UTD upsets UMBC… wins Pan-Am Intercollegiate!

Prior to the start of the Pan-Am Collegiate Championship, two teams stood head and shoulders above them all. Certainly there were the perennial chess powers at University of Chicago, Stanford and Harvard. Of course, several New York schools would field strong teams,  but both University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) and University of Texas-Dallas (UTD) were head and shoulders above them all.

Prior to the tournament, UTD coach Dr. Tim Redman was quoted on DallasNews.com as saying that UMBC made a blunder by not bringing two alternate players. He cited fatigue and the possible spread of the flu as factors in depleting a player's energy. Dr. Redman had introduced a dietary and exercise regiment for his players. This was candidly mentioned by IM Amon Simutowe in an essay he wrote recently for The Chess Drum.

Fielding a team of GM Marcin Kaminski, IM Dmitri Schneider, IM Magesh Chandran and IM Amon Simutowe, UTD powered by the heavily favored UMBC lineup of GM Alexander Onischuk, GM Pavel Blehm, IM Eugene Perelshteyn, IM Pascal Charbonneau. Simutowe, a 1st-year student, avenged a previous loss to Charbonneau accounting for the only decisive game. The other games were drawn giving UTD the win, 2˝-1˝. UTD only needed a draw with Miami-Dade Community College in the final round to clinch the title. With perhaps a tinge of overconfidence, Dr. Tim Redman took the team to Bennigan's restaurant to celebrate the win over UMBC and the pending title. He was quoted as saying, "The best $300.00 I ever spent."

This rivalry became more intense last year when sweeping reforms were made after allegations were brought against UMBC for "renting" professional and semi-professional players.  The
United Chess Federation (USCF) has ruled that any incoming titled Master must be not more than 26 years of age. That meant last year's members, GM Aleks Wojtkiewicz, GM Alex Sherzer and FM William Morrison would not qualify for UMBC. While some felt that Dr. Redman used his influence as a former USCF President to advocate a policy favorable to UTD's chess program, reform was long overdue (See August 11, 2003 USCF Proceedings). To UMBC's credit, Dr. Alan Sherman has done a magnificent job in building a fine program.

For the last eight years running, the title has been shared by two schools…
UMBC (five titles) and UTD (three titles). For now, all other schools including the University of Toronto (six titles) and University of Chicago (five titles) are playing for 3rd place.

United States Chess Federation (press release), 9 January 2004.

The Chess Drum, "U.S. College Chess to get Makeover," 28 October 2003.

Read Ann Zimmerman's "Aging Knights compete in College Chess," Wall Street Journal.

The Chess Drum, "Pan-Am Intercollegiate sizzles… Morrison's UMBC takes crown!" 3 January 2003.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 3 January 2004