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December 19, 2008

UMBC Chess Team Seeks to End University of Texas-Dallas Run at Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship

2008 Pan-Am is New Opportunity for “The Stealth” and “Uzbeck Dragon”

Mike Lurie

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

December 19, 2008

BALTIMORE – Alabama and Auburn in football … Duke and North Carolina in basketball … These institutions embody the most intense rivalries in college athletics. That intensity also applies to the grueling intellectual sport of chess, where the kings of the collegiate game are the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Texas-Dallas (UTD).

Just months removed from UTD’s narrow defeat of UMBC last April in the Final Four of College Chess, these two bullies of the boards compete again at the 2008 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship for the title of best college chess team in the land.

The tournament, known as “the World Series of college chess,” runs December 27-30 at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Marriott South hotel.

With the Final Four victory still fresh, UTD has had the upper hand since winning the 2006 Pan-Am. UMBC last won the Pan-Am in 2005, its seventh title.

“We welcome the opportunity to avenge a recent string of narrow defeats to UTD,” said Alan Sherman, director of the UMBC chess program and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

The Pan-Am includes teams from Harvard, Yale and Stanford. The University of Toronto and the Catholic University of Peru enhance the event’s international flavor. Miami-Dade College, a host for prior Pan-Am competitions, is a rising power thanks to an influx of top Cuban players. At least 25 teams and 113 players are scheduled to compete.

UMBC features four grandmasters: Leonid “the Chief” Kritz, Sergey “the Stealth” Erenburg, Timur “the Uzbek Dragon” Gareyev and Sabina “Sunshine” Foisor.

The UMBC community celebrated its chess legacy last April when it hosted the Final Four of College Chess. Festivities included a “Chess Week” with a pep rally and a match involving 8-foot chess pieces.

Intercollegiate chess won’t land players on 24-hour cable sports networks, but chess is an intense competitive endeavor nonetheless.

“Chess players are extremely competitive,” Sherman said. “To succeed, a player must be strong mentally and must also have a large degree of physical stamina.”

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 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.

For real-time updates of Pan-Am matches in progress, go to

Posted by mlurie at December 19, 2008 4:32 PM