UMBC team wins repeat `Final Four' chess title

April 05, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Minds, not muscle, dominated a "Final Four" showdown this weekend that gave a Maryland school its second championship trophy in as many years - in chess.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County earned bragging rights to the highest honor in collegiate chess by beating the nation's top team, the University of Texas at Dallas, at the Presidential Cup tournament in Lindsborg, Kan., near Wichita. The tournament began Friday and ended yesterday.

UMBC and Dallas are fierce rivals - comparable to Duke and Maryland in basketball. UMBC and UT-Dallas have a history of close battles, including a half-point UMBC loss in December for the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship - chess' equivalent of a last-minute shot in overtime.

"We were hungry and well prepared to regain the national title at the true Final Four - of college chess," said Alan Sherman, UMBC chess program director and computer science professor. "We went to Lindsborg eager to avenge that second-place finish."

This time, the margin of victory was a little more comfortable for UMBC, which won three final-round matches and had one draw. In an earlier round, UMBC shut out Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while Texas defeated Miami Dade College.

The tournament is a showcase for the four highest-scoring teams at December's Pan Am tournament. Those schools sent their four best players and one alternate to Kansas with one goal: checkmate. Inside the rooms of the World Champion Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess in Lindsborg, UMBC's team spent hours assessing opponents and plotting strategic maneuvers.

The winning UMBC team included captain Eugene Perelshteyn, Pawel "The Polish Magician" Blehm, Pascal "The Frenchman" Charbonneau and Alex "The Invincible" Onischuk. The alternate was Bruci "The Cuban Cyclone" Lopez, who transferred from Miami Dade College.

"We dominated the entire tournament," said Charles Rose, assistant director of UMBC media relations. "The closest we came to losing was one draw."

Rose said that pep rallies are held in honor of winning chess teams at the school, which recruits star players and gives them scholarships.

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