5 years ago
John Thottungal
Mercury Staff

Grandmaster Julio Sadorra sat across the board from Webster University’s Fidel Corrales of Cuba in the Frick Laboratory at Princeton University waiting to land the upper hook in the final round.

That opportunity came after he carefully positioned himself to take Fidel’s pawn with his bishop, a move that put the game and subsequently the first-place finish in UTD’s hands.

The chess team tied with four other teams to win the Pan American Collegiate Chess tournament with a 6-0 score, the 10th time the university has won the tournament either in a tie or outright.

The sixth and final round came after a well-fought, long battle wrought with ups and downs for the entire team which included missed flights, waiting an entire day at the airport and facing Boston’s bitter cold. Sadorra’s victory was just one of the three boards played in the final round and the entire team waited patiently to see how fellow grandmasters Christian Chirilla and Conrad Holt played their games.

Holt, also known as ‘Thunderbolt’ by the team, earned a new nickname — Thunderhold — after he came back from a weaker position to tie his board against George Meier, the Euro 2011 champion.

While victory reigned again this year and UTD’s chess team celebrated the New Year with a trophy, it did not come easy. Sadorra said the team had to trust and rely on each other to make the victory possible.

“Chess is a game where every one has a chance to win regardless of the opponent’s rank,” Sadorra said.

Grandmasters such as Sadorra train up to 14 hours a week, a regiment that includes solving chess problems and constantly reading chess strategy books, all of which are available at the UTD Chess room, also known as “the bat cave,” for the entire team.

Before the final round played on December 30th, the players sat and studied their opponents’ games from online databases. Sadorra said it is also very important to keep up with the latest trends in opening and closing moves, which change periodically.

The players’ close ties to one another were evident in the way the team pulled together after half the team was left stranded at DFW Dirport a day before the tournament began due to a series of unfortunate mishaps that included a cancelled flight.

With their best players, including Sadorra, arriving tired and sick in New Jersey two hours before the first game, they still opted to play and won their first round.

The fourth round saw UTD’s team lose two boards and win just two, which gave Webster University the overall lead. But the fifth round proved that even a goliath such as Webster, whose two teams were made up entirely of grandmasters, can make mistakes, allowing UTD to catch.

Coach Rade Milovanovic kept up the team morale, giving players time to rest and letting them know that all was not lost after the fourth round.

The first match of the final round ended in a draw with the score at 1.5-0.5, and the second game went to Webster. All eyes turned on to Holt’s match, where he earned a draw after a slow start, ending the final round in a 1.5-1.5 tie.