Victory for UTD at Pan-Ams
On December 27-30 I played in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship. I was on the University of Texas at Dallas A team. In each round we played a 4-board match against a team from some other university, or in the case of round 5, our own B team. The pairings were determined by the Swiss System, but with teams instead of individuals. As a team we scored 4 wins and two draws. Personally I scored 3.5/4.
The only really tough match I played in was round 6, but it provided plenty of excitement. Our opponents from Webster University made history with a team that vastly outrated any college team ever seen before. Webster's lineup in the final round boasted an average FIDE rating of 2640. The team would have been seeded 18th in the 2012 Olympiad, just ahead of Spain. But UTD is no joke either; we also had a 4-GM lineup.
The first result in the match was an early repetition draw in the game between Valentin Yotov (UTD) and Wesley So (Webster) on the first board. Next came a victory for UTD, with a smooth attacking win by Julio Sadorra against Fidel Corrales. But then Ray Robson equalized the score, managing to win a drawn rook ending against Cristian Chirila. So my game was the last remaining and would determine the result of the match.
On Board 4 I faced the German Grandmaster Georg Meier. We traded a lot of pieces fairly early in the game, and by move 27 an endgame arose where he had a bishop and a knight versus my two knights. I thought it should be possible for Black to hold the ending. However, my knights proved very clumsy, never finding any good squares. Meier, on the other hand, displayed excellent endgame technique. By move 40 it was clear that I was losing.
On move 53 my opponent finally made an inaccurate move that gave me a chance to fight back. After Bxd7 Kxd7 Kc5, White is able to invade with his king while keeping the knight on d3 where it protects all the important pawns. In the game, he had to allow one of his pawns to be captured, giving me a little counterplay, although White was still winning.
The final critical moment came on move 69. In time pressure, Meier chose to promote his pawn, which turned out to be too straightforward and gave away the win. After the game my teammates demonstrated how White could have won by waiting for an appropriate moment to deflect the black knight from d7. They found an elegant line: 69. g4 Ke5 70. Ne3 Kf4 71. Nd5+ Kg5 72. Ka8! with zugzwang.
My draw also resulted in a draw for the team and secured a share of first place. A total of 5 teams scored 5/6. The order of tiebreaks was: UT Dallas A, Webster B, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Webster A (the team we were playing), University of Illinois. Thus, UTD went home with the first place trophy.