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The grandmasters of UTRGV University chess team places second at The President’s Cup tournament

Rick R. Ramirez

Four members of the UTRGV Chess Team competed in The President’s Cup tournament. The grandmasters placed second in the national competition, falling short by one point to Webster University.

“We are the best of Texas,” UTRGV Chess Coach Bartlomiej “Bartek” Macieja said. “There was only one more team from Texas presented there: Texas Tech. We won against them in the first round, so it’s a huge success. Last time we qualified for the Final 4 [of College Chess] was five years ago.”

The President’s Cup tournament, also known as the Final 4 of College Chess, took place April 1-3 at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City.

UTRGV defeated Texas Tech by 3-1, lost against Webster University by 2.5-1.5 and was victorious 3-1 over Columbia Univeristy.

The tournament closed with Webster University at 8.5 points; UTRGV, 7.5; Texas Tech, 5.5; and Columbia University, 2.5.

The last time the team qualified for The President’s Cup was in 2010 as legacy institution University of Texas at Brownsville.

Each team member who competed in the tournament is an international student and relatively new to the U.S.

Carlos Hevia, a freshman computer science major from El Vedado, Cuba, said his father taught him how to play chess at an early age. He later enrolled in a sports school before joining the Cuban National Development Chess team.

“Estuve tres años en la Preselección Nacional de Cuba antes de venir acá”, the Cuban national said. “He jugado en varios campeonatos nacionales, varios torneos importantes en Cuba”. (“I was three years in the Cuban Developmental National team before coming over here. I’ve played in several national championships, several important tournaments in Cuba.”)

Physics sophomore Andrey Stukopin, like Hevia, has spent less than two years in the U.S. and has been playing chess for more than 10 years.

“I started when I was 7,” Stukopin said. “Chess is very popular in Russia. Many of my friends started as early as 4.”

Stukopin is a native of Rostov, Russia, and visits his family each summer. He shares an apartment with team member and computer science senior Holden Hernandez, who also competed in the Final 4 of College Chess.

“We showed a very decent quality of chess and we tried our best,” he said. “[Coach] Bartek made the success real. He puts a lot of hard work and even helps us with our homework.”

Anton Kovalyov, a computer science junior from Montreal, Canada, also participated in the tournament.

To qualify for The President’s Cup, the UTRGV Chess Team competed and tied for first place in the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship in Cleveland, Ohio, in December 2015.

“That’s the most prestigious, most important event of the year. All colleges that have chess programs participated,” Macieja said about the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship. “It was a huge success. We never tied for first before.”

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