Host Columbia Prevails in Ivy League Faceoff
By Matthew Michaelides   
February 12, 2014
The Columbia chess team

Last weekend, upwards of 50 college players gathered from up and down the east coast in New York City for the 4th annual Inter-Ivy League Chess Tournament, hosted for the fourth year in a row by the Columbia Chess Club at Columbia University. 

After four tough matches, Columbia was able to emerge as the uncontested Inter-Ivy League Champion this year in style: both Columbia A and Columbia B dominated the cross-tables and won all 4 of their matches. After losing badly last year to co-champions Penn and Brown, this was a nice bit of revenge for the Columbia team.  

Kyron Griffith and Andrew Ryba

Although, that isn’t say it was an easy road to victory for the Lions. In Columbia A’s first-round match-up against Dartmouth A, the following position was reached.

Kyron Griffith- Mackinley Tan

Boards 2, 3, and 4 had all been decided at this point, with Columbia ahead 2-1; however, clearly things here didn’t look too great for Kyron on Board 1. There are certainly some drawing chances, but Black is nonetheless pushing for the win. If Dartmouth’s Tan won the game, Columbia would only tie the match and seemingly opt for a repeat of last year’s poor performance. Instead, the game continued:
46... Ke7 47. b4 Rb5 48. Kb3 e5 49. Rf2 Ke6 50. Kc4 Rb7 51. b5 e4 52. Rf5 g6 53. Rc5 Kd6 54. Kd4 Re7 55. Rc6+ Kd7 56. Rc3 Kd6 57. g5 Rb7 58. Rb3 Re7 59. b6 Kc6 60. b7 Rxb7 61. Rxb7 Kxb7 62. Kxe4 Kc6 63. Ke5 Kc5 64. Kf6 Kd5 65. Kg7 Ke5 66. Kxh7 1-0


Thus, the first round saw no upsets, leaving 7 teams still in the mix going into Round 2. Unfortunately for both defending champs Brown A and Penn A, disaster would strike in the next round. Penn B scored an excellent 2.5-1.5 victory over Brown A after upsets of varying severity on the bottom three boards. Columbia B was also able to stop Penn A with wins on 1st and 4th board and a draw on 3rd board. Columbia’s NM Alexander Fabbri was able to convert against Penn’s FM Alisa Melekhina on 1st board in the following game after a horrible blunder by Black on move 29.


The end of the 2nd round brought 4 perfect scores and the pairings of Columbia A – Penn B and Columbia C – Columbia B, which each of the top Columbia teams won handily at 4-0. Brown A and Penn A were also both able to easily defeat their lower-rated opponents, Yale A and Brown B, respectively. This would leave Columbia A and Columbia B with the only perfect 3-0 scores, with Brown A, Brown C, Penn A, Penn B, and Columbia C trailing behind at 2-1.

Round 3 Columbia A v. Penn B

Despite the only two perfect scores being Columbia teams, team protection rules kicked in, leaving Columbia A to play against Brown A, while Columbia B played against Penn B. Only if both Columbia A and Columbia B lost would any of the teams with 2-1 scores be able to tie for first place. Still, both Brown and Penn were inspired by the possibility of a comeback, despite the cautious remark by Brown A’s Michael Thaler that “a couple things [would] still need to go right” for Brown to hold onto their title. Unfortunately for them, it was not to be, as Columbia A and Columbia B each won their final round. 

The Columbia A – Brown A match was nonetheless quite close at 2.5-1.5. Still, while the score could have been accepted with a sigh of relief by the Columbia team, Columbia’s IM Victor Shen could not have been too happy with his draw. After being far better, if not winning, for a good portion of the game, the following position was reached in time pressure. 

