Chess Team Makes Master Move by Naming Alumnus Its New Coach
Julio Catalino Sadorra BS’13
Just as it has done 16 times in the past 19 years, the UT Dallas chess team is preparing to compete in the “Final Four of College Chess,” more formally known as the President’s Cup. But for the first time in those 19 years, the team will be under a new coach.
Julio Catalino Sadorra BS’13 was hired to lead the team in early February, succeeding Rade Milovanovic, who recently retired after 20 years of coaching at UT Dallas.
Sadorra, who was a member of the University chess team when he was an undergraduate, said he is excited about helping the team continue its high level of achievement.
“It’s great to work with the team again and to share my experience as a chess scholar and a professional player. I like mentoring, and I like motivating individuals. This is going to be a great experience,” he said.
After graduating with a degree in business administration, Sadorra began teaching chess while also playing professionally. He represented his home country of the Philippines at the World Cup Chess Championship and the international Chess Olympiad, where he played against some of the best players in the world.
In 2016 Sadorra played Magnus Carlsen, the top-ranked player in the world, to a draw.
“I was able to prove that anyone who is willing to consistently work hard and to compete with the proper mindset has a chance to equal the world champion,” he said.
Jim Stallings, director of the UT Dallas Chess Program, said he wasn’t necessarily looking for a world champion when hiring for the coaching position. He was, however, searching for someone who had experience in leading and encouraging players and teams.
Sadorra played Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top-ranked player, to a draw at the 2016 Chess Olympiad.
“We were looking for somebody who could teach, motivate and challenge the team, as a group and as individuals,” Stallings said.
“One advantage of Julio was that he already knew our system. He understood what kind of team rules we have, why we have them and how we operate,” he said. “He graduated from here and became a Grandmaster while he was here. He’s one of three homegrown Grandmasters.”
In his new role as coach of the UT Dallas team, Sadorra will emphasize research as an important way to prepare for play, in particular research on how to approach an opponent’s first few moves.
“As a coach I try to synthesize the material and the opening theory for the team players,” he said. “You basically can research any player out there; just type in his name and look up his games. It’s not unfair to do it because anyone can. If you are the player being researched, you just have to make sure you’re not playing the exact same opening as the one in the database. You need to be flexible and unpredictable.”
“It’s great to work with the team again and to share my experience as a chess scholar and a professional player. I like mentoring, and I like motivating individuals. This is going to be a great experience.”
Sadorra said he will continue to play in some international tournaments, where he also will be recruiting potential UT Dallas chess team members.
“Those tournaments are great places to do that. I can start conversations with them, selling them on the prominence of the UTD program,” he said. “That’s how I originally got recruited here.”
Sadorra is not the first UT Dallas chess alumnus to become a college coach. Alejandro Ramirez BA’09, MA’11 is the coach at Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri, which is starting a competitive chess team, recently named Cristian Chirila BA’14 as its coach.
“We have a great program at UT Dallas,” Stallings said. “It’s really no surprise that our alums go on to do great things.”