Chess may not be a varsity sport, but that didn’t stop the Penn Chess Club from nabbing its third straight Ivy League championship last February.
Penn sent two teams of four — teams A and B — and one team of two to the third annual Inter-Ivy League Chess Tournament, which was hosted for the third time in a row by Columbia.
Penn A was comprised of graduate student Alisa Melekhina, junior Kasun Waidyaratne and sophomore Peter Hess as well as junior, club president and captain Zachary Weiner. Penn A eventually won the championship by tying Brown A.
The tourney was played in four rounds, with four matches per round. One point was awarded per match win, and one-half of a point was awarded to each team in the case of a draw. The cumulative scores over four rounds determined the winner.
Penn A got off to a quick start. By the beginning of the third round, it was tied for the lead at 2-0 with Brown A and Columbia B by the beginning of the third round. In the third round, however, Penn A faced Brown A while Penn B played Columbia B.
“The toughest match was against Brown,” Weiner wrote in an email. “We tied with them when we played them. They had an extremely strong top two boards.”
The third round ended in a tie between Penn A and Brown A, while Columbia B defeated Penn B. The fourth round failed to resolve the Penn-Brown tie, as both Penn A and Brown A defeated their opponents and ended with a 3.5-.5 record.
Although Princeton, Yale and Cornell were unable to send players to the tournament, there were a total of twelve teams — five of which came from Columbia.
The predominance of Columbia teams meant that no team protection was applied when pairings were matched. And while the Penn teams were not set against each other, Columbia got off to a rough start when Columbia A and Columbia B were matched together in the first round.
“The most exciting part is watching your teammates’ games and rooting for them,” Weiner said.
Last year, Penn and Columbia shared the title, while the year prior — the inaugural edition of the Inter-Ivy League Chess Tournament — Penn won outright.
Weiner himself has been to the tournament all three times.
“Many of the players at this tournament were repeat participants,” he said. “Anything can happen in any given game, though, so you can’t base too much off of prior results.
“For me personally, my last game came down to the wire, so I was extremely focused on the game and not on my team. When I came out of ‘the zone’ of my game, I was ecstatic to find out we had been crowned Ivy League Champs once again!”
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