U Chess Club Wins 2022 Pan Am Intercollegiate Championship – The Daily Utah Chronicle

(Photo by Vlada Karpovich | Courtesy of Pexels)

Living on turkey sandwiches and cereal for the week, the University of Utah Chess Club scored major success at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship tournament in January 2022.

As this was the first year the chess club could take on two teams, the Pan American tournament was already of major importance. Additionally, U’s B-Team member Dhruvan Gopinath won second place Top Upset Plaque, and the A-Team came in second place in the Third Division.

In short, an upset occurs when a lower ranked player defeats a higher ranked player, thereby increasing their own ranking and proving their level of skill.

Playing against Grandmasters, as students who had never played Pan American, was a huge win for the chess team.

“It’s a really prestigious international collegiate championship,” said Conrad Morris, a member of Team A. “Our Team A tied for first and lost the tie-breaks.”

Morris said the tournament was a great team-building experience.

“The game of chess…is a battle of the mind,” he said. “It’s like this dance, this interaction of ideas, and whoever has the strongest ideas ends up winning the game.”

Gopinath described the game as maximizing his pieces’ potential while minimizing the opponent’s potential.

“Every move is absolutely essential for position and when your opponent makes a move, you have to consider every possible aspect that that move accomplishes,” Gopinath said in an email interview. “You must then react accordingly, make sure you don’t miss any traps or tricks.”

Robert Williams, the coach of the chess team, began playing chess in the seventh grade, continuing to play with his junior high and high school league.

He played on his college chess team, competing in the 1977 Pan Am in St. Louis, Missouri. This, he said, is how the goal of the Pan American tournament began.

Williams built the U Chess Club from 2003. John Coffey led the Chess Club from the 1990s to the early 2000s, and he has supported the team ever since. When the Chess Club was restarted, Williams wanted to focus on intercollegiate chess competition.

“It took a few years,” he said. “But eventually we started getting students to go to Pan-American.”

He said some of the difficulties they faced were bad weather, booking rooms and COVID-19 restrictions, saying their perseverance through this was emblematic of teamwork at the club.

“Success is student safety, with students being team players and students doing their best,” he said.

According to Williams, diversity and club cohesion are necessary for the team to truly succeed.

The chess club’s supporters, including those in and out of the tournament, in addition to the club’s teamwork, made success possible for these students.

If interested in the chess club, students can attend club meetings on Thursday evenings at 6:00 p.m. MST in Union.

“It’s not just a game for intellectuals,” Williams said. “It’s a game for everyone.”

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This article was updated on February 6, 2022 to clarify the history of the University of Utah Chess Club and credit John Coffey’s contributions to the club.

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