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Collegiate Chess League: The Final Round

Collegiate Chess League: The Final Round

JoeBruin
| 2 | Chess.com News

The last round of the regular season will take place this weekend, and most teams have already secured a playoff 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 fate into their own hands and fight in what could potentially be their last match to get a chance at the prize pool of $25,000 in the playoffs. 

How to watch?
Matches are broadcast live at Twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague with commentary by the league's commissioner, Joe Lee, with additional guests throughout the season.
Collegiate Chess League

Round 6 Highlights

With a bye in round seven, UC Berkeley finished the perfect season with a 13-3 win over Washington University in St. Louis. They've won every match by at least a score of 10-6 and with an average score of 12-4. This team had first place clinched with an impressive two rounds to spare. The undefeated Berkeley team will look to continue their streak into the playoffs where they will face their fiercest competition. With the first place secured, they move on directly to the quarterfinals where a win would secure them a top-four finish along with a guaranteed $1,000 and potentially up to $5,000 for first place overall. Here is a highlight game from 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 took the national master down in just 14 moves. 

Meanwhile in division one's second group, the University of Warsaw has one match left to finish their perfect season with only Princeton standing in their way. The Princeton team led by GM Andrew Tang clinched a playoff spot with their win against MIT in round six. With MIT's loss in the previous round, they are facing elimination in round seven against the 5-1 Yale team led by GM Nicolas Checa.

Yale sits comfortably at the number two spot in the standings after beating the University of Michigan team in a close match last week. Checa's 4-0 performance was instrumental in their 9.5-6.5 victory. In a strategic battle against Michigan's top board Ben Li, Nicolas was able to position his knight in the center and breakthrough with a nice knight sacrifice on the f2-square. Ben tried relieving pressure on his king by trading off a pair of rooks and didn't even accept the knight sacrifice, but by then it was too late as Nicolas' knight-and-queen combo was too deadly. This was his longest game of the match, and Ben's only loss. 

Game of the Week

The game of the week comes from a division one match between Mizzou and UChicago. Mizzou was handed their second loss of the season by the Chicago team led by GM Awonder Liang, but this game came from their board two, IM Praveen Balakrishnan who was undefeated against the Mizzou team. Balakrishnan took down Mizzou's top board IM Harshit Raja despite being down a piece. The bishop sacrifice came at move 29 when he played c7 instead of recapturing Black's knight on b7. Although Raja was up a piece for most of the game, he was down to only 10 seconds by move 25 and had to live off the two-second increment until his eventual resignation on move 61. Praveen's king activity and relentlessness allowed him to force his opponent's king to the corner where mate would follow shortly after. 

Clip of the Week

This week's clip comes from the division two match between Temple University and the University of Benin. Down to the final game of the match, Temple was trailing Benin by a score of 7-8. Temple's captain and top player Jeffrey Kunnel was down 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 at twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague; commentary provided by @JoeBruin.

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 placed into groups based on their location. Interestingly eight of the 10 leaders of group A are from California, and six of the 10 leaders of group B 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 Université de 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

Every round seven match will have major implications for the teams' overall standings which ultimately decides if they make the playoffs or not. Teams that have already clinched a spot are also fighting to improve their standings which determines who they will play in the playoff bracket. Having a higher seed means getting paired favorably against a lower-seeded opponent. Every advantage at this point makes a big difference. The difference between second place and third place is especially significant since the top two teams go directly to the quarterfinals. The other teams must play in a wildcard match to qualify for the quarterfinals. Having to play in one less match means your team is much closer to getting to the prize pool. With all of this in mind, it seems every division has many key matchups for both clinching a top-two spot as well as clinching a playoff spot in general.  

Division one: The bottom two teams of group A are fighting for the last remaining playoff spot with Washington University in St. Louis having a significant edge over Rutgers. Wash U has a chance to clinch a playoff spot this weekend against UT Austin. A win would ensure them a spot, but that is much easier said than done. Meanwhile, Rutgers has a must-win game against Mizzou, the defending champions, and even if they pull this off they would need Wash U to lose their last match. 

Division two: UCLA and UCSD will face off in a battle for first. A win or draw for UCSD will keep them in first, but a loss would give UCLA the top spot. In the second group, Cornell and Purdue play for second place. Cornell has to win to clinch second place, and a win for Purdue could potentially put them in first 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 for clear first. The stakes are even higher since the losing team might lose their second-place spot if Florida gets a win over the State University of New York at Stony Brook. On the opposite end of the standings, Harvard B and Purdue B will play in what essentially is a playoff game since both teams are fighting for the last spot in their group. Harvard is currently ahead of Purdue by a single point, so a draw or win for Harvard will clinch them the spot. Purdue is in a must-win situation to leap over Harvard in the standings and take the final spot. 

Division four: Similarly, the top two teams University of Massachusetts and Wake Forest University are tied and will play each other for clear first. 

Division five: The bottom two teams Yale C and Bangladesh will be playing for the final spot. Unfortunately for Yale, they have to win by a score of 16-0 in order to beat Bangladesh on the tiebreaks. 

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

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

Division eight: In group A, Wash U's C team can overtake clear first with a win over Cal Poly Pomona's B team, and in group B, UFlorida C can secure first with a win over seventh place Northeastern C. 

Division nine: Arizona State's B team is facing a must-win situation against UCSD's C team in order to clinch a chance at the wildcard weekend. In group B, Ramakrishna and Georgia State are both tied for second, and a loss for either team will likely put them in third or worse.

Division ten: Howard finds themselves in a must-win match over Wake Forest's B team, and even if they win, they need Cornell's D team to lose to Carnegie Mellon's D team. 

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.

For any league-related questions, please email Commissioner Joe Lee at ccl@chess.com.


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