UT-RGV Wins 2021 Texas Collegiate Super Finals

Image Caption
The A-team of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley won its fourth Texas Collegiate Super Finals title in October. From left: Manager Alex Mista, GM Ulvi Bajarani, IM Viktor Gazik, GM Kamil Dragun and IM Irakli Beradze.


The sixth edition of the Texas Collegiate Super Finals was held in Lubbock on October 23-24. The top-three Texas universities, as determined by the 2021 Southwest Collegiate Team Championship, faced off against one another to determine the collegiate state champion. Texas Tech University, the University of Texas-Dallas and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley sent two teams each to compete in this prestigious event. 

TTU organized the event at its International Culture Center. This was the first over-the-board collegiate event since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and all players were hungry to represent and bring glory to their respective universities. The fight for the collegiate state championship was a tight race that went down to the wire – in fact, the very last move played decided the tournament winner. 


Texas Collegiate Super Finals Standings


Going into the final round, the B-team of UTD held a half-point lead over its A-team in second place, with the A-team of UTRGV another half-point behind in third. Making the last round interesting was UTD-B up against UTRGV. UTD-A was paired against TTU, who despite playing a disappointing tournament and no longer able to reach a podium spot, was still motivated to prove they are one of Texas' best collegiate teams. And they did: TTU won 2.5-1.5 and upset UTD-A early, giving center stage to the match between UTD-B and UT-RGV. 

Both teams traded blows as UTD’s IM Guillermo Vasquez defeated IM Viktor Gazik in a tense encounter, while UT-RGV GM Ulvi Bajarani demolished IM Eyal Grinberg in this Caro-Kann.

[pgn][Event "Texas Superfinals 2021"] [Site "Lubbock"] [Date "2021.10.24"] [Round "4.4"] [White "Bajarani, Ulvi"] [Black "Grinberg, Eyal"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2428"] [BlackElo "2498"] [Annotator "Bajarani,Ulvi"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2021.10.23"] [EventType "team"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2019.09.12"] [SourceQuality "1"] [WhiteTeam "UTRGV1"] [BlackTeam "UTD2"] {[%evp 0,63,19,38,72,69,71,77,82,34,42,31,30,19,15,5,19,22,34,-1,51,57,91,83, 90,9,126,89,158,168,169,95,103,29,29,116,145,119,142,122,122,128,127,127,131, 131,131,131,168,198,250,290,280,305,395,441,439,400,513,441,975,1046,29989, 29990,29993,29992]} 1. e4 c6 $6 {In my opinion, this is not best choice in this situation considering that opponent usually plays the Sicilian Najdorf.} 2. d4 d5 3. e5 $5 {I do not often employ the Advanced Variation against the Caro-Kann Defence.} Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. Nf3 ({Against Alexander Matros, I played} 6. Be3 $6 {, and after} f6 $1 $11 {the position equalized.}) 6... Ne7 7. Be2 Ng6 $6 {This makes the Bishop on f5 vulnerable.} ({Possible alternatives include} 7... h6) ({,} 7... Bg6) ({,and} 7... Nc8 {.}) 8. O-O f6 9. Ne1 $1 Ne7 $6 {a loss of tempo} (9... h5 10. f4 $14) 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. c3 $6 {An academical move.} ({White could have obtained a huge advantage with} 11. g4 $5 Bg6 12. Nc5 Qc8 13. Ng2 $16) 11... Qc7 12. a4 $2 {Mixing the ideas. This move is good when the position is closed. However, it was necessary to carefully decide about my next moves, instead of waiting for my opponent's next move.} (12. Nd3 Ng6 13. g4 {allows} Bxd3 14. Bxd3 Nf4 {.}) (12. g3 $6 { allows Black to equalize by} Ng6 $11) ({But} 12. g4 $1 Bg6 13. Ng2 $16 { was still possible for White.}) 12... Bg6 $2 ({It was necessary to play} 12... Ng6 {since after} 13. g4 $6 Be4 14. f3 $2 Bd6 15. fxe4 Bxh2+ 16. Kh1 Nxe4 $19 { leads to a lost position for White. The same variation was also happens after 12. g3?! Ng6 13. g4?!}) 13. Nd3 $18 {Since Ng6 is not possible, the Knight can be developed.} Nf5 14. g4 $1 Nd6 15. Nbc5 (15. g5 $5 Nd7 (15... Nfe4 16. f3 $18 ) 16. Bf4 Qd8 17. Bg4 $18) 15... Qc8 $2 ({During the game, I wasn't sure about } 15... Bf7 16. Nf4 Qe7 {and now maybe} 17. a5 $5 $16 {is better.}) ({However, after} 15... Bf7 {White could have played} 16. g5 $1 Nfe4 17. Bg4 $18 {with a winning position, for example,} Qe7 18. f3 $18) 16. g5 $1 Nfe4 17. Bg4 Bf5 18. Bxf5 exf5 (18... Nxf5 19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Ne5 {and the e4-Pawn will fall.} Bd6 21. Qh5+ $1 {a trick to worsen the position of the King.} Ke7 22. Bf4 $5 $18) 19. f3 Nxc5 20. dxc5 {This is Black's problem: he has no time to castle the King.} Nf7 21. Re1+ Be7 22. Qe2 Qd7 23. h4 $1 $18 {Defending g5-Pawn. Sooner or later White is going to reach Black's King.} b6 24. b4 Rb8 25. cxb6 $5 axb6 26. a5 $1 {Opening the Rook's file} bxa5 27. Nc5 $1 {A strong intermediate move.} Qd8 (27... Qd6 28. Bf4 $18) 28. Rxa5 Nd6 29. Qe6 $1 {Preventing Ne4 tries.} Rc8 30. Bf4 Nb5 31. g6 $1 {All White pieces are in the game. A total domination.} Rf8 32. gxh7 1-0 [/pgn]

