April 4, 2011
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Chess Program finished in third place at the 2011 President’s Cup, the "Final Four of College Chess" that ended Sunday.
"The result is not what we hoped for but the finish is incredibly respectful," said UTB-TSC Chess Coach Ronen Har-Zvi. "The level has substantially become stronger than last year. It could have gone either way."
Texas Tech University won its first President’s Cup with 7 points. The University of Texas at Dallas placed second with 6.5 points. UTB-TSC finished in third place with 6 points and defending President’s Cup champion the University of Maryland, Baltimore County placed fourth with 4.5 points.
Davorin Kuljasevic, captain of Texas Tech’s chess team and a graduate student in finance, wore an "I (heart) Vegas" T-shirt under his black team hoodie. The T-shirt symbolized the reward the team would get if it won the tournament: a trip to Las Vegas after spring semester ends in May.
"We didn’t expect to win," said Kuljasevic. "We just wanted to do our best. We only lost one individual game in the tournament."
In the deciding third match played at technology and management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in Herndon Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., UTB-TSC tied UT-Dallas 2-2 and Texas Tech defeated UMBC 2.5 to 1.5.
"It was supposed to be really tough and it was, it really was," said Axel Bachmann, a UTB-TSC chess player and junior business major from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. "We are happy with our effort and how the team spirit was."
UTB-TSC chess player Max Cornejo, a senior international business major from Lima, Peru, said the team fought every round.
"It was hard for me," he said. "That’s sports for you: one wins and one loses."
Cornejo said the tournament possibly marked the final time he, Bachmann and chess program members Timur Gareyev and Mauricio Flores will compete together on a team. Gareyev and Cornejo are scheduled to graduate in December with business degrees.
Hilda Silva, UTB-TSC’s vice president for student affairs, traveled to Virginia to be with the chess players. She and chess program director Russell Harwood kept the team well stocked with snacks and sports drinks as they played.
"I’m very proud of everything they accomplished to get to this point," said Silva. "They looked out and supported each other. They have been competing with these schools at this level for so many years. I follow them because of who they are."
Brownsville native and UTB-TSC alumnus Sergio Loya, a project manager at Management Analysis Inc. in Vienna, Va., lives in nearby Ashburn, Va. and visited the tournament site to watch the third round. He followed online some of Saturday’s two rounds.
"I think it’s intense first of all," said Loya. "I think on a level playing fled, UTB-TSC matches up very well with the large name-brand schools in other parts of the country."
UTB-TSC placed second in the 2010 President’s Cup and finished third in the 2009 tournament that marked the program’s first appearance.
The program’s continued emergence on the national collegiate chess landscape symbolizes the interest in the game that many Brownsville students have had and continue to learn how to play.
"The real important thing here is what this does is it takes the whole community up the ladder with them," said UTB-TSC President Juliet V. Garcia. "These chess students tutor coaches and other students in our community. That’s a story that is very powerful."