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College Chess / 2015 PanAms


TEXAS TECH COMEBACK TTU’s Rebuilt Program Wins PanAms;


UT-RGV, Webster and Columbia Join Final Four By AL LAWRENCE


coaching salaries. Then Polgar, along with every grandmaster (GM) on the team except Iranian champ Elshan Moradiabadi, headed out of town and into Webster University team jackets. The suburban St. Louis campus had imported a championship team readymade. Texas Tech started over. This writer made the 2,000-mile trek from


I


New York to Lubbock and stayed three years to serve as program director. In the key staffing move, former U.S. Champion GM Alex Onischuk signed on as coach. Three years after his teammates’ defec tion, the genteel Moradiabadi, now studying for his Ph.D., played board two for the Knight Raiders A-team as they won their first-ever Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, going undefeated in Cleveland, scoring 5-1 despite a grueling gauntlet of top opponents. Three other schools lost out on tiebreak


n 2012, the Texas Tech (TTU) Knight Raiders were coming off back-to-back Final Four victories under the direction of GM Susan Polgar after a five-year university investment in scholarships and


Marshall Chess Club in New York City. University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a new name in college chess,


“While we receive a generous allocation each year from Columbia, it does not come close to resembling that of our


—COLUMBIA’S JONATHAN PAGAN


points but matched that score and so can claim the title of co-champions. Placing second through fourth, in order, were the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley-A (UT-RGV-A), Webster University-B, and Columbia-A. The teams need letters because universities can enter as many squads as they can muster. (See “B Equals A,” page 39.) These top finishers will move on to the Final Four playoff, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton and Two Sigma, in April at the


38 March 2016 | Chess Life


powerhouse colleagues. Playing against teams of grandmasters gives us ... a great deal of motivation.”


is a consolidation of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville (UT-B). “I thought we wouldn’t make it,” Head Coach GM Bartek Macieja said. After sitting on the tarmac three hours in Brownsville, the flight to Dallas was scratched due to tornadoes. Bartek managed to get tickets to Houston, a seven-hour drive. No rental vans were available. Buses to Houston were booked solid. The team nervously watched two buses come and go without cancellations. At the last chance, five seats opened up. Bartek drove the three remaining team mem bers the seven windy hours to Houston to make the connection, getting everyone to Cleveland just in time on Sunday night. “I think the travel problems motivated us even more,” Bartek said. Whatever made them find the right moves, Cleveland was a powerful debut for the newly branded program. Progenitor UT-B had never managed a PanAms co-championship. Despite a surplus of such hardship trave -


logues, all 42 pre-registered college teams from 27 colleges punched their clocks on


time to start the strongest-ever PanAms. More than one-third of the 185 entries were titled players, including 25 grandmasters, four women grand masters, a dozen international masters, and more than 30 other masters. At the beginning, six top teams—two each from Webster and UT-Dallas, plus one each from Texas Tech and UT-RGV—definitely looked to be the shark tank, stocked with GMs.


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