UMBC chess team finishes third in President’s Cup
University team second runner up in national competition
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 00:04
The prestigious and highly successful UMBC chess team placed third in the President’s Cup, also known as the chess “Final Four,” on April 7. It competed against the likes of the University of Texas-Dallas, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the first-place finishers from Webster University in St. Louis.
The team faced formidable competition amidst changing conditions in the college chess world, instigated in part by UMBC, the inspiration for new chess programs like Webster’s. Dr. Alan Sherman, professor of computer science and engineering, started UMBC’s chess program in 1991 and can be hailed as the pioneer of collegiate chess.
Sherman was the first person to recruit grandmasters internationally and offer them scholarships to play chess. His model worked for years and gave UMBC the opportunity to win six Final Four tournaments, but with rising costs and a stagnant chess budget, the university is falling behind schools like UT-Dallas and Webster.
“With the rising inflation, it’s becoming much more difficult to offer students more than what other colleges will,” said Sherman. “It’s difficult to recruit a student to play for UMBC when they are being offered over $10,000 more at another college.”
Pepsi works with UMBC to offer a $15,000 scholarship to qualified candidates from around the world while Webster and the UT-Dallas are giving students more than $25,000 to play for their teams.
“It’s a great way to gain publicity and it’s much less expensive than trying to start a football or baseball program,” said Giorgi Margvelashvili, senior financial economics major and chess grandmaster.
UMBC succeeded with recruitment in the past, but it seems that with diminishing support from administration, other schools may carry the torch. “The support from the campus just isn’t there,” said Sherman, who operates as director of the program voluntarily.
“UMBC wants their students to succeed both in chess and academically. Those top 100 chess players that are being recruited to play for other colleges are not committed to succeeding academically,” said Adithya Balasubramanian, senior chemical engineering major and president of the chess program. “The universities they play for would need to offer them more money than they could make playing professional chess.”
Although winning championships is a great way to finish a season, the outcome is not Sherman’s end game. “It’s not just about winning, but it’s about what we can give back to the community,” said Sherman. “If the program were to receive a larger full-time faculty, this type of community outreach may be possible.”
UMBC will be hosting a campus tournament two weeks after Labor Day to determine the UMBC chess champion. It will be open to all ranked chess players and will double as chess team tryouts. For more information about the competition, visit www.umbc.edu/chess.