The UTD Chess team won the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship in Milwaukee outright for the first time in the university’s history.
Teams from across the Western Hemisphere com- peted in the tournament.
The top four American teams at the Pan-American Championship automatically qualify for the Final Four, which takes place April 1-3 in Washington D.C., Director of Chess James Stallings said.
“This is truly the crown jewel of college chess,” Stallings said. “The Final Four doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play in this. Towinitlikewedidisnot easy.”
The other three schools to qualify were UT Brownsville, Texas Tech and University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Three UTD teams com- peted at the tournament. The “A” Team, the school’s most competitive, finished the tournament with a 6-0 record. Stallings said the best previous finish a UTD team had was 5-1.
The final few rounds were
the toughest for the team, Stallings said. Each oppo- nent they faced had national and international stars.
“In the last three rounds, we had to go up against three teams, each of which had three grand masters and one international master,” Stallings said. “In that run of 12 games, we only lost one game out of 12. Not only did we face the stiff- est competition, but we also had our best record. We’ve never had a 6-0 score.”
Three UTD teams com- peted at the Pan-American Championship. The “B” Team finished 4-2 overall and the “C” Team finished in the middle of the pack.
The “C” Team is made up entirely of women, and were the only women’s team at the tournament, Stallings said.
A victory at the Pan- American Championship is the perfect springboard for the Final Four, Stallings said.
“You’d much rather go into it having won than not having won,” Stallings said. “It makes the players feel good.”
Stallings said the UTD Chess program started in 1996, which is new com- pared to other established programs like UT-Brownsville and UMBC.
The success the team has had in such a short amount of time is a reflection of the players’ work ethic and prac- tice, Stallings said.
“They truly do have to work a lot and study. In modern chess, you can’t just go in and wing it,” Stallings said. “It’s like football teams viewing film. These guys are memorizing hundreds of variations and openings.”
Senior player Karina Vazirova credited the success
to the team’s work ethic and also its chemistry.
“The success was definite- ly backed up by a combina- tion of practice, experience, and of course the unique multicultural chemistry that drove the team,” Vazirova said.
Stallings again praised the players for their perfor- mance at the Pan-American Championship, which adds to the growing list of UTD Chess championships.
“The players all were able to rally. They could have lost those games but they came back. Their training and resil- iency made it possible for us to win those matches.”