This is a more rigorous workshop, targeted at advanced chess players, ranging from 1300 to 1700 CFC rating. Some prior experience and time commitment is required of the participants. This semester’s lessons will focus on chess strategy with special emphasis on how the pieces normally develop during a game, in order to reach their full potential. The Workshop will run every Friday, from January 25th until March 29th, 6-7 PM, and the lessons will be taking place at the Hart House Reading Room. National Master and ex-Varsity player Jonathan Yu is the instructor in this workshop.
The lessons will be presented in the format of a seminar. The Instructor will conduct the first seminar then every student who expresses an interest will do one as well. Students will be encouraged to bring in a game, do analysis on it beforehand with the guidance of the coach and present it to the class. Questions and comments will be fielded afterwards. In this way students will benefit from the Instructor’s guidance but also work at home and learn from each other, really scrutinizing their play. The coach will provide every student with a framework about how to do this in the first class based on the following tentative template:
#1 Jan. 25th: Develop your Pieces: Improve your Worst Piece
#2 Feb. 1st: Knights: Control of a Hole or Weak Square
#3 Feb. 8th: Bishops : Good or Bad – Active or Inactive – The Bishop Pair
#4 Feb. 15th: Superior Minor Piece: Bishops vs. Knights
#5 Feb. 22nd: Rooks: Open Files & Ranks – Which Rook to Move or to Trade?
#6 Mar. 1st: Pawn Structure: Weak Pawns, Passed Pawns, etc.
#7 Mar. 8th: Space: Are we Alone in the Universe?
#8 Mar. 15th: Maintaining an Initiative
#9 Mar. 22nd: Material: To Take or not to Take?
#10 Mar. 29th: Sacrifice for Positional Compensation or King Safety
Teaching material and certain ideas will be taken from Jeremy Silman’s, How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances but the tentative Syllabus is, in great part, the original creation of the Instructor. Silman’s book can be found at HHCC’s lending library. No reading is expected before class but attendees will be assigned optional homework to practice at home.
Starting on Friday, February 15th, Hart House Chess Club will be running a series of workshops on chess tactics directed mainly towards Upper Beginner and Intermediate chess players. These lessons will be taught by ex-Varsity Chess player, Panayoti Tsialas, and everybody is welcome to attend! The seminar is recommended for chess enthusiasts who have learnt the movements of the pieces and the rudiments of chess and wish to step-up their game and reach a rating of around 1000-1300.
The Workshops will go on for 8 weeks and the tentative Syllabus is posted below:
#1 Feb. 15th: Attack and Defense: What are Chess Tactics?
#2 Feb. 22nd: Double Attack I: The Queen Attack
#3 Mar. 1st: Double Attack II: The Knight Fork
#4 Mar. 8th: Defending Against the Double Attack
#5 Mar. 15th: The Pin I: Direct Attack
#6 Mar. 22nd: The Pin II: A Pinned Piece is a Bad Defender
#7 Mar. 29th: Defending Against the Pin
#8 Apr. 5th: The Preparatory Move: Luring
Teaching material and ideas will be taken from Learning Chess (Steps 1, 2 and 3), by Rob Brunia and For van Wijgerden. No reading is expected before class but attendees will be assigned optional homework to practice at home.
Just several days have passed since the closing of the Canadian University Chess Championship. It was a riveting competition that took place in McMaster University this year. Twenty-three teams of chess players competed in two divisions: the Championship League and the Reserves section. Both sections had intense competition. Our club sent in four teams in an attempt to claim victory to both sections and show everyone what U of T students are! University of Toronto A and B competed in the upper section, whereas University of Toronto C and D played in the Reserves Division (< CFC 1800). It is with honor, that the Hart House Chess Club may exclaim that we have brought home the Grand Cup!
Of course, the road to success was full of challenges as there were another five teams fighting for the big trophy. Our University of Toronto Team A consisted of Mark Plotkin, Qiyu Zhou, Joseph Bellissimo, James Fu and Zehn Nasir averaging CFC 2293. However, it was the defending champions, Waterloo University, who were the top seeds of the tournament with an average rating of 2364. There followed, at a very close distance, the very capable teams of Ottawa University (2266), Western University (2002), McGill University (1936) and University of Toronto B (1804).