The third board encounter between IM Brian Escalante (UTD) and IM Irakli Beradze (UTRGV) ended peacefully, leaving all the drama on the first board: UTD’s IM Omer Reshef and UT-RGV's GM Kamil Dragun.  

Dragun appeared to be on his way to securing victory when, after a few inaccurate moves, Reshef managed to achieve a fortress in a same-colored bishop ending. The atmosphere in the playing hall was tense, as everyone knew the significance of this game: a draw would secure victory for UTD, while a win for Dragun would give the championship to UTRGV.  

Spectators were constantly leaving the playing hall to discuss the position, then quickly returning to check on any changes on the board. The position looked drawish, though there were still some tricks left. Suddenly, the evaluation of the position took a turn: Dragun had tricked his opponent. News of this echoed outside the playing hall and everyone gathered back into the hall to witness the iconic moment. Dragun calmly executed the final moves of the game and converted his superior position to the elation of his UTRGV team members. 

[pgn][Event "Texas Superfinals 2021"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.10.24"] [Round "4"] [White "Reshef, Omer"] [Black "Dragun, Kamil"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B10"] [Annotator "Kamil Dragun"] [PlyCount "160"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [SourceVersionDate "2021.10.26"] {[%evp 0,160,19,31,68,21,29,22,26,30,24,-17,-38,-18,-12,-12,9,-6,29,13,5,-1,-7, 2,8,-41,-33,-66,-78,-83,-91,-79,-91,-103,-86,-96,-85,-93,-113,-113,-111,-148, -86,-73,-74,-74,-83,-71,-65,-103,-50,-56,-64,-101,-95,-106,-102,-102,-116,-113, -129,-129,-133,-144,-123,-138,-127,-142,-140,-133,-133,-138,-124,-124,-131, -167,-167,-154,-135,-142,-135,-135,-128,-128,-131,-142,-125,-135,-135,-135, -134,-125,-122,-124,-122,-124,-117,-136,-138,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136, -136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136, -136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-136,-172,-162,-152, -204,-204,-348,-526,-734,-962,-962,-984,-992,-398,-398,-982,-1011,-1012,-1012, -1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1022,-1032] } 1. e4 c6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3 Bd6 5. g3 Nf6 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Re8 8. Re1 d4 9. c3 c5 10. Nc4 Bc7 11. cxd4 cxd4 12. b4 b5 13. Na5 Na6 14. Bd2 Nxb4 15. Bxb4 Bxa5 16. Bxa5 Qxa5 17. Nxd4 exd4 18. e5 Bg4 19. f3 Bf5 20. g4 Bd7 21. exf6 Rxe1+ 22. Qxe1 Qxe1+ 23. Rxe1 gxf6 24. f4 Re8 25. Rxe8+ Bxe8 26. a3 { When we got to this endgame, I thought it was completely winning for me. Surprisingly, I was right, the position is completely winning for black. Unfortunately, in the next moves I started making very illogical choices and the position became very close to a draw.} f5 $2 {Closing the position and putting the pawn on a light square cannot be a good decision.} (26... Bd7 27. f5 {[%csl Ge5,Gg5] I was afraid that my bishop would be quite passive now. However, I didn't realize that it also creates some entry points for my king.} Kf8 28. Kf2 Ke7 29. Kg3 (29. Bd5 a5 30. Kg3 Kd6 31. Bxf7 Ke5 32. h4 h6 $19 { The outside passed pawn will decide the outcome of the game, and also it is worth noticing how the 2 Black's pawns on the kingside are able to hold White's kingside majority.