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December 16, 2003

Record Book, Rivalry at Stake as Nation's Top College Chess Teams Battle for Bragging Rights

North Carolina vs. Duke. Kansas vs. Oklahoma. Kentucky vs. Louisville. This winter, sports fans across the country are licking their chops in anticipation of the renewal of these classic college basketball rivalries.

Before most of those contests tip off, a lesser-known but equally contentious matchup will get underway on Dec. 27 in Miami.

The battleground is a chessboard instead of the hardwood, but one of the fiercest, most closely contested battles for bragging rights in all of college sports will commence as America's top two chess powerhouses - The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) - once again face off as the favorites to win the 2003 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, the World Series of College Chess.

UTD and UMBC are the undisputed top two teams in the nation, and among only a handful of schools nationwide who attract the world's best chess players with full scholarships and hold pep rallies to celebrate victories.

This year's UMBC team has a dual goal: win the title and earn a place in the college chess record book. A UMBC win this year would shatter the University of Toronto's record for overall (1965, 1973, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1982) and most consecutive (the run from '80 to '82) titles or ties for first place.

"Last year UMBC made the Grand Slam of college chess, winning the Pan-Am, the President's Cup, and the National Collegiate Chess League (NCCL)," says Alan Sherman, Director of the Chess Program and Associate Professor of Computer Science at UMBC. "This year, we intend to make chess history with an unprecedented seventh win at the Pan-Am."

Meanwhile, UTD, who lost the past two Pan Ams by a combined margin of just two points, is just as determined to regain the title. And the trash talking has already begun.

Tim Redman, director of the chess program and professor of literary studies at UTD, said in a UTD press release, “UMBC no doubt will be favored on the basis of the chess ratings of its players. But we have some excellent new players, and UMBC will be making a big mistake if it takes us too lightly.”

UMBC player Pascal "The Frenchman" Charbonneau, for one, doesn't seem intimidated. “Well, I can't stop them from dreaming, now can I?” says Charbonneau. "In all seriousness, they are a great team, but I believe UMBC will have the upper hand."

No matter which university comes away with the title this year, it will be a victory for and a reaffirmation of the importance of academic sports at public universities. Both UMBC and UTD's chess programs have earned national recognition for celebrating the life of the mind and intellectual achievement while regularly beating strong teams from Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford.

"Our players are winners over the board and in the classroom," says Sherman. UMBC's four top players boast an average chess rating of 2582 and an average GPA of 3.58.

The Pan Am will be held Dec. 27-30 at Embassy Suites near the Miami International Airport.

About UMBC

UMBC, named a 2003 "Hot School" by Kaplan/Newsweek, is a medium-sized, selective, public research university situated on 500 acres between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. With an enrollment of more than 11,000, UMBC has earned national recognition for giving undergraduates early research opportunities and for its programs aimed at increasing the numbers of women and minorities in science and technology fields. The campus is home to the nationally-known Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, the Shriver Center, and a number of major research centers. For additional information about UMBC, please visit the university's web site at www.umbc.edu

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 13,700 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's web site at www.utdallas.edu.

Posted by dwinds1 at December 16, 2003 12:00 AM