Read More UMBC News Blog Stories

December 21, 2009

UMBC Chess Team Heads to Texas for "World Series of college chess"

UMBC chess team heading to Texas this week for “World Series of college chess,” hoping to
capture first outright title since 2005

Daniel Clemens

December 21, 2009

BALTIMORE – As a powerhouse in the world of college chess, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is accustomed to the rigorous preparation required for taking on elite opponents.

But in getting ready for the 2009 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Team Championships this
week, the team is accounting for an uncommon foe: the flu.

The plan to get the team ready for the competition in South Padre Island, Texas, included vaccinations after two UMBC players were stricken by the flu at last year’s championships. Among the symptoms that befell players were 103-degree fevers.

“This year we hope to fare better on the health front,” said Alan Sherman, director of the UMBC
chess program and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

UMBC fared pretty well on the chess front last year, persevering through illness to earn a share
of the title. The Retrievers registered a tie with the University of Texas-Dallas, another college
chess juggernaut and a perennial rival of UMBC.

The tournament, known as the “World Series of college chess,” runs from Sunday through next
Wednesday (Dec. 27-30) in South Padre Island, Texas.

UMBC seeks to win the title outright and reassert its dominance of the event. Before last year’s
tie, the Retrievers had won the event seven times, more than any other school.

But UMBC’s last outright win came in 2005. UTD has taken control since, winning the next two

Associate chess director Sam Palatnik characterized last year’s performance by the flu-stricken
players as “heroic.” One of the players who fell ill, Leonid Kritz, said the highly competitive atmosphere helped him push through.

“My style of playing is all or nothing,” said Kritz, a 25-year-old grandmaster from Russia. “I like
winning the war.”

The Pan-Am is the most celebrated intercollegiate chess tournament in the Americas. Since its 1946 inception, dozens of universities have participated.

The tournament is open to any college or university team from North, South or Central America.

This is year’s Pan Am field is formidable, Sherman said, with the Texas Tech University and the
University of Texas-Brownsville also posting strong teams.

The Retrievers won their first Pan-Am title in 1996, and embarked on a five-year title 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.

The UMBC players
Leonid Kritz, a Grandmaster from Russia, ranked 12th in the U.S. and the highest-rated college
player in the Americas
Sergey Erenburg, a Grandmaster from Israel, ranked 19th in the U.S.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, an International Master from the Republic of Georgia, ranked 57th in the U.S.
Sasha Kaplan, an International Master from Israel, ranked 93rd in the U.S.
Sabina Foisor (alternate), a Woman International Grandmaster from Romania and the nation’s sixth-ranked woman.

Follow the UMBC team during the tournament on Twitter @UMBCchess.
For real-time updates of Pan-Am matches in progress, go to
For more information on the tournament:

2009 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships
What: Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships
When: December 27-30, 2009
Where: Sheraton South Padre Island Beach Hotel, South Padre Island, Texas
Format: Traditional six-round Fix Roster Swiss tournament
Team makeup: Four-player teams with up to two alternates

For more information on the UMBC team:
Alan T. Sherman, director, UMBC Chess Program
410-963-4779 (c)

For more information on the tournament:
Russell Harwood
(956) 882-5762 or (956) 551-0303

Posted by elewis at December 21, 2009 3:50 PM