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December 31, 2010

UMBC Chess Team Finishes Strong to Place Second in “World Series of College Chess”


Contact: Daniel Clemens
410-852-3974
dpclemens@yahoo.com


BALTIMORE -- Battling weather-induced travel delays, illness and the nation’s top collegiate players, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) chess team turned in a strong performance to place second in the “World Series of College Chess” that concluded yesterday in Milwaukee.

UMBC earned a draw against the University of Texas-Brownsville in its sixth and final match at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships, which began Monday. The Retrievers rebounded after a hard-fought loss in a key match Wednesday night against the University of Texas-Dallas, the eventual champion.

“It came down to the critical match against Dallas,” said Alan T. Sherman, UMBC chess director. “It just didn’t go our way.”

By finishing in the top four, UMBC qualifies for the other preeminent college chess event: the President’s Cup, scheduled for April 2-3 in Tyson’s Corner, Va. The Retrievers are defending champs of President’s Cup, also known as the “Final Four of College Chess.”

UMBC also was the Pan-Am defending champ, after capturing the last year’s title outright and earning a share of the 2008 title. Today the Retrievers found themselves in unfamiliar territory: second place.

“It feels a little like a defeat that we didn’t finish first,” Sherman said. “It’s a weird feeling.”

Said Sam Palatnik, UMBC’s associate chess director who coached the team at the tournament, “It’s not every time you can be the best in the competition. Every one was fighting and competing. It’s a good place for us. We’ll take it.”

UMBC sent two teams to the tournament and a bright spot was the fifth-place finish of the B-team. Sabina Foisor, a former A-team alternate who led the B-team in Milwaukee, won all five of her games. Against the eventual champs, Foisor, an International Woman Grandmaster from Romania, beat Alejandro Ramirez, a Grandmaster and UT-Dallas’ top player.

“Playing on the first board and going five for five [games], that’s outstanding,” Palatnik said. UT-Dallas went 6-for-6 in its team matches en route to the title. “They really had a well deserved victory,” Sherman said. “They beat all the strong teams.”

UMBC’s task in the crucial match with UT-Dallas was made tougher when one of the Retrievers top players, Giorgi Margvelashvili, played after coming down ill. Margvelashvili came up short in his match, as did Leonid Kritz, another top UMBC player.

“It definitely affected his play,” Sherman said. “If Giorgi had won his game, the outcome could’ve been different.

“Even though they play six rounds, it always comes down to a very short, critical path. A very small number of games determines the outcome. It makes it exciting and frustrating.”

UMBC faced challenges before the tournament began. Last weekend’s major winter storm led to travel delays for some team members.

But Sherman and Palatnik refused to make excuses. Challenges such as weather, travel and illness are part of the game, they said.

“If you had a choice, you’d choose not to have those things,” Palatnik said yesterday by telephone from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, site of the tournament. “But sometimes they happen.”

UMBC has won a record nine Pan-Am titles, including six outright championships to go with three co-titles.

Twenty-eight teams took part in the 2010 Pan-Am, which attracts the top college programs. The event is the most celebrated intercollegiate tournament in the Americas, open to any college or university team from North, South or Central America. Since the tourney’s inception in 1946, dozens of universities throughout the Americas have participated.

The 2010 field included teams from such far-flung schools as the University of Toronto and the University of the West Indies, as well as squads from prominent U.S. schools such as Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

For UMBC, the focus now turns to the President’s Cup, where the Retrievers will square off against the University of Texas-Brownsville and Texas Tech University, in addition to UT-Dallas.

“We’ve got our ticket to the Final Four,” Palatnik said. “We’ll try our best to be ready. We need some work. The competition is much, much stronger.”

For more information on the UMBC team, contact Alan T. Sherman, director, UMBC Chess Program, 410-963-4779 (c), sherman@umbc.edu.

For more information about the 2010 Pan-Am and college chess, visit www.uschess.org or www.collegechess.org/.

Posted by elewis at December 31, 2010 5:23 PM