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April 12, 2010

UMBC Wins Record “Final Four of College Chess” Against Strongest Field Yet

2010 President Cup's Undefeated Champions


Pictured: Associate Chess Director Sam Palatnik, Sasha Kaplan, Sergey Erenburg, Leonid Kritz, Giorgi Margvelashvili, Sabina Foisor and Chess coach Igor Epshteyn

BALTIMORE - Continuing its dominating sweep of collegiate chess tournaments, UMBC’s powerhouse chess team won a record sixth “Final Four of College Chess” April 11 in Brownsville, Texas, at the 2010 President’s Cup.

The annual President’s Cup tournament, which falls just days after the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament Final Four, determines the top U.S. collegiate chess team in an equally intense round-robin sporting competition.

UMBC defeated University of Texas-Brownsville (UTB) by just half a point to clinch its sixth title in the tournament’s 10-year history. The tournament was hosted by UTB, a newcomer chess powerhouse whom UMBC defeated Dec. 30 to win the 2009 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship (the Pan Am). UMBC has won or tied the Pan Am competition a record nine times in the past 14 years, more than any other college in the tournament's history.

“UMBC had to bring their best game ever to win against the strongest field of chess teams ever assembled at any Final Four,” said UMBC Chess Director Alan Sherman. "(UMBC chess) team captain Sergey Erenburg and Leonid Kritz played amazingly to lead their team against such tough competition."

Competition was so fierce, Sherman said, that UTB hired a top grandmaster consultant who in the months before the tournament helped the team prepare an opening trick designed specifically to trip-up Kritz, who is the highest rated college player in the Pan Am. The trap contributed to Kritz's third round defeat, but a victory by Erenburg and a draw by UMBC player Sasha Kaplan clinched the team's victory.

Collectively, the four teams fielded seven international grandmasters, one woman international grandmaster and 10 international masters. In third and fourth place respectively were Texas Tech University and the University of Texas, Dallas.

UMBC's chess team players are full-time students first and chess players second, Sherman said. Three team players have earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages and team captain Sergey Erenburg is a candidate for valedictorian this May.

UMBC's championship chess team: Leonid Kritz, a Grandmaster from Russia; Sergey Erenburg, a Grandmaster from Israel; Giorgi Margvelashvili, an International grandmaster-elect from the Republic of Georgia; Sasha Kaplan, an International Master from Israel; Sabina Foisor (alternate), a Woman International Grandmaster from Romania; UMBC Chess Coach Igor Epshteyn; and Associate Chess Director Sam Palatnik.

NPR's nationally syndicated Tell Me More interviewed Sherman April 12.

The Baltimore Sun on UMBC's record victory.

For more information on the tournament:

For more information on the UMBC team, contact:

Alan T. Sherman, director, UMBC Chess Program
410-963-4779 (c)

Posted by kavan at April 12, 2010 10:18 AM