From Pawns to Kings: Highlights from the Chess Season

Julio Sadorra coaches UTD Chess Team. His world chess rank is 353.



The spring 2023 chess season came to a remarkable end with several moments of brilliance in state tournaments throughout the semester.

From the beginning of the year, the UTD Chess Team participated in a series of tournaments, including the Pan-American Intercollegiate, Chess Fest 2023, Southwest Collegiate Team Championship, Texas Woman’s State Championship and the Spring 2023 Chess Intramurals. Despite a somewhat shaky start, the team turned this season into a remarkable one.

The Pan-American Intercollegiate tournament, held annually in January, decides on four teams to advance to the final College Chess Championship. Although the UTD Chess team did not manage to secure a spot in the top four, coach Julio Sadorra believes that it is a promising start for UTD’s newest players.

“This year we had some new players that joined the team that will be here for a while, so you know it takes time for things to glue together,” Sadorra said.

The 2023 Southwest Collegiate Team Championship is a competition in which teams from the southwest region of the U.S. compete to determine the top three teams that will qualify for the Texas Collegiate Super Finals in the fall of 2023. The UTD Chess Team was split into two teams with three players each: Team A and Team B. Both teams made a remarkable comeback; Team A advanced to the finals with a perfect score from its grandmasters, and Team B tied for fourth place.

“Team B was very supportive because to win the tournament they stopped some teams,” Julio said. “For example, Texas Tech — they beat them. It’s kind of a team effort because one team is slowing down or drawing the other teams while Team A is going and going.”

The Texas Women’s State Championship in Brownsville, Texas saw International Master Gergana Peycheva emerge as the Texas Women’s Champion and her teammate, IM Tarini Goyal, place third. Despite facing stiff competition from their rivals at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and opponents ranked higher them, Peycheva and Tarini succeeded in holding down the board.

“It’s an individual event, but once again I’m proud of our players for acting as a team,” Julio said. “You know they help each other. Tarini beat the top seed of UTRGV… and then allowed Gergana to go up and up and defeat the other players.”

To engage campus with the sport of chess, the chess team hosted its first Chess Fest in March, featuring events such as the women’s chess simul and a blindfold chess event. A simul is where one player competes against multiple players simultaneously. Both of UTD’s female IMs,Tarini Goyal and Gergana Peycheva, participated. Goyal won 16 games along with one game ending in a draw and Peycheva won all 19 games. In the blindfold event, economics sophomore and Grandmaster Ivan Schitco and graduate student IM Andrei Macovei played against fellow Comets while wearing blindfolds where they each won all three games.

“This year is the biggest ever version [of ChessFest]. It’s nice to see the student body getting into it and participating in such a big chess event,” Julio said.

The final event of the chess season was the Intramurals Chess tournament on April 22, 2023, open to all at UTD with special prizes up for grabs. This tournament had two different unrated sections: the Open Section and the U1500 section for players rated under 1500. This tournament was a great way for chess players at UTD, regardless of their skill level, to come together and enjoy the game.

“It was a great success considering they changed it into an individual event,” Julio said. “We even had a few alumni players that came, and the winner (for the Open section) was alumni Grandmaster Guillermo Vasquez.”

This summer, the UTD Chess program will host summer chess camps for children with a 1550–2000 US chess rating. Instructors include Julio, two IMs, a Grandmaster and a Candidate Master from the Chess Team and a member of UTD’s Chess Club.

“This summer is when they get to play more chess tournaments, get to own more of their skills and we have summer chess camps.” Julio said. “That’s part of our outreach program targeted for young chess enthusiasts all over the world.”

Starting as pawns, the UTD Chess Team and club are gradually advancing on the board, moving step by step towards becoming the kings of the sport as they establish themselves in the chess world. Julio said the members of the Chess Club have had a positive experience and are eagerly anticipating the upcoming chess season.

“I think our team [and] our club members are enjoying the experience and this is the key,” Julio said. “This is what will make us stand out. It’s not just about the titles but the experience. That’s what’s going to make memories… make you keep coming back… to our chess club.”



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