Hat Trick! NorCal House of Chess Sweeps the 2015 U.S. Amateur Team West Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
February 23, 2015
For the third year in a row, the perennial powerhouse team NorCal House of Chess won the U.S. Amateur Team West, this time sweeping the field with a perfect 6-0 score. Led by team captain and prominent scholastic coach Ted Castro, the line-up of GM Enrico Sevillano, IM Ricardo De Guzman, FM Ronald Cusi, Ronit Pattanayak, and Evan Vallens boasted an average rating of 2197 and played on the first board throughout the event.


Earning second place with 4.5 match points was Your King Just Got Dunked On (NM Albert Lu, NM Joshua Sheng, NM Annie Wang, Andrew Peng), with all four players being under-18.


A few teams tied for third place with 4.0/6, though the one with the best tiebreaks was another all youth team, Starting From the Bottom Now We Kings, consisting of FM Cameron Wheeler, FM Vignesh Panchanatham, NM Siddharth Banik, and Christopher Yoo.

The annual team event took place at the Hilton in Irvine, California, and was organized by Metropolitan Chess, Inc.

The final round was certainly dramatic, as NorCal House of Chess took on Starting From the Bottom Now We Kings, a match that almost went down to the wire. The underrated Pattanyak quickly upset Christopher Yoo, giving NorCal an early lead (Pattanyak, rated just shy of 1500 ended up scoring a fantastic 3/4). This forced Starting From... to rally, though they were unsuccessful, as De Guzman drew and Cusi won, sealing the match for NorCal.

A small consolation prize came on Board One, as FM Cameron Wheeler was able to score a come-from-behind victory against the top player in the event, GM Sevillano:

FM Cameron Wheeler (2383) - GM Enrico Sevillano (2554)
Notes by Wheeler

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.0-0 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.d4 0-0
A common opening occurs here and I knew the line 7.cxd5, but I wanted something with more winning chances.
This move was a mistake because of the line we played in the game. After the game my teammate told me that was the same trap he used against me in previous training games. It was a silly way to fall behind against a stronger player. (7.cxd5 cxd5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.Ne5 is the usual continuation.)
7...dxc4 8.Ne5
Overlooking his next move


The best move now would be going back with 9.Nf3, however Nf3 would also give Enrico a big advantage. I played f4 to try and get some space.
9.f4 Nxe5 10.dxe5
(10.fxe5 c5 11.dxc5 Nc6)

(After 10...Qb6+ 11.Kh1 Na6 it's hard for me to develop. My queen and dark-squared bishop don't have many squares and if I push my e-pawn Enrico's knight would get a nice outpost on d3.)
11.exf6 exf6 12.e4 Be6 13.Qe2
Here I thought I was starting to have compensation for the pawn. My pieces are more active then Enrico's and I have more space. Both of Black's bishops are subpar.
(13...Na6! 14.Be3 Nb4 15.Bc5 Re8 And Black is much better.)
14.Rd1 Qc7 15.Be3 Rfe8 16.a4
I was trying to stop b5, but it might not have been necessary. (16.Rd2 b5 17.Rad1 b4 18.Na4 Rad8 Once again, Enrico has a better position, but it's playable.)
16...Qa5 17.g4
A mistake that Enrico starts to take advantage of.
17...Nc5 18.f5 Bf7 19.Nb5!?


The only try.

19...cxb5 20.Bxc5 bxa4 21.Bd4 b5 And Black is winning.
20.Bxe4 Rxe4?!
Somewhat unnecessarily sacrificing the exchange. After the simple 20...cxb5 21.axb5 Qxb5 22.Qf3 Re7 Black should win.
21.Nd6 Rae8

21...Re7 22.Nxf7 Rxf7 23.Qxc4=
22.fxg6 hxg6 23.Nxe8 Bxe8?!
Not the best follow-up. Black has the initiative after 23...Qe5! 24.Nxg7 Rxe3 25.Qf2 Bd5 threatening the knight and Re2.; 23...Rxe8 24.Qf2 c3 25.bxc3 Qxc3 was also a better try then the game continuation.
Trading off Black's active rook.
 24...Rxd4 25.Bxd4 Bf7 26.Qe3 Qd5 27.Rf1

