The UTD Chess Team secured several key draws at the 2023 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship but failed to qualify for the final four.
UTD Chess competed in the Pan-Ams from Jan. 5 to Jan. 8. in Seattle, Washington. UTD Team A finished in sixth place with a rating of 2558, Team B in ninth and Team C in thirteenth. UTD Team D, composed of members of the Chess Club, reached ninth place in the U1800 League, even though it was their first time at an internationally rated event. While initially hoping for a position in the final four, the team plans to recover and grow from the loss.
The team’s coach Julio Sadorra said the team was disappointed that they did not make it to the tournament’s final tiebreaker or final four. UTD Team A was narrowly edged out by Saint Louis University, which placed in fifth. However, Sadorra said that UTD held its own against a higher-rated team like SLU, which has two super grandmasters.
“We were pressing against [SLU],” Sadorra said. “Last year, we lost [to] them. But this time we’re not only equal, against them, but we were pressing on three boards, we were pressuring them until the end … and even in the next rounds, we proved that we’re a better team.”
To prepare for the Pan-Ams, the team members reviewed theory and worked out physically as a group each Friday morning to improve general wellness. Recent graduate Razvan Preotu — rated 2579 and a member of UTD Team A — drew two different grandmasters: Benjamin Bok in round four and Aleksey Sorokin in round six. He said that prior to the Pan-Ams, he analyzed his past games and focused on preparing openings.
“When you’re facing strong players, if you can surprise them, that really improves your chances, I think,” Preotu said. “Especially to win, because they would feel uncomfortable and if you just understand the positions better than your opponent, you can really gain a lot of time, pressure them on the clock.”
Finance and economics double major Rahul Peddi of Team A — rated 2513 — obtained 4.5 points out of six games played. Peddi previously competed in the Pan-Ams in 2022, where UTD Team A made second place. Peddi said that since he joined the chess team, half the original team graduated. This led to several new members joining the team, leading to new members joining and forming a different group dynamic. Since he will not be competing in the final four, Peddi said he plans to relax and prepare for his next event.
“We’ll have to reconsider what we did as a team and what went wrong, and try to work it out,” Peddi said.
Having graduated in December 2022, Preotu is now pursuing a full-time job in computer science. Preotu said the Pan-Ams was the tournament he most looked forward to because of its focus on team interaction.
“The Pan-Ams is a really fun tournament for us,” Preotu said. “We really bond together as a team, we prepare together for all our matches, we discuss team strategies.”
Moving forward from the Pan-Ams, the team will be competing in the Texas Online Rapids Championship in late January. Sadorra said he stressed the importance of collective responsibility to the team members and reiterated what makes a winning attitude.
“We’ve been together, draw together, lose together,” Sadorra said. “So, we are gonna own this. We’re not just gonna forget about it. We’re gonna take lessons from it. We’re gonna analyze the tough games they played and stop blaming this and that … I believe the team’s just gonna get stronger with this experience.”