Celebrating the victory of the CMU Tartans in the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Chess League season

The CMU Tartans won the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Chess League (division I)!

Out of 6 matches (there were 7 rounds with a bye round for each team), we won the first 5 matches, losing only the final match.

We celebrated by having dinner at Curry on Murray in Squirrel Hill, organized by our team captain, Jeff. Our team had 8 members, 6 of whom were able to make it to the dinner (Ruan and Ed were unable to attend).

Meet the CMU Tartans team

I should note that Carnegie Mellon University actually has more than one team. In addition to the CMU Tartans, there is also Carnegie Mellon University I, a lower-rated team in division I, and Carnegie Mellon University II, a team in division II. I assume that these teams are composed primarily of Carnegie Mellon undergrad students.

On paper, the CMU Tartans was a very strong team, with the highest rating in division I, and therefore a favorite to win (which we did):

Not all 8 of our team members played in every round. Since it is very important to have at least 4 members show up for each match, because the team match score is based on 4 official games for each team during a round, I would like to recognize, in order of number of games played:

Here are the team members, in board order:

Ruan Lufei, current rating 2569 (played 2 games)

Ruan scored 2-0.

Ruan is actually world famous, being one of the top woman chess players in the world. She has the Woman Grand Master (WGM) title and was the runner-up in the 2010 Women’s World Championship, in which she faced Hou Yifan but lost. She is hard at work in the CMU PhD program in accounting, so she has these years been focused on completing her studies rather than on chess. She is far, far stronger than the rest of the CMU Tartans team!

Iryna Zenyuk, current rating 2327 (played 1 game)

Iryna scored 0.5-0.5.

Iryna has the Woman International Master (WIM) title and is one of the top ten woman chess players in the United States. She has been in the CMU PhD program in mechanical engineering, but has managed to find time to play in the US Chess Championships. Here is a recent interview of her leading up to the 2013 US Chess Championships.

Daniel Malkiel, current rating 2182 (played 6 games)

Dan scored 4.0-2.0.

Dan has an MS from CMU in Logic and Computation. He was the 2012 PA State Champion.

Jeffrey Quirke, current rating 2179 (played 5 games)

Jeff scored 3-2.

Jeff is also a CMU alumnus, with an MSEE in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Franklin Chen, current rating 2164 (played 2 games)

I scored 2-0.

I only played in the first two of the six team matches, my first games upon returning to chess after a long absence: round 2 and round 3. After that, I became very busy, unfortunately, and did not play for the team in the final four rounds. I took a complete break from chess early this year after winning the 2013 Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship.

Edward Dean, current rating 2136 (played 5 games)

Ed scored 3.5-1.5.

Ed is currently in the CMU PhD program in Pure and Applied Logic. He was Pittsburgh Chess Club champion in both 2011 and 2012. I have covered two of my games against him on my blog, neither of which I won: a draw and a loss.

Luka Glinsky, current rating 2032 (played 1 game)

Luka played in the final round, scoring 0-1.

Luka is a CMU undergrad in drama (acting), graduating with a BFA in a couple of weeks! I first met him on the chess scene when he was about 14 years old, a strong junior player. He has had very little time for chess in the past 4 years as a student at CMU, ha! We will miss him as he leaves Pittsburgh to pursue his acting career.

Avi Schreiber, current rating 1926 (played 2 games)

Avi scored 2-0.

I first met Avi years ago when he was an undergrad at Pitt playing for one of the Pitt teams, but since he joined the staff at CMU, he joined the CMU Tartans.

Some interesting discussions

During dinner we had fun just socializing for a while, but then of course Jeff pulled out a chess set, and we enjoyed solving chess puzzles together and analyzing some games.

I thought it was interesting that people had different opinions about the weight of “talent” versus hard work in getting good at chess, and how good an “average” person could get at chess. Some of us seemed very optimistic about how far one could get in chess simply through hard work, using deliberate practice; others of us acknowledged the importance of work, but felt that there was a lower ceiling of possibility because of talent.

We went through one of Dan’s games that was particularly interesting that I plan to write a separate blog post about, and also one of Jeff’s games that illustrated subtleties in apparently simplified positions.


The CMU Tartans rule again! It was a fun time. Thank you, Jeff, for organizing this dinner! I hope to be able to play more than two rounds for the team next year.

(Update of 2016-01-09)

I didn’t play in the Pittsburgh Chess League in 2013-2014 or 2014-2015, but have been enjoying being with the CMU Tartans again, now on board two, for the 2015-2016 season, which has three more rounds to go. Jeff and Ed are still on the team, but the rest of the 2012-2013 team have left town.

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