Webster Wins Sixth President's Cup, First As Host

Webster University
Image Caption
(Left-to-Right): Gergely Kantor, Yuniesky Quesada Perez, John Burke, Benjamin Gledura, Aram Hakobyan, Coach Le Quang Liem (photo courtesy Webster University)


Webster University, hosting the President’s Cup for the first time, put its homecourt (homeboard?) advantage to use, winning all three of its matches to claim the university’s sixth “final four” victory.

The team — consisting of GMs Benjamin Gledura, Aram Hakobyan, John Burke, Yuniesky Quesada Perez, and reserve Gergely Kantor — was able to remain above the fray despite dropping a game in two of their three matches. The victory was the team’s first under coach GM Le Quang Liem. Interestingly, Quang Liem was on four of five of Webster’s championship teams as a player.

While Webster kept winning, the rest of the field cannibalized itself, with defending champs Saint Louis University (SLU) coming out a half-point ahead three-time champions the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). The University of Missouri (Mizzou) was a competitive fourth in its first final four.

The undisputed MVP of the final four had to be Burke, who went 3-0-0 for Webster playing exclusively with the black pieces. His extra half-point was decisive in each of the two final matches! Decisive games are available in this study, but let’s get into Burke’s wins in some detail.

The President’s Cup was sponsored in part by The US Chess Trust, which donates $1,000 to US Chess in support of this event on an annual basis.


Round one: Webster 3 – SLU 1

Quesada Perez and Burke delivered decisive victories on the bottom boards, with Burke’s tense Classical Sicilian being put to the test by SLU’s GM Robby Kevlishvili’s Richter-Rauzer. In the end, Burke was able to recover from an attack that never quite materialized, grinding the endgame out in Sicilian style.



Round two: Webster 2½ – UTRGV 1½

With Aram Hakobyan sitting out the second round, Kantor was upset by IM Gleb Dudin (UTRGV) on the fourth board. Gledura’s dominant positional victory over GM Kamil Dragun on the top board put Webster back in the match, but it was again Burke’s Classical Sicilian that secured the victory.

This time, he essayed a classic “keep the king in the closed center” strategy before breaking through on the queenside in emphatic fashion.



The second round also saw what turned out to be the decisive match for second place. Kevlishvili and Chandra won on boards three and four over Mizzou to keep SLU’s lead over UTRGV.




Round three:  Webster 2½ – Mizzou 1½

A win would secure victory for Webster, but a loss could lead to a traffic jam atop the standings. Chaos appeared to be on the way when Gledura lost to GM Grigoriy Oparin on the top board. But wins by Hakobyan and Burke put Webster safely on top.

For once, Burke was given a slight respite, defending against a Catalan rather than an Open Sicilian. He had no problems equalizing out of the opening, and one miscalculation from White gave him a clear, championship-defining win.



Mizzou would need a miracle on the fourth board in order to tie the match, but unfortunately for GM Luka Budisavljevic and the rest of Mizzou, the only question was whether Quesada Perez could convert a no-risk endgame.



Congratulations once again to Webster. Their last championship run lasted five years, and maybe Coach Quang Liem is at the start of their next dynasty? Best of luck to SLU, UTRGV, and Mizzou in stopping a repeat, and to every other team attempting to qualify for next year’s President’s Cup!