E Rentsen- Victor Shen

Black still has one option to play for a win, but in time pressure Victor could see no option other than to take the perpetual. After 1… Qd1+ 2. Kg2 a1=Q 3. Rxa1 Qxa1 4. Qe6+ Kh7 5. Qh3+, a draw was agreed upon in light of the forced perpetual check. Instead, had Shen opted for the surprising 1… a1=Q+!!, the game might have ended differently! After 2. Rxa1 fxg3!!, White has some problems. 3. fxg3 is met by the stunning 3. … Rf5!, while 3. Qe6+ leads to a slightly better endgame for Black after 4. … Kh8 5. Qh3+ Qh5, after which the queens come off and Black has a good endgame with 3 pawns for the exchange! Luckily for Columbia A, a draw was still good enough to beat the Brown A squad, and after Columbia’s B team cruised to a 4-0 match score with a 3-1 victory over Penn B, it was all Columbia. The USCL-style (fratricidal) tiebreak was won by Columbia A, when NM Andrew Ryba defeated NM Alexander Fabbri.

Luckily for Columbia A, a draw was still good enough to beat the Brown A squad, and after Columbia’s B team cruised to a 4-0 match score with a 3-1 victory over Penn B, it was all Columbia. The USCL-style (fratricidal) tiebreak was won by Columbia A, when NM Andrew Ryba defeated NM Alexander Fabbri.

While not everyone got what they wanted out of the tournament, the tournament was still a great success and a good time for all. Thanks to all of my fellow Ivy-Leaguers for playing in the event and to all of the Columbia students who hosted players from other schools the night before. In addition, I’d like to give a huge thanks to our tournament director Andrew Ryba and the other members of the Columbia Chess Club’s executive board without whom the event would not have been possible. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year! 

Below is an interesting Round 1 game that was played between Columbia B’s Jonathan Pagan and Brown B’s JD Mariategui. The annotations are by Jonathan Pagan. 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.e3 Be7 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0


Bd7 and h6 are both good alternatives, that are a bit more accurate. While in this closed position, it doesn't matter too much, a6 doesn't really help Black in any concrete way; whereas both h6 and Bd7 are moves that Black will definitely want to play at some point. For example: 
9...Bd7 10.Rc1 Rc8 11.a3 Ne8 would be quite equal, with Black even having chances to play f5, Nd6, and get a nice bind in the center.
10.a3 Bd7 11.Rc1 Rc8 12.Ne2 
A strange move. Na4-c5 makes much more sense. 
12...Ne4 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Bxe4 dxe4 15.Nd2 f5 would create an interesting and dynamic position with chances for both sides.
13.b4 Na7 14.Qb3 Bb5 15.Ne5 Rfe8 16.Bxb5 
Nxb5 is also plausible, with the idea of going to d6 and gripping the e4-square. From d6, the knight can also potentially move to c4 or f5. 
16...Qxb5 17.Nc3


trying to spice up the game. 17...Qb6 was the other move, but it seemed too passive to me.
White errs. although an invasion on the seventh should still give him promising play in exchange for the material deficit [18.Rxc3 Ne4 19.Bxe7 Nxc3 (the cute 19...Qxf1+ 20.Kxf1 Nd2+ 21.Ke2 Nxb3 fails to 22.Bh4!) 20.Qxc3 Rxe7 I assessed this position as equal and thought I'd have promising play with ... f6 followed by ...Qa4 and ...Nb5. However, hairy Houdini pointed out the strong move 21.a4! when I'd be forced to passively retreat the queen since 21...Qxa4 fails to 22.Qc5] 
18...Ne4 19.Qd3? 
with Black about to win two pieces for the rook, white needs to seek counterplay ASAP [19.Qc7 Nxg5 20.a4! deflecting the queen from either the b7-pawn or the d7-square. 20...Qxb4 (20...Qxa4 21.Qxb7) 21.Qd7] 
19...Bxg5 20.Qc2 h6 21.Qc7 
the queen finally reaches c7, however Black has managed to consolidate. 

White wins a pawn at the expense of allowing a deadly attack 22.Rc2 holds the position together temporarily, although Black is still far superior.
22...Rxf7 23.Qb8+ Kh7 24.Qxa7 Nxf2! 
24...Rxf2 also won, but I figured a knight sac on f7 deserved a knight sac on f2!
25.Rxf2 Bxe3 being the point
White resigned in view of gxh3 Bxe3+ Kg2 Qe2+ Kg3 Bf2+ with mate soon to follow. 0-1