SLU Becomes 2020 National Collegiate Rapid Champion, Webster Takes Blitz Crown

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Webster University is the 2020 National Collegiate Blitz Champion
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Webster University earned the 2020 National Collegiate Blitz Team Championship on September 27 (courtesy Webster University)

The 2020 National Collegiate Rapid & Blitz Championships were scheduled to be held at Saint Louis University back in March but, like many events this year, the live tournaments were postponed and moved online. Chess players are used to overcoming hardships and challenges, and this transition was no exception. Despite the increased popularity of chess online, organizing an event on the internet with the gravitas of a national championship was no easy feat.  

But with an incredible amount of willpower and the cooperation of many different parties, these events were finally held over the weekend of September 26-27 and proved to be incredibly successful. Over 150 students participated in each championship, representing more than 25 schools from around the country. 

Platform 

As chief organizer, it was SLU's duty to determine how this tournament would be played. After exploring many different alternatives, the eventual solution was inspired by a series of tournaments produced by the Charlotte Chess Association, which hosted the games on lichess.org, but with pairings done through SwissSys and overlooked by a tournament director. The pairings were sent to a third-party website where players only needed to click a link to begin their games. (It almost felt like finding your board and sitting down in a real tournament!) Using SwissSys helped avoid an important matchmaking problem: players of the same university must not be paired against each other! 

Thanks completely to the efforts of TD Grant Oen and of Webmaster Chacha Nugroho, the tournament went exactly as planned. Several anti-cheating measures were taken, including every player needing to be on a monitored Zoom call. All games were reviewed by the lichess anti-cheating system and Professor Regan's anti-cheating algorithm. No games were found to be suspicious! 

The event was streamed live with commentary by NM Caleb Denby and Naycir Gurpinar, and followed live on the Saint Louis Chess Club's twitch channel. The event can be replayed here.  

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2020 National Collegiate Rapid and Blitz
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The 2020 National Collegiate Rapid and Blitz Championships were streamed live with commentary by NM Caleb Denby. (courtesy SLU Chess)

Format 

The 9-round Swiss Rapid tournament was held on Saturday with a G/10+5 time control, faster than the traditional over-the-board rapid control of 25+5. The organizers felt that the new online format favored quicker controls, while the OTB time control might feel dragging in an online event. The adjustment also allowed us to add more games into the event, increasing the total rounds from 7, which helped separate the amount of ties at the end. 

The blitz portion was played on Sunday, and the time control was maintained at the originally intended 3+2 time control. Since the event was now online, and results could be harvested automatically, the wait time between rounds was unnecessary and reduced to virtually nothing. Once again this allowed us to add games to the event, producing a full 13 rounds – perhaps a marathon OTB, but manageable online. Both tournaments were absolute nail-biters. 

In total across the weekend, the following titles were claimed:  

2020 U.S. Collegiate Rapid Champion: GM Vladimir Fedoseev, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley 

2020 U.S. Women's Collegiate Rapid Champion: IM Stavroula Tsolakidou, SLU 

2020 U.S. Collegiate Rapid Champions (Team): SLU 

2020 U.S. Collegiate Blitz Champion: GM Vladimir Fedoseev, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley 

2020 U.S. Women's Collegiate Blitz Champion: WIM Alicja Sliwicka, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley 

2020 U.S. Collegiate Blitz Champions (Team): Webster University

 

Rapid 

The top colleges showed up in full force, and the strength of the tournament was truly jaw-dropping. GM Vladimir Fedoseev from UTRGV began with a commanding 5/5 and never let off the gas, convincingly earning the title of National Rapid Collegiate Champion. Despite his pairings with strong opponents throughout, as well as the tournament finishing past midnight where he was playing from in Russia, Fedoseev showed why he was a 2700+ player not too long ago. He clinched his new title by defeating Mizzou's Gregory Oparin in this absolutely masterful way. 

[pgn][Event "US Collegiate Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.26"] [Round "9.101"] [White "Oparin,G"] [Black "Fedoseev,Vl3"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2652"] [BlackElo "2678"] [ECO "A07"] [Opening "Reti"] [Variation "King's Indian attack"] [WhiteTeam "MIZZOU"] [BlackTeam "UTRGV"] [WhiteFideId "24125890"] [BlackFideId "24130737"] [EventDate "2020.09.26"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O Nf6 5. c4 c6 6. b3 d4 7. e3 c5 8. exd4 cxd4 9. d3 Nc6 10. Re1 O-O 11. a3 a5 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. Rxe5 Ne8 14. Rd5 Bd7 15. Bb2 Nc7 16. Rc5 Ne6 17. Rd5 Qc7 18. b4 axb4 19. axb4 Rxa1 20. Bxa1 Ra8 21. Nd2 Bc6 22. Ra5 Rxa5 23. bxa5 Qxa5 24. Bb2 Nc5 25. Bxc6 bxc6 26. Nf3 e5 27. Ne1 Qa2 28. Qd2 e4 29. dxe4 Qxc4 30. Qf4 h6 31. Nf3 Nd3 32. Qb8+ Kh7 0-1 [/pgn]

