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December 20, 2007

‘Kiev Killer,’ ‘Cuban Cyclone’ and ‘Polish Magician’ Descend on Miami

Rivalry Between UMBC and University of Texas-Dallas Renews
at Pan-Am Intercollegiate Chess Championship, Dec. 27-30

Mike Lurie

Office: 410-455-6380
Cellphone: 443-695-0262

Dec. 20, 2007

BALTIMORE – Michigan and Ohio State in football … Duke and North Carolina in basketball … The mere mention of these institutions in the same sporting breath evokes the fiercest of college rivalries. That same intensity holds true in chess, where the kings of the collegiate game are the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Texas-Dallas.

UMBC and UTD will compete again for the title of intercollegiate champion at the 2007 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship , known as “The World Series of College Chess.” The tournament runs Dec. 27-30 at Miami-Dade College.

The UMBC-UTD rivalry intensified when UTD won the title at last year’s Pan-Am, just a year after UMBC had reclaimed the title at the 2005 Pan-Am for a record seventh championship.

The Pan-Am includes teams from Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Its international flavor has been embodied by such schools as the University of Toronto and the Catholic University of Peru. Host Miami-Dade College is a rising power, thanks to an influx of top Cuban players.

UMBC, where pep rallies for the chess team are routine, features such standouts as freshman Alex “The Washington Wizard” Barnett of Kensington, Md., and sophomore Ryan Goldenberg of West Haven, Conn. A group of colorfully nicknamed grandmasters anchors the Retrievers’ squad: Katrina “the Kiev Killer” Rohonyan of Ukraine, Pawel “The Polish Magician” Blehm, “Sergey “The Stealth” Erenburg of Israel and “The Cuban Cyclone” Bruci Lopez, who returns to his native Miami.

While intercollegiate chess won’t land players on the “jacked-up” segment of a football television network near you, it is an intense competitive endeavor nonetheless.

“Chess players are fierce,” said Alan Sherman, director of the UMBC chess program and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. “Both mental acumen and physical stamina are essential to success.”

The Pan-Am is the most celebrated intercollegiate chess tournament in the western hemisphere.

Since its 1946 inception, dozens of universities throughout the Americas have participated.

The tournament is open to any college or university team from North, South, or Central America. The top four American schools at the Pan-Am will advance to the U.S. Final Four April 5-6, 2008, to determine the country’s collegiate champion.

The Retrievers won their first Pan-Am title in 1996. They embarked on a five-year championship streak from 1998 to 2002. UMBC and UTD are among a handful of schools nationwide that attract the world's best chess players with full scholarships.

More information online can be found at For real-time updates of Pan-Am matches in progress, go to

Posted by mlurie at December 20, 2007 11:08 AM