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Collegiate Chess League: A Wonderful Finish

Collegiate Chess League: A Wonderful Finish

JoeBruin
| 6 | Chess Event Coverage

The third season of the Collegiate Chess League has finally come to an end, and a new team has earned the Division 1 championship title along with $5,000 of the $25,000 prize pool. The Finals Weekend was the most dramatic finish yet with prize money on the line for the first time in the League's history. This is the final recap of the season along with the prize breakdown across all 10 divisions. 

How to watch?
Matches are broadcast live at Twitch.tv/CollegiateChessLeague with commentary by Joe Lee, with guests GM Ray Robson for the semifinals and GM Cristian Chirila for the finals. The matches can be rewatched as highlights on the Twitch channel and will be uploaded to the League's YouTube channel.
Collegiate Chess League

Final Four Highlights

The Division 1 semifinals were set with the top four teams from the regular season all making it to the Final Four. The number-one seed and undefeated UC Berkeley team would be playing against the number-four seed UChicago, who just came off their win against the defending champions Mizzou in the quarterfinals. Berkeley beat Chicago previously back in week three of the regular season by a score of 10-5, but the Chicago team at the time was missing their top board GM Awonder Liang. With the season on the line as well as a guaranteed $2,500 with a win in the semifinals, UChicago made sure to bring their full strength lineup, and their star player Awonder showed up big with a 4-0 sweep of the California team. His performance helped them earn a spot in the finals by beating UC Berkeley with a score of 9.5-6.5. 

They would move on to play the winner between the undefeated number-two seed University of Warsaw and the number-three seeded Yale team only having lost to Warsaw earlier in the season by a close score of 9-7. However, the Yale team led by GM Nicolas Checa was unable to get their revenge against Warsaw's team of masters, three of which were grandmasters. Warsaw punched their ticket to the finals by beating Yale 10-6. You can watch the semifinals match here

Warsaw maintained their undefeated record heading into the finals with only UChicago standing in their way of finishing the perfect season. The two teams were completely tied after the first two rounds at four points apiece. It's difficult to highlight just one game from the match, but round three was definitely a critical moment for UChicago. One of Warsaw's leaders, GM Bartlomiej Macieja, also known as GM Bartek, defeated the board one Liang to take a 6-5 lead. With one game left in the round, UChicago's second board GM Praveen Balakrishnan was in a tough spot against Warsaw's top board GM Lukasz Jarmula. Losing this game would mean being down 7-5 going into the final round of the match. Praveen with the black pieces started with a very aggressive attack on Jarmula's castled king by trying to sacrifice his bishop to open the h-file for his rook. Jarmula declined the sacrifice but allowed Praveen to damage his kingside pawn structure. This damaged structure eventually allowed Praveen to infiltrate in the endgame with a good knight versus a bad bishop. Jarmula was unable to defend in time pressure and allowed Praveen to tie the score at 6-6 after three rounds. 

The winner of the fourth and final round would go on to win the championship along with the $5,000 prize for first place. Despite the match being dead equal until this point, the Chicago team would ride the momentum from Praveen's win and blow out the Warsaw team with a 4-0 sweep in the fourth round winning the match with a 10-6 final score and claiming the Division 1 championship. You can watch the exciting match here.

The second division saw a very dominant performance from UCSD, who defeated their California rivals UCLA 11.5-4.5 in the semifinals to face UIUC in the finals. UIUC similarly beat Duke with a convincing 11.5-4.5 score to earn their spot in the finals with $2,500 on the line for first place. UCSD would continue their dominance and defeat UIUC 11-5 in the finals. Their leader NM Richard Yi had a 4-0 sweep of the Illinois team. His fourth and final game against Illinois' top board was not as flawless as his overall performance. He was down an exchange in a rook vs. bishop endgame with only 16 seconds left on his clock against his opponent at just under two minutes. He used one of his pawns as bait to lure the king to the same diagonal as his rook and was able to fork the king and rook with his bishop to complete the swindle. 

This strong San Diego team will surely be back next season and potentially try their hand at making it to the top division to face even stronger competition. 

The third division was by far the closest and most evenly matched division. The semifinals saw WUSTL B and UChicago B go to double overtime with Wash U taking the 13-11 win. They would go on to face the number one seeded Lviv State University who beat UFlorida 9-7 to earn their spot in the finals. The third-place match between Florida and Chicago would also need overtime to determine the winner of the $500 third-place prize. Chicago's B team would secure the win 11-8. By far the closest match of the playoffs, and maybe even the entire season was between the number-one seed Lviv and number-two seed WUSTL B in the finals with $1,500 on the line for first place. These two teams would need an astounding four rounds of overtime to settle the match. After splitting the first seven rounds 14-14, Lviv finally pulled through with three unanswered wins in the eighth and final round of the match, winning 17-14. This was definitely the closest match of the playoffs, but the rest of the divisions were also really evenly matched. Five of the remaining seven divisions all ended with an 8.5-7.5 final score. 

Division 4 saw UMass take home the $1,000 prize by beating the number-two seed Wake Forest 8.5-7.5.

Division 5 had a close match between number-two seed Duke C taking down the number-one seed Université de Franche-Comté 8.5-7.5.

Division 6 had the underdog team Georgia Tech B fall just shy of first place with their 9.5-6.5 defeat at the hands of number-one seed Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design, and Manufacturing at Jabalpur in the finals. Georgia Tech was the 11th seed out of 12 and made it to the finals by beating the seventh seed Duke D 9.5-6.5 in the semifinals.