But let’s start from the beginning. The games took place January 12 to 13 at the elegant Convocation Hall of McMaster University and 23 teams took part in the tournament (6 played in the upper section and 17 competed in the lower division). Unfortunately, Ontario was once again over-represented, with 22 teams coming from this province and only one team coming from Quebec, while the Western Provinces were not able to participate. Hopefully, this imbalance will be adequately addressed in the future.
After the first two rounds of the tournament, University of Toronto A and Western University A were the only teams with 2 match points. Both of them had beaten McGill but, while UofT had won a convincing match against the mighty Ottawa University, Western impressed even more by beating the mightier (at least in rating) Waterloo University.
Round 3 could be the moment of truth for the two leading teams, which were facing each other in a very tough battle. This big match ended in a 2-2 tie with the top board game between FM Mark Plotkin and FM Terry Song really standing out. The former chose to open with the peculiar 1.a3!? but, nevertheless, went on to win his game. 🙂
In the other important match of the third round, Waterloo University suffered a second defeat by Ottawa’s Team A, which managed to climb up to 2 match points, just half a point behind Western A and UofT A. It was now UofT’s turn to prove that they could take the heat of a match against the defending champions, who really needed a victory to make their big comeback.
This critical match started out rather quietly but it quickly became extremely suspenseful. It seemed that UofT had built a small edge over the course of the match but that advantage was not converted into solid full game-points. To the contrary, things became quite rough for UofT when Boards 2, 3 and 4 drew their games, leaving Mark Plotkin fight against International Master Michael Song in a very challenging endgame.
The position was extremely asymmetrical in terms of material: Michael Song had a Queen, whereas Mark Plotkin had two somewhat uncoordinated minor pieces, three pawns and a fairly exposed King. Could Mark hold the draw against a stronger opponent? The answer is, he did! He defended brilliantly and he scored a draw, amid a big crowd of spectators who were holding their breaths throughout the endgame! This match proved that chess can, indeed, be an impressive game full of strong emotions and excitement. This one truly was an exciting moment! In last year’s match against Waterloo, Mark played Zi Yi Quin on board 2 and, due to an unfortunate miscalculation, his advantage evaporated and he even lost his game, allowing Waterloo to tie the match 2-2 and win the tournament. This time, however, it was the other way around!
But the tournament was far from over yet as both Western and Ottawa duly won their respective matches against UofT B and McGill. This meant that Western entered the last round of the tournament as the sole leader with 3.5 out of 4 match points, while Ottawa and UofT A were tied for second place with 3 out of 4 and within striking distance.
Thus, everything would be decided in the 5th and last round of the tournament. UofT A defeated UofT B with relative comfort and finished the tournament with 4 out of 5. But the final ranking turned on the result in the match between Western and Ottawa, the other two big rivals for the medals. In the end, the match was a draw, which meant that University of Ottawa was third with 3.5 out of 5.
As for the big winner of the tournament, the tie-breaking criteria provided the unequivocal answer: University of Toronto was the 2019 Canadian Universities Chess Champion!!
For a third time in a row, Toronto’s A team went undefeated with a score of 4.0/5.0! Formidable performances warrant warm congratulations to each and every one of our great players.
However, a special shoutout is called for for the Team Captain who, not only held the draw in the most critical match against Waterloo, but also contributed 4.5 points in 5 games!
It was an extremely close tournament and, in the end, it was thanks to the tiebreakers that our team managed to pull ahead and reclaim the most precious trophy in Canadian University Chess!
Quite naturally, things were a bit harder for University of Toronto B, as they were the underdog team of the upper division based on their starting rating (Avg. Rtng: 1804). However, the players enjoyed their matches and used this opportunity to compete at the highest level and gain as much experience as they could for the future. In fact, some of them managed to get some rating points!
A most delightful surprise, which is worth noting, was the presence of the Club Secretary, Leslie Tang (CFC 1756), on Team B! Leslie played on board 4 of the team providing a lot of inspiration as well as encouragement to the Team!
Finally, an honorable mention is owed to Jurgen Aliaj (CFC 1570), who bravely joined a Division 1 team as an alternate and even managed to score a draw against a stronger opponent winning some rating points!
