UMBC edges UT-Dallas to win national chess championship

April 06, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County chess team won its fifth national championship in nine years on Sunday, avenging last year's title round loss to the University of Texas at Dallas.

UMBC had vowed to come back stronger after falling to UT-Dallas, and it did so in an effective way: by recruiting one of the world's best players and making him its top competitor.

Leonid Kritz, the highest-rated college chess player and 17th overall in the United States, won his board yesterday, as did another UMBC player. The victories helped UMBC overcome a one-point deficit heading into the final round of the two-day tournament and beat UT-Dallas on a third tiebreaker.

Alan T. Sherman, the chess director for UMBC, said that Kritz added strength but that the other three members were determined to make up for last year's loss even though they trailed heading into Sunday's competition.

"They just tried to play the best move every move of the game. The advantage of being down is that you perhaps try a little harder," Sherman said.

The President's Cup draws the top four American teams from the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, which features anywhere from 20 to 40 teams. UMBC and UT-Dallas tied for first place at that match in December.

Under a scoring system in the round-robin tournament that awards a point for a win and half a point for a tie, UMBC finished with 2 1/2 points, while UT-Dallas scored 1 1/2 Sunday. Junior Timur "The Uzebekdragon" Gareev, UMBC's No. 3 player, finished the tournament undefeated (3-0), winning the Most Valuable Player award.

"They had a very strong drive to do their best and win," Sherman said of his team. "For them, it was frustrating to come so close and take second [last year]. So it was satisfying for things to come together."

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