UT-Dallas Wins Gold in 2021 U.S. Online Collegiate Blitz Championship

UT-Dallas 2021 Online Collegiate Blitz Champions
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The University of Texas at Dallas was the gold-medal team in the 2021 Online Collegiate Blitz Championships, and also took team bronze in the Collegiate Rapid Championship.


The 2021 U.S. Online Collegiate Rapid and Blitz Championships were organized by the Texas Tech University chess program and held on the lichess.org platform over the weekend of September 25-26. Over 20 American schools participated, each allowed an unlimited amount of participants in order to seek this year's collegiate champion for both time controls. The 2021 Collegiate Blitz Champion is GM Grigoriy Oparin from Mizzou, and the 2021 Collegiate Rapid Champion is GM Jose Alcantara from Webster University. 

The top four individual scorers from each school combined for the team score. Despite just two GMs on its roster, the University of Texas at Dallas was fueled by a feisty group of IMs to win the gold medal for collegiate blitz, beating out the likes of Saint Louis University (6 GMs) and Webster University (8 GMs). UTD also took team bronze in the Rapid championship, with Webster winning gold. 

Complete final standings from both events may be found here. The following is a Q&A and annotations from UTD head coach GM Julio Sadorra.

[pgn][Event "US Online Collegiate Blitz"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2021.09.26"] [Round "10"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Ruiz Castillo, Joshua"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D41"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2499"] [Annotator "GM Sadorra"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2021.09.26"] [EventType "swiss (blitz)"] [EventRounds "12"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1403"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2021.09.27"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2021.09.29"] [SourceQuality "2"] [WhiteTeam "Saint Louis University"] [BlackTeam "University of Texas at Dallas"] {Going into the 10th round, the UTD Team was a half-point behind Saint Louis University in team standings. With other strong teams such as Webster and Mizzou within striking distance anything could happen so we simply had to keep pressuring anyone until the end! GM Ruiz got in his rhythm in the second half of the event. The following win against a knowledgeable GM is his favorite game which was also critical for us to take over the lead.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 {The Semi-Tarrasch is Joshua's favorite defense as it reaches middlegame positions where Black has a straightforward plan, and clarity of where the pieces will go.} 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 {this is the modern and more solid way of playing for Black as the knight will provide protection on the kingside via f6/f8. In the past, b6-Bb7-Nc6 was played but fell out of fashion especially after Polugaevsky used a pawn-sac idea to great effect against Tal in 1969--see game under 11...b6.} (11... b6 12. O-O Bb7 13. Rfe1 Nc6 14. Rad1 Na5 (14... Rc8 15. d5 $1 Na5 16. Bd3 {transposes.}) 15. Bd3 Rc8 16. d5 exd5 17. e5 Nc4 18. Qf4 Nb2 19. Bxh7+ Kxh7 20. Ng5+ Kg6 21. h4 Rc4 22. h5+ Kh6 23. Nxf7+ Kh7 24. Qf5+ Kg8 25. e6 Qf6 26. Qxf6 gxf6 27. Rd2 Rc6 28. Rxb2 Re8 29. Nh6+ Kh7 30. Nf5 Rexe6 31. Rxe6 Rxe6 32. Rc2 Rc6 33. Re2 Bc8 34. Re7+ Kh8 35. Nh4 f5 36. Ng6+ Kg8 37. Rxa7 {1-0 (37) Polugaevsky,L-Tal,M Moscow 1969}) 12. O-O b6 13. Rfe1 (13. Rad1 Bb7 {1-0 (34) Carlsen,M (2863)-Giri,A (2764) chess24.com INT 2020 CBM 197 [Nielsen,Peter Heine]}) 13... Bb7 {This is the typical middlegame position of this system.} 14. Rad1 ({Another plan here is to pressure the queenside with the rook pawn.} 14. a4) 14... Rc8 15. Bb3 ({The other retreat is also playable:} 15. Bd3 Re8 16. h4 ({The pawn sac idea isn't effective here anymore:} 16. d5 $6 exd5 17. e5 {now Black can quickly harass White's dangerous bishop} Nc5 (17... Rc5 {this is best according to the engine. While it may be easy to see that it prepares d4, I think it must be "handled with care."} 18. Ng5 $1 {a critical position for Black which could be fun to explore.} (18. h4 d4 $1) (18. Qf4 h6 {preventing Ng5.} (18... d4 $2 19. Ng5 Nxe5 20. Rxe5 Rcxe5 21. Qxf7+ Kh8 22. Qh5 $18)) 18... h6 $2 19. Bh7+ Kf8 20. Nxf7 $1 Kxf7 21. Qf4+ {with a strong attack for White.}) (17... d4 18. Be4 $1 Bxe4 19. Rxe4 $11) 18. Bf5 Ne6 $15 {and White doesn't have any good way to build his attack and could struggle prove compensation for his pawn.}) 16... h6 {with a tense middlegame battle ahead.}) 15... Re8 $1 16. Re3 h6 $5 {this flexible move was a minor improvement over Giri's play vs. Magnus in an online rapid event.} (16... Nf6 17. d5 $5 exd5 18. e5 Ne4 19. Qe1 $1 Qc7 20. Nd4 a6 21. h4 {White's position is generally easier to play.} Rcd8 22. f3 Nc5 23. h5 $36 {1-0 (34) Carlsen,M (2863)-Giri,A (2764) chess24.com INT 2020.}) 17. Qe1 ({ The more popular way based on online games is to put the rook on e1.} 17. h3 Nf6 18. Rde1 Qc7 19. a4 Red8 20. Qb2 Qe7 $11 {1/2-1/2 (66) Khademalsharieh,S (2494)-Abdusattorov,N (2627) chess24.com INT 2021}) 17... Nf6 18. h3 Qc7 19. d5 $5 {going for the structure change like Magnus did in his game.} exd5 20. e5 Ne4 21. Bxd5 Bxd5 22. Rxd5 Nc5 {the simplification in the center favors Black as the position will be easier to play especially in a quick time control game. } 23. Nd4 Rcd8 24. Nb5 Qc6 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. Nd6 Qd5 27. Rg3 Qe6 28. Qe3 Kh7 $1 {A strong prophylactic and practical move. The position may better for White objectively but it's easier to play moves for Black in a practical game! Black's idea is to simply undermine e5 and the d6-knight.} 29. Qf4 ({If White played} 29. f4 {he might be concerned that Black will simply take a pawn for nothing.} Qxa2) 29... f6 $1 {After this move White burned plenty of clock time which inevitably causes him to make more mistakes.} 30. Nf5 (30. exf6 Qxf6 31. Qxf6 gxf6 {White most probably avoided this ending as Black has the queenside majority.}) 30... g5 $1 {White must have underestimated this move.} 31. Qg4 fxe5 {At this stage, Black is much better both on the board and on the clock. Joshua pressured his opponent very well.} 32. h4 Rf8 33. Rf3 $2 {the last mistake.} ({The only defense was} 33. Ne3 {which only leads to a worse ending after} Rf4 34. Qxe6 Nxe6 $17) 33... e4 {Since White will lose more material, he resigned. After this win, the "Joshua-train" was hard to stop. Still, the race to the top was still close as SLU, Webster are nibbling at our heels! Thanks to a healthy mindset in the last 2 rounds, our guys were able to not only maintain but also increase the lead--see next games for game episodes in the last 2 rounds.} 0-1 [/pgn]