But the fun does not stop at the upper division, of course! In the reserves section two of our teams competed really hard to bring back a second big award to the club! University of Toronto C included Jimmy Bartha, Sahan Karunaratne, Jonathan Moore and Alyssa Rusonik, who averaged a solid CFC 1454!
These players put up a really hard fight to help UofT achieve the double triumph but, in the end, the victory went to the truly deserving Team A of Queens University, who scored a breathtaking 5 match points out of 5 matches.
Following Queens’ perfect team score, the second place went to Ryerson University’s Team A with 4/5 and the bronze-medal position was won by Western University’s team B with 3.5/5 (Western saw its teams win an award in both divisions, even though on neither of the two occasions was it the gold medal).
Finally, University of Toronto D consisted of Henry Vu, BenJohn Libardo, Blake Jones and Jeremy Downey, who joined the competition, looking to gain more chess experience!
For some of them, it was their first-ever chess tournament! Thus, it is to be hoped that this competition will serve as the beginning of an even more exciting journey in chess and that it will only enhance their appetite for more games and further improvement!
Our club is ecstatic to thank each and every player who competed on behalf of the club. There were many impressive games from our members that made us really proud. Hart House Chess Club defines winning as the enjoyment and satisfaction of competing in a tournament. Awards such as trophies and the alike may be fantastic but our greatest pride is to say that the all of our players have won something from the tournament.
With that said, a special thanks is owed to Sahan Karunaratne, the External Events Coordinator of our club, who was the chief organizer of the logistics regarding UofT’s participation, including the trip, the registration and the accommodation of 20 people! His job was excellent.
A special shout-out goes out to FM/WGM Qiyu Zhou and her mother Penny Zhou. The former, played on board 2 of UofT’s Team A and wrote a beautiful blog post about the 2019 CUCC on chessbase.com which can be accessed here (it is a really good read coupled with a few annotated games as well as insights from within the tournament so we highly recommend it). The latter, covered the entire event for the popular Facebook page “Chess Tournaments in Canada” and provided most of the photos that we included in the present article.
Finally, Hart House Chess Club would like to thank the organizers of the tournament for all their hard work. Especially McMaster Chess Club’s Co-Presidents Alvin Leenus and Andrew Leber handled all the logistical pre-tournament questions very professionally. Of course, they were not alone in this. A team of tireless volunteers, including Selvin Leenus, Jacob Cianci, Harold Hunter, Kyrie Xu, Nikhil Patel and Vincent Hou contributed to the great success of the tournament. Given their devotion, it is small surprise that every complication that occurred during the tournament was dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
The bar is now set very high for future organizers and we are already looking forward to next year’s CUCC, which will be hosted by Laurier University! Until then, the precious Queen’s Cup for chess will be safely kept in the display case of University of Toronto’s Hart House!
The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, the crown jewel of college chess in the USA, is historically played in the days between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, December 27th to 30th. The competition is open to chess teams from post-secondary schools in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. This year’s Pan-Am featured 230 players competing on 53 teams, a slight decrease from last year’s 58 teams. Each Pan-Am team had four players (called “four boards”) and up to two alternates. At the end of six rounds in San Francisco, four of the U.S. schools qualified for the President’s Cup, to be held April 6th-7th, 2019, at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City: Webster University – the winner of the 2018 PanAms – The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and – surprise surprise! – Harvard University!
University of Toronto was represented by our Varsity Chess Team, including Joseph Bellissimo, James Fu, Tanner McNamara and Gary Huang (Average Rating: 2184). The team managed to score 2.5 match points in 6 rounds, winning the distinction of the top International Team of the Tournament! At an individual level, Joseph Bellissimo, the top board of the team, impressed everyone by scoring a splendid 5/6, not losing a single game, and therefore becoming the second best performer of the entire tournament on Board 1. Team Captain and experienced PanAm player, Tanner McNamara, has the report from the games!
