, and beat GM Daniel Naroditsky 11-8 in Loser’s Finals before finally reaching the Grand Finals where he would ultimately lose to Nakamura 11-8. Tang won a cool $15,000 for his amazing performance. 
Clip of the Week

This week’s clip comes from a time scramble between the fourth boards in the UCSD vs. UChicago match in D1. 

Live broadcast of the Collegiate Chess League is available at twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague; commentary provided by @JoeBruin.

Upcoming Matches

Round five resumes this weekend with matches starting at 7 a.m. PT on Saturday, March 19. Only three rounds are left in the season, so these matches are crucial for teams fighting for a playoff spot. 

Division one has two rivalry matches to watch out for: The University of Chicago will play against Northwestern University and UC Berkeley will play against UC San Diego.

Princeton is still looking to get their first win of the season when they play against UCLA. SLU will look to bounce back after losing their first match ever against Yale last week, and they will play against the University of Virginia.
Yale and Mizzou both look to continue their undefeated seasons. Yale will play Bucharest for the first time since last season when Yale won 9-7. Mizzou will play the University of Waterloo. If both Mizzou and Yale win this weekend, they will both be 5-0 going into their head-to-head match in round six. 

Georgia Tech is still in search of their first win, and they will play the University of Michigan in what feels like a must-win match in order for Georgia to qualify for playoffs. 

Many of these matches will be streamed live on Twitch, so be sure to check them out!

The full list of pairings can be found here, and the full division standings are available here after you navigate to Collegiate Chess.

For any league-related questions, please email Commissioner Joe Lee at ccl@chess.com.


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