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Collegiate Chess League Season 4 Round 3

Collegiate Chess League Season 4 Round 3

JoeBruin
| 2 | Chess Event Coverage

The Collegiate Chess League's third week concluded last weekend, and the matches were packed with brilliant games filled with tactics and sacrifices. Now that we are deeper into the season, the matches are also becoming more closely contested with many teams winning only by a score of one or two games. The best teams are still undefeated and have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. You won't want to miss some of the games played this week. 

Below is a recap of the third round's matches and a preview of what's to come in round four. 

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.

Division 1 Highlights

The undefeated Mizzou team looked to keep their streak alive against their toughest opponents yet this season in Bucharest. Because these two teams were in different groups last season, they had never played before. However, Missouri's head coach GM Cristian Chirila still has experience with the Bucharest team thanks to his Romanian origins. The match seemed to be going well in Mizzou's favor after three rounds. They had a comfortable 4-8 lead going into the fourth and final round—all they needed was to avoid the 4-0 sweep to ensure a match win. On the other hand, Bucharest needed to win out the remaining games in the match to force a draw. Bucharest started their comeback by winning the next three games in a row to make it 8-7. With one game left, Bucharest's board two Radu Toma was in a must-win situation against IM Harshit Raja. Radu was up two pawns, but Raja put on intense kingside pressure with his knights.

Raja got a pawn back by sacrificing his knight on h3 on move 21, which Radu declined, and again sacrificing the same knight on move 25 on f3. Toma took the piece this time, leading to a devastating queen and knight attack ending with the beautiful ...Nc2+ forking the king and queen. Raja's win clinched the win for Missouri 9-7, ending Bucharest's comeback just short.

After their win, the Mizzou team packed up and traveled to St. Louis to play in the 2022 Spring Chess Classic. Three of their players are in the event, GM Chris Repka, GM Mikhail Antipov, and IM Harshit Raja. Even their coach is on-site providing commentary alongside Saint Louis University's coach GM Alejandro Ramirez. SLU's team has a few players of their own competing in the event as well: GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi and GM Dariusz Swiercz. Other CCL teams represented at the event include UTRGV with GM Kamil Dragun and GM Arman Mikaelyan and TTU with IM Semen Khanin

Just like Mizzou's match, SLU similarly had a nail-biter in their match against Georgia Tech coming down to the very last game. Georgia Tech actually held the lead going into the fourth round, and SLU took the lead back 8-7 with only one game left in the match. IM Stavroula Tsolakidou from St. Louis was playing NM Vedic Panda from Georgia. The St. Louis team had a penalty for submitting their roster late, so the match was actually tied 7-7 and the winner of this game would win the match. 

Stavroula's knight sacrifice here opened up her fianchettoed bishop with a discovery attack on Vedic's rook on a8. Even though she won an exchange with this tactic, she was still down a pawn and a lot of time as her opponent was bringing the attack to her weakened kingside. With less than 20 seconds on her clock from move 31, she traded queens off to make her king a bit safer and used her extra rook to deliver the final tactic to win the game on move 47 with Re4+. This forced the king into the bishop's path for a discovery check with 48. Rxd4+ winning Panda's knight and the match 8-7. SLU is the second team without a loss so far this season. 

UCLA and Northwestern also had a close match ending 8-7 with UCLA getting the win in the final round. Even though Northwestern lost the match, their second board Akhil Kalghatgi had this nice game against UCLA's board two, NM Gabriel Sam

The national master from LA played Bf5 attacking Akhil's queen, but Akhil's queen did not budge. He instead played Rxc7 sacrificing the queen for a rook and two minor pieces. After trading off Gabriel's last rook, his lone queen didn't stand a chance against Akhil's rook and bishop pair combination. 

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley had a busy weekend playing in the 2022 Southwest Collegiate Team Championship as well as their CCL matchup against UC Berkeley. They took first place in the over-the-board event and beat UC Berkeley 10.5-5.5. Their match against Berkeley started off with boards three and four upsetting boards one and two for both teams in round one. UTRGV broke the 2-2 tie by sweeping the Berkeley team in round two 4-0. Berkeley won round three, but Texas would add onto their lead in the fourth and final round to secure the match victory. Just like last week, UTRGV's IM Irakli Beradze had the highest score of the match going 3.5/4. Below is one of his highlight games from the second round against Berkeley's captain IM Josiah Stearman


Beradze played the crazy move Nd5, seemingly giving up the knight for free, but if Qxd5 Black would be able to play the crushing Qxg4 along with the rook on the h-file, and the game would be over quickly. If Stearman didn't take the knight, Beradze was threatening to take on b7 with his rook winning both knights, so Josiah counter-attacked with Re4. This allowed Beradze to infiltrate with the queen and eventually land a knight fork on the Berkeley captain's king and queen winning yet another exchange. The position was crushing for Black, and White resigned. UTRGV also remains undefeated. 

