Intramurals celebrates the blunders and brilliance of UTD Chess Team

UTD Chess | Courtesy


UTD Chess celebrated the end of an eventful season by playing in the Intramurals, its last tournament of the semester, against fellow Comets in the Founders Atrium April 20.  

The Intramurals is a UTD affiliated 7-round Swiss tournament with 5-minute time controls and 3-second increments per move. Koustav Chatterjee, Andrei Macovei and Ivan Schitco competed among 46 total participants and emerged as first, second and third-place winners, respectively. The organizers gave prizes to the top U2200, U1800, U1400 and U1000 players — respectively won by Barrett Winchell, Abdullah Akbar, Nathan Vaz and Bhanu Prakash Bangaru. This tournament aimed to bring the entire chess team together and highlight the accomplishments that UTD Chess has reached throughout the past academic year. Several significant tournaments received acknowledgements, such as the Chess Collegiate League for fall 2023 and spring 2024, where all the teams qualified for the playoffs in both semesters. Although the team started the season off rough, it has climbed the ranks with memorable victories in the Pan Ams and Southwest Collegiate of 2024.  

Akbar, an applied cognition and neuroscience graduate, said that this Intramurals tournament was an improvement compared to the four other Intramurals he previously participated in, as it progressed a lot faster. Akbar said his studying and playing chess finally paid off, as this was his first time winning an Intramurals prize. His favorite game was the final game he played, as it determined who would win the top prize in the U1800 section. Akbar said he usually centralizes his pawns and develops his pieces starting with knights to have a solid game. This strategy allowed him a tactical play, giving him an early advantage when his opponent blundered his bishop.  

“I took lot of positional advantages and had some very interesting tactics [where] I actually skipped a fork to get a better advantage and then took the fork later [and another] fork,” Akbar said.  

The Chess Collegiate League is an online tournament where UTD chess players participate in weekly blitz games with a team. There are divisions to rank each team by their ELO rating as well as subdivision A and subdivision B to split the teams. If a team qualifies in the top four, they are eligible for playoffs, which determine first, second, third and fourth overall for their respective divisions. There were seven UTD teams that played in fall 2023, and all qualified for the playoffs with Teams A and F in second, Team C in third and Team G getting fourth. In spring 2024, no team placed, but all qualified for playoffs. Economics sophomore Louis-Alexandre Calvary became the competitive team’s manager — a new position in UTD Chess — to help organize and train competitors in upcoming tournaments. 

“I think we can try to focus more on opening preparation specific to our opponents, try to be a little prepared before the matches,” Calvary said.  

In fall 2023, the team started off on the wrong foot with the Super Finals Collegiate, as it placed fourth and fifth out of six competing teams. However, the team rebounded with the Pan Ams in spring 2024 and the Southwest Collegiate Tournament. In the Pan Ams, the Chess Team placed second and sixth overall, and the Chess Club placed third, sixth and 18th in the under 1800 ELO rating section.  For the Southwest Collegiate, the Chess Team placed second overall and was awarded top women’s team. Chess Team coach Julio Sadorra said this was a good season overall, and the team hopes to improve further without dwelling on results.  

“You don’t think about the results, you actually think about the habits and the process and what it takes, what it requires for you to get that result,” Sadorra said. “I know it’s difficult, [but I’m] still proud of the effort. The effort that we use is going to be rewarded tenfold.” 

Despite enduring failures, the team has emphasized that they will continue to improve for the next season. The Chess Club will continue to host competitive tournaments, such as the monthly Friday blitz tournaments that took place this semester. Chess Team members will continue to lecture about their games, play in simuls with the rest of the team members and play blindfold chess. The president of the Chess Club, mechanical engineering junior Ben Jeffery, emphasized their improvement compared to previous seasons. 

“It’s been a fantastic year for UTD Chess and especially for the club,” Jeffery said. “Not only did the team have great successes, but the club — it’s the first time we’ve ever sent three teams to Pan Ams, so that was a huge success. Looking forward to seeing what’s next.”  


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