The term “final four” is most often associated with college basketball and March Madness. But it also applies to another collegiate sport; chess. And last Sunday, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley took home the President’s Cup Chess Championship for the third consecutive time.
“That was an amazing feeling for us.” said Bartek Macieja, chess grandmaster and UT RGV chess coach since 2012. “The competition was really tough, very close. We were not leading the entire competition. We were on the second place, but in that last round we played so well that we managed to defend our championship title, the one which we won on in 2019, and then in 2018 for the first time.”
Due to the pandemic, there was no President’s Cup tournament in 2020. And this year, instead of playing face-to-face the teams played online.
Macieja says even though UTRGV won the previous two championships, they were not the favorite to win.
The Rio Grande Valley, and Brownsville in particular, is a chess hot spot. Players from the area consistently place and win in national and international tournaments like the Kasparov Chess Foundation University Cup.
“Webster University,” Macieja says “had won the previous five consecutive championships from 2012 to 2017. And then they were still the favorites in 2018 but we defeated them. And in 2019 the same happened. And now 2021 again.”
Since UTRGV wasn’t leading at the time of the final match, Macieja says in order for them to win, it had to be a blowout.
“Actually, the last round,” he said “the one I mentioned in order to defend our championship title, we had to not only win it against a Webster University, but literally you had to crush them to secure our first spot. And that’s what happened. And that was really extraordinary effort of my students. I’m really proud of them. Everybody was super motivated and we’ve made it.”