With heavy coats, layers of clothes and a positive attitude packed, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Chess Team boarded its flight Sunday, bound for Milwaukee.

Two teams, eight students total, traveled to Wisconsin to take part, for the fifth year, in the 2010 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship, Dec. 27 to Dec. 31; a qualifying tournament for the 2011 President’s Cup.

“Until now we have been preparing and practicing for the most affective results,” said UTB-TSC Chess Player Woman Grandmaster Nadya Ortiz, who was waiting to check her bags at Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. “But most importantly I think the best way to prepare is with a positive attitude and that is what we are taking with us. My opinion is if you believe and have a positive attitude, you will do much better.”

UTB-TSC will need to place among the top four U.S. universities at the tournament to qualify for the President’s Cup, the Final Four of College Chess, which will be held April 2-3, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

“This being our fifth time at this qualifying tournament, we know what to expect in aspects of the tournament, but it’s always the same – hectic,” said UTB-TSC Chess Director Russell Harwood. “When you travel the day after Christmas, that is expected. What is always up in the air is the match ups and the luck of the draw of who you play against.”

Harwood said the Pan American games are played using the Swiss-system tournament, a commonly used type of tournament where players or teams play head-to-head. In this tournament, opponents are paired using a random, color-coded system.

“Our main goal is to get into the top four to qualify for the Final Four Tournament,” Harwood said. “I feel really good about it.”

UTB-TSC has had success at the Final Four tournament. In 2009, the team placed second in its first appearance. The team also placed second in 2010 when the university hosted the games, finishing just a half-point behind the University of Maryland-Baltimore County for the championship.

“This is my fourth time at this tournament, but you always get the same feeling every year,” said Arturo Garcia, a UTB-TSC chess team member. “Nervous and excited all at the same time is the only way to describe it.”

UTB-TSC has seen fast success in the chess arena after it started competing in 2001.

The team won the National K-12/Collegiate Championships in 2005. The university was named Chess College of Year by the U.S. Chess Federation in 2007.