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St. Louis Wins 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship
The winning Saint Louis University team. Photo: Angie Le.

St. Louis Wins 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship

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9 | Chess Event Coverage

The Saint Louis University (SLU) team earned its spot in the President's Cup by winning clear first at the 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship with a perfect score. The winners will be joined at the Final Four alongside UT Dallas and Texas Tech who both went 5/6, and the fourth and final spot goes to Webster on tiebreaks with 4.5/6.

Four other teams scored 4.5/6, most notably the The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) who lost to SLU in the last round and the University of Chicago (UChicago) who drew against Webster's B team in the last round. UTRGV has won the President's Cup the last three years in a row, so a new champion will be crowned this year.

Here is a recap of some highlight games throughout the tournament. You can find the games here, rewatch the broadcasts of the tournament on our Twitch channel, and you can see all the team and individual results here or at vachess.org

In round one, WGM Maili-Jade Ouellet from 30th seed UTRGV B played against GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi from 2nd seed SLU. The SLU GM put his rook on a precarious square, and Ouellet immediately took advantage and forced him to sac the exchange for a pawn. She eventually was able to convert the exchange against Ali Marandi's bishop pair forcing him to resign after 72 moves.

In the second round, another WGM and GM faced off but this time between Harvard's 15th seeded team and SLU. WGM Jennifer Yu managed to win two clean pawns against GM Nikolas Theodorou when she started to slip in time pressure.

The grandmaster had 19 and a half minutes against Yu's 90 seconds. Living off the increment, she made the last 10 moves of the game with under a minute on her clock. Her opponent was able to win one of his pawns back before they settled on a draw.

Jennifer Yu Nikolas Theodorou Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship 2022
Jennifer Yu playing Nikolas Theodorou. Photo: Angie Le.

In another round-two game, Dang Nguyen from 24th seed UT Austin B played against FM Ezra Chambers from seventh seed Webster B. This dramatic game saw Dang sacrifice the queen in order to get an exciting material imbalance and ultimately reach a complicated two rooks and two pawns vs. queen endgame.

It looked like the queen would be able to hold the draw with a perpetual, but Dang was able to push the pawns forward and protect the king enough to make progress in what was a 100+ move game.

The same round also saw another upset from NM Howard Zhong from 18th seed MIT against number 1 seed Webster A's GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista. Howard was able to trade down into an equal rook and pawn endgame where the players agreed to a draw. Unfortunately for the MIT team, this would be their only points from the round as the powerhouse Webster team won on the remaining three boards.

Howard Zhong Lazaro Bruzon Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship 2022
Howard Zhong as Black vs. Lazaro Bruzon. Photo: Angie Le.

In round three, the SLU team faced off against the Webster B team in a match that was tied going into the fourth and final game between GMs Dariusz Swiercz from SLU and Yuniesky Quesada Perez from Webster.

What looked like a sure drawn position in rook and pawn vs rook and two pawns, Swiercz continued the fight up a pawn and grinded down his opponent until he broke through. Yuniesky blundered by continuing his rook checks when he needed to defend his last remaining pawn.

The win for Swiercz maintained SLU's win streak in what would have otherwise been their first draw of the tournament.

Dariusz Swiercz Quesada Perez Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship 2022
Dariusz Swiercz playing Quesada Perez. Photo: Angie Le.

In round four, SLU had another close encounter this time against Texas Tech. GM Benjamin Bok was able to get the only win in the match by ruining his opponent's pawn structure and creating a strong passed pawn. His opponent IM Samuel Schmakel resigned on move 49.

This round also saw another very close match between UChicago and UT Dallas. UChicago's top two players GMs Awonder Liang and Praveen Balakrishnan drew against IMs Guillermo Vazquez and Ivan Schitco, and Chicago's board three IM Zhaozhi Li drew against IM David Brodsky.

The whole match came down to the fourth boards FM Kapil Chandran From Chicago and IM Rahul Srivatshav Peddi from Dallas. Rahul was able to get an extra pawn one square away from promotion when Kapil had one last chance at a stalemate. Kapil took the extra pawn on move 44, and if Rahul took back it would have been a stalemate. Rahul wisely avoided the immediate capture and gave a series of checks to win the rook and the game.

Dutch GM Bok came in clutch one more time in round five for SLU against UT Dallas. Once again, he was able to get the only win in the match against IM Brian Escalante to win the match 2.5-1.5.



Dalles St Louis Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship 2022
Dallas vs. St. Louis. Photo: Angie Le.

The all-female SLU B team also saw success in round five against UC San Diego. The ladies ended up winning the match by a score of 3-1 with two wins and two draws.

One of their wins came from FM Thalia Cervantes over Sudhir Vasudevan, and their other win came from FM Gabriela Antova over San Diego's leader NM Richard Yi. The SLU B team ended up going 4/6 which was tied for 9th place and good enough for 10th place based on tie breaks and won them the top female team prize.

Gabriela Antova NM Richard Yi Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship 2022
The all-female SLU B team (left). Photo: Angie Le.

Their opponents UC San Diego also did well for themselves similarly scoring 4/6 putting them at 12th place despite being the 44th seeded team. They also won the top upset prize as well as the top Division 6 team prize.

PAICTC_Awards_010922-4312.jpg
The top upset prize and top Division 6 team prize went to San Diego. Photo: Bill Simmons.

The sixth and final round saw many teams fighting for a spot in this year's Final Four. SLU and UTRGV were playing on table one with SLU at 5/5 and UTRGV at 4.5/5. Thanks to Theodorou's win over GM Ulvi Bajarani, SLU would win the match 2.5-1.5 finishing the perfect tournament and earning the first spot in the Final Four.

Untitled photo
The Saint Louis University (SLU) team with the trophy. Photo: Bill Simmons.

Six other teams were all tied at 4/5. Texas Tech would play against Yale, UT Dallas would play against SLU B, and UChicago would play against Webster B. All of these teams on the top four tables have scholarship programs except for UChicago and Yale who came in first and third respectively in the previous Collegiate Chess League season.

UChicago and Webster B split the match 2-2, and Yale would fall to the Texas Tech team 1.5-2.5. With this win, Texas Tech would improve to 5/6 and clinch a spot in the President's Cup, and UT Dallas punched their ticket to the Final Four with a 3-1 win against SLU B.

University of Dallas Chess Team
The University of Dallas chess team. Photo: Angie Le.

With the draw between Chicago and Webster B, they were now tied at 4.5/6 along with UTRGV. They would have to wait to see which team would make the final spot. Two other teams would rise up to join them, Webster A after beating Mizzou, and UT Dallas B after beating Harvard. Once the dust had cleared, Webster A ended up with the strongest tiebreaks and would take the fourth and final spot in the President's Cup.

Perhaps SLU will finally win it all for the first time following their clear first performance at the PanAms this past weekend. Their best performance in the Final Four came last year when they got second place only losing to UTRGV.

SLU still has fierce competition standing in their way as Webster, Texas Tech, and UT Dallas aim to reclaim their title. Webster has won the championship five times in a row between 2013 and 2017, Texas Tech won two years in a row before that from 2011 to 2012, and UT Dallas has won the President's Cup four times since its inception in 2001. This year's highly contested President's Cup will likely be held in April, and it's location is currently being determined. Stay tuned for venue and broadcasting updates!

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