Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship

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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).

Forty-four teams compete at the 2012 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in Frick Chemistry Lab at Princeton University.


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).

Intercollegiate chess before the Pan Am[edit]

Quadrangular Intercollegiate league[edit]

The Quadrangular Intercollegiate league -- comprising teams from Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University and Princeton University -- was formed in 1892, founded by Edward Caswell, Yale class of 1866. The tournament typically took place between Christmas and New Year's Day. Winners from 1892 to 1913 are as follows: Columbia 1892, 1893, 1899, 1902, 1906, 1907, 1910-1912; Harvard 1894-1898, 1903-1905; Yale 1901, 1913; Princeton 1908; tie between Harvard and Yale in 1909. In addition, Harvard and Yale played an annual team match.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, future world champion Jose Raul Capablanca represented Columbia, on top board.

Triangular Intercollegiate league[edit]

The Triangular Intercollegiate league -- comprising teams from Cornell University, Brown University, and the University of Pennsylvania -- was formed in 1899. Champions from 1899 to 1913 are as follows: Pennsylvania 1899, 1904, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1912, 1913; Cornell 1900-1903, 1907, 1910; tie between Pennsylvania and Brown in 1906; tie between Cornell and Pennsylvania in 1911.

In some years, all-star teams from the Quadrangular and Triangular leagues met in a challenge match.[1]

Early years[edit]

The Pan-Am started in 1946.

However, 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.[2]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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, led 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]


School Wins Year
Borough of Manhattan Community College 3 1993, 1994, 1997
Brooklyn College 2 1962, 1995
City College of New York 2 1946, 1947
Columbia University 5 1950, 1952, 1960, 1971, 1984
Fordham University 1 1954
Harvard University 5 1975, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2 1966, 1970
McGill University 1 1969
New York University 1 1995
Rhode Island College 1 1985
San Jose State University 1 1964
University of California at Berkeley 3 1963, 1967, 1989
University of Chicago 6 1956, 1958, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1986
University of Florida 1 1979
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 2 1991, 2012
University of Maryland, Baltimore County 10 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012
University of Minnesota 1 1992
University of Nebraska 1 1975
University of Pennsylvania 1 1977
University of South Florida 1 1976
University of Texas at Austin 1 1963
University of Texas at Dallas 10 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012
University of Toronto 6 1965, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1973
Webster University 3 2012, 2013, 2014
Yale University 3 1978, 1983, 1987

Cup winners[edit]

# Year Location Number of Teams Winning School Team
1 1946 New York, NY 13 City College of New York
2 1948 New York, NY 15 City College of New York
3 1950 New York, NY 16 Columbia University
4 1952 New York, NY 12 Columbia University
5 1954 New York, NY 8 Fordham University
6 1956 Philadelphia, PA 14 University of Chicago
7 1958 Cleveland, OH 10 University of Chicago
8 1960 Princeton, NJ 13 Columbia University
9 1962 Philadelphia, PA 28 Brooklyn College
10 1963 Notre Dame, IN 28 University of Texas at Austin, University of California at Berkeley
11 1964 Los Angeles, CA 21 San Jose State University
12 1965 New York, NY 27 University of Toronto
13 1966 State College, PA 27 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
14 1967 Hoboken, NJ 24 University of California at Berkeley
15 1968 Chicago, IL 49 University of Chicago
16 1969 Montreal, QC 43 McGill University
17 1970 Evanston, IL 51 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
18 1971 Toronto, ON 55 Columbia University
19 1972 Columbus, OH 108 University of Chicago
20 1973 Atlanta, GA 73 University of Toronto, University of Chicago
21 1974 Louisville, KY 89 University of Toronto
22 1975 Columbus, OH 123 University of Nebraska, Harvard University
23 1976 New York, NY 108 University of South Florida
24 1977 St. Louis, MO 67 University of Pennsylvania
25 1978 Chicago, IL 85 Yale University
26 1979 Los Angeles, CA 42 University of Florida
27 1980 Atlanta, GA 52 University of Toronto
28 1981 New York, NY 71 University of Toronto
29 1982 Columbus, OH 62 University of Toronto
30 1983 Worcester, MA 59 Yale University
31 1984 Kitchener, ON 59 Columbia University
32 1985 New Brunswick, NJ 60 Rhode Island College
33 1986 Providence, RI 53 University of Chicago, Harvard University
34 1987 Columbus, OH 38 Yale University
35 1988 New Brunswick, NJ 36 Harvard University
36 1989 Salt Lake City, UT 19 University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University
37 1990 Cambridge, MA 30 Harvard University
38 1991 Chicago, IL 33 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
39 1992 Detroit, MI 33 University of Minnesota
40 1993 DeLand, FL 31 Borough of Manhattan Community College
41 1994 Providence, RI 31 Borough of Manhattan Community College
42 1995 New York, NY 36 New York University, Brooklyn College
43 1996 Baltimore, MD 36 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
44 1997 Bowling Green, KY 38 Borough of Manhattan Community College
45 1998 Dallas, TX 20 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
46 1999 Toronto, ON 31 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
47 2000 Milwaukee, WI 21 University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of Texas at Dallas
48 2001 Providence, RI 29 University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of Texas at Dallas
49 2002 Miami, FL 30 University of Maryland, Baltimore County - B
50 2003 Miami, FL 30 University of Texas at Dallas
51 2004 Wichita, KS 23 University of Texas at Dallas
52 2005 Miami, FL 27 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
53 2006 Washington, DC 24 University of Texas at Dallas - B, University of Texas at Dallas - A
54 2007 Miami, FL 28 University of Texas at Dallas
55 2008 Dallas, TX 29 University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of Texas at Dallas - B
56 2009 South Padre Island, TX 28 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
57 2010 Milwaukee, WI 28 University of Texas at Dallas
58 2011 Fort Worth, TX 28 University of Texas at Dallas
59 2012 Princeton, NJ 44 University of Texas at Dallas, Webster University - B, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Webster University - A, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
60 2013 Texas Tech University[3] 42 Webster University - A


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).


  1. ^ "American Chess Bulletin, February 1914; see
  2. ^ The Bobby Fischer I Knew And Other Stories, by Arnold Denker and Larry Parr, San Francisco 1995, Hypermodern Press.
  3. ^ "First Time Hosting". Texas Tech University. December 25, 2013. 


  • 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.

External links[edit]