Grad Student Wins U.S. Open Chess Championship
UT Dallas Teammate Finishes Close Behind in Four-Way Second-Place Tie
Aug. 23, 2010
Two UT Dallas students successfully maneuvered their way to first and to second place in the 111th U.S. Open Chess Championship, held last weekend in Irvine, Calif.
Chess Grandmaster (GM) Alejandro Ramirez (BA ’09), a McDermott Scholar who currently is an arts and technology graduate student, finished first in the competition with a final score of 8-1. International Master (IM) Julio Catalina Sadorra, a sophomore majoring in psychology, placed second in a four-way tie, with a final score of 7 ½ -1 ½.
“My victory at the U.S. Open was a little unexpected,” said Ramirez. “I was one of the top-rated players, but my full-time summer internship made it seem unlikely that I would win.”
Ramirez led a double life of sorts during the U.S. Open, working for entertainment software developer and publisher Blizzard Entertainment Inc., during the day. He then made the short commute to the tournament each evening, beginning competition around 7:30 p.m. and wrapping up with tournament play and game analysis between 3 and 4 a.m.
“Thankfully, I was still in good enough shape to play some of the best chess that I have played in recent years, and I’m very happy with my result,” he said. “I put it in one of the top three tournament results of my career. This win is up there with winning the Zonal Tournament in 2003 and participating in the 2004 World Chess Championship.”
After defeating 2007 U.S. Champion GM Alexander Shabalov in the second-to-last round, Ramirez faced fellow Comet Sadorra in the closing match of the tournament.
“My game against Julio in the last round was more trouble than I bargained for, as he was better prepared than me and was able to obtain an advantage out of the opening,” said Ramirez. “I managed to wiggle out of the problems and once I held the initiative in my hands, I knew I would win the tournament, despite the tough resistance Julio was posing. Thankfully, a draw was enough for me to win it all out-right, as I was unable to find a way around Julio’s defenses.”
Sadorra, originally from the Philippines, thought the U.S. Open was a great way to prepare for a difficult season of competition with the UT Dallas Chess Team.
“This tournament is unique from the ones I played in Asia because it is certain that I will play against lower-rated players in the first three or four rounds,” said Sadorra. “The Open has given me confidence as I look toward the upcoming team competitions this fall. It gave me good practice, showed me my strengths, and areas which I can grow in more.”
Sadorra is one “norm” away from promotion to the rank of GM, the highest rank a chess player can achieve. Once attained, the designation is the player’s for life. He hopes to attain this ranking during the upcoming fall tournaments.
The U.S. Open hosted 468 players, making it the largest competition since the 2006 contest in Chicago. The 2006 competition also marked the last time there was a sole U.S. Open winner, when GM Yury Shulman (BS ’01, MBA ’03), former UT Dallas Chess Team captain, took the title.
More than 60 GMs, IMs and National Masters competed in this year’s U.S. Open. The tournament has run continuously since 1900 and has hosted several chess giants, including Bobby Fischer, who won the competition in 1957.
The UT Dallas chess team opens its season with a contest against the region’s top players Sept. 4-6 at the Southwest Open in Corpus Christi.