Hartmann on the Amateur Team East

By John Hartmann |  March 1, 2020  |   News

You should play the Amateur Team East, everyone told me.

It’s the best tournament around, they said.

It’s like a giant reunion.

After traveling to New Jersey to participate in this year’s 50th Anniversary edition, I can categorically confirm that yes, that advice was right. The Amateur Team East is a one-of-a-kind event, something that needs to be seen to be believed, and I’m thrilled that I got a chance to sample it. This year’s tournament saw 329 teams – four more than the advertised limit, with head honcho Steve Doyle conjuring space to accommodate players who flew in without pre-registering! – compete over three long days of chess, with the 2186-rated corporate team from SIG Susquehanna (“SIG Calls”) claiming top honors with a perfect score of 6/6.

But the USATE is equally a story about the teams who don’t make it to the podium, and who don’t get to play in the big room. People come to win, sure, but the “fun factor” is more important. Look around the playing hall, and everywhere there are team combinations built more around camaraderie than strict rating. GM John Fedorowicz is playing with a bunch of B players.

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IM Hans Niemann teamed up with Tani Adewumi and two of Tani’s coaches. 91 year old Eugene Salomon is manning second board (with some byes) for the “Oldest Team in Town.” US Chess sent a team, too. While “We’ll Fix MSA Later” – rest assured all results in MSA are as they should be, much to my chagrin! – had little shot at any trophies with a team rating of 1917 entering play, we bounced between rooms, winning and losing, and having a ball all along the way.

Top honors at the 2020 Amateur Team East went to “SIG Calls.” The team of IM Atulya Shetty, Eric Most, Brian Luo, and Justin Brereton ran the table, winning every match on their way to the title. Along the way they mowed down the 2199-rated “1000 Check P.P. Per Move” in Round 5 and the 2196-rated “Princeton Clementine” team in Round 6, both by scores of 2.5-1.5.

"SIG Calls" (photo Mike Somers)

Going 6/6 on Board 1, the 2538-rated Shetty also took the top Board 1 prize on tiebreaks over GM Magesh Panchanathan, GM Alex Stripunsky, IM Yury Lapshun, and IM Alexander Katz. Second place on tiebreaks with 5.5/6 went to the 2175-rated “Unruly Queens:” WFM Martha Samadashvili, Evelyn Zhu, Yassamin Ehsani, and Ellen Wang. And if you’re wondering, yes, this is an all-girl team!

Here are three key games from the Unruly Queens. Thanks to Alessandro De Marchi-Blumstein for his assistance in obtaining them.

[pgn] [Event "Amateur Team East"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.02.16"] [Round "4"] [White "Mishra, Abhimanyu"] [Black "Samadashvili, Martha"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B48"] [WhiteElo "2404"] [BlackElo "2305"] [PlyCount "130"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.26"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 a6 7. Qf3 Bd6 8. O-O-O Be5 9. g3 b5 10. Nxc6 Qxc6 11. Bd4 Bxd4 12. Rxd4 Ne7 13. Bg2 Qc5 14. Qe3 Bb7 15. Rhd1 Bc6 16. f4 O-O 17. R4d3 Qxe3+ 18. Rxe3 Rfd8 19. Ne2 Kf8 20. Nd4 Ke8 21. Red3 Rac8 22. Kb1 Bb7 23. R1d2 Rc4 24. e5 Bxg2 25. Rxg2 d6 26. exd6 Nd5 27. Re2 Nb4 28. Rdd2 Rxd6 29. Nf3 Rxd2 30. Nxd2 Rc5 31. a3 Nc6 32. Nf3 h6 33. Ne1 Rd5 34. Nd3 Ke7 35. Kc1 Kd6 36. b3 a5 37. Kb2 f6 38. Kc3 e5 39. fxe5+ fxe5 40. Re3 Rd4 41. Kb2 Kd5 42. Kc1 Re4 43. Kd2 Rxe3 44. Kxe3 Nd4 45. c4+ bxc4 46. bxc4+ Kxc4 47. Nxe5+ Kd5 48. Nd3 Nc2+ 49. Kd2 Nxa3 50. h4 Nc4+ 51. Kc3 Ne3 52. Nf4+ Ke5 53. Kd3 Nd5 54. Ne2 Kf5 55. Nd4+ Kg4 56. Ne6 g6 57. Ke4 Ne7 58. Ke5 Kxg3 59. Kf6 Kxh4 60. Kxe7 a4 61. Kf6 a3 62. Nd4 a2 63. Nc2 g5 64. Kf5 g4 65. Kf4 Kh3 0-1 [/pgn]

