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Pan-Americans Take Off in Dallas Print E-mail
By Dr. WIM Alexey Root   
December 28, 2011

Logan Thoeni (Lone Star College fourth board) versus Haizhou Xu (University of Toronto "A" fourth board), in a post mortem.
“This may be the strongest-ever Pan Am” said The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) Chess Program Director Jim Stallings. “Pan Am” is short for Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship. Stallings added, “If you look at the top teams, and even at titled players not on the top teams, it may also be a record number of titled players participating. The top three teams boast 10 grandmasters on their rosters. University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the school with the most Pan Am wins, is ranked as only the fourth-highest rated team this year.” The top seed is The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) “A” team, which boasts an average rating of 2616. Other high-ranked “A” teams include Texas Tech University (Tech) at 2613.8, UT Dallas at 2567.3, and UMBC at 2520. See full pairings and standings.

The top three universities also brought non-“A” teams. For example, Tech’s chess club advisor Hal Karlsson noted that Tech brought three teams in addition to its “A” team. The “A” team is funded by the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE), while the other three teams use the chess club’s student government annual allotment ($8,000) to participate. Karlsson said that the Tech chess club is in the top 10% of all clubs funded by Tech student government, because of its level of activity and the recognition it receives. (A beginning club at Tech might receive only $500, in contrast.)

 Left to Right: Rebecca Lelko (blue sweater, Texas Tech Team 2 [B team], board 4), Ananya Roy (Texas Tech Team 4 [D team], Board 4), and Maraani Kamphorst Diamant (Texas Tech, Team 4 [D team], Board 1)

Douglas Stoves, Director of Residential Life and Collegiate Chess at UTB, and Russell Harwood, Chess Program Director, brought UTB’s two teams on December 26, a day before the event began on December 27. Since the Pan Am always falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day, players often come straight from family celebrations. One UTB player flew in from Mexico, another from New York. The UTB Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Hilda Silva, arrives December 28 to support the teams. “To me, it shows the dedication of the entire university to the success of the chess program on our campus,” said Stoves. Similarly, UT Dallas President David Daniel, with daughter Katherine, visited the opening reception, held one hour before round 1. 

Twenty-eight college teams are participating, in this year’s event, co-hosted by UT Dallas and the Dallas Chess Club. The University of Toronto participates each year. For 2011, Toronto brought two teams. Its “A” team is led by IM Bindi Cheng. Cheng told me that the Toronto team’s average USCF rating was lower than its players’ actual strength. His University of Toronto “A” teammate Haizhou Xu added, “We’re trying for something here. This is our top team in a while.” Toronto “A” got off to a great start, winning all four games in its first round against Lone Star College.

Many other first round matches also ended 4-0, as Swiss system pairings meant big rating differentials between paired teams in round 1. For the first round, games were not broadcast on MonRoi but future rounds will be. Also stay tuned for my CLO report upon the event’s conclusion. 

Here is a quick first round win by UMBC’s Giorgi Margvelashvili over his opponent Silas Perry from the University of New Mexico. Although Margvelashvili is Board 2 for UMBC, he played on Board 1 for round 1. (UMBC’s Board 1 Leonid Kritz sat out round 1). 


Dr. Alexey Root teaches at UT Dallas.
Registration is now open for her spring 2012 courses.