Webster Finishes Clear 1st At Pan-Ams For 7th Straight Title
FM Mike Klein
It a case of "7Up" for its collegiate chess program, Webster University has won the largest open collegiate team event in the Western Hemisphere for the seventh time in as many years. The Gorloks are 2018 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Chess Champions thanks to their 5.5/6 performance in late December just outside San Francisco.
Webster has now won in every year of its existence (2012-2018). Only a Texas Tech win in 2015 (the former program of head coach GM Susan Polgar) attempted to break up the hegemony, and even in that year Webster tied for first, which officially counts as a title according to a ruling by the collegiate chess committee.
Bay Area Chess hosted more than 50 teams this time from places as disparate as Mexico and Alaska (any university in the Americas or Caribbean is eligible), but in the end it was the programs that offered chess scholarships that were mostly untouchable. St. Louis-based Webster's A-Team of GMs Illya Nyzhnyk, Lazaro Bruzon, Yuniesky Quesada, and Jorge Cori were collectively even more diverse that the colleges themselves (Ukraine, Cuba, Cuba, Peru, respectively).
They had two of only three individual losses come in round three, but survived that drawn match to win out and thus take first without any need for tiebreaks. Three teams finished a half-point back at 5.0/6, and that trio would normally join Webster in the Final Four of College Chess, traditionally in New York in April. The only "problem" is that Webster's B-Team finished in that pack, and a school can only send one quartet to the Big Apple. A nice problem to have!
Those teams on 5.0/6 were University of Texas at Dallas (A-Team), Webster University (B-Team), and the surprise of the event, Harvard University. Only in the chess world does a premier institution like the Crimson qualify as a huge underdog in a mental pursuit, but that's the nature of chess scholarships these days. Harvard doesn't offer any and indeed most Ivy League schools don't even offer official athletic scholarships (so GM Darwin Yang must have gotten there under other worthy merits!).
In fact, Harvard was the only squad in the top 10 finishers that was not a "chess school." Princeton University, one of their arch rivals, finished 11th. (Historically Harvard has won the event five times, tied with Columbia for the most among the Ivy Leagues.)
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