Collegiate chess competition: the last round

The final round of the regular season takes place this weekend and most teams have already secured a play-off spot. Other teams are not so lucky and are on the brink of elimination. This will be the most exciting week of the season as teams take their destiny into their own hands and battle in what could possibly be their last game for a chance to win the $25,000 prize pool in the playoffs.

How to watch?

Matches will be broadcast live on Twitch.tv/collegiatechesleague with commentary from the league commissioner, Joe Lee, with additional guests throughout the season.

Highlights round 6

With a bye on round seven, UC Berkeley closed out the perfect season with a 13-3 win over Washington University in St. Louis. They have won every match with a minimum score of 10-6 and an average score of 12-4. This team had taken first place with two impressive rounds to go. The undefeated Berkeley team will look to continue their streak in the playoffs, where they will face their fiercest competition. With first place secured, they go straight to the quarter-finals, where a win would earn them a top four place, along with a guaranteed $1,000 and possibly up to $5,000 for first place overall. Here’s a highlight game of their board two IM Ladia Jirasek against Wash U’s board two NM Nicholas Bartochowski who had two of their team’s three points. Ladia defeated the national master in just 14 moves.

Meanwhile, the University of Warsaw, in the second group of Division 1, has one game left to finish their perfect season with only Princeton in the way. The Princeton team led by GM Andrew Tang secured a spot in the playoffs with their win against MIT in round six. With MIT losing in the previous round, they face elimination in round seven against the 5-1 Yale team led by GM Nicolas Checa.

Yale sits comfortably in number two in the standings after beating the University of Michigan team in a close game last week. Checa’s 4-0 performance was essential to their 9.5-6.5 win. In a strategic battle against Michigan’s highest board Ben Li, Nicolas managed to position his knight in the center and break through with a nice knight sacrifice on the f2 square. Ben tried to ease the pressure on his king by swapping a pair of rooks and didn’t even accept the knight’s sacrifice, but by then it was too late as Nicolas’ knight and queen combination was too deadly. This was his longest game of the match, and Ben’s only loss.

Game of the week

The match of the week comes from a first division match between Mizzou and UChicago. Mizzou got their second loss of the season to the Chicago team led by GM Awonder Liang, but this match came from their board two, IM Praveen Balakrishnan who was undefeated against the Mizzou team. Balakrishnan knocked down Mizzou IM Harshit Raja’s top board, despite being well behind. The bishop sacrifice came on move 29 when he played c7 instead of retaking black’s knight on b7. Although Raja was well ahead for most of the game, he had only 10 seconds left on move 25 and had to live from the two-second increase until his eventual dismissal on move 61. Praveen’s kingly activity and ruthlessness enabled him to opponent’s king to the corner where mate would follow shortly afterwards.

Clip of the week

This week’s clip is from the second division match between Temple University and the University of Benin. Until the last game of the match Temple was 7-8 behind Benin. Temple’s captain and top player Jeffrey Kunnel was a queen for a rook in a must-win situation to tie the score. See what happens next.

Live broadcast of the Collegiate Chess League is available on twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague; commented by @JoeBrown.

group leaders

This table shows the current group leaders of each division going into round seven. The top team is from group A and the bottom team is from group B. Schools are divided into groups based on their location. Interestingly, eight out of 10 Group A leaders are from California and six out of 10 Group B leaders are international teams.

Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Division 4 Division 5
UC Berkeley A UCSD A WUSTL B UC Berkeley C UC Berkeley D
University of Warsaw University of Benin Lviv . State University Umassachusetts University of Franche
Division 6 Division 7 Division 8 Division 9 Division 10
UCSD B Baylor Caltech B Miracosta USC E
IIITDM Jabalpur Northern Illinois University of Florida C Kalinga IIT University of Akron

Upcoming matches

Each round seven game will have a major impact on the overall standings of the teams, which will ultimately decide whether they make the play-offs or not. Teams that have already secured a spot also fight to improve their standings, which determines who they will play against in the playoffs. Having a higher ranking means being favorably matched with a lower ranking opponent. Any advantage at this point makes a big difference. The difference between second and third place is especially significant as the top two teams go straight to the quarter-finals. The other teams must play a wild card match to qualify for the quarter-finals. If you have one less match to play, your team is much closer to the prize pool. With all this in mind, it seems that each division has a lot of key matchups for both getting a top two spot and getting a playoff spot overall.

Division One: The bottom two teams of Group A compete for the last remaining spot in the playoffs, with Washington University in St. Louis holding a significant lead over Rutgers. Wash U has a shot at a playoff spot against UT Austin this weekend. A win would secure them a spot, but that’s much easier said than done. Meanwhile, Rutgers has a must-win match against Mizzou, the defending champion, and even if they pull it off, they’ll need Wash U to lose their last match.

Division Two: UCLA and UCSD will face each other in a battle for first place. A win or draw for UCSD would keep them in first place, but a loss would put UCLA in first place. In the second group, Cornell and Purdue play for second place. Cornell needs to win to take second place, and a win for Purdue could potentially put them in first place if Benin loses their match against Duke.

Division Three: The top two teams Ivan Bobersky Lviv SUPC and CentraleSupélec-Université Paris-Sacaly are both tied at 10 match points each, and they play in round seven to clear first. The stakes are even higher because the losing team could lose their second-place finish if Florida wins at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. On the other side of the standings, Harvard B and Purdue B will play in what is essentially a playoff game as both teams fight for the last spot in their group. Harvard is currently one point ahead of Purdue, so a draw or win for Harvard will take them into the spot. Purdue is in a situation that you have to win to jump over Harvard in the standings and take the last spot.

Division Four: Likewise, the two best teams University of Massachusetts and Wake Forest University are tied and play against each other first.

Division Five: The bottom two teams Yale C and Bangladesh play for the last place. Unfortunately for Yale, they need to win 16-0 to beat Bangladesh in the tiebreaks.

Division Six: Group A has leaders UCSD B and USC B playing in a match for first. USC B would have to win by a score of 13-3 to take first through the tiebreak, but if they lose, they could even lose their second place if UC Riverside beats Northwestern B (which is currently in last place). Group B leaders Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design, and Manufacturing, Jabalpur and Carnegie Mellon B will battle for first place with IIITDMJ currently leading by one point.

Division seven: Group B has Northern Illinois play Purdue E for first place. This is the only group with an astonishing four teams currently in second place, so any of the teams can still come in first. In Group A, the bottom teams will play USC C and UNLV B where a USC win could potentially earn them a playoff spot if Denver loses their game to Baylor (who is in first place and undefeated).

Division eight: In Group A, Wash U’s C team can become the first to overtake clear with a win over Cal Poly Pomona’s B team, and in Group B, UFlorida C can become the first to win over seventh place Northeastern C.

Division nine: The Arizona State B team faces a situation that must be won against UCSD’s C team to stand a chance of winning the wildcard weekend. In Group B, Ramakrishna and Georgia State are both tied for second place, and a loss to either team is likely to make them third or worse.

Division ten: Howard is in a must-win match over Wake Forest’s B-Team, and even if they win, they’ll need Cornell’s D-Team to lose to Carnegie Mellon’s D-Team.

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

The full list of combinations can be found here, and the fUll division leaderboards are available here.

For competition questions, email Commissioner Joe Lee at ccl@chess.com.


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