USATW results

by admin on February 16, 2016

This weekend I played in the U.S. Amateur Team West tournament, on a team called “Stean Punks,” which consisted of me, Larry Smith, John Wilson, John Williams, and Richard Robinson. It was, as always, a lot of fun to play in a team tournament. I actually knew only one of my teammates before this weekend (Richard Robinson, who invited me to be on the team). They have all known each other for years, because they all started out playing in clubs and tournaments in southern California in the 1970s. At age 57, I am actually the youngest player on the team!

We had an average rating of 2148, which made us the #11 seed out of 53 teams. There were six teams with ratings in the 2190s and three teams with grandmasters, one of them with two grandmasters, so it was a pretty challenging competition. News flash: The team with two grandmasters didn’t win. (Keep on reading for more details.)

Going into the last round we had a record of 4-1, and at least a theoretical chance of tying for first. Rainbow Unicorns were in clear first at 5-0, and five other teams were tied with us at 4-1. So we had to root for the unicorns to lose, but they were so far ahead of us on tiebreak points that I doubt that we could have won the tournament even if they did. Anyway, it turned out to be academic because we got crushed in the last round by NorCal House of Chess West Coast Champions. This was actually the NHC’s “B” team, which “merely” had International Master Ricardo De Guzman and Women’s International Master Ashritha Eswaran. Their “A” team, which was called “Feel the Bern NHC,” had Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa on first board and Grandmaster Enrico Sevillano on second board.

John and John lost pretty quickly on third and fourth boards. I had a microscopic endgame advantage over Eswaran, but I don’t think it was enough to win. We got to a K+P endgame where she had exactly one move to draw, but it wasn’t that hard and of course she found it. That decided the match. On first board, Larry was locked in a mind-bending battle with De Guzman, where after forty moves no pieces had been traded, only four pawns on both sides. When you think about it, that’s pretty weird — open lines all over the board, yet all the major and minor pieces are still there. It must have been ferociously hard to play. I couldn’t tell who was better, but knowing De Guzman I’ll bet he found a way to win. (I decided to leave at this point and go back home.)

Speaking personally, I had an okay tournament but it wasn’t great. My performance rating was 2201, and I will gain about three rating points. The highlight was beating a 2300 player, Steven Jacobi, in the fourth round, when Larry sat out and I took first board. Last year I had an incredibly bad year against people rated 2200 and up, with no wins, one draw and six losses. So a point of emphasis for me this year is to do better against masters. I’m off to a good start — in this tournament I had one win, one draw and one loss (to Neel Apte).

I’ll probably show you my game with Apte in my next post. It’s an instructive case of playing an “automatic recapture” when I didn’t have to. Neel reads this blog and seemed eager to have his game appear here, so I will be glad to grant his wish!

Finally, I should mention that the winner of the tournament was the aforementioned Rainbow Unicorn squad. They broke the three-year championship reign of NorCal House of Chess.┬áThe Rainbow Unicorns didn’t actually have to play Feel the Bern NHC, because they had already been upset in round four by another team — Bay Area Chess’s “Uknighted We Stand.”

There’s an interesting history behind these three teams. Two years ago NorCal won the USATW title on tiebreaks in spite of being upset in the last round by a team from the Berkeley Chess School. That team had Cameron Wheeler on first board, Albert Lu on second board, and Teemu Virtanen on third board. Fast forward to this year, and guess what? The Rainbow Unicorns had Cameron Wheeler on first board and Albert Lu on second board. Uknighted We Stand had Virtanen on second board. Virtanen played what might have been the most important game of the tournament, when he held GM Enrico Sevillano to a draw and clinched their upset victory. If Virtanen had lost that game, perhaps NorCal would have played the Rainbow Unicorns, and if they had won then we might be talking about NorCal as four-time champions.

Well, that’s a lot of “ifs.” And I know it’s confusing, with all of these shifting team names. Anyway, I’ll bet that Wheeler, Lu, and Virtanen all feel a certain amount of vindication after their near miss of 2014, even if only two of them actually won the title. Congratulations to the winners! And thanks, once again, to my esteemed Stean Punk colleagues for the invitation to play on their team!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Roman Parparov February 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Seems like it’s been a fine event, and a bit of a pity I had to miss it (Valentine weekend overridden by mrs.)

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Matt February 16, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I was asked to be on a team but it’s just too far to drive for a weekend tournament. It would end up costing hundreds. I will definitely play when the USATW returns to SoCal, whenever that might be (could be a couple of years because it was in SoCal in 2015).

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Mary Kuhner February 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm

USCF confirms your guess about the outcome of Smith-De Guzman. Sounds like a very cool tournament!

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