IM Johnny B. Blogs on the Pan-Ams
By IM John Bartholomew   
January 3, 2008
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UTD's A team with their first place awards. L to R: Coach IM Rade Milovanovic, GM Alejandro Ramirez, FM Igor Schneider, IM Davorin Kuljasevic, GM Magesh Panchanathan and IM Salvijus Bercys. Photo by IM Dmitry Schneider


John Bartholomew, University of Texas at Dallas student, reports on the Pan-American/Intercollegiate Championship (December 27-30, Miami,FL.) UTD A won clear first in the competition with 5/6 (see earlier report for basics on the event). But UTD actually fielded three teams in Miami, "A", "B" and "C" teams. UTD chess program director Jim Stallings was excited about the all female "C" team,

"UTD is very proud of our first entry of a women’s team into the Pan-American Intercollegiate. Everyone knows of the success of our men’s teams. However, we have been recruiting toward the time when we could also field a formidable women’s team. Tying in match points with teams, such as Stanford and Toronto who were 500 rating points above them, exceeded expectations."
   
 IM John Bartholomew was playing on the "B" team. As one of the most promising young IMs in the country, this only goes to show how well stocked with strong players UTD is. Here is his report:


Round 4 saw the meeting of UMBC-A and UTD-B. While GM Sergey Erenburg and IM Drasko Boskovic agreed a quick draw on board 1, things were not looking good for us on the lower boards. UMBC’s FM Bruci Lopez played a nice attacking game against IM Jacek Stopa where Jacek’s king could never find any sanctuary. On board 4, UTD’s FM Keaton Kiewra was ground down by WGM Katerine Rohonyan. I drew with GM Pawel Blehm on board 2, sealing the match 3-1 in UMBC's favor.



Meanwhile, UTD-A had a surprisingly tough go of it against Stanford. Over four hours of play passed without a game being decided.

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UTD A vs. Stanford. Photo Dmitry Schneider


FM Igor Schneider proved to be the hero when he defeated Patrick Mihelich in a double-rook endgame to save a narrow 2.5-1.5 UTD victory. NMs Matthew Ho (2278), Daniel Schwarz (2258), and expert Kartik Viswanathan (2183) played well above their ratings to hold GM Magesh Panchanthan (2560) and IMs Davorin Kuljasevic (2494) and Salvijus Bercys (2494) to hard-fought draws. Stanford assembled a great squad this year but fell short in the last three rounds by losing 2.5 – 1.5 in each match.



The stage was set for the much-anticipated clash between UTD-A and UMBC-A. It was not hard to predict the lineups, as both schools came locked ‘n loaded with Grandmasters on boards 1 and 2. UTD-A arguably had the greatest advantage on board 4, where IM Bercys had White against WGM Rohonyan (2312). The board 1 match up Erenburg – Ramirez was the first game to finish (1-0). Clearly this put the pressure squarely on UTD. I roomed with Alejandro Ramirez during the tournament and got to see first-hand how he prepares for games. Erenburg’s decision to play the main-line Sveshnikov was a big surprise for Alejandro, who had pegged him as a c3-Sicilian specialist. At any rate, our players fought back admirably. Magesh Panchanthan demolished Pawel Blehm’s Classical Sicilian and “Sal” meticulously took apart Rohonyan’s position in a QGD Tarrasch. Jennifer Shahade posted these already in a previous report, but in case you missed them, here they are again:





After these wins, there was no doubt of victory as Davorin Kuljasevic always had the better side of a drawn game with Bruci Lopez. Nearly the entire UTD team crowded the railing during the match to lend their support, and when the match victory was secure it was all smiles for players, teammates, and coach IM Rade Milovanovic. UTD would retain its position at the top of college chess for yet another year.

Round 5 also saw a stunning upset as dark horse New York University (2176) knocked off the University of Texas at Brownsville-A (2349) 2.5 – 1.5 to move into great final-round position. Critical to NYU’s success was first board NM Mackenzie Molner’s scrappy draw with GM-elect Axel Bachmann.



In the final round, UTD-A played a quick 2 – 2 draw with NYU. This was just fine for both teams: UTD clinched sole victory and NYU secured a spot in the Final Four of College Chess. UMBC-A also claimed their place with a last-round victory, while Miami-Dade College-A (2290) squeaked through on tiebreaks to claim the final spot.

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The NYU team placed 4th in the Pan-American Champs, ahead of many higher rated teams. Photo Dmitry Schneider.


