Monday, December 31, 2007

UT Dallas Keeps Grip on Pan-American Chess Title

The UT Dallas “A” team reeled off five consecutive match victories, hesitating only in the final round when it played to a draw, to clinch first place in the 2007 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship.

The victory in Miami Sunday, after six rounds of play over four days, means UT Dallas will keep the title it won in last year's competition.

Known as the “World Series of College Chess,” the Pan American championship is the most prestigious tournament of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

UT Dallas chess coach Rade Milovanovic said the turning point was the fifth-round match between the A teams of UT Dallas and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). The two teams – with two grandmasters each – were the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the tournament.

Salvijus Bercys
Salvijus Bercys

“The match was even until our board 4, freshman Salvijus Bercys, finally won, and that gave us a victory of 2.5-1.5,” Milovanovic said.

“Sal was winning, but his clock got down to 18 seconds at one point,” said Jim Stallings, director of the UT Dallas chess program. “The entire championship was riding on one last play. You scored and won the game; or you lost everything.”

“The time scramble had a large crowd silently frozen as they watched,” Stallings said.

UTD’s B team racked up scores of 4.5-1.5 to finish in a three-way tie for second place with teams from UMBC and New York University.

The tournament, held this year at the Miami Dade College campus, is more than 60 years old. About 150 players on 28 teams from colleges in the U.S., Canada and the West Indies took part in the event.

UT Dallas' "C" team
Wearing UT Dallas' green competition shirts, the all-woman "C" team won the tournament's Division IV title.

Stallings praised UT Dallas' new “C” team, which won the all-female award and the Division IV title. “The C team’s performance, matching veteran teams such as Stanford and Dartmouth, was outstanding and reflects a great deal of hard work in preparing,” he said.

This is the sixth time UT Dallas has won or tied for first in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Team Championship. UT Dallas, UMBC, NYU and Miami Dade now qualify to play in the Final Four in April.

UT Dallas and UMBC have emerged as the two best college chess teams in the nation. One or the other has won the Pan Am eight years in a row.

In the Final Four of Chess, another major annual college chess competition, no team other than UT Dallas and UMBC has won the event in its six-year history.