Alliances Through Sport & Snow: US and Canadian Military Academies Face Off

While most of the Eastern United States was trying to survive Winter Storm Jonas, cadets from the United States Military Academy migrated north to Kingston, Ontario, Canada to conduct an exchange program with their counterpart the Royal Military College of Canada.  Normally, one does not go to Canada to escape winter, but this weekend it worked.  It was cold and snowy in Canada, but nowhere near as bad as the United States. Snowbank The roots of this exchange go back to just after World War I, when the US and Canada saw the value of coalition warfare in WWI and desired to strengthen relationships in peace to maintain the advantages that alliances create in war.  The first exchange was hockey in 1923 and hockey has been the centerpiece ever since. However, what better way of increasing military alliances than chess?  Chess was added four years ago and thanks largely to Canadian Major Regis Bellemare has grown every year from 7 players in the inaugural year to 44 players this year.  The tournament this year was a 5 round Swiss with a time control of G/25 plus 5 second increment.   This year’s event was actually two tournaments in one.  There were 8 cadets from the USMA and 12 cadets from RMCC.  There were also 3 cadets from Royal Military College St-Jean which feeds into RMCC.  The top 8 scores would determine the winning team (St- Jean cadets notwithstanding).  In addition to the 23 cadets there were 21 military members (19 Canadian, 2 US).   The Canadians formed teams of three.  Prizes would be awarded to Top Cadet, Wining cadet school, Top military member (not cadet) and winning team of three.  There were also upset prizes every round and a door prize every round. The quality of this tournament felt like an International event.  Every board had wooden pieces, clocks and flags provided.  The top board played on a stage and was broadcast by DGT board!  This was a first class operation all the way! After attending classes on Friday (RMCC cadets hosted USMA counterparts), the weekend got off to a start with a social in the Officer’s mess.  Cadets got to know each other and there was a lot of good natured rivalry going on between blitz games, billiards, and even a moonwalk obstacle course! Social Saturday morning the events started in full force.  A bagpipe musician opened the chess event and the games began.  The shocker of the first round was USMA cadet Zade Koch with a Canadian rating of 1239 defeating Rene Poulin 1760 a 521 point upset!  In the very next round, Zade pulls off a 216 point upset.  Koch was paired up all 5 rounds and scored 3 points tying for 11th – much better than his pre-tournament seeding of 28.  Canada has dual rating systems :  Canadian and Quebec.  Koch was unrated under the Quebec system and came out with a rating of 1506. The only thing that prevented Koch from winning the Under 1400 class prize was an even stronger performance from a cadet from up north! Officer Cadet Owen Murphy was rated 1260 Canadian coming into the event.  He scored 3 ½ points for a 1630 performance rating.  He was paired up 4 times scoring 2 ½ plus a win against an unrated!  His Quebec rating jumped 241 points. The top scoring cadet was Cadet Wesley Loudon from USMA. He scored 5 points scoring upsets in the last 3 rounds.  Wes’ Quebec rating jumped from 1491 to 1639 based on his nearly 1900 performance rating.  Close behind was USMA’s top rated cadet, Nicholas Oblak.  Nick started 4-0 and played a quick draw on board one in the last round.  USMA also had two other cadets with plus scores:  Yixin Huang and Marck Dosh both scored 3 points.  Anchored by these 5 plus scores USMA won the match 26 ½ to 17. Hater, Loudon, Oblak That may seem like a fairly convincing victory, but the result was closer than the score appeared.  After three rounds, USMA was only ahead by a few points.  RMCC also had four cadets with plus scores:  Murphy at 3 ½ and Mathieu Drolet, Alexandre Tanguay, and Sam Lowery all with 3 points.  The real difference in the match was Loudon and Oblak’s very impressive performance. Still RMCC is to be commended.  Last year they only brought 3 cadets;  this year that quadrupled to 12!  This certainly bodes well for their program. The top non-cadet was this author, Colonel (retired) David Hater.  Scoring 4 ½ points, I played on board one every round and had at least a tie for first wrapped up going into the last round.

