Chess: U.S. Amateur Team West


The U.S. Amateur Team Championship—West (USATW) was first held in February of 1984, attracting 29 teams. This year, the USATW was hosted by the Mechanics’ Institute, the oldest chess club in the U.S. For the first time, the chess teams played online rather than in-person. Three more U.S. Amateur Team Championships are coming up online, on the last three weekends in February.

On January 30-31, the Mechanics’ Institute organized the U.S. Amateur Team Championship—West (USATW). Results are posted here. The USATW had an Open section (35 teams) and an under 1800 section (40 teams). Each team had four players. For the Open section, the average rating of the team had to be under 2200, with each individual’s rating taken from the higher of their US Chess over-the-board or online ratings for January of 2021. Players had to have their cameras on, to be observed on Zoom during their games.

The Mechanics’ Institute Twitch channel provided commentary for all six rounds, three on Saturday the 30th and three on Sunday the 31st. The time control was game in 60 minutes with a 10-second increment. Four chess puzzles, taken from games played during the USATW, are featured in this article.

Round 1 Puzzle

In Round 1, playing on the lowest (fourth) boards for their respective teams, were Nicholas Boldi (US Chess-rated 1883) of the Riveting Rooks team and Junior Mejia (1602) of the University of California, Berkeley “A” team, which ultimately finished second in the USATW. White (Boldi) plays 41. a8 (Q), where 41. gxh3 is the correct move. What did Black play now?

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Correct is 41…h2, with a checkmate threat of 42…Qg1.

Play continued 41…h2! 42. Qxf6+ and now Black could have won quickly with 42…gxf6 43. Qb7+ Kh6 44. Qxb6 (forced, because of the checkmate threat on g1) 44…Qxb6 and Black is a queen ahead. After 42…Qxf6, Black won on move 71.

2021 US Amateur Team West

Round 3 Puzzle

In Round 3, playing on second boards for their respective teams, International Master Keaton Kiewra (2459) of the Alpha Zero Tech Support team had White against Grandmaster Jim Tarjan (2469) of the Mechanics’ Institute team. Black has just played 30…Nd4?, coming from f3. Better was 30…Ng5 with an equal game. Twitch commentator FIDE Master Paul Whitehead, who is the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Coordinator, spotted the tactic that White played. Can you find White’s move?

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White gains a pawn with 31. Bxe5! Black could not play 31…Bxe5? 32. Rd8#. The game ended as a draw on move 49.

2021 US Amateur Team West

Round 4 Puzzle

In round 4, on move 101, White made the mistake of moving his bishop on b4 to e7, which allows a draw in what should be a winning position. Then Black missed the correct reply. However, both White and Black had less than five minutes on their clocks. White was Kristian Clemens (1997), playing on third board for the Riveting Rooks team. Black was Eric Zhang (1809), from the San Jose Chess Club Chivalry team. The game was drawn on move 128.

Mechanics’ Institute Grandmaster-in-Residence Nick de Firmian, who was Twitch commentating along with Whitehead and Chess Room Director Abel Talamantez, found the drawing move for Black. Can you find that move for Black?

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101…Re5, forks the white rook and bishop. If the white rook moves off the e-file, the black rook captures the bishop and the endgame is a draw. If 102. Rxe5 the black king is stalemated.

Round 5 Puzzle

In round 5, National Master Arjun Bharat (2261), who played second board for the USATW-winning University of California, Berkeley “B” team, defeated FIDE Master Teemu Virtanen (2368), of the University of California, Berkeley “A” team. White is winning this position in a variety of ways. Can you find White’s mate-in-three?

Click to see the solution

29. Qg8+ Rxg8 30. Rxg8+ Kxg8 31. Rxe8#.

Upcoming Tournaments

There are three more U.S. Amateur Team Championships coming up this month. The U.S. Amateur Team—East is February 13-14; the U.S. Amateur Team—North is February 20-21; and the U.S. Amateur Team—South is February 27-28. The winning teams from the West, East, North, and South will playoff online to determine the national champion U.S. Amateur Team.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on