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UTRGV Goes for Perfect Season: Collegiate Chess League Season 4 Round 6

UTRGV Goes for Perfect Season: Collegiate Chess League Season 4 Round 6

JoeBruin
| 4 | Chess Event Coverage

Round six is in the books, and only one round remains in the regular season before the playoffs. The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley is now the only team at 6-0 in division one and looks to go 7-0 to complete the perfect season before the playoffs. After this weekend, teams will know their seeding for the single-elimination playoff bracket where they will compete for their slice of the $25,000 prize fund. 

This is the recap for round six and a preview of this weekend, with the next matches starting on Saturday, April 9, at 7 a.m. PT / 16:00 Eastern European.

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 University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley swiftly beat the last-place Northwestern team 12-4, improving UTRGV's record to a perfect 6-0. Northwestern needed to win their last two matches of the season for a chance to make the playoffs, but beating the stacked UTRGV team was too tall a task. The top board from Texas, GM Kamil Dragun, had this nice win over Northwestern's board two, Akhil Kalghatgi

UTRGV sits at the top of the standings in Group A, but they are followed closely by UChicago and UC Berkeley. These two teams faced off last week in a fight for the second spot in the standings, which would clinch a quarterfinal spot in the playoffs. The last time these two teams played, UChicago took down Berkeley in the semifinals 9.5-6.5 before going on to win the championship and the $5,000 first prize. Berkeley was able to get their revenge this time around with a strong score of 11-5 partly due to Chicago not fielding their second grandmaster, Praveen Balakrishnan. They did, however, have their top board, GM Awonder Liang, who went 3/4 against the strong Berkeley team. Here's the game Berkeley's board two, Anthony Ge, managed to win against the Chicago top board. 

After this match, Berkeley and Chicago are tied for second behind UTRGV. Either way, UChicago will look to get their revenge on Berkeley in the playoffs, hopefully with their main roster, in order to defend their championship.

There was another rematch from last season's playoffs with UCLA playing UC San Diego. San Diego beat their Californian rivals in LA also in the semifinals by a large margin of 11.5-4.5. UCLA got their revenge by a slim margin of 9-7. UCLA started strong with a 3.5-0.5 lead from the first round, highlighted by a big upset on board four with UCLA's Kyle Webster beating San Diego's top board, NM Richard Yi, with a nice checkmate in time pressure. 

UCLA added to their lead in the second and third rounds and had a comfy 8-4 lead going into the fourth and final round. San Diego wasn't deterred by their poor start and had a great effort to bring the match back to 8-7 after winning three games in a row. It all came down to the last game between the board twos, NM Gabriel Sam from UCLA and Chanin Tangtartharakul from San Diego. It looked like Sam had the advantage, but sloppy play in time pressure made it seem like San Diego could complete the 4-0 sweep in the fourth round to finish the match in a tie. 

Despite the rook blunder, Sam's pawns were enough to win the game and thus the match by 9-7. With this win, UCLA leaped ahead of San Diego in the standings by one point. 

Meanwhile, in Group B, after Yale's upset win over SLU 8.5-7.5, Yale and Mizzou were the only two teams left undefeated in Group B. Last week's match between Mizzou and Yale was essentially the fight for first place in their group, clinching a top spot, and punching their ticket straight to the quarterfinals. Mizzou unfortunately was missing a player, and Yale took full advantage of the three-player team. Yale's top board, GM Nicolas Checa, was able to beat Mizzou's IM Raja Harshit in this nice game. 

Checa was also able to draw against Mizzou's top board, GM Grigoriy Oparin, who recently played in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix and tied for 14th place, winning €14,000. Every point and half point mattered in this match since Yale won by the slimmest of margins, 8.5-7.5, against the highly talented Mizzou team. Mizzou obviously will have a stronger effort in the playoffs, but losing close matches like this will cost them in the playoff standings—something that cost them last season when they lost early to UChicago. 

Saint Louis University had a forfeit win against Bucharest University last week. After their CCL match, they headed to Texas Tech for a big weekend, competing in the President's Cup to decide the U.S. College Championship. The event was covered live on our Twitch channel, so be sure to check out the highlights there. You can also find the recap of Saint Louis University's first-ever Final Four win here

Georgia Tech was in a must-win situation against the University of Waterloo. Georgia's captain and top board, NM Andrew Titus, had this nice game against Waterloo's top board Richard Chen

Despite winning this game against Waterloo's top board, Georgia Tech fell short and the Waterloo team won with a score of 11-5. With this win, Waterloo officially eliminated the Georgia Tech team and improved their record to 3-3 for fourth place in their group. 

Game of the Week

The game of the week comes from Northwestern's board two, Akhil Kalghatgi, playing against UTRGV's board two, IM Irakli Beradze. Kalghatgi handed Beradze his only loss of the match by converting a pawn advantage after a complicated series of trades in the middlegame. 

Northwestern still lost the match by a large margin and might be eliminated from the playoffs, but this game is a good sign of their potential to come back stronger next season.

Clip of the Week

This week's clip comes from a Division 12 matchup between UC Berkeley G and Ohio University. 

Live broadcast of the Collegiate Chess League is available here; commentary provided by NM John Williams and League Commissioner Joe Lee.

Upcoming Matches

The seventh and final round will start on Saturday, April 9. These are the biggest matches of the season since they determine the final playoff standings.

Mizzou will play SLU in an epic match between two Missouri rivals. This will be the first time these two teams have played since the finals of the inaugural season, where SLU won 9.5-6.5. The winner of this match will clinch a spot in the quarterfinals, and the loser will have to play in the wildcard weekend. This match will be streamed live on Twitch at 7 a.m. Pacific. 

UChicago and UTRGV will have a heavyweight matchup that will also be streamed at 10 a.m. Pacific on Saturday. UTRGV is looking to complete the perfect 7-0 season and clinch the number-one seed in their group with a win or draw. UChicago is competing with UC Berkeley and UT Austin for the number-two spot.

Chicago and Berkeley both have a rescheduled match against UT Austin this weekend, and UT Austin can still take the number-two spot if they win both of these plus their round-seven match against UCLA. 

The University of Virginia will play the struggling Georgia Tech team in a must-win situation, and Bucharest will play the University of Waterloo. Both Virginia and Bucharest are fighting for the last spot in their group, and they can both make the playoffs with a win and a Michigan loss against Yale. 

UMichigan can clinch with a win or draw or if either Virginia or Bucharest loses. 

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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