Comets Earn 2nd Place in Final Four of Chess in Washington, D.C.
Apr. 8, 2013
Grandmasters Cristian Chirila, Valentin Yotov, and Julio Sadorra were among the six players to represent UT Dallas at the “President's Cup,” or Final Four of chess.
For the third straight year, the UT Dallas chess team has finished in second place at the Final Four of chess tournament, also known as the “President’s Cup.”
After three rounds of play over two days, Webster University was named the top collegiate chess team in the nation.
“We played our best, but fell short. All in all, it was a very successful season for our players. I’m very proud of the team and all the work it took to play at such a high level,” said Jim Stallings, chess program director.
The competition was held in Washington, D.C., April 6-7. The other teams in the tournament were The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and The University of Illinois.
"I know the team is disappointed, but I hope they are very proud not only of this year's accomplishments but also for representing the University so well," said President David E. Daniel. "They have my strongest possible support, respect, and appreciation."
In the first round of play on Saturday, UT Dallas’ team was quick out of the gate, winning three of four games against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Sophomore Grandmaster (GM) Valentin Yotov defeated GM Giorg Margvelashvili in a close game to give UT Dallas its strong start.
International Master Salvijus Bercys
International Master Milos Pavlovic
Grandmaster Conrad Holt
“It was a tough match, and it came down to the end game. I was relieved to win in the first round – it took some pressure off for the rest of the tournament,” said Yotov.
Struggling in the Middle Game
In the second of three rounds of competition on Saturday evening, the team played The University of Illinois, which was the fourth-seeded team in the tournament.
UT Dallas continued its strong play from the first round as both sophomore GM Conrad Holt and International Master (IM) Sal Bercys won their games.
Bercys, who is team captain, took advantage early with a tactical move, capturing a pawn. He capitalized on his early lead as his opponent, Aakaash Meduri, ran low on time. Meduri eventually resigned.
“I found a weakness on the board and exploited it. I took the pawn with my queen, and even though it isn’t always smart to bring the queen out as early as I did, the aggressive move paid dividends in the end,” said Bercys.
Despite the strong start, the team’s momentum slowed as the remaining players both drew, or tied, their games. With two wins and two ties, UT Dallas team was half a point behind Webster University going into the last round of competition on Sunday.
“It wasn’t an optimal result. We needed to put more points on the board. We fumbled, so to speak, but we didn’t lose possession. The opportunity to win in the last round was still there,” said Stallings.
In the final round, UT Dallas faced the first-place-seeded Webster University. The team needed to defeat Webster outright to take home the trophy, a tie would not be enough.
As the four UT Dallas grandmasters paired off against the four Webster grandmasters, a heavyweight match ensued.
“We were in the same position last year going into the final round, but against Texas Tech. We were half a point down and needed to come from behind to take the title,” said UT Dallas coach Rade Milovanovic.
UT Dallas GM Cristian Chirila faced GM Ray Robson. After four hours of play, the two neared the end with an equally matched position. The two players agreed on a draw, shaking hands.
“It was hard-fought match,” said Chirila. “I couldn’t gain the advantage and had to take the draw.”
When the last round came to a close, UT Dallas finished with two draws and two losses. The results weren’t enough for a victory over Webster, which had two wins and two draws.
“That’s the way of college chess. It’s anybody’s game. But, we’ll be here next year. We’re not going anywhere,” Stallings said.
The 2013 competition marked UT Dallas’ 13th 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.
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