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SUNDAY at the CCSCSL: WashU vs. Lindenwood Braggin' Rights

Saint Louis collegiate programs from Washington University and Lindenwood will meet for the third time this Sunday at 2:00 p.m, with Lindenwood holding both series wins.

This Sunday, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center is hosting a special grudge match between two of Saint Louis’ collegiate chess programs: Lindenwood versus Washington University.

Sunday's match is the third annual meeting between the two Saint Louis programs, with Lindenwood winning the previous two. This year’s battle, however, has grown to its biggest and strongest field yet: The 2014 showdown features 12 boards, with several quality matchups on the top boards.

“This year, the match is unprecedented in size, with 12 players for each,” said Willy Kane, the vice president of the WashU chess club who has played at the school for four years. “Plus I think, in terms of averages and individual matchups, this year they are a lot closer than previous years. I did a little calculation of my own, and the WashU team average -- including two unrated players -- is around 1950, while Lindenwood is a bit over 1800. In other words, I think this is going to be a really competitive match.”

The bragging rights event serves as an important highlight for each school, despite both programs serving different purposes within.

“Collegiate chess is not structured like many other sports, it doesn’t have that type of organization for intercollegiate competitions,” said Tim Nesham, the manager of Lindenwood’s chess program. “I personally would like to see more matches like this one between Lindenwood and WashU. A match like this fits in with the University’s desires: Lindenwood is not as focused on individual chess players playing in tournaments, as much as it is interested in the competition of its whole team, between different universities.”

Where Lindenwood provides scholarships and funding to its chess program, used for coaching, tournament entry fees and travel expenses, Washington University is a student-organized club nearly self-supported, meeting weekly on Wednesday evenings. A rivalry match against Lindenwood serves as an avenue for regular club players to taste the competitive side of chess.

“The idea behind it is to get a lot of WashU chess players who might not normally play in a truly competitive event, like the Pan-Ams or even the Saint Louis Chess Club’s Thanksgiving Open, and give them the opportunity to play in a competitive setting,” Kane said. “When Lindenwood opened their new program a few years ago, we relished the opportunity for our members who might not be rated as high as 2000 to have the opportunity to play.”

The way this year’s field is shaping up, those competitive newcomers may be pivotal in tipping the scales toward one school’s favor. The top boards of Lindenwood’s “A-team” -- Nolan Hendrickson (2183), Nicholas Rosenthal (2218), Alex Richter (2225) and International Master Priyadharshan Kannappan (2566), who is dangerously close to earning his Grandmaster title -- pair quite well with those from WashU. Nicolas Karlow (2239) is a strong player who recently earned his National Master title; and Mark Heimann (2447), who will face “Priya” on the top board, has done well in such elite tournaments as the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships and proven the ability to hold his own against 2500 players.

But both Nesham and Kane expect those top boards to play out as a wash -- leaving the bottom boards to decide the match’s fate. And no rating will serve as an accurate predictor.

“The curious thing about ratings is that they can be utterly deceiving,” Kane said. “For instance, I didn’t play a single game of competitive chess since I was 12 and had a rating around 1250. But when I first came to WashU, I was obviously a much stronger player and gained around 600 rating points in that first year. A lot of these ratings might be way off a player’s actual strength, and that’s what really has the potential to make these lower-board matchups quite volatile. I see some Lindenwood players rated 1200, 700 and unrated -- and I’m a little suspicious as to what those ratings might actually be.”

“Regardless, we’re having fun but make no doubt about it: We’re very much hoping that this is going to be our year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WashU team come together as nicely as it has, in terms of people showing the desire to play, and also just the sheer strength of the team we have showing up. It really bodes well for the future of the WashU chess club.”


The moves from all 12 boards of Sunday's WashU vs. Lindenwood braggin' rights match will go live at 2:00 p.m. Central. The CCSCSL politely reminds you to roll back your clock for Daylight Savings, and develop your minor pieces.