Team Results for University of Toronto (Average Rating: 2184 – Placed 33rd)
Round 1: UofT Won 3.5 – 0.5 against University of Utah (Avg Rtng: 1315) Round 2: UofT Lost 3 – 1 to University of Maryland Baltimore (Avg. Rtng: 2484) Round 3: UofT Won 2.5 – 1.5 against The Ohio State University (Avg Rtng: 1784) Round 4: UofT Lost 3 – 1 to University of Texas Dallas D (Avg Rtng: 2385) Round 5: UofT Drew 2 – 2 against Arizona State University (Avg Rtng: 1835) Round 6: UofT Lost 3.5 – 0.5 against University College of Los Angeles (Avg Rtng: 2373)
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First off, I can’t write anything about this trip without saying a big thank you to Hart House, the chess club, all the executives, and everyone who helped and supported us from the qualifier through the event. It’s a huge honour to represent the University of Toronto at such a special event as Pan Ams.
As for the trip itself, things got off to a fun start when we had to move hotel rooms on the first day because the temperature was stuck at 24.5°C. But we did move rooms, we got more comfortable, and the tournament started well with a convincing victory over the University of Utah.
Regarding the venue, it was easy to tell we weren’t in San Francisco proper. Sure, the weather was beautiful and we had some nice views of the bay. But going out to look for food, we quickly discovered that Subway, by virtue of being basically the only restaurant not to close between lunch and dinner, would be our lunch spot every single day. Of course it didn’t help that Joseph is addicted to Subway, and then he started playing well and we couldn’t break his routine. And dinner would have to be in the hotel, because the night games ended after every restaurant closed. Seriously, you can’t even get late night pizza in Burlingame.
The chess got much tougher starting in round 2. We played reasonably well, but lost to a strong UMBC team 3-1. I grew up 15 minutes from UMBC, and I started playing chess the same year they won their first (of six!) Final Four. Growing up so close to the college chess scene, it was a dream come true when I was able to compete in Pan Ams for the first time.
But that was actually in 2014, for Carleton College. We had a great event, winning top small school and picking up top team upset for our win over NYU. We had a tough round four, though, paired against University of Toronto. I lost to an on-fire Nikita Gusev (who scored 5.5/6!). Four years later, now I’m in grad school at UofT, and I feel so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to go back to Pan Ams, now representing this school with such chess history, culture, and support.
Getting back to the chess, we had an easier matchup on paper against Ohio State in round 3, but we only barely managed to squeak by with a 2.5-1.5 victory. At times we were in danger of doing worse, but a win is a win, and this set us up for another tough matchup in the next round with the D team from University of Texas Dallas. Despite being a D team, they outrated us by a healthy margin on every board, and we ultimately lost 3-1.
In the fifth round we ended up in the top half of our score group again, and we were rewarded with another matchup favourable on paper against the C team from Arizona State. We just didn’t play well enough to win. After getting three good positions, we spoiled two of them and had to sweat out a saving swindle from Joseph on board one. But, as always in this event, he was up to the challenge. Although we couldn’t win the match, we pulled ahead of our international competition from Mexico with this draw.
With tied matches being uncommon in team competitions, we actually ended up underdogs in our final round against UCLA. For the first time, I saw my preparation still on the board after move three (this time to move 13!), but I rather quickly and recklessly spoiled what was a good position. We put up a decent fight but fell by a wide margin in the end. It must be noted that Joseph went into the final round with a chance for individual gold on board one. His hopes were dashed when Illia Nyzhnyk won for Webster-A, but a draw put him on 5/6 and in second place on board one. Mexico lost in the last round, and we clinched Top International, meeting one of our goals for the event.
We also thought before the start that we should have good chances to win our 2000-2199 rating division. At the awards ceremony, though, we saw a deserving Michigan team walk away with that hardware.
Another participant from the Ivy League Challenge, Harvard, went home with an even bigger prize – a trip to the Final Four in April courtesy of their fourth place finishing following a last round win over SLU-B. It was cool to see them do well, leaving two of the big schools – SLU and Texas Tech – on the outside looking in. Joining Harvard at the Final Four will be Pan Am winners Webster, UTD, and reigning champions UTRGV.
Personally, I failed to meet my standard of chess playing. I played a good warm up event earlier in December at the Hart House Holiday Open, picking up about 30 CFC rating points. I felt good going into Pan Ams, and then I promptly donated about 30 USCF rating points. Despite personal frustrations over the board, it was a fun event, and we stayed upbeat as we had our chances as a team, with the division and top international prizes still in play heading into the last round. Joseph, James, and Gary, thank you all for being such great teammates. I hope you had as much fun as I did.