The number-one seed and undefeated Baylor team barely beat the 12th seed UNLV B in the division 7 semifinals 8.5-7.5. The third seed Northern Illinois upset the number-two seed UCSB B handily by a score of 11-5 to face the 9-0 Baylor team in the finals. Northern Illinois handed Baylor their first loss of the season and won the $300 championship prize. 

Division 8 saw a dramatic finish between fourth seed Caltech B and third seed Sacred Heart University. Sacred Heart took an 8-7 lead in the fourth round with one game to go and only needed a draw in the last game to win the match. It seemed the match would surely go to overtime with Caltech's fourth board up a piece and a pawn in the endgame, but Sacred Heart's fourth board made one last effort by offering a pawn trade on move 59 that would lead to a forced draw. Declining the trade would maintain a won position, but the pawn was captured, leaving Black with the wrong colored bishop to promote the h-pawn. 

This draw clinched the final match with an 8.5-7.5 win along with the $300 prize. 

Division 9 was another close 8.5-7.5 match with number-one seed Miracosta beating the sixth seed Rice University's C team. The Miracosta team impressively played the entire season using the same four players without any substitutes and earned their $200 prize. 

The 10th division was the most lopsided match ending with Akron's 2nd seed team beating the number-one seed USC E team 13-3. 

Division Finals

This table shows the scores from the division finals matches as well as each team's rank going into the playoffs. The full list of division playoffs standings can be found here.

Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Division 4 Division 5
4 UChicago-10 1 UCSD-11 1 Lviv State University-17 4 UMass-8.5 2 Duke C-8.5
2 UWarsaw-6 6 UIUC-5 2 WUSTL B-14 2 Wake Forest-7.5 1 Université de Franche-7.5
Division 6 Division 7 Division 8 Division 9 Division 10
1 IIITDM Jabalpur-9.5 3 Northern Illinois-8.5 3 Sacred Heart-8.5 1 Miracosta-8.5 2 Akron-13
11 Georgia Tech B-6.5 1 Baylor-7.5 4 Caltech B-7.5 6 Rice C-7.5 1 USC E-3

Prize Breakdown

The competition was particularly fierce this season, and for any team to have made it to the Final Four in their division is an accomplishment in itself. Only a few teams in each division were able to actually win prize money, and hopefully, these funds can help the clubs buy new sets, clocks, cover travel and registration fees in other chess events, or even fund their own events. Congratulations to all the teams listed below for an incredible season and for earning their fair share of the $25,000 prize fund. 

Division 1

  1. $5,000-UChicago
  2. $2,500-UWarsaw
  3. $1,500-Yale
  4. $1,000-UC Berkeley

Division 2

  1. $2,500-UCSD
  2. $1,250-UIUC
  3. $750-UCLA
  4. $500-Duke

Division 3

  1. $1,500-Lviv State University
  2. $750-WUSTL B
  3. $500-UChicago B
  4. $250-UFlorida

Division 4

  1. $1,000-UMassachusetts
  2. $500-Wake Forest University
  3. $300-USC
  4. $200-UI Chicago

Division 5

  1. $750-Duke C
  2. $500-Université de Franche Comté
  3. $250-UC Berkeley D

Division 6

  1. $500-IIITDM Jabalpur
  2. $300-Georgia Tech B
  3. $200-Duke D

Division 7

  1. $300-Northern Illinois University
  2. $200-Baylor

Division 8

  1. $300-Sacred Heart University

Division 9

  1. $200-Miracosta

Division 10

  1. University of Akron-Diamond memberships
  2. USC E-Platinum memberships
  3. Howard University-Gold memberships

Additional Prizes:

  • $500 to Georgia Tech for NM Andrew Titus winning the season's weekly club arenas prize
  • $500 to Yale for the most-watched clip throughout the season thanks to their C team player Will Johnson who streams at Twitch.tv/ChemStud24
  • $500 to Kalinga IIT for getting the most referral accounts registered to their club
  • Diamond memberships to the best bracket predictions for each division

Player Spotlight

Throughout the entire season, there have been many inspiring players that have made the spotlight, and all of them so far have been from Division 1. The League had over 1000 students register to play this season, and every single player that joined made the season possible. Without the players, the League simply could not exist. Every player is appreciated, and their passion and support for collegiate chess do not go unnoticed. With all this being said, the final player spotlight of the season goes to a player whose passion for the League was especially noticed. This Division 8 player was always tuning in to the broadcasts and always sharing his positive attitude and excitement for his team both in the CCL channel's chat as well as in his own streams. The board two from Sacred Heart University, Brent McCreesh, had an astounding 41-0 record this season, helping his team take the Division 8 championship along with the $300 prize for first. They definitely could not have done it without him. 

Clip of the Week

This week's clip comes from the semifinals match of Division 10 between the University of Akron and Howard University. 

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

Season 4 Preview

The fourth season of the Collegiate Chess League is set to start in mid-February of 2022. If you are interested in playing in Season 4, stay tuned for announcements regarding registration details and deadlines. Be sure to join our discord channel to keep up to date on all League announcements and connect with players and clubs from all around the world participating in the CCL. You can also email the League's Commissioner Joe Lee at ccl@chess.com with any questions or comments about the upcoming spring season. We expect Season 4 to be much bigger and better than the last, so you won't want to miss it!


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