Webster Wins Fourth Final Four Title in a Row


This weekend Webster University packed even more history into the memorabilia-covered walls of New York City’s legendary Marshall Chess Club. Since the formation of the St. Louis suburban university’s chess program in 2013, Webster has won the annual national championship playoff, the Final Four of College Chess, every year. No other team can make that claim. This weekend, Webster did it again, making it four in a row. One key to the Webster victory was the 3-0 performance of its ironman on board one, GM Le Quang Liem, who dismissed, in order, Columbia’s IM Arthur Shen, UT-Rio Grande Valley’s GM Anton Kovalyov, and Texas Tech’s GM Yaro Zherebukh. Webster’s GM Ray Robson trailed Liem’s result by a mere half-point, drawing only Texas Tech’s IM Andrey Gorovets in the last tense round.

[pgn] [Event "Final Four 2016"] [Site "Marshall Chess Club"] [Date "2016.04.03"] [White "Gorovets, Andrey"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B22"] [WhiteElo "2629"] [BlackElo "2746"] [Annotator "Lawrence,Al"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Tx Tech"] [BlackTeam "Webster"] [TimeControl "5400+1410"] [WhiteClock "0:00:32"] [BlackClock "0:00:44"] {This third-round game was played on the fourth board. IM Andrey Gorovets, a top-scorer on the Texas Tech team, pushes for a win against Webster's GM Ray Robson, but the US Championship participant defends well, keeping Webster in the win column.} 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Na3 cxd4 7. Nb5 Na6 8. Qxd4 Bc5 9. Qxd5 exd5 10. Nfd4 O-O 11. Be2 Re8 12. O-O Bd7 13. Be3 Ng4 14. Bxg4 Bxg4 15. a4 Bd7 16. Rfd1 h6 17. Nc2 Bf5 18. Ncd4 Bd7 19. h3 Rad8 20. b4 Bb6 21. Nd6 Bxa4 22. Nxb7 (22. Nxe8 Bxd1 23. Nxg7 Kxg7 24. Rxd1 { was a different try. Either way, White seems better. But he's a long way from a win.}) 22... Bxd1 23. Nxd8 Rxd8 24. Rxd1 Nc7 25. Nc6 (25. Nf5 Bxe3 26. Nxe3 Kf8 27. Kh2 {also looks like a draw in the making.}) 25... Re8 26. Bxb6 axb6 27. Nd4 Ra8 28. Re1 Kf8 29. g4 g6 30. Kg2 Ne8 31. Nb5 Nf6 32. f3 Rc8 33. Rd1 Ke7 34. h4 Ke6 35. Ra1 Nd7 36. Ra7 Rc4 37. Kg3 h5 38. g5 Ke7 39. Nc7 d4 40. Nd5+ Ke6 41. Nc7+ Ke7 42. Nd5+ Ke6 43. Nc7+ Ke7 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
All five of the Webster team members who played made positive scores.
[pgn] [Event "Chess Final Four 2016"] [Site "Marshall Chess Club"] [Date "2016.04.02"] [White "Zherebukh, Yaroslav"] [Black "Kovalyov, Anton"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E06"] [WhiteElo "2678"] [BlackElo "2679"] [Annotator "Lawrence,Al"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Texas Tech"] [BlackTeam "UTRGV"] [TimeControl "6000+875"] [WhiteClock "0:08:07"] [BlackClock "0:22:29"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 c6 5. Bg2 d5 6. O-O Be7 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Nbd2 Bb7 9. e4 Na6 10. e5 Nd7 11. a3 Nc7 12. b3 Qb8 13. Bb2 Rc8 14. Rfd1 a5 15. Nf1 c5 16. Ne3 b5 17. a4 bxc4 18. bxc4 dxc4 19. Nxc4 Nd5 20. dxc5 Nxc5 21. Nd6 Nb4 22. Qe2 Ba6 23. Qd2 Nb3 24. Qf4 Rf8 25. Ra3 Nc2 26. Ra2 Be2 27. Rb1 Nb4 28. Ra3 (28. Ne1 $15) 28... Nd5 $1 $19 29. Qe4 Bxf3 30. Qxf3 Nd2 31. Qd1 Nxb1 32. Rb3 Bxd6 33. Bxd5 Bb4 34. Bxa8 Nd2 0-1[/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "Final Four 2016"] [Site "Marshall Chess Club"] [Date "2016.04.03"] [White "Shen, Arthur"] [Black "Kovalyov, Anton"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B81"] [WhiteElo "2495"] [BlackElo "2679"] [Annotator "Lawrence,Al"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Columbia"] [BlackTeam "UT:RGV"] [TimeControl "6000+930"] [WhiteClock "0:10:50"] [BlackClock "0:44:54"] {Playing Board 1 for Columbia U. in Round 3, IM Arthur Shen employs sharp, inventive play and keeps the pressure on to score a big upset at a critical moment against UT-RGV's GM Anton Kovalyov.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e6 7. g4 h6 8. Bg2 Nc6 9. Be3 Nd7 10. Qe2 Qc7 11. O-O-O Na5 12. Nf5 Nf6 13. Bf4 Nc4 14. Nxd6+ Bxd6 15. Bxd6 Nxd6 16. e5 Nb5 17. Nxb5 axb5 18. exf6 Rxa2 19. Qxb5+ Bd7 20. fxg7 $1 Ra1+ 21. Kd2 Qf4+ 22. Ke1 Rxd1+ 23. Kxd1 Rg8 24. Qxb7 Rxg7 25. Qa8+ Ke7 26. Qa3+ Ke8 27. Qa8+ Ke7 28. Qa3+ (28. Qa7 $18) 28... Ke8 29. Qf3 Qg5 30. Qe4 f5 31. f4 Qd8 32. Qd4 Kf8 33. Kc1 Qh4 34. Bb7 Qg3 35. gxf5 exf5 36. Bd5 1-0 [/pgn]
Since the team-on-team playoff  began in 2001, only one other college, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, has equaled Webster’s streak, if not its from-the-cradle dominance. But this year UMBC, the original chess scholarship powerhouse, failed for the very first time to make the Final Four. Teams qualified for the honor back in December at the Cleveland Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship. In order of average team ratings of the Final Four squads, the hopefuls were Webster University, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas-RGV, and Columbia University—the local hero and dark horse. Rules allow any college that qualifies at the PanAms to bring any squad to the Final Four. (All must qualify as legitimate college students according to US Chess rules.) That allowed Webster, who qualified by virtue of its B-Team, to bring its A-lineup, who didn’t do as well in Cleveland, to the playoffs. Webster has a deep bench. Final Four teams are made up of four players, but colleges can bring up to two alternates. Webster brought six international grandmasters to the shootout. Its top four posted a chart-topping USCF average rating of 2734, more than 80 points better than second-seeded Texas Tech University, who had won the Cleveland Pan-Ams. Another must-know rule: Final Four standings are tabulated on game-points, not match points. Theoretically, a college could win all three matches and still not take home the President’s Cup, the impressive double-handled silver trophy bearing the engraved names of the championship colleges as well as the names of the individual team members. But Webster never tested that hypothetical, winning all three of the team-on-team matches and outpointing all rivals. The Webster Gorloks amassed a lopsided 3.5-.5 (three wins and a draw) against underdog Columbia in Round 1, then went on to score 2.5-1.5 —the narrowest winning margin but decisive—over UT-RGV in Round 2 and Texas Tech in Round 3. (A Final Four tradition pairs the highest-rated and next-highest-rated team in the third and closing matchup.) The University of Texas-RGV is a new name to the playoffs. Its squad is built on the former University of Texas-Brownville program after the consolidation of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American, and its performance this year at the PanAms and the Final Four is a muscular comeback after four years in the cold. Its strong second-place showing promises that we’ll see them again. Coach GM Bartek Macieja was alone in deciding to bring only four team members. Not only the players come to the Final Four with their teams. Webster’s GM Susan Polgar, former women’s world champion, accompanied her squad, along with Paul Truong and Dr. Julian Schuster, Webster University Provost and Senior Vice President. Texas Tech’s program leader, GM and former US Champ Alex Onischuk, Outreach Director Olga Achourkina, and Division Associate Vice President Dr. Paul Frazier came to support the Knight Raiders. Doug Stoves, UT-RGV’s Associate Dean even brought his university’s Social Media Manager Alex Garrido, to keep all of the excited supporters back home in Texas updated and informed. The Marshall Chess Club, at 23 West 10th Street in Manhattan, is a handsome brownstone on a charming New York City street. The club’s history goes back to 1915. The present location was purchased by supporters of Frank Marshall, US champion for 27 years, in 1931 and became home to Frank and his wife Carrie, as well as a magnet to the best players from around the world. A few historical tidbits: It was the site of former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca’s last exhibition. Another world champion, Alexander Alekhine, sat there to play hundreds of speed-chess games against the best of his day. And it was the scene of 13-year-old Bobby Fischer’s mind-boggling “Game of the Century” against Donald Byrne. The non-profit club welcomes visitors. The event is sanctioned by US Chess and generously sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) and Two Sigma through the cooperation of the US Chess Trust. BAH’s Brian McKeon presented the trophies in the Club’s main hall, where the famous black bust of Frank Marshall was a welcome photo-bomb in every group. OrganizerHerman TDHoffpauir (1) The Final Four was organized by Mark Herman, a retired senior partner from BAH and directed flawlessly by NTD and FIDE Arbiter Mike Hoffpauir, a principal at BAH. Since BAH and Two Sigma have stepped in as sponsors, the Final Four has experienced a big upgrade. Venues have become impressive. Grandmasters Max Dlugy and Irina Krush provide fascinating game-commentary and interviews, live and online at www.chesssupersite.com, where more games from the event are available. And now every school takes home a silver cup, and every participant takes home a plaque to commemorate his or her role in history.

