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March 21, 2007

Arch-Rivals Prepare for Rematch in Final Four of College Chess

Short-Handed UMBC in for a Fight Against UT-Dallas


The opening rounds are over and millions of men’s college basketball fans eye the upcoming Sweet 16 round, brackets either intact or destroyed. While these multitudes focus on the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament and which schools will advance this weekend to the Final Four, a quieter but equally intense rivalry will be underway March 24-25 in Dallas.

One of college sports' top rivalries will be on once again as America's top four chess powerhouses - the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), Duke University and Miami Dade College - face off in the Final Four of College Chess.

In a rare occurrence, all four teams from last year’s Final Four return to battle this year. The participants in the Final Four are determined by the standings in the Pan Am Intercollegiate Chess Tournament, held in December 2006.

UTD and UMBC are the undisputed top two teams in the nation and among only a handful of American colleges that offer full scholarships to top chess players from around the world and hold pep rallies to celebrate victories. UMBC, fresh off its 2005 victory over UTD in the Pan Am Tournament, the top annual competition in college chess, relinquished the 2006 Pan Am to UTD when the event moved for one year to Washington, D.C.

UMBC will be without its top player, Alex Onischuk, who will be playing in a top-level international tournament in his native Russia. Sergey Erenburg, who won the UMBC Open tournament earlier this month, will take Onischuk’s place, anchoring Board 1 for the Retrievers.

“Without Onischuk, it will be a very close fight between UTD and UMBC,” said UMBC chess program director and professor of computer science Alan Sherman.

In 2003 and 2004, UTD has bumped UMBC off the college chess throne with two nail-biter, half-point victories in the Pan Am. Dozens of national and international universities participate annually in the Pan Am, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and the Universities of Chicago, Peru and Toronto. Yet UTD remains the only team able to consistently turn back UMBC.

Fans can follow the Final Four of College Chess live online at the Internet Chess Club Web site,, or at

Posted by crose at March 21, 2007 1:03 PM