Collegiate Chess League Season 5 Recap

Collegiate Chess League Season 5 Recap


GM Grigoriy Oparin from Mizzou won the Collegiate Chess League’s fifth season after defeating GM Mikhail Antipov, from the same university, in the Grand Finals. His clutch performance in a must-win game ultimately earned him the $1,600 first prize. This is the recap of the CCL’s fifth season and prize breakdown. 

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This CCL season, now in partnership with NACE Starleague, the largest collegiate esports league in North America, was the first time the league was run as an individual event, as opposed to the usual team format. Over 300 players qualified for the playoffs from the regular season, which consisted of six weeks of qualifier tournaments. 190 schools registered, which was an increase of over 80 schools from the last season. 

The winner of the regular season was GM Ruifeng Li from UT Austin, who beat Oparin in tiebreaks. 

Playoff Highlights

There were 19 playoff divisions, each having 16 players face off in a double-elimination bracket. This meant that despite losing one match players would have a chance to redeem themselves in the loser’s bracket. 

After a terrific run in the regular season, Li was well-poised for the playoffs, where he was the number-one seed. In the winners’ finals, he faced Oparin, the number-two seed, who managed to win the match after forcing a blitz tiebreak game. Li moved to the loser’s bracket while Oparin awaited his opponent in the Grand Finals.

Antipov, meanwhile, had to defeat GM Chris Repka, another teammate from Mizzou, after his loss to Oparin. He won in overtime 2-1.

His next match in the loser’s bracket was against IM Anna Sargsyan from Webster University, who put up an incredible performance. She won four matches in a row against all higher-seeded opponents: FM Justin Chen from NYU, IM Josiah Stearman from Mizzou, WGM Annamaria Marjanovic (her roommate and teammate from Webster), and GM Raja Harshit from Mizzou. Her startling run came to a close in her match against Antipov, who won 2-0. 

Ultimately, Li faced Antipov in the loser’s finals. After a win, he needed just a draw to secure the match, and the draw he found in the game was one that was so unusual it caused the remark from a surprised IM Eric Rosen: “That looked like a mouse slip at first!”

Li won $1,000 for finishing third while Antipov earned his ticket to the Grand Finals, where he would face Oparin.

Grand Finals Highlights

Oparin won the Grand Finals with a clutch performance, importantly winning a must-win game to force overtime and keep his season alive and then taking the final game of the match.

The eventual winner started off with a solid win in the first game in an English-turned-Reversed Benoni, but Oparin won the following one to force overtime. Antipov, however, went on to win two more games in a row to win their first match.

Due to Antipov finishing in the loser’s bracket, he still needed to defeat Oparin in two matches (while Oparin just needed one) to top the Grand Finals.

The road to victory may have seemed paved for Antipov as he started the second match with yet another win (three in a row!) and only needed a draw to close out the encounter. In a must-win situation, though, Oparin managed to pull through with the black pieces in a rook endgame with equal material but ever-so-slightly better places by move 66.

It all came down to the final tiebreak game where White’s more active king managed to break through in a same-color bishop endgame with equal pawns.

Oparin won $1,600 for finishing first, while Antipov took home $1,300 for his second-place finish.

For the full playoff standings for all divisions, go here.

Prize Breakdown

Division 1:

  1. Grigoriy Oparin – University of Missouri – Columbia: $1,600
  2. Mikhail Antipov – University of Missouri – Columbia: $1,300
  3. Ruifeng Li – University of Texas at Austin – $1,000
  4. Anna Sargsyan – Webster University – $850

Division 2: 

  1. Linden Lee – Yale University: $1,000
  2. Roman Gavrilin – Humber College: $700
  3. Asish Panda – Arizona State University: $600
  4. Andrew Titus – Georgia Institute of Technology: $500

Division 3:

  1. Naveen Prabhu – University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: $500
  2. Emilio Castellanos – Universidad Marista de Merida: $350
  3. Sanjana Vittal – Cornell University: $300
  4. Kevin Liu – University of Texas at Austin: $250

The spring season registration is now open and has $30,000 in prizes, our largest prize for the CCL ever.


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