Chess player now UTD’s 10th grandmaster

Photo Courtesy of UTD Chess. Illustration: Jarin Priyoshi | Mercury Staff

Information technology and management master’s student Brian Escalante Ramirez became UTD’s 10th grandmaster after his exceptional performance at the 2023 US Masters Open from Nov. 22-26 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

Ramirez began playing chess in elementary school in Peru at a local level; he was drawn to the sport because of the logic required to delve into different positions and analyze them closely. Once he turned 11 years old, his coach recommended he play outside the city to broaden his skills. After turning 15, he became more serious about the sport as his rating rose from 1900 to 2400 in just one month. After three years of tournaments, he became an international master in 2017. After 2017, he was accepted at UTD, but didn’t increase significantly in chess rating because of his studies and career goals. Finally, on Nov. 26, Ramirez obtained the last of three norms to become a GM after many ups and downs in rating.  

“At some point I was pretty close to the final requirement, which was to reach 2500 in rating … I reached 2496 and then I had a streak of bad tournaments and went back down to 2460 … It was pretty tough,” Ramirez said. “Finally in this tournament, I reached the rating in the last round.” 

The US Masters Open was an individual tournament with 114 players, meaning UTD Chess team members competed against one another and other high-level players. Alongside Ramirez was the rest of the UTD Chess team, except junior economics Ivan Schitco and master’s student Andrei Macovei, who participated in the European Teams Championship. Ramirez completed his final norm thanks to round 8 of the US Masters Open, where he won against GM Yasser Perez Quesada, rated 2594.  

“That game [round 8] I reached 2499 and that’s how I averaged 2500 and became a GM,” Ramirez said.  

At the start of round 8, Ramirez played black and said that GM Quesada wanted to simplify the game by trading pieces. Ramirez played this game by intuition, as he was worried about taking too much time in the beginning, where he could use his time in the middle of the game to think of the best moves.  

“It was more like let’s get the pieces out and then we will see … I managed to equalize with black pieces, which is good, especially against someone who is higher rated,” Ramirez said.

GM Quesada vs. GM Ramirez US Masters Open (2023)

During the eighth game, Ramirez was shocked, as he didn’t expect GM Quesada to play knight to e2. According to Ramirez’s approach, this can be a very tricky move to prevent.  

“It’s actually pretty tricky because now he played knight e2, which means he wants to play [pawn to] f3, and if I take the pawn [on h5 with the queen] then knight e4 becomes really annoying,” Ramirez said. “Let’s say if I were to play a safe move like queen f7, then knight e6 … the rook is trapped.” 

After GM Quesada played knight to e2, Ramirez grew worried, because if he lost this game, it would be harder for him to get the GM title.  

“I was thinking, man I’m worse … If I make a couple of inaccurate moves, I’m going to lose pretty soon,” Ramirez said. “So I need to really be alert to all my chances … if I lose this game, I’m gonna get pretty [far] away from the GM title.” 

Nearing the end of the eighth game, Ramirez pulled through with a move that solved all of the issues with his position and turned the tables on GM Quesada. Because of Ramirez’s material advantage in the game, GM Quesada resigned. 

“He got a little bit desperate because he felt like the game was going away from his hands, so he tried to play for a little, but he should have just taken the draw at this point,” Ramirez said. “The game was already over and he resigned.” 

GM Quesada vs. GM Ramirez US Masters Open (2023)

Previous moves: 26. bxc4, Rd8 27. Nc3

Black to move. How can Black save the game?

Answer: Ne5

…Black (Ramirez) puts his knight on e5, which will force White (Quesada) to take the knight to open up the position. Then, Black can take the unguarded pawn and potentially take the bishop on d2.

After gaining the GM title, Ramirez anticipates taking first place with the UTD Chess team in the American Pan Ams happening on Jan. 4, 2024 in McAllen, Texas. As for individual goals, he would like to move up in rating so he can participate in the World FIDE Cup before he starts working either as a data analyst or in HR.  

“I would just like to qualify and to play in the tournament that I followed as a kid,” Ramirez said. “I feel like that’s a goal of mine.” 

Ramirez would like to thank his family and friends for supporting him throughout chess journey, academic endeavors and personal life. He felt that his family sacrificed themselves economically to support his participation in tournaments. As a result of their sacrifices and Ramirez’s efforts, he became UTD’s 10th GM.  

“They are my real reason for trying to keep going and keep improving in chess and in life in general,” Ramirez said.   

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