UC Berkeley Wins 2021 US Amateur Team West Online Championship

UC Berkeley B-team, USATW Champions
Image Caption
The UC Berkeley B-team won the 2021 US Amateur Team West online championship.

Despite competition from five other UC Berkeley teams and plenty of strong opposition from other quarters, the university’s B-team ran away with the 2021 US Amateur Team West online championship by scoring a perfect 6-0 in the event held January 30-31.  

The UC Berkeley championship team consisted of FM Rayan Taghizadeh, NM Arjun Bharat, NM Christopher Pan, and Nathan Fong. The team’s dramatic win in the fifth round over the Berkeley A-team pretty much sealed the deal, although there was benefit from an unfortunate mouse slip in the final round – although this is almost normal in online chess now. 

[pgn][Event "US Amateur Team West"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.01.31"] [Round "?"] [White "NM Christopher Pan"] [Black "IM Alex Costello"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2243"] [BlackElo "2388"] [Annotator "Whitehead,Paul"] [PlyCount "135"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,135,28,-29,-23,-21,-39,-26,-24,-27,0,11,13,-33,-1,-65,-58,-58,-3,-22, -11,-11,-11,-11,-15,-15,-23,-15,-19,-15,-18,-23,-23,-16,-29,0,197,204,310,313, 310,324,316,241,261,197,182,187,190,191,191,204,198,197,210,195,193,188,185, 192,181,185,181,124,200,239,222,247,254,271,257,287,310,286,284,233,309,265, 265,252,309,366,413,333,345,345,360,391,400,341,364,378,463,492,496,253,410, 427,427,481,523,542,610,629,618,746,892,913,913,1244,1192,913,1393,1478,1469, 1685,1631,1502,2621,2695,2869,2879,29987,2849,29991,29990,29993,29992,29993, 29992,29993,29994,29995,29994,29997,29998,29999,-30000]} {The Berkeley B team was razor-sharp as this game attests. White's 18.e4!! was dubbed "The move of the tournament" by GM Nick de Firmian. Alpha Zero Tech Support's Costello chose to pitch 2 pawns rather than lose his queen after 18...Qxf3 19.exd5+. White's technique wrapping up the game was more than adequate.} 1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. Nf3 e4 4. Nd4 Qf6 5. e3 d5 6. Be2 Bc5 7. c3 Qg6 8. g3 Nxd4 9. cxd4 Bd6 10. Nc3 c6 11. d3 Nf6 12. dxe4 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Qxe4 14. O-O Bh3 15. Bf3 Qe6 16. Re1 Bb4 17. Re2 Qf5 $2 18. e4 $3 Qg6 19. exd5+ Kf8 20. dxc6 bxc6 21. Qc2 Rc8 22. Qxg6 hxg6 23. Rc1 Bd7 24. Rec2 Ke7 25. Bxc6 Rxc6 26. Rxc6 Bxc6 27. Rxc6 Ba5 28. d5 Bb6 29. Ba3+ Kd7 30. Bc5 Rb8 31. Bxb6 axb6 32. a4 f6 33. Kf1 g5 34. Ke2 b5 35. a5 Re8+ 36. Kf3 Re5 37. Rc5 b4 38. Rb5 Kd6 39. a6 Re8 40. a7 Ra8 41. Ra5 Kc7 42. Ke4 Kb6 43. Ra4 Kc5 44. f4 gxf4 45. gxf4 g6 46. f5 g5 47. h3 Re8+ 48. Kf3 Ra8 49. Kg4 Kxd5 50. Kh5 Ke5 51. Kg6 Rg8+ 52. Kf7 Ra8 53. Ra5+ Kd4 54. Kxf6 Kc3 55. Ke7 Kxb3 56. f6 Kc2 57. f7 b3 58. f8=Q Re8+ 59. Qxe8 g4 60. hxg4 b2 61. Rb5 b1=Q 62. Rxb1 Kd3 63. Qd7+ Ke3 64. Re1+ Kf4 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66. Re3+ Kh2 67. Qf2+ Kh1 68. Re1# 1-0 [/pgn]

Last year at this time, the four US Amateur Team events were in person, and all four regions held their over-the-board tournaments before the national shutdown occurred. This year it was deemed necessary to hold the championships online, and the four regional organizers agreed on a common format and schedule, so that players would have the ability to enter all four tournaments.  

