(Pictures James Stallings & UTD)
UTD abbreviation means The University of Texas in Dallas.
As the Final Four University team is approaching the UTD members get ready. It will be played the weekend of April 2-3 in Washington D.C. at the headquarters of the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. There is only one goal: defeat the other three teams and win the Presidents Cup. UTD defeated all of these teams (each with 3 GMs and 1 IM) at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship in December. The opposition includes GMs like Gareev, Kuljashevic, Erenburg, Bachman and other strong opponents.” It was not easy then, and we do not expect it will be easy this time”, says Chess Program Director James Stallings- the leading force behind the chess program at the University. Together with Luis Salinas and Coach Rade Milovanovic they form a successful unit that moves forward their chess project.
In the meanwhile, our tournament for preparation was in progress. We had hard time in the first seven rounds when the match was completely tied 21-21. James was even considering additional rapid games to determine the overall winner.
Then came the free day. It included an official lunch with the sponsors, demonstrative games in front of the University, interviews for the TV and publicity of chess, and a visit of the museum of the contemporary art.
The two games that we played with the big chessmen in front of the campus were extremely funny. As the chess pieces were very heavy (made by teak tree from Indonesia) guys did not want to castle (the king was around 20 kg heavy at least). We (the GM team) easily got winning position in the first game as white, but blundered a whole piece. At some stage a little lizard appeared, willing to help the UTD members, but coach Milovanovic realized that he does not have the scholarship and chased him off the board. We managed to get revenge in the second game, as black, and we won the moral win as that second game was recorded for the TV… And this was not the only time when the journalists took interest about us. The last round was attended by The Dallas Morning News journalists who both took interviews and lots of pictures.
After the free round the students’ team collapsed. We won the in the eight round by a two-point margin, and the next one demolished them 5.5-0.5, the biggest overall match win. Magesh Panchanathan, who started disastrously with four straight losses considerably improved his play, and in the second part of the event managed to recover his losses. The interesting fact about Magesh is that he is the first GM that UTD chess program “homebrewed”. Ray Robson, who was ill in the first half of the event, came back, as well as Julio Becerra, who finally even shared the second place scoring +3 in the second lap. In the meanwhile UTD’s top scorer from the first lap Ioan Chirilla lost some games, to finish on 6.5/12. Alejandro Ramirez who after the seventh round jumped over the 2600 mark had to swallow a bitter pill, losing 2 out of his five remaining games. Next year he might be representing the visiting team of “the examiners” as he is graduating by the end of the semester.
However, the students had an occasion to celebrate, as Julio Sadorra succeeded not only to fulfill his third and final GM norm, but also managed to improve his rating to the needed 2500 points. Congratulations for the freshly-elected GM! This norm makes the tournament successful for the UTD, despite the overall loss.
Almost all the members from the Grandmaster team were on positive score, and the best among us is Valentin Iotov. He scored four wins, and remained the only undefeated player in the event. I shared second place with Julio Becerra, both scoring 7.5/12. The most attractive participant from our team was though the oldest one. Alex Shabalov made only two draws for the whole event and was by far the most competitive participant.