On a side note, aesthetically, Oparin's second round win was incredibly visual. He summarized it in the following Facebook post: 

 

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Oparin FB post

 

Second place went to Webster University GM Illia Nyzhnyk, finishing with 7.5/9. No stranger to college competitions, Nyzhnyk is an incredibly strong player in classical time controls, but also so fast he is especially scary in rapid and blitz. His third-round loss against Texas Tech GM Pavel Vorontsov was the difference-maker that left him only half-point behind Fedoseev. Also on 7.5/9 was SLU GM Benjamin Bok and IM Nikolas Theodorou, though Bok edged out his teammate on mathematical tiebreaks to earn the third-place trophy. 

The U.S. Women's Rapid Champion title went to SLU, as IM Stavroula Tsolakidou proved to be the best female player of the day in a topsy-turvy event for her.  

Team scores were calculated as the sum of the top four scorers from each school, and the title of National Team Rapid Champion came down to the wire, with all three UTRGV, Webster or SLU having chances to win the event in the last round. However, it was SLU that hit hard when it mattered, with each of its top scorers going 4-0 in that final ninth round. 

 

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2020 National Collegiate Rapid Final Standings

 

 

Blitz 

Incredibly, the blitz event was even crazier than the rapid. Temporary tournament leaders kept being brought down, and hot winning streaks kept being struck down. For example, Mizzou GM Christopher Repka blazed out to a 7/7 start, but only managed to score 2/6 in the remainder of the event. At the end of the day, it was again Fedoseev claiming his second title of the weekend, earning the National Collegiate Blitz Champion trophy with a fantastic 11/13 score. 

Second and third place were comeback stories by Webster students: GM Yuniesky Quesada began only 3.5/6, but went on to tally six wins and a draw to finish with an amazing 10/13. Quesada was edged on tiebreaks by teammate GM John Michael Burke, who lost early in the second round and again on the sixth, but closed the day 6/7 with two draws. 

The U.S. Women's National Blitz Champion title went to UTRGV’s new recruit WIM Alicja Sliwicka, who produced a strong 8/13 score and finished with a clutch 13th round win against UTD IM Eyal Grinberg. 

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Mizzou GMs Christian Chirila and Gulrukhbegim “Begim” Tokhirjonova
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Mizzou coach and GM Christian Chirila looks on as GM Gulrukhbegim “Begim” Tokhirjonova plays in the 2020 National Collegiate Blitz Championship.

For the team championship, Mizzou, Webster and UTRGV were in contention to win as the tournament wound down to its final rounds, but where Mizzou had some stumbles, Webster showed some impressive chess. The final round saw the Webster team managing to not only claim first place over UTRGV by a full point, but also taking away some important points from Mizzou, which finished third. Webster saw wins from Quesada as well as GM Emilio Cordova over Mizzou GM Mikhail Antipov, which proved to be crucial for the team. 

[pgn][Event "US Collegiate Blitz 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.27"] [Round "13.107"] [White "Cordova,E"] [Black "Antipov,M2"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2592"] [BlackElo "2584"] [ECO "D78"] [Opening "Neo-Gruenfeld, 6.O-O c6"] [WhiteTeam "WEBSTER"] [BlackTeam "MIZZOU"] [WhiteFideId "3801497"] [BlackFideId "4107012"] [EventDate "2020.09.27"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 c6 5. Bg2 d5 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 Be6 8. Nc3 dxc4 9. Ng5 Qd7 10. e4 Na6 11. Nxe6 Qxe6 12. d5 cxd5 13. exd5 Qd7 14. Qe2 Rac8 15. Be3 Nb4 16. Rad1 a6 17. Bd4 b5 18. axb5 axb5 19. Ra1 Rc7 20. Ra5 Nd3 21. Rxb5 e5 22. Bxe5 Re8 23. f4 Ng4 24. Bh3 h5 25. Bxg4 hxg4 26. Qe4 f5 27. Qd4 Nxe5 28. fxe5 Rxe5 29. Qb6 Kh7 30. Rd1 Bh6 31. Kf1 Be3 32. Qa6 f4 33. d6 Ra7 34. Rxe5 Rxa6 35. Re7+ Qxe7 36. dxe7 Re6 37. Nd5 Bc5 38. e8=Q Rxe8 39. Nf6+ 1-0 [/pgn]

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2020 National Collegiate Blitz Final Standings

 
The full list of prizes and standings can be found here.

 

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