Friday, February 3

Amateur Team Fever Hits the Bay

(The photo at left shows the
2011 Amateur Team West champions, USC captained by IM Jack Peters. On the right is the 2000-01 Stanford chess team at the Pan Am Intercollegiate, with FM Philip Wang playing against GM Yuri Shulman of UT-Dallas.)

For more than 35 years, the President's Day weekend has been dedicated to the People's Tournament. Unfortunately, the traditional venue at UC Berkeley no longer was available for the past four years. Local organizers tried to find a viable replacement.

Now I can recommend a unique national tournament on February 18-20: Amateur Team West. Instead of playing just for yourself, join a 4-player team (plus an optional alternate). If you score 2.5 or more, you win the match and your team earns a point. Pairings each round are done by team, not individual players. (The individual scores contribute to the first tiebreaker.) The team that scores the most out of 6 rounds wins the tournament and advances to an internet playoff against champions from East, Midwest and South.

Sound fun? Yeah! Here are the details:
  • Event: Amateur Team West (there's also East, Midwest and South)
  • Dates: Feb 18-20 (no 2-day schedule)
  • Venue: Santa Clara Hyatt Regency ($109/night)
  • Rating: Average of top 4 < 2200 + board 4 within 1000 of board 3; use January ratings
  • Format: 6-SS (team), all teams in one big section
  • Rounds: Sat/Sun 11:30 and 5:00, Mon 10:00 and 3:30
  • Time control: 30/90, SD/60 (max 5 hours per round)
  • Prizes: Team Trophy and four Commemorative Clocks: top 3 overall, top U2000, U1800, U1600, U1400, U1200, top family, top all-junior, top school, top company plus board prizes
  • Playoff: 1st place team faces winners from East, Midwest and South in an internet playoff!
  • Entry: $188/team or $47/player by Feb 14
  • Flyer:
  • Info:
If you are trying to win the tournament and thus qualify for the internet playoff, then you will probably need a team with average of 2100+. No doubt, whoever is on board 1 will face strong masters, probably a few IMs and maybe a GM. There are two common strategies to build a winning team:
  • Balanced team, meaning everyone between 2050 and 2300
  • Stack team, meaning two (or three) high rated masters and a low but underrated board 4 to keep the average under 2200 (note: the 1000 point rule prevents a team of 2600, 2500, 2400, 1299)
I prefer a balanced team, but the stack lineup can be very successful if board 4 is a B player who draws against experts. Keep in mind that this event uses the January rating list, generated shortly after Thanksgiving, so December and January tournaments do not count.

How to find a team? If you can play with your family, school, or long time chess buddies, then that always seems the most fun. Although everyone plays in the same section, there are plenty of class prizes (by rating) so a high average is not mandatory. If you can't find anyone, or have just 2 or 3 players, then register and get onto the "Looking for" lists.

Finally, make sure to pick a creative team name--there are special prizes! The 99 percent have already chosen to "Occupy FIDE". The "ChessPunks" (see photo at right from a year ago) may sound like a rap team from Da Hood, but instead they study the openings of classical composers like Taimanov, Reti and Philidor. And the organizer Salman Azhar asked me if I knew of any "fPWNers". Regretfully, I will not be able to attend, so my students will have to PWN for me.