Renewed Rivalry at Second Annual Final Four of Chess
Harvard, Stanford Also to Compete in April 5-7 Tournament
The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), will resume what has become the most hotly contested, evenly fought rivalry in intercollegiate competition next month when they face off in the second annual “Final Four” of Chess. The tournament will be held April 5-7 at the World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Museum in Miami, Fla.
Harvard University and Stanford University also will compete in the event, but will be decided underdogs to UTD and UMBC as they battle for the for the President’s Cup and the right to lay claim to the title of “best college chess team in the United States.” That’s because for two years in a row, UTD and UMBC have tied for first place in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, the top college chess tournament held in the Western Hemisphere, defeating the likes of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, U.C. Berkeley and the University of Chicago.
Over the past six years, UMBC has established itself as the dominant team in college chess, but in the past two years, UTD has come on very strongly. In fact, in 2001 UTD was named “Chess College of the Year” by the U.S. Chess Federation, an honor that UMBC had won the year before. And UTD defeated UMBC in the inaugural “Final Four” of Chess in Dallas last April, although the score was a razor-thin 12 points to 11 1/2. UMBC, meanwhile, can boast that it has finished first, or tied for first, in the Pan Am event five of the past six years.
The two schools, neither of which fields a football team, have seen their chess rivalry escalate to the level of Duke and North Carolina in college basketball or Texas-Oklahoma in football. The main differences are the crowds (or lack thereof) and noise (nonexistent in chess), but the competition is fierce, and both UTD and UMBC have been known to hold pep rallies for their teams before sending them off to do battle.
“UTD and UMBC usually defeat everyone else, but we find it tremendously difficult to beat each other,” said Dr. Tim Redman, professor of literary studies at U.T. Dallas and director of the school’s six-year-old chess program. “Each team is almost a mirror image of the other, and for us to tie for first place two years in a row in the Pan Am tournament – first in Milwaukee and then in Providence — bears that out. It would be like Miami and Nebraska tying for first in the national college football polls two consecutive years. I don’t see how our teams could be more evenly matched or the competition more intense.”
“Over the past 10 years, UMBC has become the team to beat in college chess,” said Alan Sherman, UMBC Chess Team advisor and associate professor of computer science. “For perhaps the first time, we have met our match in UTD. Our programs are head and shoulders above the competition, and we now find ourselves recruiting the same players for chess scholarships.”
The presidents of the two universities, UTD’s Franklyn G. Jenifer and UMBC’s Freeman A. Hrabowski, both view chess as a metaphor for academic excellence and intellectual rigor. And both universities have established themselves as places where it is “cool to be smart.”
The UTD team in Miami will be composed of Yuri Shulman (Belarus), Marcin Kaminski (Poland), Andrei Zaremba (Michigan) and Andrew Whatley (Alabama). David John (Texas) will serve as first alternate and Dennis Rylander (Sweden) as second alternate.
UMBC’s team will be represented by Alex Woitkevich (Poland), Eugene Perelshteyn (Massachusetts), William “The Exterminator” Morrison (New York) and Battsetseg “The Mongolian Terror” Tsagaan (Tatarstan).
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].