Roommates become rivals
Webster teammates play against each other at Chess World Cup
By Kevin Smith
Vasif Durarbayli and Liem Le first competed against each other in a chess tournament in 2007. Durarbayli was 15. Le was 16. They played to a draw. Eight years later, Sept. 11, they faced off in the Chess World Cup 2015 held in Baku, Azerbaijan. This time, they were not strangers from different countries. They were teammates and roommates.
A second-year Webster student, Durarbayli, originally from Azerbaijan, was playing in his second World Cup. For junior and Vietnam native Le, it was his fifth. The Chess World Cup is held every other year, and only 128 players in the world can qualify.
Unlucky pairing The pairings for the tournament were released at the beginning of September. Webster Chess Team members and first-year roommates Durarbayli and Le said they were disappointed to find they would meet in the first round.
“We found out we were not lucky and had to play each other in the first round. Both of us didn’t really want to play each other,” Le said. “We would prefer to play other opponents, but we couldn’t do anything about it, so we had to play.”
Durarbayli said he was upset about the pairing because they were thinking they would prepare for the tournament together instead of against each other.
Durarbayli and Le were not scheduled to face each other in the tournament originally. The bracket had been officially released twice before, but after mistakes were found, the pairings were redone. The final release of the bracket was the one that hurt head coach Susan Polgar the most.
“Of course my heart is bleeding when I know I have to lose the potential of one of my students going to the next stage of the World Cup, but there was nothing I could have done about it,” Polgar said. “It’s just one of those things that sometimes just happens.”
Durarbayli and Le both said they felt odd preparing for a match against each other. They said it was also difficult because of how well they knew each other. “It’s very hard to play someone you know so well,” Le said. “They know you, and you also know them, so it can work both ways. You really have to try to do something differently than you usually do to get the opponent surprised.
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