[pgn] [Event "Amateur Team East"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.02.17"] [Round "6"] [White "Zhu, Evelyn"] [Black "Idnani, Taran"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E81"] [WhiteElo "2169"] [BlackElo "2195"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 h5 10. Be2 h4 11. Nf1 e6 12. f4 Neg4 13. Bxg4 Nxg4 14. Qxg4 exd5 15. f5 d4 16. Nd5 dxe3 17. Nfxe3 Bxb2 18. O-O Be5 19. Rab1 b6 20. Qf3 Qg5 21. fxg6 Be6 22. g7 Kxg7 23. Nf5+ Bxf5 24. exf5 Rae8 25. f6+ Kh8 26. Qh3 Bd4+ 27. Kh1 Re5 28. Rf4 Rxd5 29. Rxh4+ 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn] [Event "Amateur Team East"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.02.17"] [Round "6"] [White "Wang, Ellen"] [Black "Samant, Neil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B45"] [WhiteElo "2164"] [BlackElo "1966"] [PlyCount "131"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.26"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4+ 11. Ke2 f5 12. Nf2 Ba6 13. Kf3 Ne7 14. Be3 Bc5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. Qd6 Qb6 17. Rd1 Rd8 18. b4 Kf7 19. Qc5 Bb7 20. a4 Nc8 21. Kg3 a5 22. Qxb6 Nxb6 23. bxa5 Nxa4 24. a6 Ba8 25. Ra1 Nc5 26. Be2 Nb3 27. Ra3 Nd4 28. Bf3 c5 29. Nd3 Rc8 30. Bxa8 Rxa8 31. Nxc5 Ne2+ 32. Kf3 Nd4+ 33. Kf2 Rac8 34. Nxd7 Rxc4 35. a7 Rc7 36. Nb6 Rb7 37. a8=Q Rxa8 38. Nxa8 Rb2+ 39. Kg3 Ne2+ 40. Kf3 Nd4+ 41. Kg3 Ne2+ 42. Kh4 Nxf4 43. Kg3 g5 44. Kf3 Nxg2 45. h3 Nh4+ 46. Ke3 f4+ 47. Kd3 Rb5 48. Re1 Nf3 49. Re4 Nxe5+ 50. Ke2 Kf6 51. Nc7 Rb2+ 52. Kf1 Kf5 53. Re2 Rb1+ 54. Re1 Rxe1+ 55. Kxe1 g4 56. hxg4+ Nxg4 57. Rh3 h6 58. Rh5+ Ke4 59. Nxe6 f3 60. Rh4 Kf5 61. Nd4+ Kf4 62. Rh3 f2+ 63. Ke2 Ke4 64. Nf3 Kf4 65. Nh2 Ne3 66. Rf3+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Other teams tied for second place included CKQ Titans (Arvind Jayaraman, Roshan Idnani, Anuprita Patil, David Zhurbinsky), Stranger Kings (Qibiao Wang, Eddy Tian, Eric Sheng Wu, Boyang Zhao), and May the Forced Mate Be With You (Farzad Abdi, Nithin Kavi, Alan Curtis Price, Libardo Rueda). All were rated 2197 entering the event.

IM Ken Regan, Steve Doyle, IA Carol Jarecki (photo Sophia Rohde)

Tournament Organizer Steve Doyle is a dynamo, seemingly everywhere at the playing site all at once, but nowhere is he more at home than at the podium, handing out a stunning number of prizes to people with different driver’s licenses or state quarters.

The chaos and laughter before each round was infectious, and everyone, even those who didn’t win games or prizes, had a great time. The coffee and cake for 1400 might have helped with that too.

