Checkmate! UMBC: Masters of the college chess world bring home their second Pan-American championship.

December 31, 1998

SURE, College Park crows about its basketball team, and Johns Hopkins is the elite of college lacrosse. But the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has won the right to claim its own niche: Two-time collegiate chess champ.

Chess is big at UMBC. It gives out chess scholarships (required SAT score: 1,400). Grand masters are recruited from the world over, especially from the former Soviet Union. The school even hired a coach with international expertise.

UMBC may not have a football team, but most kids go to a college to master games of the brain, not to cheer a sports team.

Chess requires discipline, psychological and tactical preparation, physical conditioning (to remain clear-headed through six-hour matches) and mental agility. Players must out-think their rivals, plotting their moves, recalibrating long-range strategies to counter opponents' maneuvers.

UMBC's chess dynasty makes the campus appealing to brainy kids from all over the country -- and overseas, too. Beating the likes of Stanford, NYU, Texas and Chicago sends a clear message that UMBC is no upstart when it comes to mind games. It's No. 1 on the chess chart.

Pub Date: 12/31/98

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