The points-based tournament, held at Princeton University in New Jersey, included 44 teams from North, South and Central America, and those teams included 23 grand masters of chess, said Alan Sherman, director of the UMBC chess program.
“They’re thrilled because this year we were up against the strongest competition ever,” Sherman said of UMBC’s team, which includes two international grand masters, two international women grand masters, one international master and one master.
All members of the team competed in the point-based tournament, which concluded in dramatic fashion in the final round of matches in a five-team tie, Sherman said.
Joining UMBC among the winners was the University of Texas at Dallas, which Sherman called UMBC’s “archrival.”
Both UMBC and UTD have each won the Pan-American 10 times, a record, Sherman said.
The other teams to tie for the Pan-American victory this year were the University of Illinois and two teams from Webster University, in St. Louis, which saw its program improved this year by an influx of outside donor funding and heavy recruiting, Sherman said.
“Everybody expected Webster was going to dominate and win the tournament, but University of Texas at Dallas stopped them in the last round,” Sherman said.
The UMBC team will now move on to the President’s Cup, considered the “Final Four” of college chess in the United States, to be held in Herndon, Va., in April. The UMBC team has won the President’s Cup, which cannot end in a tie, six times in the past.
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– GM Susan Polgar