Were the President’s Cup a person, it would be entering its sophomore year in college. This US Chess National Championship event that determines the nation’s top collegiate chess team has steadily increased in strength since its inaugural year of 2001, with the 2018 event being the strongest yet. The 19th edition of the three-round contest, which has become known as the “Final Four of College Chess,” (it is typically held the same weekend as the NCAA’s Final Four) is again being held at New York City’s Marshall Chess Club this weekend on April 6-7. The venerable Marshall was chosen by organizer Mark Herman for its historic stature. The club formed in 1915 and has been at its present location in Greenwich Village since 1931 in a building that dates to 1832. A collegiate event is completely at home here; it is easy to imagine hearing Brahms’ 1880 “Academic Festival Overture” playing in the halls.
Live games with streaming commentary by GMs Maxim Dlugy and Irina Krush will be available at the official tournament website as well as a live stream of the awards ceremony at about 2 p.m. on April 7. Dan Lucas, the Senior Director of Strategic Communication for US Chess, will be Tweeting and posting to Facebook through the weekend, beginning with the captain’s meeting on the evening of April 5. Look for the hashtag #CollegeChess. A tournament report is planned for CLO by Tuesday.
Defending champions University of Texas Rio Grande Valley return this year as the second seed with three players from last year’s victorious squad again playing again this year: GM Kamil Dragun (2668), GM Andrey Stukopin (2673), and GM Vladimir Belous (2626), as well as coach GM Bartek Macieja. GM Hovhanne Gabuzyan (2708) and IM Guillermo Vazquez (2556) complete the team. Following their victory, the honors continued as US Chess named the school the Chess College of the Year.
Top-seeded Webster University has been sent off with the full support of their school that they have always enjoyed: “Webster University’s chess team’s seventh consecutive appearance at the President’s Cup tournament is testament to the highest quality of students that Webster University attracts and Susan Polgar’s inspirational coaching style,” said Julian Schuster, Webster University’s provost, chief operating officer and senior vice president. “In our eyes, our players are already champions, and the entire Webster University community will be cheering for them.” The team members who will be looking to start a new streak (Webster won five straight years from 2013-2017) are: GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista (2752), GM Illia Nyzhnyk (2746), GM Yuniesky Quesada-Perez (2704), GM Vasif Durarbayli (2697), GM Alexandr Shimanov (2692), and GM Emilio Cordova (2646).
Third-seeded University of Texas at Dallas is making their 16th appearance at the Final Four. The team members are GM Anton Kovalyov (2664), GM Gil Popilski (2598), GM Razvan Preotu (2590), IM Omer Reshef (2566), IM Kacper Drozdowski (2562), and GM David Bereczes (2548). They are coached by GM Julio Sadorra, who himself played twice in the Final Four as a member of UT Dallas. He says, “When you get into that playing hall, everyone knows what they have to do. Your opponent is not your friend, just your rival. Our team will be ready to compete.”
Harvard University is the fourth-seed and the only team that does not receive monetary support from their school. Representing amateur athletics in its purest form are: GM Darwin Yang (2564), IM Richard Wang (2429), FM Varun Krishnan (2369), NM Bryan Hu (2337), and NM Andrew H. Lu (2199).
Two Sigma is the event sponsor, with funds passing through the U.S. Chess Trust. All the pieces are in place for another stellar event, with organizer Mark Herman saying, “I am very excited to once again see the premier U.S. chess teams going head-to-head for the national title.”