Before UMBC Altered March Madness History, the School Was Known as a Chess Powerhouse – Sports Illustrated


CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The greatest sporting achievement in University of Maryland-Baltimore County history before Friday night came in 1996. Twenty-two years before the Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, another Retrievers team played Cinderella by going from (nearly) worst to first.

In 1990, UMBC’s chess team finished 26th out of 27 teams at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship. Six years later, after years of funding and recruiting, the Retrievers not only won the Pan-Am but placed their B team in second place in dominating fashion. It would be the first of 10 titles for the team as it enjoyed tremendous success over the next two decades.

Dr. Alan Sherman, professor of computer science at UMBC and director of the school’s chess program, has built a monster of a chess program at a school that is now famous for doing what had long been thought impossible. UMBC throttled the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed 74-54 on Friday night and introduced itself to the American sports world at large. But the chess world has known about UMBC since before some of its basketball players were even born.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Sherman told me by phone about now sharing the stage with the basketball program. “I don’t know how they did it. It’s kind of like a novice beating a grandmaster at chess. It rarely happens.”

The story of UMBC’s chess program features near full-ride scholarships, international recruiting and even green card applications. But it starts in the early ’90s when Sherman, a Ph.D from MIT, came to UMBC as a professor of computer science and took over the chess program.

He began recruiting better chess players, and the first grandmaster he landed was Ilya Smirin from Israel. Smirin has gone on to be ranked as highly as No. 16 in the world, but in the early ‘90s he was a kid trying to get to the United States. So Sherman, with no legal training and only a few back-and-forths with a lawyer, wrote a petition for immediate permanent residency for Smirin to get him a green card.

Imagine that. Just as men’s college basketball is being turned on its head with an FBI investigation into improper recruiting benefits received by players, a college professor was able legally secure a green card for a chess savant so he could attend UMBC.

“I was just very motivated to recruit strong players,” Sherman says. “In each case I wanted to understand what they wanted. In his case what he wanted more than anything else was a green card.

“Eventually it worked. It was a tremendous amount of work. I had no idea the amount of work I was getting myself into and I don’t think I’d do it again.”

Sherman says the program was the first in the country to offer major scholarships for chess. Those scholarships continue today with what is known as UMBC’s Chess Fellow awards. The school today offers five awards that cover the cost of tuition, a $15,000-per-year stipend to cover housing and food and additional funds for travel to chess tournaments.

“It’s sort of common sense that it’s much easier to recruit a player who’s rated very highly than to recruit a novice and try to train them to become a great player,” Sherman says. “Training is important but it has a relatively marginal impact in comparison to recruiting a significantly better player.”

The Pan-Am Championship takes teams from North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. From 1996 to 2012, UMBC won 10 of those titles and is currently tied for the most in history. The President’s Cup determines U.S. college team champion, and UMBC has won a record six championships there and went to every final four from 2001-15.

Much like parity in college basketball helped the Retrievers top Virginia on Friday, parity in college chess has slowed UMBC’s program. Other schools like Saint Louis University and Webster University have entered the fray and are offering more money for their chess scholarships, taking some of the top talent that would have worked its way to Baltimore County.

While Sherman is looking for a financial bump in his chess budget, he’s gotten great support from university president Freeman Hrabowski III, who has even gone as far as calling some of the chess recruits to convince them to join UMBC. Hrabowski, a self-proclaimed math nerd, has grown close with the men’s basketball team and leading scorer Jairus Lyles, in particular.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

“That’s the great thing about UMBC. Everyone cheers for one another,” head basketball coach Ryan Odom said Saturday. “Cross campus there are so many different things going on. On campus, that creates a great environment to learn in. A lot of great mentors, none better than our president… He’s the best president in the country. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been around a lot of different places and to be as active as he is within our teams—and not just men’s basketball—all the teams, it’s really, really special.”

Before Friday night’s game, Sherman was emailing with an old high school friend. The topic of the game came up, and Sherman wrote that he didn’t “think UMBC will be a match for UVA…at least not at basketball. Maybe at chess.” When he woke up Saturday morning to see the late-night result, he was happy for his university, but he wasn’t surprised.

