March 26, 2019

March 26, 2019


Comet Grandmaster Captures Share of U.S. Open Chess Championship


Gil Popilski

UT Dallas chess team player and Grandmaster Gil Popilski was crowned co-champion at the 117th annual U.S. Open after tying for first at 8-1 with Grandmaster Alex Shabalov.

The tournament, held July 30-Aug. 7 in Indianapolis, included 389 competitors. Twenty-two of them were either grandmasters, the highest rank in chess, or international masters, the next highest.

Popilski, a computer science sophomore, played nine games, and in the final round, he faced Grandmaster Joel Benjamin.

“The tournament was very tense and the games were challenging,” Popilski said. “Many people had chances to win the tournament until the last round. One of the most decisive games lasted 5½ hours and about 90 moves. All the participants showed great fighting spirit, starting from kindergarten kids to elder players as well.”

Comet U.S. Open Champs

2006: Yury Shulman (champion)

2008: *Rade Milovanovic

2009: Jacek Stopa

2010: Alejandro Ramirez

2013: Julio Sadorra

2014: Conrad Holt (champion)

2016: Gil Popilski

*UT Dallas coach

Shabalov’s only loss at the tournament was to International Master and UT Dallas teammate Zurabi Javakhadze in the fifth round. Javakhadze tied with 13 other players for fifth place at 7-2.

“Gil’s first-place finish marks the seventh time in 11 years that UT Dallas has been in first at this prestigious event, and shows the ongoing caliber and excellence of our University team,” said Jim Stallings, the chess program director.

UT Dallas chess players have a history of performing well at the national tournament. In 2008, UT Dallas chess team coach Rade Milovanovic was co-champion.

He said the experience has helped him coach the team.

“I always tell players to forget previous rounds in a tournament, especially their losses,” Milovanovic said. “Play for the win, and fight until the last move.”

Team Opens Season Impressively at Southwest Open

After Popilski’s win at the U.S. Open, the UT Dallas chess team dominated the Southwest Open with Grandmasters Dani Raznikov and Holden Hernandez tying for first place with alumnus Conrad Holt BS’15.

The seven-round tournament, held over Labor Day weekend in Irving, Texas, featured 60 top-tier players.

Before the last round, Holt was in first place by himself, but he was unable to beat UT Dallas freshman and International Master Eylon Nakar. Raznikov and Hernandez won their final game to tie Holt in the final standings.

The tournament marked the debut of seven new team members, including Nakar and Hernandez.

Media Contact: Miguel Perez, 972-883-2207, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, 972-883-2155, [email protected].

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