How many UTD Chess team members played in the tournament? 

All of our team members (14), reserve team members (5), and a few chess club members participated in this event. Every university was allowed to send as many players as possible, but only the top four individual scores from each school counted towards the final team standings. 


UT-Dallas 2021 Online Collegiate Blitz Champions

[pgn][Event "US Online Collegiate Blitz"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2021.09.26"] [Round "11.109"] [White "Grabinsky, Aaron"] [Black "Kevlishvili, Robby"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2423"] [BlackElo "2506"] [Annotator "JS"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3r1k1/pp3ppp/2pp2b1/q5b1/2PB4/1P2P2Q/P2PBRPP/2R3K1 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2021.09.26"] [EventType "swiss (blitz)"] [EventRounds "12"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1403"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2021.09.27"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2021.09.29"] [SourceQuality "2"] [WhiteTeam "University of Texas at Dallas"] [BlackTeam "Saint Louis University"] {In this game, IM Aaron Grabinsky was playing one of SLU's knowledgeable GMs. Aaron has been facing and winning against strong players before this round, so he was eager to keep up his good run! [#]} 22. Bc3 {Here, Black lacked the sense of danger and underestimated Aaron's hidden resources on the kingside.} Qxa2 $2 23. Qg3 $1 {Surpirse--and no this is not about double attack on g5 and d6!} Bh6 24. h4 {This attacking idea renders the Black's queen misplaced and kingside insecure.} Qa3 25. Rcf1 Qc5 26. h5 $1 {With better piece placement and targets, it's no surprise that tactics arise. As a great World Champion once said, "Tactics from from a superior position!"} Bxh5 27. Rf5 Bxe2 28. Rxc5 dxc5 {now Aaron gets the job done with precise, energetic play:} 29. Rf6 g6 30. Qf2 Bd3 31. Rxf7 Rf8 32. Qf6 {An attacking chess poster.} 1-0 [/pgn]


How did the UTD team prepare for this tournament? 

We did our regular weekly training in our COVID-safe team room, and played practice matches online to adapt to the tournament format and venue. 

