Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship
The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship is the foremost intercollegiate team chess championship in the Americas. Hosted in part by the United States Chess Federation, the Pan-Am Intercollegiate is open to any team comprising four players and up to two alternates from the same post-secondary school (university, college, community college) in North America, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean. The Pan-Am began as such in 1946 (there had been earlier versions open to U.S. schools only), and is held annually, usually December 27–30. It has been held in the United States for virtually all of its history; however, it was hosted in Canada four times (1969, 1971, 1984, 1999). The current format is a six-round fixed-roster team Swiss-system tournament scored by team (not individual) points. Sometimes the Pan-Am Intercollegiate is held as part of a larger event called the Pan-American Chess Championships comprising the Pan-Am Intercollegiate, Pan-Am Scholastic Team Championship, and Pan-Am Open (for any individual).
- 1 Significance
- 2 Rules
- 3 History
- 4 List of Champions and Venues
- 5 Records
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
The winning team is considered to be the top college or university team in Pan-America. In the event of a tie, the title is shared among the top scoring teams. The top four US schools 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.
The governing body for the Pan-Am is the College Chess Committee (CCC) of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The CCC ratified a set of guidelines for the Pan-Am in 1992, which have been amended by various resolutions of the CCC, most recently in 2012. College chess does not fall under the authority of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The Pan-Am is conducted under USCF rules and is rated both by USCF and FIDE.
The CCC adopted stricter eligibility requirements effective January 2004. Among other conditions, these rules require each player to be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-seeking program, have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.0 (on a four-point score), play for at most six years, and for internationally titled players only, be under 26 years old as of September 1 of the year of competition. Previously, there were no age restrictions, and players were required only to be making progress in a degree-seeking program. Subsequently, the age limit for titled players was relaxed to under 30 years old for graduate students. In 2009, the CCC further relaxed the age limits for titled players by allowing them to play at any age provided they satisfied the following stricter academic requirements: are full-time students in a degree-seeking program, have a GPA of at least 3.0, and satisfy these conditions for at least one full semester. Drs. Tim Redman (UTD) and Alan Sherman (UMBC) led the effort to establish stricter eligibility rules in 2004.
Age limits have been the most contentious rules issue. The current requirements, which apply only to titled players, reflect a compromise. Some feel that it is improper and illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, and that eligibility should be defined solely in terms of academic considerations. Others feel that college competitions should be restricted to traditional college-age students, taking issue with players over thirty. Some people have criticized UMBC and other schools for having recruited older players. For example, in 2002, the winning B team from UMBC was led by 31-year-old Dr. Alex Sherzer, who left the school before completing his degree in emergency health services. Other players from UMBC included 44-year-old William Morrison, who played his eighth Pan Am, 27-year-old Alexander Onischuk, 40-year-old Alex Wojtkiewicz, and 30-year-old Battsetseg Tsagaan. But most UMBC players have been outstanding students—for example, Sergey Erenburg, a finalist for UMBC valedictorian, is now pursuing a PhD in financial economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Morrison, Onischuk, and Tsagaan graduated from UMBC. UMBC requires all students on chess scholarships to be full-time and to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4-point scale). Those who don't lose their scholarships, as happened to Wojtkiewicz.
The CCC Guidelines also include directives to chess program directors concerning the conduct of chess scholarships. For example, they are not to recruit players from others schools, and they are not to offer scholarships to anyone they feel will not graduate.
At the 2012 Pan-Am, the CCC recommended that all cash prizes at the Pan-Am Intercollegiate be eliminated and forbidden.
For many years prior to 1996, high school teams were allowed to compete in the Pan-Am Intercollegiate, though few did.
Started in 1946, the Pan-Am has been held under various names and formats. For some years in the period 1945-1974 there was an individual college championship. Following Bobby Fischer's victory at the 1972 World Championship, the popularity of the Pan-Am temporarily soared. Beginning in the 1990s, the Pan-Am has been dominated by powerhouse teams from schools offering major chess scholarships, particularly Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).
The Pan-Am started in 1946, although there had been a team event for American schools only before World War II. One noteworthy result from this earlier event, from 1931–32, had City College of New York winning, with Reuben Fine on board one and Sidney Norman Bernstein on board two; the team scored 31.5 out of a possible 32 points.
From 1946 to 1964, the Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Championship was held every even year, with a Pan-Am Intercollegiate Individual Championship held every odd year from 1945 to 1965.
American schools from the northeast and midwest regions dominated both the hosting and winning of the championship. Columbia University won three titles, the University of Chicago won two, and CCNY won two during this period. The first eight tournaments averaged about a dozen teams taking part. From 1962 to 1967, participation doubled to an average of about 25 teams per year.
Annual competition begins
With increased interest, annual team competition began in 1964. The next year also saw the first non-American winner, the University of Toronto. The first non-American school to host was Canada's McGill University at Montreal in 1969, and McGill also won the event that year. From 1968 to 1971, interest doubled again, to nearly 50 teams per year.
From 1965 to 1974, the Pan-Am Individual Championship also took place.
The Fischer boom
With Bobby Fischer mounting a successful run to the World Chess Championship during the years 1970 to 1972, chess interest in the United States boomed to all-time highs. This was reflected in the highest participation levels in the history of the Pan-Am, with an average of nearly 108 teams per year from 1972 to 1978; the top turnout was 123 teams (520 players) in 1975. Future Grandmasters Larry Christiansen and Ron Henley (both recruited with chess scholarships) anchored the 1976 championship team from the University of South Florida, the first southern school to win.
