Webster U. undefeated at Pan-American Intercollegiate

by Alexey Root
12/30/2017 – The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (Pan-Am) had one dispute and several close matches in rounds 4 and 5. Despite announcements before each round to leave cell phones back in hotel rooms, in round 4 the Michigan “B” team forfeited a game because of a cell phone. Also in round 4, Webster’s “A” team and SLU’s “A” team notched 2½ : 1½ victories over their opponents. Thus, by Friday afternoon, both Webster “A” and SLU had won four out of four matches. In round 5, Webster “A” defeated SLU 2.5-1.5. The only other team entering round 5 with four match wins, the UTRGV “A” team, lost. Therefore Webster “A” is the only team with 5 out of 5 match wins going into the sixth and final round on Saturday morning. Pictured: Shimanov and Kovalyov | Photo: A. Root

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Hold the phone

The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (Pan-Am) rules state that cell phones cannot be in a player’s possession in the tournament hall. Organizer and Chief Assistant Tournament Director Kelly Bloomfield tells players before each round to make sure they do not have cell phones in their possession. Nonetheless, at least one University of Michigan “B” team player brought his cell phone to the tournament hall for the fourth round. The University of Michigan “B” team was paired with the lower-rated Texas Tech “B” team, the only team comprised of all women players in this year’s Pan-Am. Playing on Board 2, Michigan’s Kyle Webster realized he had his phone (which was turned off) in his front pocket. In view of his opponent, he moved it from his pocket to his backpack, to put it out of reach.

His opponent, Carla Heredia, reported his rule violation (cell phone possession) to Kathy Lin, a floor TD. Heredia got a forfeit win. The third board, Claudia Munoz, asked her coach GM Alexander Onischuk to meet with her, Lin, and Chief Tournament Director Grant Perks regarding whether the entire Michigan “B” team should be forfeited. Onischuk told me that Munoz’s opponent had a cell phone in his backpack, which the tournament directors that I talked to (Lin and Perks) were not aware of during or after the incident. Onischuk asked Munoz if she wanted a forfeit win or if she wanted to play. Munoz chose to play, as did her teammates on Boards 1 and 4. Munoz ended up winning her game. Additionally, Texas Tech “B” team won the match. Lin noted that the incident should warn players not to bring cell phones to the tournament hall.

Munoz, Onischuk, Heredia

TTU “B” team meets with TDs Kathy Lin and Chief Tournament Director Grant Perks. A Michigan player in a blue hoodie also has his back to the camera. | Photo: A. Root

The fourth round featured UTD "A" versus Webster "A," the highest-rated team in the tournament. The game Kovalyov (UTD)-Shimanov (Webster) was the first to finish. The game began at 10:00 a.m. and was drawn by 10:50 a.m. After the game, Kovalyov said, "I was out-prepared. He actually played this line before and I didn’t see it. I accepted his draw offer because he is the only one with chances to push in the endgame."

The next game to finish was Hernandez (UTD)-Robson (Webster), on Board 3, which was also a draw. The third draw was the Board 2 game, Cori (Webster)-Popilski (UTD). That left Board 4’s game of Durarbayli (Webster)-Arribas Lopez (UTD) as the deciding game of the match. Unfortunately for UTD, Arribas Lopez lost that game.

In another key round 4 match, the second highest-rated team SLU had a promising beginning to its match with Texas Tech "A," as SLU’s Ipatov (with White, against Baryshpolets) won on Board 1 and SLU’s Rambaldi (with Black) drew on Board 4. By move 60 on Boards 2 and 3, SLU’s Swiercz (with Black, against Matsenko) was ahead two pawns but SLU's Zherebukh (with White, against Vorontsov) was down one pawn. Zherebukh lost on move 67, temporarily tying the match with one win and one draw for each team.  Also on move 67, Swiercz was still ahead two pawns but behind on the clock. Since the time control is Game in 90 minutes with a thirty-second increment, Swiercz was able to gain time. For example, he had 34 seconds left at move 67 but 35 seconds left after his move 70. He won on move 76, allowing SLU to win the match 2½ : 1½.

SLU’s coach GM Alejandro Ramirez said, "First two boards were pretty convincing. The team made up for the unexpected loss on Board 3, where Zherebukh was higher-rated than his opponent Vorontsov."

Before round 5 began, College Chess Committee Chair Al Lawrence ran the annual college chess meeting. One of the attendees was Dr. Jim Johnson, Professor of Education at Penn State University (PSU). Johnson is co-faculty advisor of the PSU chess club with Eli (Chris) Byrne, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and the son of IM Donald Byrne.

Donald Byrne taught at Penn State and ran the chess club there. According to Johnson, when Donald Byrne ran PSU chess, chess was under the athletic department and adequately funded. However, after Byrne died in 1976, the chess club reverted to a student organization with minimal funding.

Johnson is at this year’s Pan-Am with four players. With Eli (Chris) Byrne’s help, Johnson hopes to grow chess again at PSU. Johnson gave a copy of Donald Byrne’s obituary (written by GM Robert Byrne), which includes the game Averbach-D. Byrne, to each of his PSU Pan-Am players. Johnson is a former Pan-Am player himself, having participated twice in the early 1970s.

Paul Truong and Jim Johnson

Paul Truong and Jim Johnson | Photo: A. Root

Another College Chess committee meeting attendee was Steve Wolk, Chess Manager for Lindenwood University. Wolk was particularly interested in one of the topics at the meeting: The difficulty of knowing, year to year, which GM and IM will be at which university.

Lindenwood’s Board 1 was GM Priyadharshan Kannappan, back when he was an IM. Now, however, Kannappan plays for Webster University. Wolk emailed after the meeting, "My concern (for our team) is being able to keep someone once they reach GM status. Other schools can offer huge scholarships that I cannot do." Lindenwood’s current Board 1 is National Master Nicholas Rosenthal.

Lindenwood team

Lindenwood: (L to R) Jeffrey Kendall, Blake Jansen, Lucas Beddow, Nicholas Rosenthal, James Schneider, and Nam Nguyen | Photo: Steve Wolk

In round 5, everyone was watching Webster "A" versus SLU. Both teams went into the round with four match wins each. Webster "A" won 2½ to 1½ and becomes the only team in the tournament to have won all five matches.

Another important pairing was UTRGV "A" versus UTD "B" Before round 5 began, UTRGV had four match wins and UTD "B" had scored 3.5 out of 4 match points. UTD "B" won the match, 2½ to 1½.

Pairings, standings, and live games are available at buckeyechess.com. Look for a wrap-up report of round 6 and the awards ceremony.

All games of round 5



Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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