The Collegiate Chess League is officially over halfway through its fourth season. With only three rounds remaining, teams are already fighting for playoff spots, and every match from now on is even more important for the teams’ standings leading up to the postseason.
This is the fourth-round recap and a preview of the upcoming fifth week.
How to watch?
Division 1 Highlights
Two heavyweight teams went head-to-head last weekend between Yale and SLU. SLU has never before lost a CCL match, winning the inaugural season’s championship undefeated before dropping out for seasons two and three. Now, in their fourth season return, the League has grown much larger and stronger, and Yale took them down for their first defeat ever.
SLU started the match strong with a 3-1 lead after the first round. Yale’s only win in the first round came from their top board GM Nicolas Checa who led the team in points going 3.5/4, only drawing against SLU’s top board GM Nikolas Theodorou. In the second round, Yale answered right back with a 3-1 score of their own to bring the score to a 4-4 tie. In the third round, Yale took a slight edge of 6.5-5.5. With their backs against the wall, SLU needed to win the fourth and final round 3-1 to win the match.
They started strong and were able to bring it back to being tied at 7-7, but with two final games remaining, Yale took the lead to make it 8-7. In the final game, SLU needed a win to tie the match, and a draw or loss would result in their first-ever defeat. SLU’s second board IM Stavroula Tsolakidou was playing against Yale’s FM Yoony Kim. Things were looking good for Kim as he was up by two pawns, but Tsolakidou was able to get a strong attack on Kim’s king. With Black to move, Stavroula found a nice tactic here. Can you spot it?
She took advantage of the pinned rook on f3 by playing Nf2+, forking the king and queen. After the dust had cleared, Stavroula seemed to be in a commanding position, up two minor pieces. However, her bishop was stuck in the corner preventing White from promoting, and White’s king was able to infiltrate the defense to capture her pawns. After losing her last pawn it seemed she would have to pull off the infamous knight and bishop checkmate, but Kim’s pawns were too much for the knight to stop on its own. Kim ended up winning the knight for a pawn, making the game a draw and thus winning the match 8.5-7.5. Yale improves to 4-0 on the season, and SLU’s perfect record falls to 3-1. Here is the call of this final game live.
Mizzou had a crushing win over Georgia Tech 14-2, with 13 wins, two draws, and only one loss. Both GM Grigory Oparin and GM Mikhail Antipov had perfect scores going 4/4. This performance is even more impressive when you remember Georgia Tech only lost to SLU last week by a score of 8-7. Mizzou was also missing one of their grandmasters Chris Repka who earned second place in his group at the 2022 Spring Chess Classic in St. Louis going 6/9.
Mizzou remains undefeated so far this season. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech is still looking for their first win. Georgia started the season with the toughest schedule in their group playing the top four seeded teams in the first four rounds. Luckily, the rest of their schedule will put them up against the remaining lower-seeded teams, and they still have time to turn their season around and make it to the playoffs. Mizzou, on the other hand, already looks playoff-ready. Here is the game between the two top boards of the match, Oparin from Mizzou and NM Saigautam Bonam from Georgia.
In this position, Oparin gave up his fianchettoed bishop for Black’s knight in order to win a pawn. He was able to grind down his opponent with this advantage and smoothly went on to win the game. The main thing to note in this win is Oparin’s clock. He finished this 63rd move with 5:21 left on his clock against his master opponent. That’s 21 seconds more than he started the game with.
Unlike Georgia Tech, The University of Michigan and the University of Waterloo were both able to get their first wins of the season. Michigan won against the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, and Waterloo won against the University of Virginia both by a score of 11-5. In the Michigan match, their club leader Kevin Hass found this fun move in this position.
The move Be7 put the bishop in harm’s way but threatened to bring the queen into g7 with check if the king captured the bishop. After Ng5+, the king took the bait, and Kevin’s queen infiltrated. Not even interested in the hanging rook on h8, Kevin brought the knight in for the fork, ending the game and helping his team earn their first win this season.
The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley beat UCLA 10.5-5.5. The UCLA team was missing a few players at an over-the-board event, but UTRGV was also missing their top board GM Kamil Dragun who was playing in the 2022 Spring Chess Classic in St. Louis. Their next best player, IM Viktor Gazik, filled in his place as the top board just like he did last week. He had this nice miniature Ruy Lopez game against UCLA’s top board Roland Gadbois.
Roland played the very weakening Ne7, allowing Nxf6 and Bxd6 back to back, which decimated Black’s pawn structure. After Viktor played Qg3+, the game was over due to the simple Qh3, and mate on h7 was unavoidable. This short game only lasted 17 moves.
Princeton did not play this week as they rescheduled their match against Northwestern, but their captain GM Andrew Tang still played a match of his own against none other than GM Fabiano Caruana in Chess.com’s Bullet Chess Championship. Andrew was able to take down the former world champion challenger in the tiebreaks 10-9. He will move on to play in the semifinals against IM Le Tuan Minh.
Game of the Week
The game of the week comes from Waterloo’s captain NM Brian Jiang against Virginia’s second board NM Owen McCoy. This was a strong and dynamic game from the Canadian master, featuring a brilliant move in the following position:
Jiang found the crushing exchange sacrifice Rxg5. This brought his queen into the attack and left Black’s king stranded. McCoy was able to sacrifice the exchange back in order to defend, trade off queens, and even win a piece. However, Brian’s passed a-pawn was too strong and too difficult for the knight to defend. Jiang was able to win back the piece shortly along with some extra pawns with a nice discovery tactic. This was enough for Jiang to secure the win and help lead his team to their first win of the season.
Clip of the Week
This week’s clip comes from the division five match between Baylor’s A team and Indiana University’s A team.
Live broadcast of the Collegiate Chess League is available at twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague; commentary provided by @JoeBrown†
This weekend is the first of two scheduled bye weeks during the regular season. Many teams will still be playing this weekend as they have rescheduled their matches from previous weeks to this weekend. Below are the main rescheduled matches for this weekend to watch out for. Round five will resume next weekend with matches starting at 7 am PT/16:00 CET on Saturday, March 19.
In division one, UC San Diego is playing a doubleheader this Sunday, March 13, against UChicago and UT Austin. UT Austin will also be playing against their Texas neighbors in UTRGV.
Division two has two matches, Temple vs. Duke will be on Saturday, March 12, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign vs. Washington University at St. Louis will be on Sunday.
Our weekly prize arena will not be affected by the bye week and will still occur on Sunday at 10 am PT/19:00 CET. As a reminder, the team with the most first-place finishes in the weekly arenas throughout the regular season will win $500. Currently, UChicago and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology are tied at two wins each.
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 email@example.com.