With the season’s biggest tournament on the horizon, the UT Dallas chess team has been working on its quest to claim the top spot in college chess next month.
Over spring break, the team played in two tournaments and faced a pool of international competition to prepare for what’s considered the “Final Four” of chess, also known as the President’s Cup.
“Spring break usually means a time to rest, but for the team it provided a time to focus and train. We finished second at the Final Four last year. Hopefully our hard work and training will help us get back to the top,” said Jim Stallings, the chess program director.
Last year’s tournament marked UT Dallas’ 12th consecutive appearance in the President’s Cup. The University’s team has competed in each Final Four since its inception in 2001, winning or tying for first place five times. UT Dallas last won in 2008.
“I’m excited to play with my teammates in the Final Four again. Our previous two appearances at this tournament may have been disappointing, as we lost both times by a half point, but it definitely pushed me and my teammates to improve our competitive level,” said UT Dallas chess team member and Grandmaster Julio Sadorra. “I think winning it this year would be really special because it’s my last Final Four and it’s been part of my dream as a chess player to lift the President’s Cup with the UT Dallas team.”
In preparation during spring break, UT Dallas hosted the Spring Blitz Tournament at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science on March 8. The tournament featured lightning-fast matches between more than 40 players.
After four rounds, the two top players were UT Dallas sophomore Conrad Holt and alumni Alejandro Ramirez BA ’09, MFA ’11. The two Grandmasters squared off in the fifth and final round for the first place trophy.
The players traded pieces with rapid pace and punched clocks, making sure they didn’t run out of time. After a few short minutes, the play slowed and Holt and Ramirez quietly agreed to a draw, shaking hands.
The draw secured the championship for Ramirez, as he finished with the most points.
“I was happy to see former students play against current students. It was a fun homecoming in some ways. Alejandro and Conrad are both strong players, so the final match was exciting to watch,” said UT Dallas coach Rade Milovanovic.
From March 9 to 13, the UT Dallas chess team continued training during the Spring FIDE Open Underwritten by Turner Construction.
Forty-three players competed in the tournament, including visiting Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi, who is ranked fourth in India. Negi led the first six rounds of the tournament after facing UT Dallas students Milos Pavlovic and Salvijus Bercys, who are both International Masters.
In round seven, Sadorra defeated Negi and they became co-leaders, tied with overall points. The two would finish the tournament tied for first.
“Grandmaster Negi proved to be a formidable opponent and gave our team a real challenge. It was very beneficial for us to play at such a high level before the Final Four,” added Stallings.
UT Dallas will compete in the President’s Cup on April 6-7. The event will be in Washington, D.C, and will feature UT Dallas’ team, as well as those from Webster University, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and The University of Illinois.
Before that competition, students are invited to join Temoc, the Pep Band, and the UT Dallas cheerleaders to send the team off with a pep rally Wednesday, April 3 at 12:15 p.m. in the Student Union.