Jan 3, 2012

Retriever Chess Team Earns a Spot in the 2012 President’s Cup

College rivalries come in all shapes and forms. The more traditional football or basketball rivalries are celebrated events attracting huge national audiences. Other rivalries might be less visible, but are competed just as fiercely.

One such rivalry, while not as long-standing as The Game between Harvard and Yale, is the chess duel between the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Texas—Dallas (UTD).

This year, it was UTD’s turn to be on top. Headed into the 2011 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship with a record of nine titles, the UMBC chess team fell to their Dallas-based rivals and came in second place, but still advanced to the 2012 President’s Cup—the “Final Four” of chess.

UTD came in first with six points, the UMBC Retrievers came in second with 5 points, and Texas Tech and NYU tied for third with 4.5 points each.

“It was an exciting finish, because we could have won right up until the last match,” says Alan Sherman, Chess Director. The University of Texas at Brownsville surprisingly did not make the cut for the Final Four even though they were the highest ranking team going into the tournament.

The UMBC team, all on chess scholarships, is composed of students with exceptional chess skills and strong academic records, Sherman says. UMBC requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA to maintain chess scholarships.

The Retrievers last won the Pan-Am title in 2009, and took second last year. This year’s team will compete in the 2012 President’s Cup, to be held March 31–April 1 in Herndon, Va.

Members of the team include Leonid Kritz ’12 and Giorgi Margvelashvili ‘12, who are both International Grandmasters; Sasha Kaplan, who is an International Master from Israel; and Sabina Foiser ’12, who is an International Woman Grandmaster from Romania.

In 2008, UMBC swept into its first-ever run to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But that’s nothing compared to the long-standing chess rivalry with UTD, at a school where “Chess is King” and "Retrievers are Believers."

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