[pgn][Event "US Online Collegiate Blitz"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2021.09.26"] [Round "11.108"] [White "Matviishen, Viktor"] [Black "Rahul, Srivatshav P"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E71"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2453"] [Annotator "JS"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r4k1/2pb3p/4p3/3pP3/p1p2N2/6PP/PPR3BK/8 b - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2021.09.26"] [EventType "swiss (blitz)"] [EventRounds "12"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1403"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2021.09.27"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2021.09.29"] [SourceQuality "2"] [WhiteTeam "Texas Tech University"] [BlackTeam "University of Texas at Dallas"] {[#] In this position, Black is ofcourse objectively lost but here the talented Indian player shows mental toughness and resourcefulness in the heat of the battle.} 30... c6 $1 {A good move in mutual time-trouble (both sides have less than a minute on the clock), as it eliminates any simplifying sacs on d5, thus, making White work for his win under time pressure.} 31. h4 Kf7 { bringing the king to the center always helps in endings.} 32. Bh3 Ke7 33. Kg2 c5 34. Kf2 {After both sides improve their kings, both sides shuffle to gain time to think.} Rg8 35. Rd2 Rb8 36. Ke3 $2 {A mistake, as it neglects Black's idea to create passed pawns.} ({Best might be} 36. a3 {but it's also not so easy to play such a move quickly as allows Rb3-c3 ideas.} Rb3 {But if White had more clock time, he would have found} 37. Rc2 $1 $18 {paralyzing Black's pawns.}) 36... d4+ 37. Ke2 a3 $1 38. bxa3 $1 c3 (38... Ba4 {first then c3 is also good.}) 39. Rc2 Ba4 40. Rc1 Rb2+ {Such a series of forcing moves will give any player immense confidence. The tables have clearly turned. The game ends with the help of a few more mistakes from White, induced by time trouble.} 41. Kd3 Bb5+ 42. Ke4 Bc4 43. Bf1 Bxa2 44. a4 Bb3 45. Bd3 $2 (45. a5 {was a normal way to confuse Black.} Ra2 (45... c2 46. Nd3) (45... Kd7 46. a6 Kc7 { might be the best way to keep things in control but the game still goes on.}) 46. a6 $132) 45... Bxa4 46. Bc4 $2 Bc6+ 0-1 [/pgn]


What does this win mean for the team? 

This team victory is special to UT-Dallas because it’s the first time that we got top places in this national collegiate event: bronze in Rapid and gold in Blitz. It’s also encouraging because the guys have been preparing hard and building their chess knowledge since last year. 


2021 Online Collegiate Blitz Championship - Final Individual Standings
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The Top-10 of the final individual standings of the 2021 Online Collegiate Blitz Championship.


[pgn][Event "US Online Collegiate Blitz"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2021.09.26"] [Round "12"] [White "Vazquez, Guillermo"] [Black "Antipov, Mikhail"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2534"] [BlackElo "2607"] [Annotator "JS"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2qk2r/1p2bppb/n1p1pn1p/p2p4/4P3/PP1P2PN/1BPNQPBP/R4RK1 b kq - 0 11"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2021.09.26"] [EventType "swiss (blitz)"] [EventRounds "12"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1403"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2021.09.27"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2021.09.29"] [SourceQuality "2"] [WhiteTeam "University of Texas at Dallas"] [BlackTeam "University of Missouri - Mizzou"] {[#] The Double Fianchetto and King's Indian Attack system worked out well for Guillermo earlier in the event so he decided to repeat it. The following moves are natural in this double-edged position.} 11... b5 12. f4 Nc5 13. Nf2 { According to David Bronstein, the best square for the knight in the King's Indian is f7/f2!} O-O 14. Kh1 {useful prophylaxis.} b4 $2 {This move was puzzling.} ({A better way to open lines was a4} 14... a4 15. b4 Na6 {[%cal Gc6c5,Gc8c2]}) 15. a4 Rc8 16. Rad1 Qb6 17. g4 {Here we go!} Qa6 18. Qe3 { Dodging the pin along the a6-f1 diagonal while also making a sneaky threat... [#]} Rcd8 $2 19. Bxf6 $1 {Black missed this.} gxf6 20. f5 Kg7 21. d4 {After this, White is winning due his better piece coordination and a crushing kingside attack!} Nxe4 22. Ndxe4 dxe4 23. Nxe4 Bd6 (23... exf5 24. Ng3 { was Guillermo's idea.}) 24. Nxf6 $1 {A nice finishing blow.} Kxf6 25. Qxh6+ Ke7 26. Qxh7 Rh8 {[#] It looks like Black is gaining a strong counterattack but Guillermo foresaw an important detail here:} 27. f6+ $1 Kd7 28. Qxf7+ Kc8 29. Qxe6+ Kb8 30. h3 {White successfully fends off Black's threats and eventually converts.} Rhe8 31. Qf5 Re3 32. Rd3 Re2 33. f7 Qb7 34. Qf3 Rxc2 35. Re3 Qd7 36. Rfe1 Rf8 37. Re8+ Ka7 38. Rxf8 Bxf8 39. Qe4 Rc3 40. Qe8 Qd6 41. Qe5 Qd7 42. Qxa5+ Kb7 43. d5 {With the beast on g2 about to join the party, Black has had enough and resigned.} 1-0 [/pgn]