“One advantage the underdog sometimes has is the higher-rated player sometimes underestimates them,” Sherman says. “In chess and all sports, you have to balance the reality of what’s on the board with what the probabilities are before the games started. If you overestimate your position and underestimate your opponent, you can get in serious trouble. You can end up taking too many risks or making too many dangerous moves because you’re trying to win and the position doesn’t justify it. Our team is actually trained in that strategy.”



Chess team no longer the most famous program at UMBC after NCAA tournament stunner – USA TODAY


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SportsPulse: In a history making stunner, No. 16 seed Maryland Baltimore County upsets No. 1 seed UVA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports

So you are waking up this morning and wondering what in the name of James Naismith just happened in the NCAA tournament?

A No. 16 men’s seed finally beat a No. 1, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County of the America East Conference, 74-54 over Virginia of the ACC.

More: UMBC stuns Virginia to make NCAA tournament history as first No. 16 seed beat No. 1 seed

More: NCAA’s top March Madness moments

So now you are wondering what exactly is a UMBC. Well, let’s start with chess. The school is known for its chess legacy.

The chess program has won a record 10 Pan-American Intercollegiate championships and six National Collegiate team chess championships. Although, according to The Washington Post, it ended a streak of 16 consecutive years in the collegiate final four in December 2015.

Other fun facts about UMBC:

• The school sponsors seven men’s and eight women’s NCAA programs (chess is not an NCAA sport). It does not sponsor football.

• The basketball team plays in the Retriever Activities Center (RAC) Arena, which according to the team website, opened in 1973 as the UMBC Fieldhouse. It seats 4,024.

• According to the America East website, UMBC has three former basketball players in professional leagues: one each in England, Germany and the Czech Republic.

• UMBC is located outside the Baltimore beltway with a fall 2017 enrollment of 13,662 (undergraduate 11,234, graduate 2,428, full-time 10,669, part-time 2,993, male 7,446, female 6,216), according to its website. The 2017-18 tuition, room and board and fees: Resident Tuition $11,264, Non-Resident Tuition $24,492, Room & Board $11,836.

• The athletic teams’ mascot is not just Retrievers but Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and the colors are black and gold.

• The school president is Freeman A. Hrabowski, III. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. 

• UMBC is part of the University of Maryland system and, in fact, lost to the Maryland Terps, 66-45, in December. Maryland did not make the NCAA tournament.

• Famous alumni include actress Kathleen Turner and Dan Patrick — not that Dan Patrick but the Dan Patrick who is Lt. Gov. of Texas.

• Want to watch their next men’s basketball game: It is Sunday against ninth-seeded Kansas State on truTV, after the conclusion of the 5:15 p.m. North Carolina-Texas A&M game.

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FIDE Candidates' Tournament R5: Grischuk Thrills Again – Chess.com


For the first time at the 2018 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament, the day’s action ended in stasis. All four games ended drawn, despite the best efforts of GM Alexander Grischuk, who played another wild encounter.

For the second day in a row, his up-and-down fight ended in a draw; today his foe was GM Levon Aronian. But unlike yesterday, where he could only show fantastic variations with three queens on the board, today’s maelstrom actually produced a third queen, albeit briefly.

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As has been a theme all tournament, the player moving second had good chances as the Russian almost produced some more Black Magic. Aronian was in sight of a win himself (or several wins!).

Both were out for a battle as they each opened the position without thought of their exposed kings.

But right at a critical moment where Aronian could have castled queenside and been winning, he failed to stick the needle in the voodoo doll for what would have been his third win of the tournament. He missed at least one other massive chance, thus Grischuk’s luck evened out after his own missed win yesterday.

Aronian

The normally placid GM Levon Aronian was angry over his missed chances today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The man being chased, GM Fabiano Caruana, couldn’t extend his lead. A day after a marathon affair with GM Vladimir Kramnik, the American didn’t get any kind of plus against GM Sergey Karjakin. Not usually one to waste a turn with White, Caruana simply had to admit that Black achieved full equality and complete symmetry before move 20. The pair, who comprised the top two finishers from the 2016 Candidates’, shook hands right after the minimum number of moves.

