Final Four: UMBC beats Brownsville to retain title
By GM Timur Gareev and WIM Luciana Morales   
April 14, 2010
The winning team: UMBC
The Final Four, arguably the strongest in the history of collegiate chess, ended in a thrilling duel between the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the defending champions, and University of Texas at Brownsville, the home team. Both teams defeated Dallas and Texas Tech in the previous rounds but while Maryland only needed a draw to win the tournament, UTB was striving for a victory. Two draws on the third and fourth board left all the excitement to the top boards. Gareev came victorious in his clash with Kritz giving UTB the lead. However, Erenburg confidently transformed his positional advantage against Flores into the decisive win securing a tie in the match and the victory in the tournament.


UMBC's half-a-point-gap over UTB came thanks to a more fortunate victory over Texas Tech-Maryland scored 3-1 whereas UTB succeeded with a minimal advantage as they scored 2.5-1.5. While in the final round UMBC and UTB were competing for the championship, Texas Tech faced UTD to decide the third place.

Let's take a look at what happened game-by-game in the last round:

Kritz chose the Chebanenko variation of Slav defense, 4...a6.


Gareev seized the initiative after an original pawn sacrifice in the middle game. Black had to accept an inferior endgame in order to ease the pressure. Due to an inaccuracy by White, Kritz got a chance to exchange rooks and secure a draw. However, after two consecutive blunders, Leonid missed his chances and had to submit. Here are the annotations, by GM Timur Gareev himself:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 a6 5.c5 Bf5 6.Bf4 Nbd7 7.e3 g6 8.Nh4!
8...Bg4 is a more viable option 9.f3 (9.Qb3 e5! 10.Bg3 exd4 11.exd4 Qe7+) 9...Be6 10.g4 Bg7 11.Bd3 with a slight edge for White
9.h3 Bg7 10.Bd3 b6
10...0-0 11.Bh2?! b6 12.b4 (12.cxb6 is better) 12...bxc5 13.bxc5 Ne4! 14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Bxe4 Nxc5! 16.dxc5? Qa5+ 17.Ke2 Rad8 18.Qc2 Qb5+ 19.Kf3 f5 20.Kg3 fxe4 21.Qxe4 Bd5 22.Qc2 Qb4 0-1 Kacheishvilli-Gareev, Mesa, Arizona 2008
11.b4 gives a solid edge 11...0-0 (11...a5 12.b5!; 11...Nh5 12.Ne2) 12.Rc1 and White is ahead. 
11...Qxb6 12.a3!
First used in Lenderman-Ramirez, World Open, Philadelphia 2009
12...Qxb2 13.Na4 Qb7 14.Rb1 Qa7 15.Qc2 White has strong compensation.
13.Na4 Qa5+
13...Qa7 14.dxc5 Nxc5 15.Nxc5 Qxc5 16.Be5 0-0 17.Rc1 Qa5+ 18.Bc3 Qb6 19.Nf3 with advantage for White.
14.b4 cxb4 15.0-0 0-0

15...bxa3 16.Qc2 Ne4 17.Nf3 Qd8 18.Rfc1 0-0 19.Rxa3 Bf5 20.Nh4 e6 21.Nxf5 gxf5 22.Nc5 white has initiative
16.axb4 Qxb4 17.Qe2 Ne4 18.Nf3 Qb7 19.Rfb1 Qa7 20.Ra3

Obtaining the b-file
Resulting in a difficult endgame for Black. Better was 20...a5 21.Rab3 Rac8 22.Rb5 followed by Qe1 putting pressure and getting a pawn back (22.Ba6 Rc6 23.Bb5 Rcc8 24.Bxd7 Bxd7 25.Rb7 Rc1+ 26.Kh2 Qa8)
21.Bxd6 exd6 22.Nb6 Nxb6 23.Rxa6 Qc7 24.Raxb6 Rfb8 25.Qb2 Rxb6 26.Qxb6 Qxb6
26...Qc3 27.Qb3 Qa5 28.Qb4
27.Rxb6 Ra1+ 28.Kh2 Bf8 29.g4 Ra3 30.Bf1 h6 31.Rb7


Preventing the Be7-f6 maneuver.
 31...Kg7 32.Kg3 g5 33.Bb5?