Here it starts to become clear that I have an edge.
27...Bh6 28.Qf2 Qe4 29.Qxf6 Qxg4+ 30.Kf2 Qf4+ 31.Qxf4 Bxf4 32.Kg1 Bd6
Black has to give up the a7-pawn. 32...Bb8 33.Re1 Kf8 34.Bc5+ Kg7 35.Re7+- wins for me. 33.Bxa7 Be5 34.Rf2 c3 35.bxc3 Bxc3 36.Bb6 Be6 37.Rf4 Bf5 38.Rc4 Bd2 39.Kf2
Slowly improving my pieces. White's advantage is nearly decisive now.
39...Kf7 40.Be3 Ba5 41.Rh4 b5?


The losing move! I now gain a passed a-pawn that can't be stopped. 41...Ke6 was better, where White has good winning chances.
42.Rh7+! Ke6 43.Ra7
And an easy win.
43...Bc3 44.a5 b4 45.a6 c5 46.Bxc5 Kd5 47.Rc7 Be5 48.a7 Bxc7 49.Be3! 1-0

Also in the final round IM Keaton Kiewra played a nice strategic game before finding a beautiful winning combination to defeat FM Alexandre Kretchetov:

IM Keaton Kiewra (2471) - FM Alexandre Kretchetov (2389)
Notes by Kiewra

The US Amateur Team West was a really fun event. I got to see a lot of familiar faces, make some new friends, and test my mettle against a lot of strong chess players.
1...g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 0-0 5.d4 d6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Nc3 e5 8.d5 Ne7 9.e4


In a roundabout way we end up in a typical fianchetto system against the King's Indian Defense. Despite having the White side of this position for the first time in my life, I have played my share of KIDs with Black and felt pretty comfortable with the plans.
9...Nd7 10.Ne1

This knight maneuver to d3 is typical of these structures. The knight enjoys no employment whatsoever on f3 but on d3 it will control the important c5 and f4 squares, making a c4-c5 advance likely in the near future.
10...f5 11.f3
I considered just going ahead with Nd3 since fxe4 is normally not to be feared since it gives White control of e4 with a knight and Black's dark-squared bishop will be permanently bad. I was wary however of my opponent's maneuver of Nf5 to d4 and didn't want to allow this kind of counterplay. 11...Kh8 12.Nd3 Ng8
Although this Kh8-Ng8 maneuver did not strike fear into my heart, my opponent soon demonstrated an interesting plan of attack.
13.Be3 Ndf6 14.Kh1

Black's idea was to trade pawns on e4 and then go Ng4, so I played Kh1 to give my bishop a snug home on g1, from where it will defend the White kingside perfectly while helping with a queenside attack.
14...h5 15.c5 h4 16.gxh4 Nh5 17.Bg5 Bf6 18.cxd6 cxd6


Up until this point I wasn't quite sure what Black was doing on the kingside and hadn't taken his play too seriously, but now I started to get concerned about lines where after Black could push f4 and possibly sacrifice the knight on g3 at the right time.

The best way to stop Black from playing f4 ;) The opening of the position favors White with his extra pawn and development lead.
19...Bxg5 20.fxg5 f4 21.Bf3 Rf7 22.Bxh5 gxh5 23.g6
I thought this move won on the spot. My jaw nearly dropped when I analyzed this game and saw Houdini's evaluation of this position as equal!

23...Bg4 was the key move leading to a variation where White has a rook and two knights for the queen: 24.gxf7 Bxd1 25.fxg8Q+ Qxg8 26.Raxd1 I spoke with my opponent about this variation after the game, and we both felt that White was winning here. Houdini however has quite a different opinion, that after Qg4 in this position Black has no worries. Although from a practical point of view I would still call this borderline winning for White, the silicon beast must see enough ways for Black to keep ample pressure against White's king to overcome the material deficit.
Now White wins by force.
24...Kg7 25.Qh7+ Kf8

Against 25...Kf6 I was planning 26.Qh8+ Rg7 27.Nxf4 exf4 28.Rxf4+ Ke5 29.Qxg7+ Kxf4 30.Rf1+ With mate soon to follow.


