SEAN COLLINS WALSH The Dallas Morning NewWashington Bureau

Published: 01 April 2012 11:17 PM


WASHINGTON — Conrad Holt leaned over the table, cracked his knuckles and rested his head in both hands. His leg twitched, and his eyes danced while he stared at the unmoving black and white pieces.

It was the chess equivalent of a bases-loaded full count in the bottom of the ninth inning of a baseball game. Holt’s University of Texas at Dallas team had rallied from a significant deficit in the final round of the national chess championship on Sunday and was just a half-point behind Texas Tech University.

If Holt won, the Comets would take home its sixth title in the last decade. Things were looking good, because he had a “material advantage,” which is chess lingo for more pieces on the board.

After a long pause, the 18-year-old grandmaster abruptly reached across the table, snatched up his queen and slammed it on his opponent’s rook. Then he shook his head.

A rapid exchange of moves followed, with each player taking multiple pieces. Eventually, the pace petered out, and the clock ran out. The players shook hands wordlessly.

The match was declared a draw, and Texas Tech was named champion of the Final Four of College Chess.

“When I’m winning, I try to tell myself that I’m going to mess up, so I’ll be more vigilant, but it didn’t work this time,” said Holt, a physics major from Wichita, Kan. “It’s always stressful when you get the time pressure.”

Holt, who is attending UTD on a full chess scholarship, became a grandmaster, the highest title in chess, two weeks ago and finished first in several tournaments this year.

He won his first two matchups in the weekend tournament, which is officially called the President’s Cup.

“He was our MVP all this year,” coach Rade Milovanovic said. “In time, he had to make a mistake.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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