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Collegiate Chess League: Playoffs Preview

Collegiate Chess League: Playoffs Preview

JoeBruin
| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

With the regular season over, the teams' standings have been finalized, and the playoff brackets have been set. The playoffs are finally here, and teams will fight for their share of the $25,000 prize pool. Be sure to tune in and watch the ultimate conclusion to our biggest season yet!

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

Round 7 Highlights

In division one, three of the four quarterfinals spots were already clinched, and the last spot up for grabs would go to either UChicago or Mizzou. UChicago had beaten Mizzou the week before, so Mizzou needed a win as well as a UChicago loss in round seven to take back the second-place spot in their group. Mizzou cruised to victory against the last-place Rutgers team, and UChicago needed a win against Georgia Tech to clinch second sending them directly to the quarterfinals.

The UChicago team must have taken a page out of GM Jon Ludvig Hammer's Advanced Bongcloud Theory lesson book because 12 of their 16 games were Bongclouds. UChicago's top two boards scored a combined 6.5/7 with their Bongcloud games. The bottom two boards were less fortunate scoring only 0.5/5 with their Bongcloud repertoire. 

Ultimately the match came down to one game left between the schools' top boards GM Awonder Liang for UChicago and NM Andrew Titus for Georgia Tech. UChicago was only up by one point 8-7, and they had made a last-minute substitution in their roster costing them a penalty point. A draw in their game would mean a 8.5-7.5 win being canceled out by the penalty to a 7.5-7.5 tie, and they needed a win to clinch second place in their group. Despite having a perfect 3/3 score with the Bongcloud, Awonder decided to change up his flawless opening against Georgia Tech's leader. The GM was still able to win with the lesser-known "closed Sicilian." 

Here is a nice knight mate finish in Liang's first-round game against Georgia Tech's bottom board. 

In division two there was another fight for a quarterfinal spot. Cornell was trailing Purdue by a point in the standings, and a win or draw would clinch the second-place spot for Purdue. However, the Cornell team had other intentions as they started off the match with a 4-0 sweep in the first round. In one of these four games, Cornell's third board WFM Kimberly Liu (who streams on twitch) gave Purdue's FM Jonathan Rosenthal his only loss of the match. Liu's strong knight cemented on the g6 outpost square proved to be intolerable for her opponent, and in time pressure he put his own knight in the corner on h8 to trade it off. Kimmy pounced on the opportunity to trade and forced his rook to recapture, and after the move c5, removing his second rook from the defense of e6, her rooks infiltrated easily along the e-file, winning her multiple pawns along the way. She finished off the game with a nice rook sacrifice, ignoring black's threat of taking her rook by simply playing h7 with the threat of making a new queen on h8. The FIDE master had no response other than to resign. 

Cornell would hold on to this lead for the rest of the match and went on to win 9.5-6.5 overtaking Purdue in the standings and clinching a quarterfinals spot in the process. 

Player Spotlight

A few of our players had accomplishments this week worth recognizing. Congratulations to NM Andrew Titus from Georgia Tech for winning the $500 prize for his club for getting the highest cumulative score across all eight weeks of our club's weekly arenas. Andrew didn't even play in the first two arenas of the season, but once he started joining he quickly made up for it. He finished every arena in a top-three spot and finished the last two arenas at first place to clinch the prize in a dramatic comeback fashion. 

Andrew was also the only player from the Georgia Tech team to hold UChicago's second board to a draw in their division one match. GM Praveen Balakrishnan won the rest of his games in UChicago's win against Georgia Tech, but he might have had a perfect score if he didn't play the Bongcloud every game. However, when you become a GM, you can play whatever openings you want. Congratulations to Praveen for officially earning the GM title this past weekend!

Perhaps the most impressive feat this week comes from Mizzou's top board GM Grigoriy Oparin who placed third in the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss only behind tournament winner GM Alireza Firouzja and GM Fabiano Caruana. His undefeated performance tied him with the American GM at 7.5/11 points but only got third based on tiebreaks. Coming in third in the Grand Swiss earns Oparin a spot in the FIDE Grand Prix 2022 as well as a $40,000 prize. His tournament highlights include his draw against GM Levon Aronian as well as his draw against tournament winner GM Alireza Firouzja. Below is perhaps his best win of the tournament coming in round 10 against GM Nikita Vitiugov.