The strongest and most aesthetic win.
26...Rxh7 27.Ne6+ Ke7 28.gxh7!

Black is powerless to handle the double threat of Nxd8 and the promotion of the h-pawn.
28...Bxe6 29.h8Q 1-0

There was a total of about 50 teams in the main event, most with a quirky name, though only one team went the extra mile and actually dressed up for the tournament:


Harry's Patzers and the Sorcerer's Clone (Dino Bonaldi, Tim Thompson, Raphael Manahan, Daniel Manahan)   

List of Winners:

Top Team

1st Place: NorCal House of Chess (GM Enrico Sevillano, IM Ricardo De Guzman, FM Ronald Cusi, Ronit Pattanyak, Evan Vallens)

2nd Place: Your King Just Got Dunked On (NM Albert Lu, NM Joshua Sheng, NM Annie Wang, Andrew Peng)

3rd Place: Starting From the Bottom Now We Kings (FM Cameron Wheeler, FM Vignesh Panchanatham, NM Siddharth Banik, Christopher Yoo)

Top U2100
So Cal Avengers (NM Conrado Diaz, Boris Kitapszyan, Julia Sevilla, Antonio Alindogan, Brendyn Estolas)

TOP U2000
San Diego Chess Club (Alex Costello, Ben Keltner, Thomas Diem, Aaron Householder)

Top U1800
The Deflated Egos (Jay Stallings, Sam Kennedy, Jim Gould, Dylan Gould)

Top U1600
Individual 2 (Plamen Anignoshtev, Jason Rothschild, Albert Nguyen, Sam Weber)

Top U1400
Beyond Chess Warriors (Alex Wang, Ryan Wu, Cindy Zhang, Justin Ye)

Top U1200
Whittier Than Average (Best Team Name Winner) (John Vanderburg, Daniel Rivera, Adriana Perkins, Sophia Manahan)

Top Club
San Diego Chess Club

Top College
USC 1 (IM Jack Peters, Jianling Gong, Srikar Donapati, Martin Leung)

Top High School
Temple City High School (Feiyue Yang, Stephanie Shao, Brian Cheng, Scott Xue)

Top Senior
Je Suis Charbonneau (NM Larry Smith, Richard Robinson, John Williams, John D. Wilson)

Top Individual Boards:

Board 1: NM Shijie Chen, IM Kesav Viswanadha, NM Albert Lu

Board 2: NM Joshua Sheng, FM Vignesh Panchanatham, IM Ricardo De Guzman

Board 3: NM Leo Creger, FM Ronald Cusi, NM Siddharth Banik

Board 4: Jeremy Stein, Daniel Giordani, John Wilson

Alternate: Brendyn Estolas

For fully rated results view the MSA page.

Scholastic Event
On February 14, the USATW Scholastic Event was held in conjunction with the main event, with a nice turnout of 28 teams, all with an average rating of U1200. In the end Fundamental Chess Academy: Queens and Kings (Kaitlyn Chu, Marcus Peng, Derrick Peng, Ram Rao) won first place with a perfect score of 5-0, with each member winning an individual prize for their respective board as well.

Fundamental Chess Academy (Derek Tan).jpg

2nd Place went to Got Bishops? Nope - A Pope (Adam Draheim, Leo Ouyang, Ross Pope, Joe Brennan), representing California Youth Chess League, and 3rd went to Team Shoe (Justin Hsu, Jared Hsu, Joseph Hsu, Jonathan Hsu).


Future all stars? Both Varvara Okunev and Kaitlyn Chu scored 5-0 on Board One.

For more information on Metropolitan Chess, Inc. please visit www.metrochessla.com, and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.