UMBC Prepares for 2012 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Chess Championship

The UMBC Chess Team is training for the 2012 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship (“The World Series of College Chess”), which will take place December 27-30, in Princeton, NJ. The Pan-Am determines the top college or university team in North, South, and Central America, and the Carribean. In its current form, it has been held annually since 1946. The Retrievers have won or tied for first place a record nine times (96,98,99,00(tie),01(tie),02,05,08(tie),09). The top four USA schools will advance to the President’s Cup (“Final Four of College Chess”), which will take place in early April in Herndon, VA. Started in 2001, the Final Four determines the top USA college team. The Retrievers have won the Final Four a record six times.

Whereas the Pan-Am is a six-round team Swiss tournament scored by team points, the Final Four is a three-round team round robin tournament scored by individual points. Dr. Alan Sherman, Director of the UMBC Chess Program, considers team Swiss tournaments the most exciting form of college chess because each player must act in the best interest of the team, which might be in conflict with what is in the best interest for his or her individual game. For example, if the team needs a win, a player who normally might settle for a draw in an even or worse position in his or her game might have to assume the risk of playing for a win.

This year’s team includes two new players: International Grandmaster Niclaus Huschenbeth (FIDE rating 2536) from Hamburg, Germany, and International Woman Grandmaster Nazi Paidikze (2394) from the Republic of Georgia. Grandmaster Huschenbeth became the 2012-2013 UMBC Champion when he won the UMBC Chess Championship September 15-16 with an undefeated score of 4.5 points out of 5.

The two women on the team––International Women Grandmasters Paidikze and Sabina Foisor––are the fifth and sixth highest rated women in the USA. In early September, Foisor played on the USA Women’s Chess Team at the Chess Olympiads in Istanbul.

Last year, the University of Texas at Dallas won the Pan-Am, and Texas Tech won the Final Four. This year, however, the favorite is Webster University in St. Louis, MO, a newcomer to chess. Webster recruited the entire Texas Tech Team and its coach International Grandmaster Susan Polgar. Investing heavily in chess, they also recruited some of the top young rising stars, including Ray Robson.

The UMBC Team comprises Giorgi Margvelashvili (Captain), Niclas Huschenbeth, Sasha Kaplan, Sabina Foisor, and alternates Nazi Paikidze, Adithya Balasubramanian, and Benjamin Krause.