Flores, a senior at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, is a grandmaster on the UTB chess team. He traveled Wednesday with the team to New Jersey to compete in the 2012 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship hosted by Princeton University. The competition will determine the champions for the Western Hemisphere.
This is the seventh year in a row the UTB-TSC team has qualified for the “Pan Ams.”
For Flores, the event is special because it will be the last time he competes for the university.
If the team does well, it can make it to the top-qualifying tournament, the 2013 President’s Cup, also known as the Final Four.
“I’m hoping that we can qualify to the Final Four because this will be my last tournament with the school,” said Flores, who graduates next year. “We live for chess.”
Team member Max Cornejo agrees.
“Chess is my love, it’s my passion,” Cornejo said, “for good or for bad.”
The 23-year-old moved to Brownsville in January 2009 on a chess scholarship from Lima, Peru, and has been training and competing ever since.
Cornejo graduated, but will continue to compete because he’s enrolling in a master’s degree program at the university.
During a recent visit from his family, Cornejo decided to stay put and train for the competition in lieu of spending time with his family in San Antonio.
His love affair with chess began when he was 9 years old.
“My brother changed from soccer to chess and so I followed him,” Cornejo said. “From soccer to chess, it’s kind of really boring.”
In time, however, the cerebral sport grew on him.
Cornejo said he hopes the Brownsville team can place second or first in this year’s Pan-Am.
“One of our dreams is to get first place in this tournament because we never get it,” Cornejo said. “It’s going to be really hard, but we’re going to try and we are practicing a lot.”
Cornejo said he practices two hours a day with his coach and in his spare time he averages another two hours.
During the Pan Am competition, UTB will have two teams in the tournament comprising of four different members. Each individual will face off against another school’s competitor, said Russell Harwood, chess program director and a chaperone on the trip.
Harwood said the team is successful because of the good players and the hard work and time they put forth to prepare.
“There are practices every day, but normally they’ll train about two or three days a week,” Harwood said.
Armando Cortez has waited for almost a year to compete.
“I’ve been waiting for a year and training to get on the team,” said Cortez, who began playing chess when he was 8.
Cortez is traveling as an alternate player, but he’s excited about the chance to participate in a match.
“I’m excited because I want to play against real strong players,” he said.