The UTB-TSC chess team went all out to win the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships in Fort Worth this week, and the strategy may have cost them a top-four finish and a trip to the “final four” of college chess in late March.
Still, they have few regrets.
In their sixth year competing in the Pan American championship, the “A” team from Brownsville came in fifth, a lower finish than last year.
Both the “A” team and the “B” team from the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College finished with four out of six possible points.
Program director Rusty Harwood said because the team figured it was their last year to win together, they refused to offer draws in their matches, though that likely would have at least qualified them for the next tournament.
“They’re disappointed,” he said of the players. “They definitely wanted to go to the Final Four. … They sort of thought that this was their last shot as a group. They played not to qualify but to win.”
Harwood said that after the tournament, the team immediately boarded a flight, so he was not certain of the results for the “B” team. He estimated they had placed seventh or eighth.
Twenty-eight teams competed.
Harwood said UTB-TSC’s top player, Timur Gareyev, who is ranked around fourth in the nation, is graduating this year.
Up next for the team is continuing to practice and recruit, though there are some budget uncertainties because of the split between UTB and TSC, Harwood said.
He said luck in pairings played a role in the UTB-TSC performance at the Pan Ams. Team member Mauricio Flores agreed, adding that the competition is exhausting and there was significant psychological pressure because of the team’s goal to win the top spot.
The UTB-TSC team played the top-ranked university in the last round.
“I think we deserved to be (in the) top four,” Flores said, but he acknowledged that “it was not our greatest performance.”
“We made some unnecessary mistakes, but I’m happy we tried to win against Dallas instead of taking a draw,” he said.
Harwood had said before the tournament that competition would be stiff.
“It looks like the field is going to be extremely strong this year,” he said last week. “In addition to UT Dallas, Texas Tech and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, all who have been very strong in the past couple of years, I expect several other universities to field very strong teams, including Columbia, Stanford and New York University.”
The results of the Pan American tournament determine the collegiate championship for the Western Hemisphere. It is also a qualifying tournament for the President’s Cup, known as the Final Four of College Chess.
UTB-TSC’s ‘A’ team lost to the University of Texas at Dallas 3-1 in Round 6 on Friday and to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in Round 4 on Thursday.
The ‘B’ team swept Miami-Dade Community College 4-0 on Thursday and on Friday they defeated the University of New Mexico 3.5 to .5 in Round 6.
UTB-TSC began competing in chess a decade ago, seeing success throughout the years.
Last year the team tied for second place at the 2010 Pan Ams in Milwaukee to move on to the April 2011 President’s Cup. UTB finished third in the Final Four, one point away from first place.
Besides winning other titles, in October the team became Texas State College Chess Champions.
The “A” team had four members competing, while the “B” team had five members. The chess team’s roster is international. On the “A” team are Timur Gareyev from Uzbekistan; Mauricio Flores, a junior from Chile; Axel Bachmann, a junior from Paraguay; and Max Cornejo, a senior from Peru.
On the “B” team are Alfonso Almeida, a graduate student from McAllen; Katerina Nemcova, a freshman from Czech Republic; Nadya Ortiz, a senior from Colombia; Luciana Morales, a graduate student from Peru; and Daniela De la Parra, a freshman from Durango, Mexico.
The University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Texas Tech University and New York University were the top four finishers at the Pan Ams who qualified for the 2012 President’s Cup, to be held in suburban Washington starting March 31.