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College Chess / 2015 PanAms


knows why, the pot-bellied caricature became the mascot of St. Louis University (SLU). Fans of Division I college basketball know about the Billikens. Now there’s word of an SLU squad who likely can’t dunk coming to the Gateway City in time for a trip to next year’s PanAms— the Chess Billikens. Six months ago, SLU hired Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez as coach. Many know him as a commentator for Internet broadcasts from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL), a project of multimillionaire chess philanthropist Rex Sinquefield. SLU is Rex’s alma mater. “It’s been a joint project between SLU and the CCSCSL,” Ramirez said. “It was Rex’s idea, but the Uni - versity immediately loved it.” Ramirez has been busy recruiting talent from around the world. A new sponsored college team springing up so quickly is big news in


college chess. “The more chess scholarships, the better,” as Ramirez put it, a sentiment that’s widely echoed. But a munificently backed squad challenges the dominance of existing scholarship programs. Rumors of big sums being offered to top GMs caused some at the US Chess college commit tee meeting in Cleveland to seek rules limiting the lucre. But Ramirez, a former UT-Dallas scholarship player, brushes aside the scuttlebutt with a laugh. “Like UT-Dallas, we’re giving a small stipend as well as college expenses—but [that stipend is] nowhere near the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars rumored.” Indeed, his biggest challenge has been recruiting. “There’s a limited pool of players” who qualify and want to come to the U.S. for college, “and lots of competition.”


SCHOLARSHIP BIGAMY The tug-of-war for the rare college-age international chess star who wants to study in the U.S.—and who can meet an American university’s English- language and admission requirements and pass bureaucratic scrutiny for a student visa—creates a seller’s market. Paid-for plane trips from Europe, campus tours, dinners, and gift iPads can all come to nothing when the prospect winds up signing with another school offering even more. With the top schools recruiting hard for April’s Final Four and future PanAms, one student signed with two different scholarship programs to begin school in January 2015. Each school had only one slot left in its budgeted lineup and counted on the new player to complete its team.


The double-booking came to light over a lunch between college officials at the PanAms, when one diner shared informa tion about a new recruit, freezing his partner’s fork in front of his surprised expression. On December 31, just days before his expected arrival, the student finally sent a letter of regret to one school’s director. This letter turned out evidently to be a relative courtesy, since it was two weeks later when the student sent the same kind of letter to the second school, revealing that he had chosen yet a third, unnamed uni versity in St. Louis for a better offer. So make that “trigamy.” The PanAms is about more than big programs and titles vying for


four top spots. Average team US Chess ratings ranged all the way from Webster A’s 2747 to Lindenwood B’s 1322, and no one was blanked in the six-round Swiss. The PanAms Championship offer six top overall prizes (Webster-A and UTD-B placed fifth and sixth in Cleveland), as well as Division II (Columbia-B), III (Texas Tech-C), IV (Illinois-C), and V (UMBC-B) honors. Trophies also go to the top community college (Miami Dade), top women’s team (Webster), top international team (Toronto), and there’s even more hardware. (See www.buckeyechess. com for a complete list of winners.) All the awards become meaningful recognition back on campuses, incentives to back chess. The PanAms is held under the auspices of US Chess and is partially


sponsored by the U.S. Chess Trust. This year’s chief organizer, Constantine Ananiadis of Oberlin College, was a star college tennis player and a conference-coach-of-the-year. He also makes time to volunteer as faculty advisor to the chess club. “It was an honor to bring back the event to Cleveland after 57 years,” he said. “It’s great for Ohio chess and terrific for Oberlin College.” The conditions he and his college organized—a spacious playing area, a spectator room featuring a four-screen broadcast of the top boards, plus a roomy skittles area and an Internet broadcast— could easily have served as a U.S. Championship venue. Chief Director NTD Joe Yun, NTD Boyd Reed and STD Kelly Bloomfield showed smooth professionalism. Ananiadis’ Oberlin took home the best small college trophy for


the third year in a row—which Constantine, then board-one player, helped to win for Florida’s Stetson University 20 years ago in both 1994 and 1995.


Comebacks are possible everywhere—not just in Texas.


TOP TEAM SHOOTOUT When your board four has played in the U.S. Championship, you know you have a strong team. Webster-A, with 4 points and GM Ray Robson as its last board, and Texas Tech-A, with 4½, met in round five on Tuesday night.


GRÜNFELD DEFENSE (D80) IM Andriy Gorovets (2624), Texas Tech-A GM Ray Robson (2743), Webster-A 2015 PanAmerican Intercollegiate (5), Cleveland, Ohio


Comments by Robson. This was a very important match for our


team, as after losing to UTD-B we couldn’t afford to drop any more points.


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Bg7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. cxd5 c5


Although Black sacrifices another pawn, he will get it back and have good compensation


40 March 2016 | Chess Life


due to the two bishops in an open position. 7. dxc5 Nd7 8. e3


8. c6 Nc5 9. e3 bxc6 10. dxc6 Qa5 11. Rc1 Bf5, and Black’s initiative outweighs the deficit.


8. ... Qa5 9. Rc1 0-0 10. Nf3 Nxc5 11. Qd2 Rd8 12. Nd4 The continuation 12. Be2 Bg4 gives Black


good compensation because 0-0 always allows … Na4.


12. ... e6


Now I expected 13. Be2 exd5, with equality. However, my opponent played a more ambi - tious move, perhaps overlooking a tactical trick.


13. Bc4?! 13. Rb1 Na6!, Black is equal. If 13. dxe6, ...


Nxe6, regaining the pawn with the initiative. 13. ... exd5 14. Nxd5


14. ... Nd3+! This is probably what my opponent missed.


15. Bxd3 Qxd5 16. 0-0 Bxd4 17. exd4


The try 17. Bc4? would have led to a forced sequence of moves: 17. ... Qg5 18. f4 Bg7 (the best square because it controls f8) 19. fxg5 Rxd2 20. Rxf7 Kh8, and Black is up a piece.


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