Northern California Scholastic Team Draws Strong Field

Monta Vista HS of Cupertino (left) emerged victorious in the High School section, here pictured in the final round vs Saratoga HS
More than 110 players from 25+ schools descended upon the Santa Clara Convention Center on Nov. 11-12 for the 2nd Northern California Scholastic Team Championship. While there is no shortage of well-produced local tournaments, the NorCal Team Championship, led by myself and Judit Sztaray, Executive Director of BayAreachess, aims to fill a gap in the calendar: a lack of team-based competitions, especially for older (middle and high-school) scholastic players. How It Works Four players from the same school (or club or other affiliation) are ordered by rating, with the highest-rated player on 1st board, second-highest on 2nd board, etc. Teams are paired using players’ average combined ratings. To win a match, teams must score 2.5 points or more from individual wins and/or draws (2-2 is a drawn match). Players secondarily compete for top board prizes. Such team-based competition, similar to the format used in U.S. Amateur Team tournaments, builds cooperation and camaraderie, and can lead to inspired play and exciting upsets. Once hugely popular in the Bay Area, team competition has waned in recent years, with the NorCal High School Chess League last playing two years ago. The prizes were also unique for a scholastic tournament, de-emphasizing trophies for commemorative, engraved chess clocks for the top 3 teams and top individual boards in each section - elementary, middle and high school. ‘Buzz in the Tournament Hall’ Judging by the sizable and high-powered turnout - more than twice the inaugural tournament last spring - and the spirited buzz in the hall, the Scholastic Team Championship is filling a need. Participating schools included Monta Vista HS of Cupertino (2016 national HS champions), Harker School (2015 national HS champions), powerhouses such as Saratoga High School and Milpitas HS, inaugural tournament winner Lowell HS of San Francisco, Fallon Middle School of Dublin, Jewish HS of San Francisco, Kehillah HS of Palo Alto, Evergreen HS of San Jose, Bret Harte Middle School of San Jose, Dublin HS, Redwood Middle School of Saratoga, Bella Vista Elementary School of San Ramon, Green Elementary of Dublin, and Bullis Charter School of Los Altos. Monta Vista and Harker Reign Supreme Harker easily swept the K-6 tournament on Saturday, led by 5th grade expert Vyom Vidyarthi (top 10 nationally in his age group) perfect 5-0 record on board 1. Harker’s brother-and-sister duo Anika Rajaram and Rohan Rajaram both scored 5-0 on boards 2 and 4, respectively, while Ronak Suri of Evergreen Elementary in San Jose scored 5-0 on board 3. Bella Vista Elementary School of San Ramon took second with 4 points to Harker, while Evergreen took 3rd. Led by expert Manas Manu on first board, Monta Vista justified its top seed by winning the high school team title on Sunday with a perfect 5-0 record and defeating second seeded Saratoga HS in an exciting final round. Saadiq Shaikh won the top board prize on 2nd board, while Samyak Karnavat won top 4th board. Milpitas HS, led by the tournament’s highest-rated player, master Vinesh Ravuri, took 2nd, defeating Harker, which returned to compete in the K-12 division, in a tense final round matchup. Vinesh was 5-0 on first board, and defeated Vidyarthi in the final round. Thanks to NM Vinesh Ravuri, who kindly shared analysis two of his fine wins over Trina Chatterjee in Round 2 and Vyom Vidarthi in Round 5.

[Event "2017 High School Team Champ"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.11.12"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Trina, Chatterjee"]
[Black "Vinesh, Ravuri"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C90"]
[PlyCount "62"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. h3
$6 {In my opinion, this is quite a dubious move. Allowing black to take the
bishop pair just for the a-file doesn't seem like sufficient compensation.} (8.
c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 {Is the main line}) 8... Na5 $1 9. c3 Nxb3 10. axb3
O-O 11. d4 exd4 12. cxd4 Bb7 {This move isn't bad but d5! would have been
stronger} (12... d5 13. e5 Ne4 14. Nc3 Bb7 15. Be3 Bb4 {Black is definitely
pressing}) 13. Nbd2 c5 (13... d5 $1 {Missed the same opportunity again!}) 14.
d5 Re8 15. Nf1 Nd7 16. Ng3 g6 17. Nh2 Bf8 18. f4 $2 (18. Ng4 Ne5 19. Nxe5 dxe5
{I played Bf8 so that I could meet Ng4 with Ne5 and play this position where I
have the bishop pair.}) 18... Qh4 $1 {My opponent probably missed that the d5
pawn is vulnerable in many variations} 19. Qg4 $2 (19. Qf3 Bxd5) (19. Qd3 Bxd5)
(19. Re3 f5 $1 {The center collapses}) 19... Qxg4 20. hxg4 Bxd5 {Now I'm just
a pawn up with the bishop pair and a queen side pawn majority. The win is
pretty straightforward from here.} 21. Bd2 (21. Re3 {Was more resilient}) 21...
Bxb3 22. Re3 c4 23. g5 d5 24. Ree1 d4 25. Ng4 b4 26. e5 c3 27. bxc3 bxc3 28.
Bc1 d3 29. Ne4 d2 30. Bxd2 cxd2 31. Nxd2 Be6 {With two minutes on the clock
and a hopeless position, my opponent resigned.} 0-1


