Final Four

I played for the University of Texas at Dallas at the President's Cup, or Final Four of Chess. The qualifiers were the 4 US teams who finished highest at the Pan-American Intercollegiate tourament. Teams can have up to 6 players, four of whom play in each round.

Some games can be viewed at

We played at some offices of the sponsor, Booz Allen Hamilton, in Rockville, Maryland. The advantage of this location is that there is no chance of being disturbed by a dance party in the next room, as sometimes happens in a hotel. The disadvantage is having to drive back and forth. I ended up sitting around doing nothing a lot, due to the brevity of my first and second games. Unfortunately, the starting times for the 3 games were all crammed into a period of less than 24 hours.


A lot of strategy is dictated by the unusual game-point format. A team's score for the tournament is simply the sum of its players' scores. Whether one wins the team match against another team (the usual way to score points in team competitions) is only relevant as a tiebreak. Last year, the 3 top teams all drew each other. But Texas Tech got 4/4 against New York University, while UTD and University of Maryland Baltimore County were "only" able to score 3.5.


The field was similar this year. UTD and UMBC competed again. The Texas Tech chess program moved to Webster University, in St. Louis, while adding some players with monstrous ratings. For the underdog we had the University of Illinois instead of NYU. So there was a similar dynamic of the lowest-rated team being the kingmakers. 


Our first round against UMBC went well with 3 wins and 1 loss. We improved in comparison to last year, when we scored 2 points against UMBC. GM Chirila had a nice game where he was less prepared and got a scary-looking position out of the opening, but managed to survive and win.




In round 2 we played the University of Illinois. Although they were the fourth seed, it was perhaps the most critical match for UTD. Both Eric Rosen and Xin Luo of Illinois managed to hold draws on the boards where they had white, so we got 3 points, which was not really enough--we should gave gotten at least 3.5, since in round 1 Webster had made 4 out of 4.


In the other round 2 match,  Webster won with 2.5 points. Of course we were rooting for UMBC to reduce Webster's point total. One of the UMBC players  reached something like the following position with black:



















There was much derision of the player's decision not to trade queens, with an easily winning position. The game later ended in a draw.


Thus in the final round we trailed Webster by half a point. This creates a very unpleasant situation. Everyone feels compelled to push desperately for a win, which can lead to a lot of losses instead. UTD scored only 1.0/4 in the final match. Still we got a slightly better final result than last year (clear 2nd instead of tied 2nd-3rd).



US Championship 


I'm excited to be playing in the U.S. Championship. It is scheduled at an inopportune time for me, May 1-14, which happens to be when final exams are taken at UTD. But I had good luck: 3 of my classes have take-home finals (I never had one of these in any of the previous three semesters). That leaves only my two physics exams to worry about.


  • 3 years ago


    damn, I feel dumb now :)


    Thanks undogrel!

  • 4 years ago

    GM dretch

    I remember the game with the stalemate against Bryan Smith. Lots of good times in Oklahoma

  • 4 years ago


    @Grutin, bboswell asked this question earlier and GM dretch answered it :)

  • 4 years ago


    On the 1st game, wasn't there a mate for white at 28. by 28. Nh6 ?

    Followed by 28. ... Kh8 29. Qg8 Rxg8 30. Nf7#.

  • 4 years ago


    Hey Conrad, great to see that you are going to be playing in the US Championship. I live in Tulsa, and remember you playing a game with Bryan Smith, in which you had the "suicide rook," which allowed the draw. I look forward to following the games, and you are going to do great things in chess and life. Best wishes.

  • 4 years ago

    GM dretch

    Of course the position is winning for black after any reasonable move, but somehow, it ended in a draw.

  • 4 years ago

    GM dretch

    Thanks Eric!

    @ boswell, note the position of the white king.

  • 4 years ago


    Could someone explain to me why a smothered mate could not have been played on move 28 by L.C. Chirilla in his game, eg. 28 Nh6+ followed by 29.Qg8+?

  • 4 years ago

    GM erichansen

    I'm expecting Conrad to feast on the GMs this year. It's about time he got invited

  • 4 years ago


    Tell those physics professors to give you a break! 

  • 4 years ago


    Great post, Dretch. I always enjoy watching your games.

Back to Top

Post your reply: