Wisconsin Chess Academy Wins La Familia Style Amateur Team North

The 2018 Amateur Team North broke another attendance record. 84 teams with 364 players came out for the National Event, held from February 16-18 in Schaumburg, Illinois.  Chess Weekend organizer Glenn Panner said, “It is great to see chess growing like this.” 
The tournament has been growing for the past four years. Panner is working with the hotel to find more space for the event, since some teams had to play in another room. Of course, having more teams not only means the need for more space, but it also means it's harder to determine a clear winner. If worse comes to worse, Panner said he is “considering making the top tiebreak method a dance-off.”
The levity of his comment shows off the good nature of Panner and his co-organizer Maret Thorpe. Thorpe is a recently minted National Tournament Director (NTD), one of just 90. Notably, Thorpe is also just one of six females with this title. The small but growing sisterhood is made up of Susan Breeding, Carol Jarecki, Sophie Rhode, Maret Thorpe, Tracey Vibbert and this writer (Betsy Zacate). 
When congratulated, Thorpe said, “It is important to me to be an NTD because girls and other women it see they can be leaders in chess.”  Panner added, “It is harder for women to move up in chess as a player or official, because men have the tendency not to shut up and listen when they need to. We need to do better at creating opportunities.”
Over the boards and off, players were at the tournament to win. Beyond top winning team and individual awards, they competed for prizes such as best team name and costume. Nine college teams came this year representing four different states.
IM Eric Rosen
Several teams from the past came back as well. The long standing trio of Sam Schmakel, Eric Rosen, Michael Auger returned as No Pawn Intended, which included Jeff Paykin on board four. Here's a fun game from Eric, who is back home from a whirlwind of travel in Asia. 
[pgn]

[Event "USAT North 2018"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.18"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Rosen, Eric"]
[Black "Cao, Elton"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B30"]
[PlyCount "35"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]

{Even though my team was out of running for first place after a
disappointing loss in round 2, I still managed to play some decent chess. This
game features some nice positional paralysis after an opening gone wrong for
black. The game ends with a crushing kingside attack.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.
Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 e6 $6 {Inviting Bxc6 and e5} (4... Nd4 5. e5 Nxb5 6. Nxb5 Nd5 7.
Ng5 $1 {Black is under serious pressure as white threatens Qf3}) ({ } 4... Qc7
{mainline}) 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. O-O Be7 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 O-O (8... c4 $5 {After
the game, we thought this might be a better option, but black still has many
problems to solve}) 9. d3 h6 10. Qe2 Qc7 11. c4 Nb6 12. Bd2 a5 13. a4 Nd7 14.
Bc3 Nb8 $2 (14... Rd8 {A better option, but still difficult for black}) 15.
Nf6+ $1 $18 {With most of black's pieces undeveloped on the queenside, the
position is ripe for attack!} Kh8 (15... gxf6 16. exf6 Bd6 17. Ne5 Rd8 18. Qg4+
Kf8 19. Bd2 Bxe5 20. Bxh6+ Ke8 21. Qg8+ Kd7 22. Qxf7+ Kd6 23. Bf8+ Rxf8 24.
Qxf8+ Qe7 25. Qxe7#) 16. Qe4 g6 17. Bd2 Kg7 18. Bxh6+ 1-0
[/pgn]
Wisconsin Chess Academy (Erik Santarius, Alex Betaneli, Hersh Singh and Kevin Li) returned again this year, too, but in the final day of competition new teams were in the running for the final win. 
Wisconsin Chess Academy vs. the French Fries, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate
 One breakout team, the Random Rooks, consisted of strangers who just needed a team to play on. The team, Avinash Rajendra, Sasha Konovalenko, Jeffery Pokorski, Aditya Pillai, was tied for first place going into round four of five but were swept by Tide Pawn Challenge. The Tide Pawn Challenge team was made of Illinois high school chess players from several schools, including Zhaozhi Li, Matthew Stevens, Marissa Li, and Eric Starkman. They went on to win second place overall after defeating Chess Baes in the final round. Zhaozhi Li also took the top prize for board one with a perfect 5-0. 
[pgn][Event "2018 USAT North"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.18"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Li, Zhaozhi"]
[Black "Menon, Gopal"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B00"]
[WhiteElo "2473"]
[BlackElo "2326"]
[Annotator "Li,George"]
[PlyCount "117"]{Recently picked up e4 and moved away from d4 to get fresh positions} 1. e4 d6
2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. d5 {Wasn't sure as to whether d5 should be
played on the prior move or here; Nf3 to discourage ...Ne5} Nb8 6. Bg5 Bg7 7.
Qd2 c6 8. O-O-O O-O 9. Bh6 Qa5 10. Bxg7 Kxg7 11. Nd4 Bd7 12. f3 Na6 13. g4 Nc5
14. h4 h6 15. g5 (15. Bh3 {To avoid stranding the rook on h3 per the game} cxd5
16. g5 Nh5 17. Bg4 $18) 15... Nh5 16. Bh3 Bxh3 17. Rxh3 cxd5 18. exd5 Rac8 19.
f4 Na4 20. Nb3 {Forgetting that the rook on h3 hangs after ...Qxf4 Qxf4 Nxf4
Nxa4 Nxh3} Qb4 21. a3 Qxf4 {Black offered a draw here. It looked likely that
the team would lose if I drew, and not knowing the evaluation of the position
whatsoever, I decided that e7 was probably weak enough to continue playing.
Turns out White is slightly better} 22. gxh6+ Kh7 23. Nxa4 Qxa4 24. Re1 (24.
Nd4 Qc4 25. Re3 Rc7 26. Nf3 $16) 24... Rc7 25. Nd4 Rfc8 26. Rhe3 Qc4 27. Rxe7
Qxd5 28. Qf2 Kxh6 29. c3 Qa2 30. Qe3+ Kh7 31. Nf3 Kg8 32. Rxc7 Rxc7 33. Qxa7
Rc8 34. Qxb7 Qc4 35. Qe4 Qb3 36. Qc2 Qa2 37. Qb1 Qb3 38. Nd2 Qd5 39. Qe4 Qa2
40. Kc2 Rb8 41. Rb1 Nf6 42. Qc4 Qxc4 43. Nxc4 d5 44. Ne3 Kg7 45. a4 d4 46. cxd4
Rb4 47. a5 Rxd4 48. b4 Ne4 49. Rb3 Rd2+ 50. Kc1 Ra2 51. Nc2 f5 52. Kb1 Ra4 53.
Kb2 Kf6 54. Re3 Nc5 55. Rc3 Nb7 56. Kb3 Rxa5 57. bxa5 Nxa5+ 58. Kb4 Nb7 59.
Rc6+ 1-0[/pgn]
TIDE Pawn Challenge, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate
The last two teams with perfect scores played off in the final round. Wisconsin Chess Academy was assigned white and insert team name here (Ed.Note- this was actually their team name!) took the black side of the table. Boards one was drawn, but the remaining games were nail-biting. On board four, Kevin Li and Rishi Narayanan was a must-win game to at least tie the match up.
[pgn]

[Event "2018 USAT-North"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.18"]
[Round "5.4"]
[White "Rishi Narayanan"]
[Black "Kevin Li"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D59"]
[WhiteElo "2027"]
[BlackElo "1996"]
[PlyCount "98"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2008.04.03"]

{This was a critical victory on board four for the eventual winners.} 1. d4
d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7 9.
cxd5 Nxd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. bxc3 Nd7 13. Qe2 c5 14. e4 Rac8 15.
Rfd1 cxd4 16. cxd4 Nf6 17. Rac1 Qa3 18. Rc2 Rxc2 19. Bxc2 Rc8 20. e5 Bxf3 21.
gxf3 Nd5 22. Qe4 g6 23. Bb3 Rc1 24. Qe1 Rc7 25. Qd2 Nc3 26. Re1 Kh7 27. Kg2 b5
28. h4 Qe7 29. Qf4 h5 30. Kh2 a5 31. Rc1 a4 32. Bd1 Nxa2 33. Rxc7 Qxc7 34. Qf6
Nc3 35. Bc2 Nd5 36. Bxg6+ fxg6 37. Qxe6 Qb7 38. Qd6 b4 39. Kg2 Qf7 40. Kg1 b3
41. e6 Qc7 42. Qd7+ Kh6 43. Qxd5 b2 44. Qg5+ Kh7 45. Qb5 Qc1+ 46. Kg2 b1=Q 47.
Qd7+ Kh6 48. Qd8 Qg1+ 49. Kh3 Qbf1# 0-1
[/pgn]
This left the final game between Alex Betaneli and Vincent Do on board two to determine not only the match outcome but the final results of the tournament. Betaneli was able to secure the win for the championship title. More details plus the game will be published in Chess Life Magazine.
The blitz event held on Saturday night had 48 players fighting for the Northern Blitz Championship title. The games were non-stop and featured 14 players with ratings over 2200. Andrew Tang aka penguingm1, the USA’s newest GM ran away with first prize.
GM Andrew Tang, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate
The 17-year-old just missed a perfect score with 9.5/10 points.
 The winner of best team name and costume were harder to decide this year. The organizers eventually had the crowd help vote for best team name, and the title went to Chess Baes with Gopal Menon, Eugene Yanayt, William Armil and Aidan Carey.
Chess Baes, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate
The final two teams in contention for best costume were teams La Familia and The Yellow Shirt Mob. The yellow shirts the Mob sported where made to match those worn by directors as at CCA events. Panner explained, “The team was making a playful riff at the often sub-standard and tardy staff at CCA events.” On the front, their shirts read, “When does the Blitz start?”; answered on the back with “3:00am.”  Like those they were making fun of, they did not score the highest marks. Instead, La Familia took top costume honors.
Daniel Parmet of the Yellow Shirt Mob, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate 
La Familia was comprised of an entire family, father Nimrod Bareket and his children Adam, Tom, Aya and Hill. As the back of their costume sweat shirts indicated, they are working on getting mom to play next year, as well.
The front of the shirts showed the entire family standing on a chess board with the team name up top. Props, which are often included with the most exciting costumes, were designed to make poke fun at people of Mexican heritage being called nothing but drug dealers. The players brandished knives, a head on a plate and even fake drugs (flour in baggies).
It seems safe to say that this year’s event will be even larger and more fun next year as before the tournament was over the players and the organizers were already making plans for 2018. 
Look for Vanessa Sun's report on the US Amateur Team East tomorrow or late tonight (interim report here), and also to Grandmaster Priyadharshan Kannappan's report on the US Amateur Team West later this week. 

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