Chess Team Finishes 2nd in Hard-Fought Final Four
Texas Tech Wins Tense Tournament Marked by Lengthy Games, Close Scores
Apr. 4, 2011
The UT Dallas Chess Team fought through a weekend of marathon games and close scores to a second-place finish in the 2011 Final Four of Chess.
The battle for the President’s Cup, which goes to the top college team in the country, played out in such dramatic fashion that no one could predict the winner until the final moves were on the boards.
Texas Tech, 7.0-5.0
UT Dallas, 6.5-5.5
UT Brownsville, 6.0-6.0
“There was such parity among the teams this year,” Chess Program Director Jim Stallings said. “It made for a nail-biting Final Four of Chess.”
When the tournament’s third round drew to a close Sunday, the winning score belonged to Texas Tech University with 7.0. UT Dallas ended the tournament with 6.5.
The other two teams in the championship bout were the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. Competitors were determined by the four top finishes in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, held last December in Milwaukee, Wis.
Technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton hosted the tournament in its facility at Herndon, Va.
UT Dallas Team Surges Ahead in First Round
UT Dallas started strong Saturday morning with wins against UMBC by Grandmaster (GM) Christian Chirila and International Master Sal Bercys. GM-elect Julio Catalina Sadorra also managed a draw, giving the team 2.5 points early in the competition. Texas Tech tied UT Dallas’ score with 2.5 points. UMBC and UT Brownsville tied for third and fourth place at the end of Round 1 with 1.5 points each.
“Our pivotal moment in Round 1 came with Christian’s surprise win,” Stallings said. “Since GM Leonid Kritz was higher rated, his triumph was unexpected.
“Sal’s win put us into the win column. It was a great one-two punch and a great way to start the tournament.”
Round 1 lasted approximately 3.5 hours.
“Playing the Grandmaster Invitational Underwritten by Turner Construction Company in March gave us extra – and much needed – team preparation going into the Final Four,” Coach Rade Milovanovic said. “The eight-day, 12-round tournament really tested our players in terms of endurance and getting their heads in the game.”
Team Keeps Momentum in Round 2
Round 2 on Saturday evening brought a four-hour match, with the UT Dallas team facing Texas Tech. Bercys won his game, while Chirila, GM Alejandro Ramirez and Sadorra earned draws.
“Chirila had a tremendous come-from-behind draw, but we needed Sal’s win to pull even with Texas Tech,” Stallings said. “Sal’s been our anchor man for several tournaments now.
“His signature is to win with his king, which is uncommon in chess. We’ve seen his king under fire, yet making the attack. It produces a very exciting game.”
At the conclusion of Round 2, UT Dallas remained tied with Texas Tech for the lead at 4.5 points each.
Third and Final Round Ends in Heartbreaking Loss
UT Dallas shuffled its line-up for the third and final round of play on the morning of Sunday, April 3. IM Puchen Wang came in on Board 4 for the final game, giving Sadorra a rest. IM Bercys moved up to Board 3.
The UT Dallas team began play with conservative moves that offered a slight advantage.
Two hours into the final round, Stallings could not predict a tournament winner because of the close competition.
“This is the most intense Final Four we’ve ever had,” Stallings said.
As the games progressed, UT Dallas players assumed more aggressive stances designed to produce wins. Wang scored a victory for the team against UT Brownsville. Ramirez drew in his final game for the University.
The tournament came down to Bercys’ game, and his UT Brownsville opponent overtook him as time ran out on his game clock. With that finish, Texas Tech was pronounced the winner. Tech won with seven points.
“This was the lowest winning score in Final Four history,” Stallings said. “It’s like winning a basketball game 38-36 because both teams’ defenses are so good.”
The 2011 competition marked UT Dallas’ 11th consecutive appearance in the Final Four of Chess. The University has competed in each Final Four since its inception in 2001, winning or tying for first place five times. UT Dallas last won the Final Four of Chess in 2008, when the team traveled to Baltimore to face Miami Dade College, New York University and UMBC.
The 2012 Final Four of Chess also is scheduled to be held in Herndon, Va. Booz Allen Hamilton has committed to sponsoring next year’s event.
Final Four Wraps Season for Chess Team
With this year’s Final Four in the books, UT Dallas team members took a moment to reflect on a winning season.
“I don’t have any regrets about this season,” Ramirez said. “I had a great year, and so did the team. We won a lot of tournaments, including the Texas State College Championship and the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship. We also won our TelePresence exhibition match last fall against the Chennai Chess Association District team.
“As for the Final Four, in chess you just never know how things will turn out.”
Coach Milovanovic praised the team’s overall season performance and looked ahead to next year.
“I’m very proud of our team’s season,” Milovanovic said. “With this tournament over, our players can return to their studies and focus on individual preparation for the 2011-12 season.”
Sal Bercys won his games in Round 1 and 2.
Puchen Wang scored a Round 3 victory against UT Brownsville.
The UT Dallas Final Four Team
Sal Bercys (IM), senior, accounting
Christian Chirila (GM), freshman, international political economy
Alejandro Ramirez (GM, BA ’09), graduate student, arts and technology
Julio Sadorra (GM-elect), sophomore, applied mathematics
Puchen Wang (IM), junior, actuarial science
Marko Zivanic (IM and team captain; BS ’09), doctoral student, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.