The University of Toronto participated in the FIDE Binance Business Schools Super Cup 2021 this past weekend, 9-11 July. Organized by SKOLKOVO, the Moscow School of Management, the event attracted several other Russian schools, but was truly international with teams from Bangladesh, Fiji, England, India, Mexico, Philippines, Switzerland, USA, Zambia, and of course our Canadian team. 32 teams were sorted into four groups of eight, with a 7-round round robin group stage played over the first two days. The top two teams from each group would qualify to the knockout final on the last day. Rapid games (10’+2”) were played on lichess, with standard anti-cheating measures in place.
Placed in group C, Toronto began as the second rating favourites behind Moscow School of Management, led by GM Joël Lautier, with a strong Adam Smith Business School from Scotland looking like a threat to take a qualifying spot as well. Toronto was represented by regular team players Koosha Jaferian, Joseph Bellissimo, and Dai Wenzhi on the top 3 boards, and joined by Dayana Nasybullina on board 4, with team captain Tanner McNamara and Henry Prickett listed as alternates.
In the first round, we managed a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Moscow, putting both teams in a good position to qualify, but with a lot of chess to go. In a great finish to day one, Toronto gathered all 12 possible points from the next three rounds (game points, ahead of match points, were used to determine qualification) – against Business School IMD (Switzerland, round 2), Chicago Booth (USA, round 3), and Escuela Superior de Comercio y Administr (Mexico, round 4). Moscow had dropped more points, but already had a 2.5-1.5 victory over Adam Smith. At the end of day 1, Toronto led the group with 14 points, Moscow trailed with 12.5, and Adam Smith was just behind at 11.5. The round 6 matchup between Toronto and Adam Smith looked set to decide qualification, with Moscow, on paper, having easier games the second day.
In round 5, both Moscow and Adam Smith scored clean sweeps while Toronto dropped a half point to Brook Besor University from Zambia, narrowing the margin a little. In round six, we routed Adam Smith 3.5-0.5 in a match that was far closer than the final score indicated. Joseph held his game a pawn down against his IM opponent on board 2, while the highlight of the match for me was Koosha coming from two pawns down to win his game on board 1. With that score line, we clinched our spot in the knockout, though places were still to be decided – Moscow picked up another half point on us and could overtake us in the next round. Waiting for us in the quarterfinals would be another Russian school – either Perm State or Ranepa, who were guaranteed first and second in group D, in some order. In round 7, I took the opportunity to rest Koosha and play Henry, making his debut for the competitive team. He rewarded us handsomely with a brilliant victory, leading us to a 4-0 sweep over the Indian Institute of Management Jammu 2. With that we held off Moscow to win the group, having collected a remarkable 25 out of a possible 28 game points.
In the quarterfinals on the next day, we were paired against a strong Ranepa team that actually scored the most match points in their group, but finished second to Perm State by half a game point. This was such a stressful match for me to watch – while Joseph won quickly on board 2 to put us up 1-0, things were not looking great on the other boards. Koosha had a fine position,
but I was wondering how many winning chances he had. Dayana got into a spot of trouble on board 4, and Dai Wenzhi was forced to give up a rook for two pieces on board 3. Thanks to some imprecise play from her opponent, Dayana got active and was able to make a draw. Koosha played into the endgame, but the final result of a draw was no surprise. With the score 2-1 in our favour, I felt an armageddon tiebreak was looming as Dai Wenzhi was facing two pieces and two pawns for his rook now. By some miracle, and aided by time trouble, he somehow forced a draw against his FM opponent, and we were perhaps a bit lucky to advance 2.5-1.5. The rest of Sunday though, luck was not on our side. We faced MIPT in the semifinals, a team we had previously tied 2-2 at the Kasparov Chess Foundation Cup. While Koosha held a draw against his titled opponent, the rest of the team couldn’t capitalize on their chances, and we dropped the match 3.5-0.5, our first match defeat of the whole event. The day was not yet over, though, as we had a chance to play for third place, this time against our group rivals and hosts, Moscow School of Management. We could not, however, replicate our 2-2 result against them, and we finished in 4th place after a 3-1 defeat. Dai Wenzhi played brilliantly in his victory, but we did not get enough on the other boards. There was a chance, for a moment, missed in time trouble to make a draw on board 1. On board 4, it seemed we got an okay position, but it turned into a sour endgame. And board 2 was a wild sacrificial affair that began from a good position for UofT, and I can only imagine there were many twists and turns and imprecisions at the rapid time control. For most of the game, all three results seemed possible, but it was Moscow emerging victorious on that board and in the match.
After Toronto had no games left to distract me, the organizers graciously invited me on to the live broadcast, which previously hosted FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich and 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, among other guests – what a fun experience for me! I must say, they did a phenomenal job with the event and with the broadcast (there were streams in both Russian and English). A huge thank you to the organizers, FIDE, and the many sponsors, with a special thank you to Oxana Kosteniuk, Alexey Goryachev, Ivan Khvorov, Tania Karali, and of course the arbiter Alex Holowczak – they all did a great job!
A huge congratulations to the winners from Shri Ram College of Commerce from India, after defeating MIPT in a best-of-2 final. Well done to MIPT, too, and congratulations to the hosts from Moscow on a well-deserved third place finish.
Written by Tanner McNamara