The UTD team celebrated by dining at The Knife, an all-you-can-eat steakhouse in Miami’s Bayside Marketplace. UTD’s Chess Program Director, Jim Stallings, congratulated us on our play. Afterwards, many of us went down to the pier to enjoy our last night in southern Florida. Miami was thriving in anticipation of New Year’s, and the balmy ocean-side weather was a welcome change from the single digit temperatures I left behind in Minnesota. Everyone had a great time unwinding after many hours of chess.

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The entire UTD squad in a celebratory group shot.


Thanks are in order to Miami Dade College for hosting the event, and to TD Jon Haskel for running a very smooth tournament. The Pan-Ams have a real relaxed atmosphere in which you get to see long-lost chess players who may not play so much upon entering college. Hopefully the event will continue for many years to come.

In closing, I would like to offer my annotations to my 5th round game with NM Daniel Schwartz of Stanford:



1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Qa4+ c6

Allowing White to build a strong center. 4...Bd7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 is the mainline; 4...Nc6 is also playable.
 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 7.e4 Qd8 8.d4 Bg7 9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0
Natural, but I think 10.Be3 is the most accurate move here.  After 10...Nd7 11.Rd1! Black will have a much harder time achieving e7-e5. 10...Nd7 11.Bg5!?
Dealing with e7-e5 and encouraging Black to weaken his kingside.
 11...h6 12.Be3
12.Bh4 g5 13.Bg3 g4 14.Ne5 Nxe5 15.dxe5 didn't appeal to me.
12...Re8?!
12...e5! was consistent, i.e. 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Bxe5 15.Rad1 Qe7 And Black should be fine here.
 13.Rfd1 Nf6 14.Qc2 Bg4 15.h3 Bxf3 16.Bxf3
I was feeling really confident here.  With the bishop pair and a big center, I already have a big advantage.
 16...e6 17.Rab1 Qe7 18.b4 a6 19.a4 e5!
 A great practical move that radically alters the course of the game.  It looks wrong to allow White a passed d-pawn, but my opponent correctly judged that he will be able to blockade it.  Perhaps I could have considered some alternative plans on move 17.
20.d5
20.dxe5 Qxe5 21.Bd4 Qf4 22.Qb2 Rad8 doesn't seem to promise all that much.
20...cxd5 21.exd5 e4 22.Be2
The immediate 22.d6 also came into consideration 22...Qd7 23.Be2.
 22...Red8 23.Qb3 Qe5 24.Bc4 Ne8! 25.Bb6 Rd7 26.a5 Nd6 27.Be2 f5
27...Nf5 28.b5 Maintains an edge for White.
 28.Rbc1 Rf7 29.Bc7 Qe7 30.Rc2 Be5 31.Rdc1
31.Bb6
 31...Raf8

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Position after 31...Raf8


31...Bf4!? would force me to move the rook again. This was a very difficult moment for me.  I felt that I had let slip a great deal of my advantage and allowed Black to effectively reorganize his pieces.  My opponent has a clear initiative on the kingside, and a couple routine moves could easily land me in trouble.  Moreover, on board 4 UTD's NM Mihail Bantic had just resigned to even the match score at 1.5 - 1.5.  Thinking for a while, I remembered the concept of "trends" that GM Yermolinsky describes in his excellent book "The Road to Chess Improvement."  Yermo makes it very clear that when you feel a "down trend" (i.e. when you being to lose the thread of the game), it is imperative that you do something decisive to reverse it.  In this case, my opponent's impending time pressure and the match situation encouraged me even more to seize back the initiative:
32.b5!? axb5 33.a6!? bxa6 34.Rc6
At the cost of two pawns, I finally get to target the knight on d6.  More importantly, Black is compelled to assume a defensive role.
34...Kh7 35.Qa3 Rf6?!
Nerves. The cool 35...Nc4! would force me to liquidate with 36.Qxe7 Rxe7 37.d6 Rd7 38.Bxc4 bxc4 39.R1xc4 when Black is pretty safe after 39...Rf6!
 36.Rxa6
Now Black has to think about Ra6-a7 along with Rc1–c6
36...Nc8??
A huge blunder, but White is already out of the woods.
 37.Qxe7+ Nxe7 38.Bxe5 Rxa6 39.Rc7 Rf7 40.d6 Nc6 41.Rxf7+ Kg8 42.Rg7+ Kf8 43.Bf6 Nd8 44.Rd7 Ne6 45.Bxb5 Rb6 46.Bc4 1–0

Hungry for more college chess news? Don't miss WIM Dr. Alexey Root's current article in the January Chess Life Magazine,
"UTD Takes Grudge Match With Belgrade" , now available online.