Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

Recall that Knute Rockne brought eternal football fame to Notre Dame University and helped make it one of the country’s foremost universities by popularizing the forward pass and creating the legend of George Gipp.

The pioneer promoter of college chess has been Alan Sherman of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, a cryptology expert who solved a problem of national exposure for his school of 13,000 students. His target: the “Final Four,” which is the name for the unofficial US college team chess championship playoffs. The winner of the “Final Four” wins the President’s Cup and becomes America’s college chess team champion. 

To qualify for this, one has to finish in the top four in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships.  Sherman instituted chess scholarships and acted as researcher, organizer, planner, inveigler, and coach of a powerful chess team that occupied center stage for years and has won six “Final Four” championships and 10 Pan Ams.            


The old order changed, however, with Susan Polgar at Texas Tech. Her program established her Knight Raiders as a college chess power. The Knight Raiders won the President’s Cup in 2011 and 2012. However, in 2012, for various reasons, Polgar skipped to Webster University in St. Louis, taking essentially the whole program (and players) from Texas Tech with her.            

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The 2012 Pan Am was held at Princeton University, and it confirmed that it was a mighty event. There were 44 teams in four divisions from all over North America, the highest number since 1986. In terms of ratings, this was probably the strongest event in intercollegiate chess history. To add to the drama, a winter storm that blanketed Boston also canceled 4,000 flights to New Jersey/New York, and teams that had planned to arrive in advance found they were indeed lucky to even arrive on time.

In Division I, two teams from Webster made their first appearance and overnight became the top competitors. Their first team (Webster “A”) was seeded first, University of Texas Dallas, a close second, Webster’s second team (Webster “B”) seeded third, and Texas Tech fourth. Practically unnoticed was the University of Illinois.

However, at the end, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Webster “A,” UT-Dallas, and the University of Illinois tied for first (along with Webster “B”) and were chosen to compete for the President’s Cup. (Only one team from Webster was allowed.)         

Webster’s team featured all grandmasters, and even UMBC’s coach expected it to win. Webster prevailed in the last round over UT-Dallas. UMBC came third, and Illinois fourth.  The competition was fierce and should intensify in the future. We now count about two dozen colleges offering chess scholarships. 



Brevity:  A. Ramirez v. T. Gareev (2012) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 Be7 10.Rd1 Nc6 11.Qf5 Nf6 12.Nc3 0–0 13.e4 g6 14.Qh3 h5 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.Rxd5 Nd4 17.Rxd7 Bc8 18.Rxd8 Rxd8 19.Nxd4 Bxh3 20.Bxh3 Rxd4; 0-1

Winners: Boylston April Quad #1: 1st, Andrew Wang: 2-1, 2d-3d: Eric Godin and Carey Theil: 1.5-1.5; Eastern Class Championships: Class A: 1st: Jonathan Lee: 4.5-.5. Coming Events: New Hampshire Quick Chess, April 27, Holiday Inn, 300 Woodbury Ave. Portsmouth; relyea@opera
; May 3-5, 24th annual Vermont Resort Open, Holiday Inn, 475 Holiday Drive, Rutland;

Coming Events: New Hampshire Quick Chess, April 27, Holiday Inn, 300 Woodbury Ave. Portsmouth,; 24th Annual Vermont Resort Open, May 3-5, Holiday Inn, 475 Holiday Drive, Rutland, Vt.; www