Three straight titles
The University of Toronto was the first school to win three straight outright titles, from 1980 to 1982; this feat was repeated by Harvard University from 1988-90. Rhode Island College, which adopted chess scholarships to attract top players coming out from high schools, lead by former US High School Chess Champions James Thibault and Sandeep Joshi rolled to a convincing victory in 1985. The 1983 Champion team from Yale University featured 3 future US Chess Champions in Joel Benjamin, Michael Wilder, and Inna Izrailov.
From 1979 to 1986, an average of 57 teams took part. Future US Chess Champion Grandmaster Patrick Wolff led Yale University to victory in 1987. Harvard University enjoyed a very successful streak from 1986 to 1990 with four titles in five years, either won outright or shared.
Prior to 1986 the Pan Ams were organizated by the Intercollegiate League of America (ICLA), which ran the tournaments with vigor. The United States Chess Federation took over the organization after the 1986 Pan-Am in Providence, Rhode Island. After the USCF took over, organizational standards dropped, and this was followed by a gradual decline in the number of teams competing. One huge issue was the use of scholarship players. When South Florida, RI College and Yale offered scholarships to players, the players were legitimate college students just graduated from high school. However, the USCF made no effort to control colleges enrolling many very strong players in their 30s and even 40s, for the main purpose of winning the tournament. In chess, players can reach their peak in their 30s or later. A few colleges loaded up their teams with many older European GMs and IMs. Many other schools, figuring that they had absolutely no chance of completing, and feeling cheated, no longer showed up for the tournament. The attendance record clearly reflects this problem. However, recent rule changes have addressed this issue.
Kamsky plays in Pan-Am but Vivek Rao shines
Chicago 1991 saw a reigning U.S. champion appear in the Pan-Am for the first time, when 17-year-old Soviet emigre Gata Kamsky, one of the world's top players, was top board for Brooklyn College. Kamsky lost a sensational game to Vivek Rao from the winning University of Illinois team. Vivek Rao was not only sensational in the 1991 Pan-Am. He was also sensational in leading Harvard in winning the 1988, 1989 and 1990 Pan Ams.
Chess scholarships, the rise of powerhouse schools
The 1990s saw two important events that influenced college chess: the fall of the Iron Curtain sent a flood of very strong eastern European and former Soviet players to the Americas, and several schools began offering major chess scholarships.
The University of South Florida offered chess scholarships in 1976 to two outstanding young players, but soon abandoned the experiment after winning the 1976 Pan-Am. Subsequently, Rhode Island College offered chess scholarships to top players coming out from high school, and they eventually won the Pan-Am in 1985. Howard Prince at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) recruited grandmasters and eventually offered major chess scholarships. BMCC won the Pan-Am in 1993, 1994, and 1997. Alan Sherman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) convinced the administration to offer major chess scholarships to outstanding chess-player scholars. Through chess scholarships, vision, and determination, UMBC built a chess dynasty that has won (or tied for first place) at the Pan-Am in 1996, 1998–2002, 2005, 2008-2009, 2012. Following UMBC's success, Tim Redman at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) built a rival chess dynasty with chess scholarships. UTD won (or tied for first place) at the Pan-Am in 2000-2001, 2003–2004, 2006–2008, 2010-2012.
In 2009, two more Texas schools fielded strong teams: University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) and Texas Tech University; both offered major chess scholarships. The 2010 Final Four was the strongest to date: it featured UMBC (average USCF rating 2559), UTD (2574), UTB (2598), and Texas Tech (2429). In 2012, with major private donors, Webster University and Lindenwood have emerged as new powerhouses. The 2012 Pan-Am was the strongest ever: the 44 teams included 23 grandmasters and five schools with average USCF ratings over 2500; Webster's A and B teams were initially ranked 1 and 3.
A commonality among many of the schools with strong chess programs is the presence of an active faculty advisor with a passion for chess: for example, Howard Prince at BMCC, Alan Sherman at UMBC, Tim Redman at UTD, and Hal Karlsson at Texas Tech. Whereas students come and go, faculty advisors can provide valuable continuity and sometimes they can negotiate more effectively than can students with school administrators.
List of Champions and Venues
As of 2012, UMBC and UTD share the record for most wins: each has won (or tied for first place) at the Pan-Am ten times. Also, UMBC also has the record for the longest winning streak: five-year 1998-2002, and the most wins at the Final Four: six times (2003–2006, 2009-2010).
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- Edelman, Dan, Pan-American Intercollegiate and High School Team Chess Championships: Official Tournament Rules, Including College Chess Committee Guidelines (January 1993). Official 1993 Version.
- Annual Reports of the USCF College Chess Committee. Available in the Annual Reports of the US Chess Federation.
- Articles about the Pan-Am Intercollegiate published in Chess Life magazine.
- Rating Reports from the Pan-Am Intercollegiate. Available from the US Chess Federation.
- Program booklets from the Pan-Am for some years.
- College Chess
- Eligibility requirements at University of Texas at Dallas
- United States Chess Federation (USCF)
- World Chess Federation (FIDE)
- International University Sports Federation (IUSF)
- Sherman, Alan T. (December 30, 1997). "The Story of Chess at UMBC 1990-1997".
- Events and tournaments at Monroi