[Event "2017 High School Team Champ"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.11.12"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Vinesh, Ravuri"]
[Black "Vyom, Vidarthi"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D21"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 {I definitely wasn't expecting QGA and wasn't prepared at
all.} 3. e3 c5 4. Bxc4 cxd4 {Nf3 isn't the main move, but nevertheless,
offered good chances for white.} 5. Nf3 Qc7 6. Bb3 dxe3 7. Bxe3 Nf6 8. O-O e6
9. Nc3 Nc6 10. Rc1 {This position hasn't been reached too many times according
to the database. The engine gives =} Bd7 $6 {Getting the king out of the
center was far more important than developing the light squared bishop. Now I
have some serious initiative.} (10... Be7 11. Nb5 Qb8) 11. Nb5 $1 Qa5 $2 {
Another dubious move. My opponent cannot allow me to take the dark-squared
bishop and place my queen on d6} 12. Nd6+ Bxd6 13. Qxd6 Rd8 $2 (13... Rc8 {
With the idea of bringing the queen back to c7 was better.}) 14. Rc5 $1 {
Now the queen is misplaced. My opponent thought that after Bc4 Qa4 and b3 his
queen was trapped, so he decided to go into an inferior ending instead.} Ne4 $6
(14... Qa6 15. Bc4 (15. Qg3 $1 O-O 16. Bh6 Ne8 17. Bxg7 Nxg7 18. Rg5 $18 {
Is the engine's line}) 15... Qa4 16. Bb5 {was my idea during the game, but
it's no good.}) 15. Qxc6 $1 Nxc5 16. Qxc5 Qxc5 17. Bxc5 b6 18. Ba3 b5 19. Bc5
a5 20. Bb6 Ra8 21. Rd1 {At this point, all I was thinking about was how I
could make his king stay in the center because if he managed to castle this
was going to be a long game...} Ra6 22. Be3 Bc6 23. Ne5 Be4 $4 (23... f6 24.
Nd3 Bd5 25. Bxd5 exd5 26. Nc5 Rd6 27. Bf4 Rc6 28. Rxd5 O-O {would have been a
winning but long game}) 24. a4 $1 {Now it's just over} bxa4 25. Bxa4+ Ke7 26.
Rd7+ Kf6 27. f4 Bg6 28. Bc2 {Mate is inevitable} Rf8 29. Ng4# 1-0

Saratoga HS’ A team took 3rd place. Andy Kuei from Evergreen HS of San Jose took top 3rd board with 4.5 points, boosting his rating by nearly 400 points. In the K-8 division, Fallon Middle School of Dublin took the top two slots, with one of its teams, nearly upsetting Monta Vista in the first round. A mixed team, led by Lawson Middle School expert Ojas Karnavat, took 3rd, with Karnavat going 5-0 on first board. Benjamin Sloutsky of Redwood Middle School of Saratoga took top 2nd board, while Sahil Sandasani and Gabriel Sasso from Fallon took top 3rd and 4th board, respectively. Thanks to all of the players and coaches who joined the event! And thanks to Judit Sztaray, and Tom Langland, national TD and President, CalChess, for strongly supporting and smoothly running the tournament. We hope this tournament kickstarts more inter-school team matches. Fallon, Jewish HS of San Francisco and Kehillah HS of Palo Alto are particularly keen - contact myself, coach Michael Fitch and coach Zachi Baharav, respectively, if your school or club team is interested! And with the strong demonstrated player interest in this revived format, we hope to gain approval at the next CalChess board meeting in December for this to become an official CalChess Scholastic Team Championship. Expect an even bigger, stronger event in 2018! View the full results here, and check out our Facebook album to see pictures from the tournament and of the winners.