White has played a flawless game up until this point. The idea of Bb5-d7 along with knight transfer to g3 secures a winning edge. White can be putting significant pressure as long as the rooks are on the board. Rc7 is the necessary step.  33.Rc7 Rb3 (33...Kg6 34.Bb5 f5 35.Bd7 Bxd7 36.Rxd7 fxg4 37.hxg4 Kf6 38.Nh2 followed by a knight transfer to f5-h5) 34.Ba6 Rb8 35.Ra7 Kf6 36.Bb7 Be7 37.Bc6 Rb6 38.Ba8 Rb8 39.Ng1 Black has to counter threats against the d5 pawn. Knight transfer to g3 will create tactical possibilities giving white the decisive edge.
33...Rb3 34.Bc6 Rxb7 35.Bxb7
Now Black has a much easier time defending.
35...Be7 36.Ng1 Bd8 37.Ne2 Ba5 38.Kg2 h5!
39.gxh5 Kh6 40.h4
40.Ng3 f5

40...Kxh5 41.hxg5 Kxg5 42.Nf4 with significant practical chances for White.
41.Nf4 h3+ 42.Kg3 Be1 43.Bxd5 Bxd5 44.Nxd5 h2 45.Kxh2 Bxf2 46.Nf6
46.Kg2 Bh4 47.Nf4 f5 48.Kf3 Bg5 49.e4 fxe4+ 50.Kxe4 Bf6 51.d5 Kg5 Black easily holds a draw.
46...Bh4 47.Ne4 Be7 48.Ng3 Bg5?
This move loses time.  48...Bh4! 49.Nf5+ Kxh5 50.Nxd6 Kg4 51.Kg2 f5 followed by f4, Black secures a draw.

49.Kh3 f5 50.d5 f4 51.exf4 Bxf4 52.Ne2 Be3 53.Kg4 Bf2 54.Nc3 Bd4 55.Ne4 Be5 56.Ng5 Kg7 57.Kf5 Bb2 58.Ne4 Ba3 59.Kg4 Kh6 60.Ng3 Kg7 with unbreakable defense.
49...Bh4 50.Nf5+ Kxh5 51.Kf3
51.Nxh4 Kxh4 52.Kf3 Kg5 53.Ke4 Kf6 54.Kd5 Ke7 55.Kc6 Ke6 56.e4 f6 57.d5+ Ke5 58.Kd7 Kxe4 59.Kxd6 f5 draw
51...Bd8 52.Nxd6 Bc7?

This final blunder allows White to pick a second extra pawn. 52...Kg6 53.Ke4 Kf6 (53...Bg5 54.d5 Bd8 (54...Kg7 55.Ke5 Kf8 56.e4 Ke7 57.Nc4 Bf6+ 58.Kf5 Bg7 59.e5 Kd7 60.Nd2 Ke8 61.Ne4 Kd7 62.d6 Ke8 63.Ng5) 55.Nc4 Bg5 56.d6) 54.Kd5 Ba5 55.Nc8 Kg7 56.e4 Bc3 57.e5 Bb2 58.Nd6 Kf8 59.Ne4 Ke7 60.Nf6 Bc1 61.Ke4 Bg5 62.Nd5+ Kd7 63.Kf5 Bd8 64.Nf6+ Kc6 65.d5+ Kc5 66.d6 Kc6 67.Ne4 Kd7 68.Ng5 Ke8 (68...Bxg5 69.Kxg5 Ke6 70.Kh6) 69.Nh7 Kd7 70.Ke4 Kc6 Black manages to hold the position.

