Saint Louis University Dominate Collegiate Chess League Final

Saint Louis University Dominate Collegiate Chess League Final

| 2 | Chess Event Coverage

Saint Louis University (SLU) has won its second straight college title after dismantling the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) by an 11.5-4.5 margin in the Final of the 2023 Collegiate Chess League (CCL) fall season.

A 3.5/4 MVP performance by GM Benjamin Bok, as well as a solid 3/4 by SLU's board-four GM Batsuren Dambasuren ensured victory for SLU and, for their efforts, they will receive a $5,000 cash prize thanks to tournament sponsor SIG.

The University of Missouri (Mizzou) also managed to win third place, beating The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) after an anticlimactic semifinal loss against SLU on Saturday. 

Playoffs Bracket

SLU's captain Bok was openly confident about his team's chances right from the start of the season and, after winning the final by such a hefty margin, he said the following: "To be fair, I didn't expect anything less, because our team is the best in the league."

Although Bok's comments about his team were intended as banter, SLU lived up to the hype in both their semifinal match against Mizzou and their final match against UT Dallas. A 3.5-0.5 score in the opening round of the finals against a GM-stacked Dallas squad was an eye-opener.

"I'm not going to be putting any money on a comeback" — WGM Nemo.

While the score itself was remarkable, a 16-move win by GM Nikolas Theodorou over GM Balaji Daggupati and a 19-move win by Bok over IM Andrei Macovei, left UT Dallas stunned. This sadly won't go down as Theodorou's most famous miniature of late as he also beat Super-GM Teimour Radjabov in just 19 moves after spending only two minutes of his time in round seven of the 2023 European Team Chess Championship.

Round two was slightly tougher for SLU but they seemed to have a very clear match strategy in place—holding down the fort against UT Dallas' boards one and two GMs Ivan Schitco and David Brodsky, and aiming for decisive results against Dallas' lower boards.

By the conclusion of round two, UT Dallas was yet to win a game!

Macovei and Daggupati put up better resistance in this round though, with a splash of finesse, Theodorou and Bok were once again able to add two full points to the team's tally along with an additional point from draws on boards one and two.

Down 6.5-1.5, UT Dallas tried their best to claw their way back into the match but luck just wasn't on their side. Three lengthy draws on boards one, two, and four meant that Macovei-Dambasuren, by far the most imbalanced game of the round, became crucial.

Macovei, on the white side of a Caro-Kann Defense, absolutely needed to win to avoid SLU claiming the title with a round to spare. The Moldovan IM did end up finding a slicing rook sacrifice that opened up Dambasuren's king, but the script quickly flipped after the Mongolian GM went for a swindle for the ages.

Despite the fourth round being a dead rubber, match-wise, both teams played fighting chess right until the end. Bok produced one of the most beautiful games of the 2023 CCL fall season against Brodsky and guaranteed his MVP status in the final. 

From home, Bok's camera quality is top tier, but he is currently in Montenegro for the ETCC.

Our Game of the Day, which was a scintillating Najdorf Sicilian, has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Special commendation must also go to Mizzou, who managed to take the third-place trophy and rout UTRGV by a score of 10.5-5.5. GM Mikhail Antipov and GM Grigoriy Oparin, who have been the backbone of their side all season, scored 4/4 and 3.5/4 respectively, meaning they would have likely won the match short a player!

Fittingly it was Oparin who took the cake for the most picturesque attacking effort, which also arose out of a Sicilian Defense.

SLU was not the only team to win money in this year's CCL and thanks to SIG, UT Dallas received $2,500 for second, Mizzou received $1,000 for third, and UTRGV received $500 for their fourth-placed finish. 

Bok did mention that many of SLU's top players (including Theodorou and himself) would be finishing up at the university at the end of the academic year, so that the spring season will be their last. It will be interesting to see if another collegiate team can rise to the top and fill the gap.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2023 Collegiate Chess League presented by SIG on You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by Joe Lee and WGM Nemo Zhou.

Games from the CCL finals can be found here.

The CCL is the world's premier online chess competition for college students and this season, it is a team event that features a $25,000 prize fund thanks to tournament sponsor SIG. With 5+2 games making up the bulk of the season, expect to see plenty of excitement on the board.

Previous reports:

More from FM JackRodgers
Aronian Defeats Firouzja After Near-Catastrophe At Time Control

Aronian Defeats Firouzja After Near-Catastrophe At Time Control

Nakamura Wins November Trifecta, Scores 74.5/79

Nakamura Wins November Trifecta, Scores 74.5/79