A new direction - Collegiate and Corporate Chess on the rise

January 5th to 8th, the Corporate Esports Association will host the 2023 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship as well as the first ever Pan-American Corporate Team Chess Championship in Seattle, Washington. Unlike past PanAms, the next iteration comes with a new direction. Under the motto of “Your next move”, the tournament will focus on future student careers introducing students not only to another but also to players in the corporate field. While the main competition itself will largely stay as is, the overall schedule will see career and development workshops, corporate/collegiate networking events as well as an individual mentorship program.

Collegiate Chess - a community with skyrocketing growth

But to understand what makes this event so special, we need to understand how we got here.

The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship is a tournament with a long history. Established in 1946 and running annually since 1962 the tournament carries a lot of prestige. Since 2001, the top four finishing US schools in the Pan-Am advance to the President's Cup (informally known as the "Final Four of College Chess" and typically held in the first weekend of April), which determines the US National College or University Champion. Hence, the best of the best in collegiate chess are fighting hard for one of the four desired spots. Such prestige though comes at a cost. Since the early 1990s, the Pan-Am has been dominated by teams from schools offering chess scholarships making it less attractive for more “casual” teams to attend. Especially the financial barrier of transportation and lodging is a huge hurdle to overcome for student teams that are little or not at all supported by their universities. Stories of teams driving across the country for multiple days to save on transportation cost are not rare between non-scholarship participating universities (e.g. from New Jersey to San Francisco). As a result, the PanAm has only been able to attract at most 63 teams from 38 unique universities in the last few decades (2019, North Carolina).

The recent growth of collegiate chess is not something PanAms is responsible for. Out of the lack of opportunities for low entry barrier collegiate competitions, the Collegiate Chess League (CCL) formed. Being held online without an entry fee, the tournament is accessible for any team worldwide which shows in numbers: After a first season of 30 teams, a second season of 90 teams, 160 teams participating during the third season, the league concluded its fourth season in May surpassing the previous record with over 1,200 players representing over 220 teams from over 100 schools. Run by the Corporate Esports Association teams of all strength are seen participating - from scholarship universities with team rating averages beyond 2700 to small community colleges averaging less than 800 rating points. But not only the low entry barrier make this tournament so attractive: The Corporate Esports Association is not only running the collegiate event but is also - as the name suggests - focussing on corporate competitions. Creating side-events for student participants to engage in cross corporate-collegiate competitions and networking with their opponents creates a benefit to playing chess that was not available before - utilizing chess as a tool for networking that benefits students for general mentoring, internships, and post-graduation job markets.

Corporate Chess - an old community gaining momentum

Corporate Chess is truly nothing new. The Chicago Industrial League was founded in 1957, and rivalry matches between Microsoft and Boeing date back to the 1980s. The most recent growth though only started about 5 years ago with events in Seattle (Pacific Northwest Corporate Chess League including companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Boeing) and New York (New York Corporate Chess League featuring teams of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Debevoise & Plimpton, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Google, JPMorgan Chase, RBC Capital Markets and Two Sigma). Corporate teams used those over the board events for friendly competition, networking, and, not to forget, claim bragging rights. The start of the pandemic in 2020 though forced those leagues to shift, as remote work and no in-person gathering created a challenge for organizers.

In collaboration with those leagues to offer a solution, the Corporate Esports Association, a tournament organizer who has a decade of experience running video game tournaments between companies for charity, organized the inaugural Corporate Chess Championship in Spring 2021. Corporate chess clubs like the Amazon Chess Club, which recently broke 1,000 members, nowadays focus heavily on online content given the newly defined remote work friendly corporate work environment. And with that, corporate chess became an esport.

Since its inaugural season, the CEA has run four successful seasons of the league with companies across the world participating.

Chess for good - Connections beyond the board

For many companies, the CEA is an important aspect of their employee engagement and team building efforts, allowing employees, whether they’re new to the game or experts, to interact with each other in a fun, competitive environment. Besides chess, the CEA ,founded in 2012, was previously known for more traditional corporate esport tournaments like Starcraft, League of Legends, or Rocket League but the corporate chess competitions grew to a staple event in just a few seasons.

As is true for all corporate CEA competitions, rather than competing for cash prizes, teams compete for a prize pool established with 100% of team entry fees, which will then be donated directly to the winning teams charity of choice. During the Spring 2022 season alone the league raised over $5000 for various charities - from large organizations like the World Resource Institute to a Ukrainian charity chosen by the Division 1 winning team from Microsoft to help refugees and a local charity in Armenia chosen by Division 1 runner up Adobe to support disabled, underprivileged and abandoned children and their mothers.=

Two communities - stronger together

With regular tournaments back on the table (pun intended), the CEA aims to help translate online success to over the board events. Benefitting of each other, the next PanAms will see both communities working hand in hand to take Corporate and Collegiate chess to the next level.

It’s exciting to learn that CEA already partnered with Red Bull to cover entry fees for all U1800 teams to lower the burden on self-funded university clubs, chess.com for in person broadcasting, Twitch and Amazon for career workshops and mentoring programs, and is looking for further collaborations to enhance this year’s mission. The unique networking opportunities also help add value for students, many of whom will wind up in the corporate sphere after graduation. Even if those teams don’t walk away with a trophy, they will leave with skills and connections whose value will serve them for years to come.

For the corporate community, it is the first tournament of its kind inviting all corporate teams from companies in the PanAmerican space. Entry fees are waived for all teams that enter into the student mentorship program and attend the cross corporate-collegiate networking events.

Want to get involved? More information about the tournament can be found at cea.gg/panam or inquire via email at chess@cea.gg. A detailed schedule and registration will be available early September.

 

Pan-American Team Chess Championship

Collegiate

Corporate

January 5-8, 2023

January 7-8

Teams of 4

Teams of 3

6 Rounds of Swiss; 90m+30s increment

5 Rounds of Swiss; 60m+10s increment

Website: cea.gg/panam

 


GET INVOLVED WITH CORPORATE CHESS

The Corporate Chess League’s 5th season will debut on the 17th of September, 2022. Early registration ($160 EF - 100% going to charity) ends September 1st with registration ($200 EF) closing on September 11th. The league will follow its usual format with teams of 4, Round Robin Regular season in small strength based groups, scheveningen mode team matches (every player on one team plays every player of the opposing team), 5+2 time control and matches taking place by default Saturdays at 10am Pacific Time unless otherwise rescheduled with opponents. Online registration and more information can be found at cea.gg/chess.

September 1

End of early Registration

September 10

Preseason

September 11

End Registration

September 17

Week 1

September 24

Week 2

October 1

Week 3

October 8

Corporate vs. Collegiate Match

October 15

Week 4

October 22

Week 5

October 29

Wildcard Match

November 5

Quarterfinals

November 12

Semifinals

November 19

Finals

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