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December 22, 2011

UMBC Chess Team Aims to Reclaim its Title in the “World Series of College Chess”

Contact: Nicole Ruediger

The UMBC chess team heads into the 2011 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship with a record nine titles to its name. The competition known informally as the Pan-Am, will be held December 27-30, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas. Since the tournament began in 1946, dozens of universities throughout the Americas have participated. The Retrievers won their first Pan-Am title in 1996, and then embarked on a five-year title streak from 1998-2002.

The team, all on chess scholarships at UMBC, is composed of students not only with exceptional chess skills but also with strong academic records, says Alan Sherman, chess director. UMBC requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA to maintain chess scholarships.

In 2009 the Retrievers won the title, but lost to the University of Texas, Dallas in 2010, coming in second place. In just under a week the Retrievers will play to retrieve their title. With three strong teams from Texas, Texas Tech University and the Universities of Texas at Dallas and Brownsville Sherman says this year’s competition will be tough.

The team takes the challenge seriously, says International Woman Grandmaster Sabina Foisor from Romania, who plays fourth board this year. Foisor, a senior majoring in modern languages and linguistics, has been playing chess since she was four and competing in tournaments since she was six. She practices her game an hour or two every day. But practice alone, she says, isn’t enough.

“In a chess team,” she says, “like in other sports, it’s important to have a good relationship with your other team members.”

However unlike other sports, chess players can’t speak to team members during a competition. “You can check your team members positions to see how they are doing,” says Foisor. And, “If they’re not doing well then that puts you under more pressure.”

One of those pressures is time: In the Pan-Am each player is allotted 90 minutes. But, Foisor says, how you play the game is more important. The Retrievers only have to wait a few more days to find out how they stack up.

The UMBC players
Leonid Kritz, an International Grandmaster from Germany
Giorgi Margvelashvili, an International Grandmaster from the Republic of Georgia
Sasha Kaplan, an International Master from Israel
Sabina Foisor, International Woman Grandmaster from Romania

Average rating: 2521

2011 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships
When: December 27-30, 2011
Where: Dallas Fort Worth Airport Marriott South, 4151 Centreport Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76155

For move-by-move progress of Pan-Am matches, go to

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

Posted by nruedige at December 22, 2011 1:55 PM