Right on cue, GM Ding Liren, or as Grischuk has dubbed him in New York Times style, “Mr. Ding,” also agreed to peace with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. On this occasion, Shak couldn’t get anything with Black, and so just like in Caruana-Karjakin, they drew after move 30.5.

Caruana Karjakin

Today Caruana-Karjakin didn’t have quite the gravitas or energy of Game 14 in the last Candidates’, but the two will meet again. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Kramnik, the elder of the tournament, again had the longest game, but it’s not clear why. Against GM Wesley So, the two “slugged” it out for 57 moves, although it was really a poking and pinching contest. There just wasn’t anything there worth fighting over, although chess players should hardly be castigated for trying. Usually the public quiet rightly reviles the short draw.

In the game of the day, Aronian’s anti-Grunfeld turned into a Benoni that he had played many times before, including recently at the Grand Prix event in Spain in November. He then improved on his own play on move 17 before both armies began taking up aggressive postures.

Both players willfully opened the center despite their kings being at home. The complications caused Grischuk to be playing on the increment by move 24. Or, you could say Grischuk waited until move 24 to play like Grischuk!

Aronian then missed a somewhat forgivable win, ironically involving getting his king to safety, followed by a much more calamitous gaffe shortly thereafter. The second missed win can be explained by not seeing a second queen sacrifice. That’s right — White could have won by having one of his queens captured on move 25, then the second six moves later!

Our analyzer GM Dejan Bojkov is officially getting “hazard pay” for the games being produced this tournament:

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Aronian said afterward he’d seen 29. Qxc8+ of course, but did in fact miss that second queen sacrifice with 31. Rxg4.

“I don’t understand how I played 28. Qd8+,” he said. “It is beyond me…I think I lost my cool.” He wanted to put his anger behind him.

“I generally don’t analyze my games after I play them. I mean you normally know what went wrong, or, when you win, you don’t wanna dwell on the feeling of your greatness. It’s better to just forget the game after you played it.”

Grischuk said that despite shading two different near-losses, he was upset he didn’t have anything at the end. “In contrast with what I had, it almost felt winning!” Grischuk said.

Grischuk

Aronian-Grischuk was a melee, because, well, Aronian and Grischuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana made this reporter’s job harder today, in the opposite way of Aronian and Grischuk. Despite being one of the two directors of content for Chess.com, Caruana said afterward that “there really wasn’t any content today.” But try we will:

Unlike yesterday, where Karjakin’s move-order inversion cost him big time, today a subtle transpositional possibility tripped up his opponent. The result wasn’t as catastrophic for Caruana, but it did leave him in unfamiliar territory. 

Last cycle’s runner-up tried to surprise the vice-world champion with 6. Qb3, but it turns out that just transposes to 6. Qc2 if the c-pawn is captured. 

“When he took on c4 I realized that actually he probably checked it from the Qc2 move order,” Caruana said. “Which is a more common move. I don’t know this idea. Over the board I just couldn’t find a clear way to play.”

For his part, Karjakin confirmed this theory. He navigated back to familiar waters in just the way his opponent guessed.

“6. Qb3 was a surprise for me but fortunately we switched to the line which I knew,” Karjakin said. “Finally I am quite proud that I got my preparation; I wanted to show that at least I have some ideas in the opening, and actually I knew all the line until 17…Nxc5. I was just trying to remember it and after 17…Nxc5 it’s just a dead draw. It’s very important that White doesn’t have Nd4 here because of Bg5.”

They admitted that the next dozen moves were only played to fulfill the 30-move draw rule.

Caruana, who doesn’t usually admit to things like tournament management, and who certainly never wastes a White, admitted that a lifeless draw wasn’t his intention. But it wasn’t horrible, either.

“Actually I was ready to play, but I was also happy that for the first time in a few days my opponent didn’t have any passed pawns,” the American said as Karjakin laughed. “I mean, I had to fight against four connected passed pawns, three connected passed pawns. At least today I was pretty sure I would never lose at any point!

“I’m also not dissatisfied with a relatively calm game and an early day, because yesterday was enormously tough.”