}) 29... Kd6 30. Kh4 (30. Kf4 a5 {[%cal Gd7c6,Gc6d5, Gb5b4,Ga5a4]}) 30... a5 31. Kh5 b4 32. axb4 a4 $19) 27. g5 Kg7 (27... f6 $1 28. Bd5+ (28. h4 fxg5 29. hxg5 a5 30. Kf2 b4 31. axb4 a4 {[%csl Ga4]} 32. Bd5+ Bf7 33. Bxf7+ Kxf7 34. b5 Ke6 $19) 28... Kf8 $1 29. gxf6 a5 30. Kf2 a4 $1 31. Ke1 Bf7 32. Bc6 b4 $19) 28. Kf2 a5 29. Ke1 $1 (29. Ke2 f6 30. h4 fxg5 31. hxg5 h6 32. gxh6+ Kxh6 33. Bf3 Bh5 $19) 29... f6 30. h4 fxg5 31. hxg5 h6 32. gxh6+ Kxh6 33. Bf3 {[%csl Rh5] The position is very close to being a fortress now. Black's king isn't able to enter White's camp.} Kg6 (33... Bh5 34. Bc6 b4 35. axb4 axb4 36. Bd5 Bg4 37. Bf7 {[%csl Rh5]} Bh5 38. Bd5 Be8 39. Bf3 {[%csl Rh5]} ) 34. Kd2 Kf6 35. Bb7 Ke7 36. Kc2 Kd6 37. Kb2 Bd7 38. Kc2 Kc5 39. Kb3 Be6+ 40. Kb2 Kb6 41. Bf3 Bf7 42. Bd1 Bd5 43. Bh5 Bc6 44. Bg6 Bd7 45. Bf7 Kc5 46. Kb3 { The position hasn't really changed in the last 10 moves. The general rule in positions like this is not to be in a hurry. I was also trying to play fast in order to lower my opponents' time on the clock.} a4+ 47. Kb2 b4 48. Bg6 (48. axb4+ $4 Kxb4 $19 {[%cal Ga4a3,Gb4c3,Gd7b5]}) 48... b3 (48... bxa3+ 49. Kxa3 $11 {[%csl Rb4]}) 49. Kc1 Kd6 50. Kd2 Ke6 51. Bh5 Bb5 {The main idea is to try to sacrifice the b-pawn and take White's d pawn, which would give some additional entry points for my king.} 52. Be2 {[%csl Gd3]} (52. Bg6 $4 b2 53. Kc2 Bxd3+ 54. Kxb2 Kd5 {[%cal Gd5e4,Ge4f4]}) 52... Kf6 53. Kc1 Kg6 54. Kd2 Bc6 55. Kc1 Bg2 56. Kd2 Bd5 57. Kc1 Bc6 58. Kd1 Kh6 59. Kd2 Bg2 60. Kc1 {Now, the only plan for Black is to try to play ...Bh3 and ...Bg4 somewhere. I realized that my king won't be able to enter through h5, so I decided to move it closer to the center.} Kg7 (60... Bh3 61. Bf3 Bf1 62. Kd2 b2 63. Kc2 Bxd3+ 64. Kxb2 Bb5 65. Kc1 $11 {[%csl Rh5]}) 61. Kd2 Kg6 62. Kc1 Kf6 63. Kd2 Ke7 64. Kc1 Kd6 65. Bh5 $2 {Decisive mistake. My opponent was already in huge time trouble. Overall, it is quite unpleasant to defend positions like this. The situation was even more difficult for my opponent as this move would decide which team would become the Texas Collegiate Champion.} (65. Kd2 $1 Bh3 66. Bh5 Bf1 67. Be8 b2 68. Kc2 Bxd3+ 69. Kxb2 Kd5 70. Kc1 $1 (70. Bxa4 $2 Ke4 71. Kc1 Ke3 $1 $19 {[%csl Gd4]}) 70... Ke4 71. Kd2 {[%csl Re3]} Ba6 72. Bxa4 Kxf4 73. Bd7 $11) 65... Bf1 66. Be8 (66. Kd2 b2 67. Kc2 Bxd3+ 68. Kxb2 Kd5 $1 {Finally, the king breaks through!} 69. Bf3+ {[%csl Re4]} Be4 70. Bd1 Kc4 71. Bxa4 d3 $19 { [%cal Gc4d4,Gd4e3]}) 66... Bxd3 67. Bxa4 Bc4 68. Kb2 (68. Be8 d3 69. Bg6 Kc5 70. Bxf5 Kd4 $19 {[%csl Gb3,Gd3]}) 68... Kd5 $1 {After so much struggle, the king is becoming the hero of the game!} 69. Bxb3 Bxb3 70. Kxb3 Ke4 $1 71. Kc2 ( 71. a4 Ke3 72. a5 d3 73. a6 d2 74. Kc2 Ke2 75. a7 d1=Q+ $19) 71... Ke3 $1 72. Kd1 (72. a4 Ke2 {[%cal Gd4d1]}) 72... Kxf4 73. Kd2 Ke4 74. a4 f4 75. a5 Kd5 76. Kd3 f3 {[%csl Gd4,Gf3] The pawns are able to defend each other by themselves and the king goes for the a-pawn.} 77. Kd2 Kc6 78. a6 Kb6 79. Ke1 d3 80. Kf2 d2 0-1 [/pgn]

With this victory, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley secured its fourth Texas Collegiate Super Finals title. The University of Texas B and A teams placed second and third respectively. The members of the winning team were GM Kamil Dragun, IM Viktor Gazik, IM Irakli Beradze and GM Ulvi Bajarani. The help and assistance of their chess coach, GM Bartek Macieja, and program manager, GM Alex Mista, played an important role in the success of the three-time national champions.