The US Amateur Team West was the first of the four online championships. Teams of four players chad the option of two available sections: under 1800 and the 1800+ section, in which team average rating had to be under 2200. A total of 75 teams competed on the chess.com platform with exactly 300 players on the virtual boards. 

[pgn][Event "US Amateur Team West"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.01.31"] [Round "?"] [White "NM Arjun Bharat"] [Black "FM Teemu Virtanen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2198"] [BlackElo "2293"] [Annotator "Whitehead,Paul"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,57,18,-3,14,14,19,16,75,19,-4,10,5,6,6,-19,44,15,31,34,48,38,45,42,39, 40,0,-86,100,81,64,7,-11,-11,0,-15,-35,-62,-51,-124,-79,-99,-87,-72,-66,-57, -41,-81,-8,-11,103,104,104,104,184,184,625,750,29995,29996]} {In a tense 5th round struggle on board 2 both kings are exposed to attack. Ultimately it is Bharat for Berkeley A who prevails, taking a crucial point over Bekeley B's Virtanen. White's 29.Qg8+! is quite spectacular.} 1. g3 g6 2. Bg2 Bg7 3. d4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. e4 Nf6 6. Ne2 O-O 7. O-O Na6 8. c4 Nc7 9. Nbc3 a6 10. a4 b6 11. f4 Rb8 12. h3 b5 13. Kh1 e6 14. axb5 axb5 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. cxb5 Nxb5 17. Nxb5 Rxb5 18. Nc3 Rb4 19. g4 Nxg4 20. f5 gxf5 21. exf5 Bb3 22. Qe1 Nf6 23. Bf3 Qd7 24. Rg1 Kh8 25. Qg3 Ne8 26. Ra8 Be5 27. Qg2 Qxf5 28. Bh6 Rh4 29. Qg8+ $1 1-0 [/pgn]

Some famous players turned out for this event, including GMs James Tarjan and Patrick Wolff, as well as IM John Donaldson. Some newer fame included WGM Jennifer Yu, FM Jason Liang and WIM Ashritha Eswaran.  

Donaldson led his team “the Factory,” along with Mechanics’ Institute trustee FM Mark Pinto on board two. Wolff, also a Mechanics’ Trustee, teamed up with good friends NM Andrew Metrick, NM Christopher Chabris and son Caleb Meyer-Chabris. They named their team “Tonight We’re Gonna Checkmate Like It’s 1989.” 

[pgn][Event "US Amateur Team West"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.01.31"] [Round "?"] [White "GM Patrick Wolff"] [Black "WGM Jennifer Yu"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2298"] [BlackElo "2045"] [Annotator "Whitehead,Paul"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,123,28,42,18,13,50,9,29,36,31,15,21,26,19,-8,20,19,65,57,57,36,91,75, 80,81,81,71,65,54,105,103,104,93,121,112,128,99,84,84,84,84,84,84,72,70,70,53, 53,48,56,60,83,76,89,92,92,92,112,114,115,109,110,99,110,109,110,103,103,98, 108,102,104,87,92,84,88,93,95,87,95,86,95,95,116,102,106,36,58,58,58,58,48,0, 592,731,595,14,20,21,21,38,30,0,0,93,101,76,1016,1016,1016,1016,1016,523,681, 680,780,819,832,875,955,1002,1002,931,1002,795]} {This heavyweight battle on the top board between Wolff for Tonight We're Gonna Checkmate Like It's 1989 vs. Yu for A Happy Pawn was only decided on the 53rd move. GM defirmian spotted the problem-like 53...Qb2! in this "...difficult, wonderful ending" when all bets are off.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 Nf6 6. d4 d5 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. Qe2+ Qe7 9. Qxe7+ Kxe7 10. O-O Re8 11. Re1+ Kf8 12. Rxe8+ Kxe8 13. Nc3 c6 14. Bg5 Be7 15. Re1 Be6 16. Bxf6 gxf6 17. Nh4 h6 18. Nf5 Bxf5 19. Bxf5 Na6 20. Ne2 Nc7 21. Ng3 Nb5 22. c3 Kf8 23. Bd3 Nd6 24. Re3 Re8 25. Kf1 f5 26. Bxf5 Bh4 27. Rxe8+ Kxe8 28. Bd3 Bxg3 29. hxg3 Ke7 30. g4 Kf6 31. f4 Ne8 32. Kf2 a5 33. a4 Nd6 34. Ke3 b6 35. b3 Ke6 36. g5 hxg5 37. fxg5 Nf5+ 38. Kf4 Ne7 39. g3 Ng6+ 40. Kg4 Ne7 41. b4 Kd6 42. Kh5 b5 43. bxa5 bxa4 44. Kg4 a3 45. Bb1 Nc8 46. Kf5 Na7 47. Kf6 Nb5 48. a6 Kc7 49. Kxf7 Nxc3 50. g6 Nxb1 51. g7 a2 52. g8=Q a1=Q 53. Qa8 Qxd4 $2 54. Qb7+ Kd8 55. Qb8+ Kd7 56. a7 Qf2+ 57. Kg8 Qf5 58. Qb7+ Kd6 59. a8=Q Qg6+ 60. Qg7 Qe6+ 61. Kh7 Qh3+ 62. Qh6+ 1-0 [/pgn]

