First, an apology. I did not play in the U.S. Amateur Team West tournament this year, so I can’t give you an in-person report.
Why, you ask, didn’t my team from last year, “Forfeit by Disconnection,” defend its title? Well, the main reason was that our organizer from last year, Robin Cunningham, put together a different team from the Berkeley Chess School.
That left it up to Julian Chan, Todd Rumpf, Steve Gaffagan, or me to do the organizing. And for whatever reason, nobody stepped up. For me it was a combination of having other things to do and not wanting to go to the trouble of rounding up four people. Also, without Robin on the top board it would be hard to envision us really competing for first place. It’s easier to replace a fourth board than a first board.
However, the tournament went on without us, and the results have now been posted at the Bay Area Chess website. The bottom line is that the tournament was completely dominated by two teams: “Northern California House of Chess” (Norcal) and “Bay Area Chess BAC Attack.” Both of them went 5-0 in their matches against other teams, so it all came down to their match against each other in the second-to-last round. Norcal won that match 2½-1½. I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you about any of the games, but here are the individual results (Norcal on the left, BAC Attack on the right):
- Ricardo de Guzman (2413) – 1, Cameron Wheeler (2276) – 0
- Ronald Cusi (2265) – 1, Kesav Viswanadha (2213) – 0
- Uyanga Byambaa (2094) – 0, Albert Lu (2148) – 1
- Ted Castro (2019) – ½, Teemu Virtanen (2077) – ½
The first two boards on the Norcal team were the same as last year, and just like last year they were very hard to beat. De Guzman and Cusi both went 5½-½ in this year’s tournament. When we beat Norcal in last year’s tournament, our strategy was to win on boards three and four and pray for a half point against Cusi or de Guzman. Probably BAC Attack was thinking along the same lines, but instead they got the reverse: Norcal won both of the games they were favored to win and stole a half point from the games where they were not favored.
When you look for the reasons for Norcal’s success, you have to look at boards three and four. Of course de Guzman and Cusi did their thing, but what made them go 6-0 this year was that they found third and fourth boards who could hold up their end of the bargain. On board three, Uyanga went 4½-1½ (the game against Lu was her only loss). On board four, Bryon Doyle had a score of 3-0. Only Ted Castro (who went 1½-1½ as their other fourth board) had a mediocre tournament. But on the other hand, he got the most important draw of the whole tournament! His draw against Virtanen clinched their team’s match against BAC Attack.
That’s what I love about team chess. You can do badly in one game, but the rest of the team can pick you up. The next round, it might be you picking up the rest of the team.
Now I’d like to wish Norcal success in the playoffs. Hopefully they will accomplish the one thing that my team couldn’t last year — bringing the national title to the west coast.