Three-Peat at the USAT West!

by admin on February 17, 2015

Last weekend there were two big chess events in California, and I didn’t go to either of them. Nevertheless, Facebook kept me abreast of some of the things happening in both tournaments, and I have some big landmarks to report.

The U.S. Amateur Team Championship West was held in the southern part of the state, and the winner for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR was NorCal House of Chess. I can’t tell you how amazing this is. First of all, I’m pretty sure that it has never been done before in any of the four sections of the country. Can anyone confirm this? The USAT tournament is designed to be extremely competitive. It has a rating cap of 2199 (average) for the team, and even though you can fiddle around with that barrier a little bit, stacking your team with strong masters at the top and underrated, fast-improving kids at the bottom, the bottom line is that it’s still very hard to outclass your opposition. The thing about having underrated kids on the bottom boards is that they may choose the worst possible moment to start playing like kids again. And on the top boards, too, you might be favored but it’s hard for a 2400 player to beat 2300 players round after round.

NorCal House of Chess has now pulled that feat off for three years running. It’s a testament to the strength of their nucleus, Ricardo de Guzman and Ron Cusi, and also Enrico Sevillano who I believe has joined their team for the last two years. And it’s a testament to the strength of their education program that keeps turning up talented young kids year after year.

By the way, I’d like to remind readers of one little thing. Three years ago, in 2012, I was on a team called “Forfeit by Disconnection” that won the USAT West ahead of NorCal House of Chess. As the years go by, that feat is looking more and more impressive. If it weren’t for us, instead of talking about a three-peat for NorCal, we would be talking about a four-peat!

True story (a small digression): Kentucky won the NCAA basketball tournament in 1996 and 1998. In the intervening year, 1997, Arizona beat them in overtime in the championship game. I happened to be visiting the University of Arizona campus in 1998 when the NCAA championship took place, and after Kentucky won, the headline in the U. of A. student newspaper read: “Arizona Prevents a Three-Peat!” Similarly, I should have titled this post, “Forfeit by Disconnection Prevents a Four-Peat!” But no one would have understood what the heck I was talking about.

Meanwhile, for players who couldn’t afford to travel to the USAT West, or couldn’t get together a team, a traditional Bay Area tournament called the Peoples Tournament was held in Santa Clara. This used to be a Berkeley tradition (which explains the name), but it has been taken over in recent years by Bay Area Chess.

This year’s edition had an unusually clean finish, with no ties in the top three positions. First place went to FM Eugene Yanayt with 5½ out of 6, second to GM Ioan Chirila with 5 out of 6, and third to Arun Sharma with 4½ out of 6. Yanayt is one of those guys who always seems to be around the top in the big tournaments but never actually at the top, so I think this is really a breakout performance for him.

I’d also like to give a shout out to my Facebook friend Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo, an expert who beat an International Master for the first time. His victim was Ray Kaufman. It was apparently quite a good game and Simon says he is going to post it eventually. Unfortunately, the rest of his weekend was fairly forgettable, as he finished with 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws. But still, you never forget your first IM scalp.

While on the subject of landmarks, I have one other milestone to report. Last week at the Mechanics Institute Tuesday Night Marathon, another friend of mine, Andy Lee, reached 2400 for the first time. I’m very impressed with what he has done. He first cracked the 2200 barrier in 1999, and he has managed to keep improving slowly but steadily since then. It took him ten more years to reach 2300, and now he has reached 2400 in only six years. So he’s picking up speed, which should be almost impossible at this level.

In honor of Andy’s 2400 rating, I have another quiz: Has anyone ever earned both a 2400 chess rating and a 2400 (i.e., a perfect score) on the SAT exam? Again I throw this question open to the collective wisdom of the Internet. I don’t know the answer.

Congratulations to NorCal, Eugene Yanayt, Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo, and Andy Lee for their accomplishments this week.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward February 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Much thanks for the tourney updates.


Simon February 17, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Thanks for the mention! I have now posted the game with comments at I hope you enjoy it.


Joshua Gutman February 17, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Caltech Finished 1st, 1st, 3rd, 1st in 2003-2006. All with students / faculty. In 2006 our team was all seniors and had an average rating of 2197.


Joshua Gutman February 18, 2015 at 5:51 am

Should add that Eugene Yanayt mentioned in this post was part of all 4 of those teams.


Mike Splane February 19, 2015 at 2:47 am

“. Three years ago, in 2012, I was on a team called “Forfeit by Disconnection” that won the USAT West ahead of NorCal House of Chess. As the years go by, that feat is looking more and more impressive. If it weren’t for us, instead of talking about a three-peat for NorCal, we would be talking about a four-peat!”

This is not completely accurate. My team, Metropolitan Chess, finished second. Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo also played on that team. Here’s your blog entry from three years ago.

“Metropolitan Chess took second place on tiebreaks. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the second through fourth place teams all had better tiebreaks than us, in spite of being a point behind! That’s because we had so many narrow victories. Mike Splane, a frequent commenter on this blog, played on the second place team”


admin February 19, 2015 at 11:41 am

Hi Mike, I thought this point might come up. I based this statement on the hypothesis that if they had drawn their match against us, they would have had 1/2 more point (also 1/2 more point than you) and we would have had 1/2 less point. I suspect, but do not know, that they would have won the tiebreaker with us. And if they had won their match with us, they definitely would have been in first place.

Of course, this is all hypothetical. In particular, because our match with NorCal was played in the second-to-last round, not the last round, all the pairings for the last round would have been different if they had drawn or beaten us. So in the end, it’s impossible to say. However, the statement I made is at least plausible (and I was trying to give them the best possible build-up).


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