Karjakin, still tied for last, was then asked about a sign outside the playing hall, boldly asserting that chess can raise your IQ.

“Maybe for some good chess players it will happen but for me it’s getting down at the moment!”

Kosteniuk

Hopefully raising the IQ of a few chess fans, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk joined the commentary today. Here she chats with IM Lawrence Trent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

An anagram for “Ding” and “Shak” is “Had Kings” and that matter-of-fact statement is about a shiny as one can polish this one. Perhaps chess fans have just gotten spoiled from the previous excitement of the event, and especially from the Azeri’s play as Black (he was very close to 2/2 as Black coming into this game).

For the second time in as many days, Mamedyarov again played a line for the first time. Around move 13, Ding Liren admitted to being surprised at the choice.

Unlike the pinching moves in the day’s longest game, this one at least had some mild jabs, but nothing more.

“When he offered me a draw, I think Black is OK but I don’t know how to play,” Mamedyarov said. “Active is bad, passive is also bad!”

The world’s number two player said yesterday that he played his best game but still couldn’t win. We found out today that at least one sporting endeavor went Mamedyarov’s way. His favored FC Barcelona won 3-0 over Chelsea to advance in the Champions League. They are now through to the round of eight, just like Mamedyarov is.

What’s keeping Ding’s attention? He admitted that he’s spending a lot of time on his mobile phone. At the risk of being charged with assistance, Chess.com can offer the advice of installing one of these screen-time-limiting apps, Mr. Ding (we’ll also suspend your Chess.com account for two more weeks if you ask!).

Finally there was So and Kramnik, battling and battling but without much hope of anything happening. Yes, Kramnik had a little more space on the kingside, but So’s position was tidy enough. Yes, So had a solitary target on the queenside, but the b-pawn was safe enough. It was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern chess — a lot of back and forth but without any kind of advancement of the plot.

It wasn’t the most exciting ending to the day, but still, you could consider it “bonus chess.” Their game ended last, thus extending the round. That’s never a bad thing for fans paying for pricey tickets — just ask fans from this event 30 years ago (those paying back then for at-home access, like Agon hopes for today, had to pay about $0.50 per second for this one):

So wasn’t alive for that fight. He was interested in another kind of history after the game. After Kramnik pointed out that he’s used to adversity in the Candidates’, So asked him if his first was in 1995?

Kramnik replied that it was actually 1993. 

“Ah, my birthday!” So said.

Kramnik So

Kramnik’s games have had glimpses of Mike Tyson lately, but So is more of a calculating fighter. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

As for the game, experience told Kramnik there was no harm in playing on. “You cannot win this position but White can lose it,” he explained, and Dutch fans will recognize a bit of Johan Cruyff in there.

Playing through the moves will hopefully last longer than 91 seconds:

2018 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament | Round 5 Standings











# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2935 ½ 1 ½

½ 1 3.5/5
2 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2809 2852 ½

½ ½

1 ½ 3.0/5 6.5
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2800 2851 0

1 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 6.5
4 Ding,Liren 2769 2790 ½ ½

½ ½

½ 2.5/5 6.5
5 Aronian,Levon 2794 2782

½ 0 ½ ½ 1

2.5/5 5.5
6 Grischuk,Alexander 2767 2785

0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/5 4.75
7 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2644 ½ 0 ½

0 ½

1.5/5 4.5
8 So,Wesley 2799 2639 0 ½ ½ ½

0

1.5/5 4.25

Games via TWIC.


Round 6 pairings, on Friday:
Caruana-Grischuk, So-Aronian, Ding-Karjakin, Mamedyarov-Kramnik.

The Chessbrahs’ coverage of round 5.


Correction: an earlier version of this report erroneously stated that Mamedyarov spends a lot of time on his phone; that might be the case but it was Ding who stated it at the press conference.


Previous reports:



Local schools win state chess championship – WCJB


Teams from area schools are celebrating success at the Florida State Scholastic Chess Tournament in Orlando earlier this month.

Teams from Buchholz High and Williams Elementary finished on top, and more than 20 students from around the county finished in the top ten.