The college chess community was wonderfully represented, with several teams returning after the recently concluded Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship. Along with the six UC Berkeley teams, squads from CalTech, Northwest, Stanford and UCLA entered. 

For the first time in many years, the West regional offered an undersection, so that teams with lower ratings could compete in a less-stressful environment. Despite the low stress, excitement was still in full effect in this hard-fought section: Overall, the U1800 division had 40 teams from the tournament’s total 75, with no team achieving a perfect score. 

Notching the top spot in the U1800 section was the all-female team “100% Lady Chess Moves,” led by popular chess coach and author Lauren Goodkind. Her teammates were Barbara Goodkind, Daniela Keller, and Cheryl Lins.  

The USATW event was directed by NTD John McCumiskey and organized by the Mechanics’ Institute, with chief organizers Abel Talamantez and Judit Sztaray building off their recent experience with the Pan-Ams.   

[pgn][Event "US Amateur Team West"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.01.31"] [Round "?"] [White "Alan Finkelstein"] [Black "Nathan Fong"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D30"] [WhiteElo "1970"] [BlackElo "2304"] [Annotator "Whitehead,Paul"] [PlyCount "100"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,100,42,28,26,2,-16,-10,-10,-19,-12,10,11,-1,-1,8,8,14,14,-11,0,8,19,9, 16,27,27,0,0,0,0,0,0,-110,-111,-52,-69,-69,-26,-19,17,-57,1,10,48,83,65,-256, -247,-317,-308,-312,-312,-279,-311,-367,-360,-373,-335,-353,-243,-230,-213, -217,-212,-217,-172,-200,-207,-207,-211,-217,-218,-217,-220,-308,-225,-307, -307,-305,-240,-303,-317,-335,-350,-381,-388,-388,-396,-411,-411,-436,-444, -444,-436,-437,-437,-480,-449,-515,-547,-592,-601]} {Another sharp attacking game from Berkeley B, this time a board 4 struggle. If only San Jose Chess Club Warriors Finkelstein had heeded that old saying "knights before bishops" and played 23.Nd2! he might have prevailed. Black's 1-2 punch with 23...Nxe3! and 24...Rd1! was devastating.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Ne5 Nc6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qa4 e5 12. dxe5 Qxe5 13. Qxc4 Be6 14. Qc2 Bf5 15. Qc4 Be6 16. Qa6 Bh3 17. Re1 Qd5 18. f3 Qc5+ 19. e3 Nd5 20. a3 Rad8 21. Qe2 Rd6 22. b4 Qb6 23. Bb2 $2 Nxe3 $1 24. Qxe3 Rd1 $1 25. Qxb6 Rxe1+ 26. Kf2 Rf1+ 27. Ke2 cxb6 28. Nd2 Re8+ 29. Kd3 Rxa1 30. Bxa1 Bf5+ 31. Ne4 Rd8+ 32. Bd4 b5 33. Kc3 Bxe4 34. fxe4 a6 35. Kd3 f6 36. h4 Kf7 37. g4 Ke6 38. Ke3 Rc8 39. Bc5 a5 40. Kd4 axb4 41. Bxb4 Rc4+ 42. Kd3 Ke5 43. Bc3+ Kf4 44. g5 fxg5 45. hxg5 Kxg5 46. Bxg7 h5 47. Be5 h4 48. Ke3 Kg4 49. Bd6 h3 50. Kd3 Kf3 0-1 [/pgn]

Click here for full results of the 2021 USAT-West, and check out the event crosstable here. The full broadcast of the event may be found on the Mechanics' YouTube channel.