[Event "USMA RMCC Exchange 2016"]
[Site "Kingston"]
[Date "2016.01.23"]
[White "Sass, Andrew"]
[Black "Hater, David"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "1623"]
[BlackElo "2090"]
[PlyCount "56"]
[EventDate "2016.01.23"]
[EventType "rapid"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "CAN"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. e3 O-O 5. Be2 d5 {My first decision. I am a
Gruenfeld player, so this move came pretty natural to me.} 6. Nbd2 c5 7. cxd5
Nxd5 8. dxc5 Qa5 9. O-O Qxc5 {I am pretty happy here. His dark squared bishop
is a problem and I'm pretty happy with my pieces. Fritz doesn't share my
enthusiasm. See next two comments.} 10. Nb3 Qd6 {I was perfectly willing to
play 11. e4 Nb4 12. Qxd6 ed when I think white is going to have some
difficulty untangling.} 11. Qc2 (11. e4 Nb4 12. Qxd6 exd6 13. Bf4 Bxb2 14. Rab1
Be5 15. Bxe5 dxe5 16. Nxe5 Nxa2 17. Bc4 Nb4 {I would have been happy to play
this position, but Fritz thinks White has enough compensation for the pawn.})
11... Nb4 12. Qc5 {I wanted to keep Qs on, but didn't see a good way to do it.
I thought about Bf5, but thought he might get some play against the isolated
pawn after a queen trade.} Qxc5 (12... Bf5 13. Qxd6 exd6 14. Nfd4 {And white
is slightly better}) 13. Nxc5 b6 14. Nb3 N8c6 15. a3 Nc2 {My plan was 16. Rb1
Be6. I thought I was winning after Nbd2, but he does have Nfd2 and I may have
to play Rac8 and Ne5. White still has problems, but I don't see the immediate
knockout punch.} 16. Bd2 (16. Rb1 Be6 17. Nfd2 (17. Nbd2 Ba2 18. Bd1 Bxb1 19.
Nxb1 Na1 20. Nc3 Bxc3 21. bxc3 Na5 22. Nd4 e5 {Winning}) 17... Rac8 {Black is
much better, but white is at least still in the game.}) 16... Nxa1 17. Rxa1
Bxb2 18. Ra2 Bg7 {White didn't need to hit the panic buton. Now it is just
easy.} 19. Rc2 Bb7 20. Nfd4 Nxd4 21. Nxd4 Rac8 22. Bg4 f5 23. Bh3 Bxd4 {
Stronger was Rxc2 and Rd8.} 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. exd4 Rc2 26. Be3 Ra2 27. g4 Ra1+
28. Bf1 Ba6 0-1[/pgn]
A last round draw with Oblak secured clear first (among non-cadets). Based on Loudon’s and Oblak’s score and adding two points from Cadet Cliff Hodges, the trio of West Point Cadets won the best team prize with 11 ½ points.  The best Canadian team was three active duty players from Ottawa:  Captain Andrew Sass, Major Regis Bellemare, and Captain Fernando Echavarria-Hidadalgo with 10 ½ points.  The difference was the last game to end in round 5 as Loudon defeated Echavarria-Hidalgo.  Had Fernando won what was an equal ending with both sides in time pressure, the result would have been reversed.  All three Canadians had fine tournaments:  Stass pulled off an upset in round 3 lost to Hater in round 4 and then defeated Koch in Round 5.  Bellemare scored 3 ½, but his only loss was to Oblak and he drew fellow Canadian NATO team member 4th seeded Herb Langer.  Fernando only lost to Hater and Loudon!

[Event "USMA RMCC Exchange 2016"]
[Site "Kingston"]
[Date "2016.01.23"]
[White "Langer, Herb"]
[Black "Loudon, Wesley"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D74"]
[WhiteElo "1829"]
[BlackElo "1584"]
[PlyCount "66"]
[EventDate "2016.01.23"]
[EventType "rapid"]

1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 O-O 5. d4 c6 6. Nf3 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. O-O
Nd7 9. e4 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Nb6 11. Qd3 e5 12. Be3 Be6 13. Rfd1 exd4 14. cxd4 Bc4
15. Qd2 Re8 16. e5 Bd5 17. Bg5 Nc4 18. Qf4 Qd7 19. Bf6 Bxf6 20. exf6 Qd6 21.
Qh4 Re4 22. Qh6 Qxf6 23. Ng5 Re2 24. Qxh7+ Kf8 25. Rf1 Bxg2 26. Kxg2 Rae8 27.
Qh4 Qf5 28. Nh7+ Kg7 29. Ng5 Ne3+ 30. Kg1 Nxf1 31. Rxf1 Rh8 32. Qf4 Qxf4 33.
gxf4 Rxa2 {And black wins} 0-1[/pgn]
During a break between rounds, USMA’s top 8 played RMCC’s top 8 in a fixed board blitz (3 min, 2 inc) match.  USMA won 6-2. While it was chess that matters most, USMA won the weekend and the Commandant’s Cup.  USMA took Chess, Hockey, and Rowing, and RMCC took debate. Look for a full article on the exchange weekend in the May Chess Life. For full tournament details see