UTM students spent hours sacrificing pawns, battling knights, and defeating kings to win third place at the Canadian Universities Chess Championship held at Hart House earlier this month.
It was the first time the UTM Chess Club participated in the January 10–11 tournament, which was open to teams from postsecondary schools across the country.
“We knew we were underdogs. Nobody expected us to do well. Nobody except us,” said Prateek Sanyal, the club’s vice-president.
According to Sanyal, the CUCC is considered the official Canadian university tournament and is one of the biggest chess tournaments in Canada.
To prepare for the tournament, the one-and-a-half-year-old UTM Chess Club held a qualifier among its own members. Once the qualifications were done, the final team members practised against each other.
The tournament featured two streams: open, consisting of professional teams, and U1800, the standard stream that UTM played in. In each of five rounds, each team played another team, player versus player in four separate chess games. According to a post on the UTM Chess Club’s blog, some of the games took over four hours.
Five students represented UTM at the tournament: Prateek Sanyal, Seiji Nakagawa, Alex Vilchynsky, Nikhil Gupta, and Ivan Manasuev.
UTM was only defeated by the team from U of T St. George.
In first two rounds, UTM defeated the teams from Queen’s and Western before achieving a draw with York, which occurs when two of the four teammates win against two players from the other school.
After beating Ryerson in the fourth round, UTM was pitted against the St. George team for the final.
UTM required a draw against St. George to win the tournament.
Fifteen minutes into the round, Gupta opted to resign. After a few hours Nakagawa lost his game, leaving Sanyal and Vilchynsky to finish the round.
“We both had to win in order to win the tournament,” remarked Sanyal.
Sanyal won his game, and Vilchynsky was left to play the last game remaining in the U1800 category. The team who won the game would win the tournament.
“After fighting long and hard, Alex eventually lost and we slipped down to third place,” said Sanyal.
The St. George team came in first.
“We went home with heavy hearts because we missed first place by an inch, but hey, we came third in Canada,” added Sanyal, who was the UTM player with the highest rating.
The CUCC was the second tournament the UTM Chess Club has participated in during this school year. Sanyal said that UTM had won all the games in its first tournament, which was against teams from Brock, Ryerson, and York.
The UTM Chess Club also plans to hold an internal tournament this year, expected to be announced in a few weeks. The club continues to host regular meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays for all students to attend.