|UT Dallas Streaks to Pan-Am Victory|
|By Dr. WIM Alexey Root|
|December 30, 2011|
Before round 5, Grandmaster Timur Gareyev entered the hotel pool just as I was leaving it. I said, “Sorry I didn’t get your photo in Chess Life Online. Maybe, if you win a board prize, your photo will get in then.” Gareyev, who did end up winning the first board prize, replied, “I don’t care about a board prize. What’s important is that the team wins.” I asked how that would happen, since The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) Team “A” had just lost its fourth round match against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Gareyev predicted, “Here’s how it is going to go down. Next round, UTB will defeat Columbia University by 3.5 or 4 points. UT Dallas will win against UMBC. Then, in the last round, UTB will beat UT Dallas.” I pointed out that, in his scenario, the UT Dallas “A” team would then have one match loss (against UTB). So both UTB and UT Dallas would have 5 out of 6 match points. Gareyev smiled and said, “Yes, but UTB will have better tiebreaks because of our score against Columbia. We are very strong.”
During round 5, about an hour into the round, was an event not predicted by Gareyev. A streaker, male, wearing just underwear and athletic shoes, ran through the Pan Am Open, Class, and Scholastic playing area. He was screaming. The college games were in the same ballroom, blocked off by a row of tables. Most college players looked up only briefly (no pun intended) before returning their gazes to their chess positions. The streaker was tackled, lost a shoe in the scuffle, then escaped down a side hallway.
In round 5, UTB “A” scored 4-0 against Columbia University. At the same time UT Dallas “A” won 3.5-.5 against UMBC. Going into round 6, UTB “A” had 52 tiebreak points and UTD “A” had 48.5 tiebreak points. The first tiebreak system is the USATE, which multiplies game points against each opponent by that opponent’s final match score. Nevertheless, if teams tie for first they are considered co-champions. But the team with the better tiebreaks takes home the first place trophy.
The stage was set for Gareyev’s scenario. UT Dallas “A” had white on boards 1 and 3 against UTB “A.” Since I work for UT Dallas, I rooted for the home team to win. The Pan Am, held in Fort Worth, was co-hosted by UT Dallas and the Dallas Chess Club with sponsorship from the USCF. Gareyev’s prediction (and that UTB’s team rating was 2616 versus UT Dallas’ 2567) concerned me.
UT Dallas Chess Program Director Jim Stallings thought that UTB “A” perhaps should not go all out to win the sixth round. Jim said, “The greater the reward, the greater the risk. If Brownsville pushes too hard, and loses to UT Dallas 'A,' they might not go to the Final Four. Texas Tech and NYU are likely to get 4.5 match points by winning their round 6 matches. Then it might be UT Dallas, UMBC, Texas Tech, and NYU (and no UTB) at the Final Four.”
UTB Chess Program Director Russell Harwood said that Thursday night, before the Friday morning match with UT Dallas “A,” the UTB administrators, coach GM Ronen Har-Zvi, and the players met in the hotel lobby. Ronen asked which strategy the university would want: Striving for safe draws to qualify for the Final Four or taking the risk of not qualifying to win the Pan Am? The administrators gave the choice to the players. Russell Harwood said, “The players wanted to play to win the Pan Am.”
Gareyev did his part, defeating GM Valentin Yotov on first board.
However, Dallas won on the other three boards. This victory by UTD board three GM Sadorra featured a pretty finish starting with 40.Bf7!
With this match win, UT Dallas repeated as Pan Am Champions, with 6-0 match victories last year and this year.
The top four finishers in the tournament qualified for the 2012 President’s Cup, the "Final Four of College Chess," to be held March 30–April 1 in Herndon, VA. Those top four are: UT Dallas (6-0 match wins; 1st place), UMBC (5-1; 2nd place), Texas Tech (4.5-1.5; third place on tiebreaks), and New York University (4.5-1.5; fourth place on tiebreaks).
As it did last year, Booz Allen Hamilton will sponsor the Final Four.
Next year’s Pan Am will be on the Princeton University campus December 27-30, 2012. “Pan Am” is short for Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship. This year’s Pan Am standings are at http://www.swchess.com/sce/tourney/PanAms11/PanAmTm.htm
Dr. Alexey Root has written five books and has a forthcoming sixth book about teaching chess.