Clip of the Week

This week's clip comes from the round seven match of division 10 between Howard University and Wake Forest University's B team. 

Live broadcast of the Collegiate Chess League is available at twitch.tv/collegiatechessleague; commentary provided by @JoeBruin.

Group Leaders

This table shows the number one team from their group in each division. The top team is from group A and the bottom team is from group B. Schools are placed into groups based on their location. These teams along with the number two team from each group will automatically qualify for the quarterfinals. Most of these teams were able to hold on to their number-one spots from last week, but some of them were able to get the top spot in the last round. Those teams are Wake Forest A, LSU A, WUSTL C, and Ramakrishna MVCC. Congratulations to all these teams for winning their group in the regular season. Earning these spots gives them a higher seed in the playoff bracket and helps them face weaker opponents based on standings. These advantages are important for success in the postseason.

Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Division 4 Division 5
UC Berkeley A UCSD A WUSTL B UC Berkeley C LSU A
University of Warsaw University of Benin Lviv State University Wake Forest A Université de Franche
Division 6 Division 7 Division 8 Division 9 Division 10
UCSD B Baylor WUSTL C Miracosta USC E
IIITDM Jabalpur Northern Illinois University of Florida C Ramakrishna MVCC University of Akron

Playoffs Preview

With last week's conclusion to the regular season and the standings finalized, playoffs are set to begin this weekend. There will be four single-elimination rounds: wildcard, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Wildcard matches are to be played this weekend starting Saturday, November 13 at 10 a.m. PST/19:00 CET, and the winners will move on to face their quarterfinals opponents the next day on Sunday, November 14. The semifinals will be the next weekend on Saturday, November 20, and the third-place match and finals will be played on Sunday, November 21.

Each division has 12 teams in the playoffs with the top two from each group already qualified for the quarterfinals. This leaves eight teams to play in the wildcard match to determine the remaining quarterfinals teams. The brackets for each division are linked below. You can submit your own playoff bracket predictions using the links for each division's bracket. One-month diamond memberships are being awarded for the best bracket prediction for each division. You can submit one prediction per division, so filling out all ten brackets gives you ten chances of winning a membership. Compare your brackets with your friends' and see who made the better picks!

Division 1: With Mizzou losing two matches in the regular season to UC Berkeley and UChicago, they find themselves facing elimination early as they have fallen to the fifth spot out of 12 and must play in a wildcard match against Princeton lead by GM Andrew Tang. Hopefully, the Mizzou team will see the return of their star GM Grigoriy Oparin as they have not lost a match with him in the lineup. He was definitely a key component to the Mizzou team that won last year's championship, and he will be vital for this team to defend their title this year. The winner of this match will move on to play against UChicago in the quarterfinals. 

Division 2: Tenth seeded Duke A took down group B leader University of Benin last week by a solid score of 10-6. However, that was in the regular season, and Benin has already secured a quarterfinals spot. Now Duke has to take on the seventh-seeded UC Berkeley B team in the wildcard round in order to make it to the quarterfinals where they would play against the Benin team again, but this time with money on the line. 

Division 3: CentraleSupélec lost their top two spot back in round seven and now has to face the Caltech A team in order to play against the University of Florida A team, the team that took their quarterfinals spot last week. 

Division 4: USC's A team has to take on the University of Michigan's B team in order to get to their rivals UCLA B. 

Division 5: The University of Florida B team lost to number-two seed Duke C by a close score of 9.5-6.5 in the last round of the season. Now Florida has to take on Rice B in order to get the rematch against Duke. Can they get their revenge, or will Rice stop them and take their place in the quarterfinals?

Division 6: The tenth seeded UCLA C team has to take on the seventh seed Duke D in order to face fellow California school UCSD B

Division 7: Number-one seed Baylor waits to play the winner between UW Milwaukee B and Northeastern B. Can either of these teams stand a chance against the undefeated Baylor team?

Division 8Drexel B had their second-place spot taken from them by Sacred Heart in the last match of the season. Can Drexel make it through the USC D team in order to get revenge on Sacred Heart?

Division 9The winner between UCSD C and SRMIST will move on to face the undefeated Miracosta team. 

Division 10UC Berkeley's F team will take on Cornell's D team in the battle of the bears. The winner moves on to face top seed USC E. 

Many of these matches will be streamed live on Twitch, so be sure to check them out!

The full list of division standings and playoffs pairings can be found here.

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


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