UT Dallas fought hard but came up a half-point short Sunday in its quest for the national chess title, finishing second in the Final Four of Chess to cross-state rival Texas Tech University.
The teams met in in Washington, D.C., for the tournament, which determines who holds the top spot in collegiate chess. The other teams on the roster were New York University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
For three rounds, players sat at boards for up to four hours considering the best moves. Coaches and visiting chess experts sat in opposite rooms debating what play would be the best options. After the last move, however, when the final scoring was posted, the Texas Tech team took first place. UT Dallas finished as runner-up for the second consecutive year.
“This year was a lot like last year. We lost by half a point, but we went undefeated in the Pan-American tournament, which got us to the final four. We had a good year, and I’m very proud of our team,” said Jim Stallings, the UT Dallas chess program director.
Strong Start in First Round
Saturday morning, the team won three games and drew (or tied) one in the first round Saturday morning against NYU. The playing lasted three hours.
“I am happy with the outcome of my game,” International Master (IM) Milos Pavlovich said. “It is never easy to win, as all the matches are very decisive in this tournament.”
Team captain, IM Sal Bercys also won his match.
“We have to keep playing at a high caliber. It’s a must win either way,” said Bercys.
Team Keeps Rolling in Round 2
Saturday evening made for a more grueling round as UMBC stood their ground. UT Dallas finished with one win, one loss and two draws.
“I took advantage in the opening of the match, and I was slightly better somehow – I thought I should have been even better than I was. I made a mistake and I had to sacrifice a piece. After that I had to make a draw,” said Grandmaster Valentin Yotov.
At the conclusion of Round 2, UT Dallas knew they had to win their games on Sunday to have a chance at the trophy.
Heartbreak in the Final Push
In the third round, the first three players for UT Dallas all made draws against the solid Tech team, which left Freshman Grandmaster Conrad Holt as the only remaining player. If he won, then so did the team.
Holt took a commanding lead in the game, but into the long fourth hour of the match, the time restraint of the clock forced players to speed up. In the end, as spectators watched in suspense, the game concluded with a draw. The draw gave Tech an overall half point win.
“Conrad has been our MVP of the year. He has been incredible. He played a very tough opponent. The endgame was hard because time was running out,” said UT Dallas coach Rade Milovanovic.
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– GM Susan Polgar