Shen Comments on Win with Krush and Dlugy (1)

Final Standings (game points)

  1. Webster University: 8.5
  2. University of Texas Rio Grande: 7.5
  3. Texas Tech University: 5.5
  4. Columbia University: 2.5

Team Rosters (not necessarily in board order) Webster University Average Team Rating of Top Four: 2734 GM Le Quang Liem (2773) GM Ray Robson (2746) GM Illia I. Nyzhnyk (2718) GM Alexander Shimanov (2698) GM Vasif Durarbayli (2686) GM Fidel Corrales-Jimenez (2593) Texas Tech University  Average Team Rating of Top Four: 2652 GM Yaroslav Zherebukh (2678) GM Elshan Moradiabadi (2670) GM Andrii Baryshpolets (2631) IM Andrey Gorovets (2629) IM Alexander Battey (2357) WIM Iryna Andrenko (2300) University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley  Average Team Rating of Top Four: 2628 GM Anton Kovalyov (2679) GM Andrey Stukopin (2664) GM Holden Hernandez (2603) GM Carlos Hevia (2566) Columbia University Average Team Rating of Top Four: 2342 IM Arthur Shen (2495) FM Kyron W. Griffith (2415) NM Aaron Jacobson (2329) Jonathan J. Pagan (2127) Theodore Ja Coyne (2066) Anthony Panat (2026)