Members of the University of Virginia chess team spentpart of their Christmas breaks competing at the Pan-American Chess Championship, held December 27-30. The dedicated members of this under-rated chess team played against schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Toronto in games lasting up to six hours each. In the end, the University chess team finished 24th in the nation, including two teams from Canada and one from Peru. The team even managed to score points against every team they played, which is a real accomplishment considering the caliber of competition. And what kind of accomplishment is a 24th place finish at nationals? Dead last.
The University was the only school at nationals unable to field a four-person team. Not having a fourth player meant having to forfeit points every round — a significant disadvantage. The format of team competition is the four players on one team play the four players on the opposing team; you add up your wins and draws, and the team with the most points wins. However, the University’s inability to field four players was not due to the absence of interest or ability in chess at this school. “We have some of the best players in the state,” says team member Carl Barth. “And team member Manasi Pandit was one of the only female representatives in the entire competition, so we obviously have interest and ability.”
The team’s inability to perform well nationally was due to the lack of funding provided by the University. In fact the chess team was initially approved for over $1000 to compete in the Pan-American competition, but the University cut the clubs funding to $451 just days before the tournament as part of budget cuts made to all CIO budgets. That $451 was just enough to field a team of three. It’s not that the team didn’t have a chance; it wasn’t given one. Weeks before the tournament myself and treasurer Tourreilles initiated the process of having an advance check written for $750 to cover the team’s entry fees. The check was never written.
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