The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Chess Team pulled off a stunning win over five-year reigning national champs Webster University this weekend in the annual President’s Cup, the Final Four of College Chess competition, at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City.
UTRGV beat Webster 7.5 to 7.0 after what FIDE arbiter Mike Hoffpauir called “the strongest Final Four in the history of this tournament.”
Teams in the Final Four this year were St. Louis University, Webster University, Texas Tech and UTRGV.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey said this is an exciting win for the team, for the university, and for the Valley community, which has been so supportive of the Vaqueros team
“We are extremely proud of our chess team and admire the hard work and effort they put into every competition,” Bailey said. “Winning the President’s Cup is indeed a great honor for our chess team, for UTRGV and for the Rio Grande Valley. We congratulate them on their win.”
The UTRGV Chess Team members are: GM Vladimir Belous (2684), GM Kamil Dragun (2686), GM Andrey Stukopin (2683), GM Carlos Antonio Hevia Alejano (2569), GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan (2679).
The President’s Cup is an annual invitational team tournament open to the top four U.S. schools from the most recent Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship.
Unlike the Pan-Am, the Final Four is decided on game points, so each win or draw contributes to the team’s overall score for the tournament.
At the 2016 Final Four, UTRGV’s first time in the national contest, they placed second behind Webster 8.5 to 7.5.
Coach Grandmaster Bartek Macieja said he and his team felt strong and confident going into the competition, and on the way to the tournament, team member GM Andrey Stukopin said he, too, was confident about their chances of winning.
Standings at the end of the first round had UTRGV in the lead over Webster by half a point, but Webster gained ground in the second round to pull ahead of UTRGV by half a point.
Then, in a surprising upset, the final match between Webster and St. Louis ended in a draw, sealing the win for the UTRGV Vaqueros.
The victory is the Vaqueros’ first national championship.
“We have been chasing this goal since the program began at UTRGV,” a jubilant Macieja said. “The team stayed strong and kept fighting, and I am very proud of them.”
Dr. Douglas Stoves, @dstoves, associate dean for Student Rights and Responsibilities who oversees the chess program, Tweeted gameplay throughout the two-day tournament, keeping fans in the Valley apprised and keeping the excitement high with Tweets like, “All eyes are glued to computers as moves are analyzed and outcomes and next moves are anticipated. The excitement and tension are palpable!” https://twitter.com/dstoves/status/980475319789473792
And Susan Polgar, coach of the Webster University Chess Team, graciously Tweeted her congratulations to the UTRGV team: “It is over! UTRGV is the new Chess Final Four Champion! They edged us out 7.5 – 7.0 to win! @websteru streak ends at 5 and SPICE ends at 7. Congratulations to @utrgv @USChess. Well Done!” https://twitter.com/websteru/status/980538996982984704?s=19