01 Apr

The Final Four

You didn’t need to wait for the glamour and the excitement of this coming weekend for the Final Four.

While the top college basketball programs were whittling their way down to this week’s semifinals in the NCAA Tournament, the Final Four for college chess took place last weekend at the Olympic Room on the 10th floor of the New York Athletic Club. 

The President’s Cup - also known as the Final Four of chess, in obvious homage to its more famous cousin - is usually scheduled on the same weekend as the men’s basketball championship and has been each year since 2001, pitting the top four teams from the annual Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship in December.

The competition was moved up a week this year because of a scheduling conflict with the U.S. Championship, which kicks-off today in St. Louis and will include some of the big college stars who were in action last weekend.  But the other three college teams involved in the Final Four championship - UT Dallas, University of Maryland/Baltimore County, and Texas Tech - could only look on in awe, as St. Louis-based Webster University and its all-star team with top-level grandmasters cruised to a record third consecutive title.

Anchored by Vietnamese-born Le Quang Liem and also including U.S. No. 4 Ray Robson, Illia Nyzhnyk, Vasif Durarbayli, Fidel Corrales Jimenez, and Andre Diamant, Webster were the big favourites to win - and they didn’t disappoint with a convincing performance by sweeping the opposition in their three matches, scoring nine wins, conceded four draws, and did not lose a single game to retain the title on 10/12.

This is the third consecutive year Webster has taken the top spot - and they are now also undefeated during their trifecta-winning run. "And that's the biggest margin of victory ever in the Final Four history, and it was also the strongest final four ever, so the fact that we were able to do so well was just incredible," said Ray Robson, who had little time to celebrate as he now takes part in one of the strongest-ever U.S. Championships now underway at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

L Quang Liem (Webster U) - G Margvelashvili (UT Dallas)
US College Final Four, (2)
Keres Defence
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.g3 Nc6 7.Nc2 Be7 8.Bg2 0–0 9.0–0 b6 10.b4 Bb7 11.Bb2 d5 12.a3 dxc4 13.Nxc4 Qc7 14.Rc1 Rad8 15.Qe1 b5 16.Nd2 Qb8 17.Nb3 Nd5 18.Nc5 Ba8 19.Ne3 Nxe3 20.fxe3 Qb6 21.Qc3 e5 21...Bf6? 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6 e5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Ne6 soon leads to mate. 22.Rfd1 Bxc5 23.bxc5 Qc7 (See Diagram) 24.Rd6! The Rook lift leaves White in total control of the d-file, and with it, Black's position soon collapses. 24...Rde8 If 24...Rxd6 25.cxd6 Qxd6 26.Bxc6 Rc8 27.Bxa8! Rxc3 28.Rxc3 and White's material advantage will soon win. 25.Rcd1 Re7 26.Qd3 Total domination. 26...a6 27.Qf5 Na5 28.Bxa8 Rxa8 29.Bxe5 Qxc5 30.Rd8+ Re8 31.R1d7! Qxe3+ There's no defence.  If 31...f6 32.Rxg7+ Kxg7 33.Qxf6+ is mating. 32.Kf1 Qc1+ 33.Kf2 Qc4 There's no escape for Black with the added check:  33...Qc5+ 34.e3 Qf8 35.Bd6! Rexd8 36.Bxf8 Rxf8 37.a4 easily winning. 34.Qg5 Qc5+ 35.Kf1 Qf8 36.Rxe8 Rxe8 37.Bd6 h6 38.Qc5 1–0

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