"You Don’t Have to be a GM to Win at USATE"- Carnegie Mellon

The Carnegie Mellon squad: Ryan Christianson, Board 4 Beilin Li Board 3, captain David Itkin Board 2 and Grant Xu on Board 1 
Everyone is used to seeing grandmasters headlining as the winners of chess tournaments around the world. Many teams at previous years of the U.S. Amateur Team East showed this trend, with a grandmaster on Board 1. Some examples include former World Champion GM Anatoly Karpov, whose team won in 1998, or GM Zvaid Izoria, whose team won in 2008. These are typically the players who also tend to score 6-0 individually throughout the tournament. This year’s U.S. Amateur Team East truly highlighted some underdogs, showing the “family friendly” and fun experience of the tournament. The tournament prizes reflect that, with no prize money involved- plaques, clocks, and glory rewarded- and a large range special category prizes such as class prizes, prizes rewarding the top company team, family team, and much more. The big winner of this year’s tournament, Carnegie Mellon University’s chess team, proves that you don’t have to be a grandmaster to win USATE! Amateur Team East is the biggest team tournament in the world, recently being so popular that it reaches maximum capacity. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to win- this year’s team did so with a 6-0 sweep for clear first.
Winner, winner! Photo Vanessa Sun
The winning team featured NM Grant Xu, NM David Itkin, NM Beilin Li, and Ryan Christianson. With a team average of 2199, the team aimed for a good balance on all boards. NM Beilin Li, “We knew Grant and David would have a tough time, so we were looking for Ryan to win big on Board 4 and for me to carry the team on a lesser extent. We figured Grant was good enough to do reasonably and David was underrated.” Their plan worked with great success, as Boards 2-4 scored 5.5/6 and Board 1 scored 4/6. Even with a lower score than his teammates, Board 1’s Grant Xu had over a performance 2500.
Grant Xu, Photo Vanessa Sun 
The team also had a little bit of luck because they did not have to play any teams with a grandmaster on Board 1. However, the team mentality, according to NM Li, was that the teams with a strong grandmaster on Board 1 is not that important because “they have to put much lower rated players on lower boards. Lower boards are pretty important. ”
GM Oliver Barbosa, Photo Jim Doyle
Although the team did not expect to win because there were so many great teams among the 300 registered, they knew for sure they were a contender. Other tough teams included ChessNYC’s NY City 1 team with GM Oliver Barbosa, the only team to score 5.5/6 and Summer Chess Academy for Talented Youth which won the last two years in a row and included 2 FMs and a NM. 16 teams achieved a 5/6 score, but only one Carnegie Mellon scored a perfect 6-0!

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.20"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Li, Beilin"]
[Black "Klein, Ethan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C00"]
[PlyCount "103"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.20"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.02.20"]

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 Be7 3. b3 d5 4. Bb2 Nf6 5. exd5 exd5 6. Bxf6 gxf6 7. g3 Nc6 8.
Bg2 Bf5 9. c3 Ne5 10. d4 Nd3+ 11. Kf1 Qd7 12. Bf3 O-O-O 13. Kg2 Rde8 14. Qd2
Bd6 15. Be2 Nf4+ 16. gxf4 Rhg8+ 17. Kf1 Bh3+ 18. Nxh3 Qxh3+ 19. Ke1 Qf3 20. Rf1
Bxf4 21. Kd1 Qe4 22. Qd3 Qg2 23. Nd2 Kb8 24. Kc2 Qxh2 25. Qf3 Qh6 26. Rh1 Qg5
27. Rh5 Qg6+ 28. Bd3 f5 29. Rxf5 Bxd2 30. Kxd2 Qh6+ 31. Qf4 Qb6 32. Rxf7 Rc8
33. Rh1 Qa5 34. a4 Qb6 35. b4 Qc6 36. Rhxh7 Qxa4 37. Rxc7 Qa2+ 38. Bc2 Ka8 39.
Rxb7 Rge8 40. Rxa7+ Qxa7 41. Rxa7+ Kxa7 42. Qf7+ Kb6 43. Ba4 Rf8 44. Qe6+ Kc7
45. Qd7+ Kb6 46. f4 Rh8 47. Qe6+ Ka7 48. f5 Rhf8 49. Qe7+ Kb6 50. Bd7 Ra8 51.
Qd6+ Ka7 52. Qc7+ 1-0[/pgn]
The winning team celebrated the tournament by promptly driving the 5.5 hours home after an exhausting weekend, arriving at almost 3 AM. If this tournament did not show they were troopers enough, how they ended the night certainly did!
Sneak preview into Jim Doyle's Army vs. Navy cover shoot. Photo Jim Doyle
Another great rivalry was the West Point vs. Naval Academy teams. As mentioned previously, they had a photoshoot together, with many jokes. It got serious over the board in the second round as US Military 1 team from West Point played the Naval Academy. West Point prevailed and in the end, they also won the Top Military College prize. The tournament did not just have a military college category, though, and included a Top Military team prize. CMEDBD Pawns, M R Mine! won that award. The team was geographical diverse: two players were from Virginia, one was from Ohio, and another from New Jersey. Other players celebrated extraordinary levels of personal achievement, not just team success. SA Bed-Stuy MS 1’s Board 1 player, NM Tyrell Harriott, went 6-0, showing that you don’t have to be a grandmaster to win all your games at USATE! All other top Board 1 players were grandmasters: GMs Alexander Fishbein, Michael Rohde, and Tamaz Gelashvili.
GM Tamaz Gelashvili played on the team Georgian Walls, which won the top Family category and included GM Gelashvili’s son, Giorgi, Photo Vanessa Sun 
Giorgi, Tamaz's son
However, Tyrell Harriott was quite a shining star, as he beat two masters and an expert. Even though he was having his moment of glory, he expressed truly enjoyed playing with his students on his team. He believes that it helped them to feel more confident. The players who were able to obtain insane upsets were also players that shone quite brightly. You don’t have to be a grandmaster to win a big upset at USATE! The highest upset occurred in Round 3, where Lee Usiskin, rated 751, beat Joseph Salvatore, rated 1706. That was a 955 point upset. Others who achieved great upsets were Andrew Mulderrig (275 beat 1177), Jaden Chan (1043 beat 1700), Jacob Lawren Dice (552 beat 1448), Stephen Eckelmann (897 beat 1775), and Ricardo Ayuda (1176 beat 2100). Lastly, you don’t have to be a grandmaster to have fun at USATE!   There are fun outfits: https://twitter.com/USChess/status/965361594472509440
Costume party fun at the USATE, Photo Jim Doyle
Guard your king! Photo Jim Doyle
There are great prizes: https://twitter.com/USChess/status/964946609011388422 There are guest from all facets of US Chess, including our new Executive Director https://twitter.com/USChess/status/964969488302198786 Chess tournaments are inherently competitive, but the fun aspects of it are highlighted at the US Amateur Team. At all times there seemed to be someone analyzing games or playing blitz after exhausting five hour games. There were even 36 entries at the bughouse side tournament on Sunday night, which ended at 12:30 AM. Congrats to all the winners!  Browse full results from the US Amateur Team East here. See our story on the US Amateur Team North here and look for coverage of the West coming soon. The South will take place next weekend, and you can follow the games live here.  Vanessa Sun is a chess journalist, tournament director and artist. You can follow her on twitter and instagram.