UC San Diego took down Princeton 10-6, led by their board two Chanin Tangtartharakul who went 3/4, only losing to Princeton's undefeated top board GM Andrew Tang. Here is a position from one of Chanin's games. Black just placed their queen on d6 allowing for a tactic—can you find it?

The move is Ng6, putting the knight under the attack of three different pieces, but it is immune from capture thanks to the hanging queen on d6. If Black trades queens, White has the intermezzo Nxe7+ before recapturing the queen. Black retreated their queen, and White wins the rook on f8. 

Lastly, we have the match between the University of Virginia and Yale. Yale was led by their top board GM Nicolas Checa with a perfect 4/4 score. Checa was actually down a rook in this game after blundering a fork, but he fought his way back after a series of mistakes from his opponent NM Owen McCoy. Owen's last move here was Rc8. Can you find what Checa played?

The move is Bf3+, distracting White's bishop from the defense of the rook. Checa was still down a bishop when White made another mistake. Owen played Bd2, allowing Rc2. He should have played Ba3 to prevent the promotion, but now saving the bishop was impossible without allowing Checa to promote on b1. With even material, Checa played the nice exchange sacrifice Rxd1+, and after White took back, Checa finished the game with Bc1 blocking the rook from controlling the promotion square. Checa's 4-0 sweep of the Virginia team propelled them to a 10-6 victory in the match and improved their season score to 3-0. 

Game of the Week

The game of the week comes from Berkeley's captain IM Josiah Stearman against UTRGV's second board GM Arman Mikaelyan. This fighting game came from an inspired Italian Opening. Most game reviews will go over a move or two highlighting a single tactic in the game, but every move in this game is a treat to witness. 

After castling, Josiah struck immediately in the center with d4 and e5. Black struck back with a threat of his own in d5. After trading, White took on g7, ensuring Black's king would stay in the center. Josiah developed both his bishop and rook with tempo, and Black got into a self-pin with his bishop. 11.Nc3 developed the knight again with tempo on the black queen, taking advantage of the pinned d-pawn. His GM opponent later played Rd8 with tempo on the queen, but Josiah's queen didn't budge. Rather, he moved his knight to g3 with an attack on Black's queen, which would land a fork on the king and rook if black took Josiah's queen. Black saved the queen and Josiah won a pawn, taking advantage of the pinned bishop. A few moves later, Josiah played the subtle 19.Qc3, putting pressure on the g7-rook. Even though it seems like Black's queen defends the rook, White's threat was Nf5+, taking advantage of the pinned bishop as well as the overloaded queen. Josiah managed to create a passed h-pawn and started to inch his pawn up the board. His rooks worked perfectly with his knight, pushing the black queen back to where he could trade them off to make it harder for the h-pawn to be captured. Black tried doubling up on the second, which seemed to be a strong attack on the g2-pawn, but Josiah found Re2 to sacrifice his knight. Black didn't even take since the h-pawn would be unstoppable. Rc5 attempted to get behind the pawn, but Josiah tied the rook down to the king with Rc1. Black took, and Josiah didn't even take back. He was down a full rook, but the h-pawn couldn't be stopped. The game finished with the nice Nxe6+, removing the defender of the rook. This game was a masterpiece from start to finish and will be a tough one to beat in the next game of the week. 

Clip of the Week

This week's clip comes from the Duke's C team vs. Wake Forest University's A team in division four. 

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

Upcoming Matches

Round four is set to start this weekend with matches starting at 7 a.m. PT/16:00 CET on Saturday, March 5.

In division one group A, defending champions UChicago will play against last season's division two champions UC San Diego. Princeton will take on Northwestern, and both teams are looking to find their first win of the season. The California teams UCLA and UC Berkeley will take on the Texas teams UTRGV and UT Austin respectively. 

In division one group B, SLU will play their toughest opponents yet in Yale after the Saint Louis team narrowly defeated Georgia Tech last week, so this will be an interesting match. Georgia Tech will see if they can hand the tough Mizzou team their first loss of the season. Bucharest will face the University of Michigan, and Waterloo will play the University of Virginia. 

Many of these matches will be streamed live over 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 after you navigate to collegiate chess.

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


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