The annual Army-Navy matchup (photo Mike Somers)

One of the best traditions at the USATE is the annual Round 3 matchup between teams from West Point and the Naval Academy. This year’s pairing ended 3-1 in favor of the Army Cadets.

Awards for Best Gimmick were presented to “The King Coffee Quartet,” a singing duo (?!) and “The Pawn Shop,” a skit featuring friends and family of IM Igor Khmelnitsky, and the Best Name prize went to (what else?) “Caruanavirus.” A complete awards list is available at the New Jersey State Chess Federation website.

Team US Chess: L to R: Nicky Rosenthal, Alan Kantor, Dan Lucas, John Hartmann

The US Chess team struggled a bit in Parsippany, and no one more than “Your Humble Writer.” After a solid draw against a 2150 player in Round 1, one where I probably should have kept trying to push my advantage in the final position, I found myself with this position on the board sometime close to midnight on Friday.

[fen]4r1k1/p7/1b2q2p/5pp1/4p3/1P1n1PPP/P1Q1R1NK/5N2 b - - 0 44[/fen]

My opponent (William Cuozzo, MIT C) spent much of the game holding on to the pawn he snatched in the Two Knights, and I kept trying to find ways to break into his solid position. With my clock ticking away, I confidently looked to press my advantage with 44. … Rc8?? only to be faced with the shock of 45. Qxd3!, using the pin to win a piece. After muttering what I’m sure were a few unprintable words, I tried to find a way to avoid having to resign immediately, and I settled on a move that used some tactical themes I’d sniffed out a few moves before. It turns out that after 45. … Rc1 Black can miraculously draw if he plays like a computer. I didn’t, and I resigned after White’s 52nd move.

[pgn] [Event "USATE"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.02.15"] [Round "2"] [White "Cuozzo, William"] [Black "Hartmann, John"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C58"] [WhiteElo "1520"] [BlackElo "1805"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/p7/1b2q2p/5pp1/4p3/1P1n1PPP/P1Q1R1NK/5N2 b - - 0 44"] [PlyCount "16"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.16"] {[#]} 44... Rc8 $4 (44... Ne5 $1) 45. Qxd3 Rc1 $1 46. Ne1 (46. fxe4 Rxf1 47. Ne3 Bxe3 48. Rxe3 f4 $1 $132) 46... Bf2 $4 (46... exd3 $1 47. Rxe6 Rd1 $1 48. Nxd3 Rxf1 49. Rxh6 Rxf3 50. Rg6+ Kf8 51. Nb4 Rf2+ 52. Kh1 Rf1+ 53. Kh2 Rf2+ 54. Kh1 Rf1+) 47. Qd8+ Kg7 48. Rxf2 Rxe1 49. fxe4 Qxe4 50. Qd2 Rb1 (50... a6 51. Qd7+ Kg6 52. Rd2 Re2+ 53. Rxe2 Qxe2+ 54. Kg1 $18) 51. Qd7+ Kg6 52. Rd2 1-0 [/pgn]

This was followed by three wins over lower rated players, all of whom made me work very hard for the full points. Special shoutouts to Barack Johnson (Success Academy Myrtle Forks) and Henry Buczkiewicz (CCFS Varsity) for playing particularly well. Johnson is an aggressive young player who consistently found the most fighting moves, and I was totally busted against Buczkiewicz in Round 5 before swindling him. He was kind enough to point out my mistakes afterwards.

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I was thoroughly outplayed in Round 6 by Stephen Cheng (Millburn HS), losing without great resistance. Kudos to Stephen for a well-played win. This left me at 3.5/6 for the tournament, which was definitely disappointing. But that disappointment was minor when I think of my experience in Parsippany overall. I caught up with old pals from my days in New York, and slightly newer ones from Delegates Meetings and US Opens. I bought books from Chess4Less and legendary NY book dealer Fred Wilson.

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And best of all, I got to play chess with my co-workers and friends. What could be better than that? Thanks to US Chess for fielding a team, and a special thanks to Steve Doyle and his team for putting on this extravaganza year after year after year. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but rest assured, I will be.

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