53.Nxf7 Kg6 54.Ne5+ Bxe5 (54...Kf6 55.Nd3 Ba5 56.Ke4 Bd2 57.Ne5 Ke6 58.d5+ Kf6 59.Nc6 Be1 60.Kd3 Bg3 61.e4 Bd6 62.Kd4) 55.dxe5 Kf5 56.e6 with a simple winning pawn endgame.

Paraguayan GM Axel Bachmann faced GM Giorgi Margvelashvilli on third board.


Giorgi played an active variation of Caro-Kann and strived for an even game. Axel centralized his pieces and accumulated an edge so Giorgi was forced to give up a pawn to secure counterplay. Despite the extra material Bachmann did not manage to convert.  Opponents agreed for a draw after black demonstrated his ability to hold the defense and actively counter white's advances.  

The game between Sasha Kaplan and Max Cornejo ended in a draw after a double-edge fight.


Kaplan faced Accelerated Dragon and worked towards an aggressive set up in the opening. Max received chances for counterplay and seized the initiative in the middlegame. In a time scramble, Cornejo offered a draw with an exchange down. Kaplan assessed the situation on other two boards and agreed having only 8 seconds left on the clock (time control was 1 hour 30 minutes plus 30 seconds increment).

Meanwhile, Erenburg was putting pressure and strengthening his positional advantage against last year's MVP Mauricio Flores.


Mauricio lost a pawn and had to give up another one to fight for counter play. Sergei‘s technique proved decisive in offsetting any attempts to seize the initiative by black. Erenburg exchanged the queens and converted the extra pawns in a rook endgame.


The match between Texas Tech and University of Texas in Dallas ended in a draw as well. Marko Zivanic and Davorin Kuljasevic agreed for a draw after Davorin equalized comfortably with black. IM Gergely Antal and IM Puchen Wang reached peace after repetition of moves in a materially unbalanced position. In the fourth board Bercys managed to break through Waters' defense and win the game.

Texas Tech board two IM Gabor Papp played an interesting game against International Master Daniel Ludwig. IM Papp came out aggressive against Ludwig's Sicilian Najdorf. Gabor achieved a significant advantage after the opening, which allowed him to win a pawn. The game reached an endgame where Gabor used a few tactical subtleties to convert the extra material with ease. The draw in the match secured Texas Tech the third place.

3rd place: Texas Tech

2nd place: UTB

1st place: UMBC


This year's President's Cup featured six International Grandmasters, ten IMs, one WGM and two WIMs. As opposed to previous years, the competition revolved around the UMBC and UTB confrontation. Our new coach Ronen Har-Zvi's involvement in preparation gave our team extra strength and motivation to compete.

This year's final four was one of the best organized collegiate tournaments. UTB chess program director Russell Harwood put in his best effort to create a great atmosphere for guests and locals. On the first day, a dinner would welcome all the action figures and their coaches. The seating arrangement allowed for people to interact with members of other teams.

Local media and even the crew of a renowned national TV program followed the event with attention every round. The ever humorous IM Almeida provided live commentary of the games to a loyal audience every round.

Rusty expressed his gratitude to IA Frank Berry for conducting the tournament in an impeccable way and to Luis Salinas for facilitating the Monroi transmission.

Most competitors expressed their fascination with campus and the kindness displayed by everyone around. UTB/TSC President Juliet V. Garcia honored the participants and especially the UTB team members with her presence and motivating words.

We would like to thank the UTB officials for their unconditional support as well as the visitors, who came by to show some Scorpion pride.

Overall our team, UTB, was in good shape and motivated. We came very close to win the first place in this tournament and thus, improved the third place obtained last year in the President's Cup held in Dallas but there's certainly room for development. In the meantime, we need to go back to the college student life. No more ICC games or chess exercises for a while. Hasta la vista!

Check out more photos on the flickr gallery and see details on the Tournament of College Championship, set for July 31-August 3 in conjunction with the US Open.