Williams’s team pulled off an amazing comeback, fighting back from a 400 point deficit against a higher-ranked team in the final round.

“Gainesville is a very special city. You know, the environment with the university always attracts families that are very academic. They value chess a lot as a tool for the kids to improve, not only as chess players, but also in school and in life,” said Wiliams Elementary’s chess teacher, Miguel Ararat.

The teams are now looking forward to several national championships coming up later this year.



Chess: B Adhiban registers fifth successive win to be on cusp of Reykjavik Open title – Scroll.in


The internet is an amazing space where you can watch a donkey playing football while simultaneously looking up whether the mole on your elbow is a symptom of a terminal diseases. It’s as busy as it’s big with at least 2.96 billion pages in the indexed web and over 40,000 Google search queries processed every second. If you have access to this vast expanse of information through your mobile, then you’re probably on something known as a data plan.

However, data plans or data packs are a lot like prescription pills. You need to go through a barrage of perplexing words to understand what they really do. Not to mention the call from the telecom company rattling on at 400 words per minute about a life-changing data pack which is as undecipherable as reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. On top of it all, most data packs expect you to solve complex algorithms on permutations to figure out which one is the right one.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Even the most sophisticated and evolved beings of the digital era would agree that choosing a data pack is a lot like getting stuck on a seesaw, struggling to find the right balance between getting the most out of your data and not paying for more than you need. Running out of data is frustrating, but losing the data that you paid for but couldn’t use during a busy month is outright infuriating. Shouldn’t your unused data be rolled over to the next month?

You peruse the advice available online on how to go about choosing the right data pack, most of which talks about understanding your own data usage. Armed with wisdom, you escape to your mind palace, Sherlock style, and review your access to Wifi zones, the size of the websites you regularly visit, the number of emails you send and receive, even the number of cat videos you watch. You somehow manage to figure out your daily usage which you multiply by 30 and there it is. All you need to do now is find the appropriate data pack.

Promptly ignoring the above calculations, you fall for unlimited data plans with an “all you can eat” buffet style data offering. You immediately text a code to the telecom company to activate this portal to unlimited video calls, selfies, instastories, snapchats – sky is the limit. You tell all your friends and colleagues about the genius new plan you have and how you’ve been watching funny sloth videos on YouTube all day, well, because you CAN!

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Alas, after a day of reign, you realise that your phone has run out of data. Anyone who has suffered the terms and conditions of unlimited data packs knows the importance of reading the fine print before committing yourself to one. Some plans place limits on video quality to 480p on mobile phones, some limit the speed after reaching a mark mentioned in the fine print. Is it too much to ask for a plan that lets us binge on our favourite shows on Amazon Prime, unconditionally?

You find yourself stuck in an endless loop of estimating your data usage, figuring out how you crossed your data limit and arguing with customer care about your sky-high phone bill. Exasperated, you somehow muster up the strength to do it all over again and decide to browse for more data packs. Regrettably, the website wont load on your mobile because of expired data.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Getting the right data plan shouldn’t be this complicated a decision. Instead of getting confused by the numerous offers, focus on your usage and guide yourself out of the maze by having a clear idea of what you want. And if all you want is to enjoy unlimited calls with friends and uninterrupted Snapchat, then you know exactly what to look for in a plan.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

The Airtel Postpaid at Rs. 499 comes closest to a plan that is up front with its offerings, making it easy to choose exactly what you need. One of the best-selling Airtel Postpaid plans, the Rs. 499 pack offers 40 GB 3G/4G data that you can carry forward to the next bill cycle if unused. The pack also offers a one year subscription to Amazon Prime on the Airtel TV app.

So, next time, don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Click here to find a plan that’s right for you.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.



Remembering John Campbell, the Arlington Chess Club's genial guiding light – Washington Times



Washington Times

Remembering John Campbell, the Arlington Chess Club’s genial guiding light
Washington Times
But Washington-area chess fans will always remember John as the gentle, genial guiding light behind the Arlington Chess Club, presiding for decades over the Friday-night club ladder, organizing events and captaining the D.C. Chess League’s Arlington