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SLU Chess Team Player Profiles

The members of the Saint Louis University chess team come from nine countries and hold dozens of honors. Members recently competed in tournaments in Greece and Turkey, improved their rankings among the world’s best competitive chess players, and gave TedxTalks in Germany.

Coaches

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Varuzhan Akobian, Head Coach


Title: Grandmaster
Peak Rating: 2673
Email: Varuzhan.akobian@slu.edu
Varuzhan was the U.S. Junior Champion in 2003, and the winner of the World Open in 2002, 2004, and 2007. He also played for the U.S. in the 2009 World Team Championship and helped earn the silver medal. He played on the bronze-medal-winning U.S. team in the 2006 and 2008 Chess Olympiads. He was the 2014 US Championship Runner Up.
Please email the head coach for any team or scholarship questions! 


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Dariusz Świercz, Assistant Coach


Title: Grandmaster
Peak Rating: 2670
Dariusz Świercz is an American chess Grandmaster. He earned his grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and seven months in 2009. In 2011, Świercz won the World Junior Chess Championship and in 2016 he won the 3rd Millionaire Chess. In 2018, he will represent the United States. He was a part of the US National Team in World Team Championships 2019 and Online Olympiad in 2021, contributing in the latter to the US Team winning a silver medal. 


2022-23 Player Profiles  

Benjamin Bok

Benjamin Bok

Graduate Student, Finance
Peak Rating: 2645
Title: Grand Master
Benjamin Bok is one of the best players of his home country, the Netherlands. He has won many international tournaments, his biggest tournament victory being the 2015 London Chess Classic. In 2016, he made his debut for the Dutch Olympic team and he participated in the two most recent World Cups. In 2017, he reached the last 128 and in 2019, he reached the last 64. Benjamin has traveled to over 45 countries and competed against the very best in the world, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen and World Blitz number 1, Hikaru Nakamura, whom Benjamin defeated at the 2016 Isle of 
Man International. Benjamin is currently ranked 56th (peak ranking 48th) in the world in speed chess and his goal is to keep pushing up the ranks. 

Accomplishments

  • Dutch Youth Champion U10, U12, U14
  • Player on the Dutch Olympic Team since 2016
  • Participation in the 2017 World Cup (Last 128) and the 2019 World Cup (Last 64)
  • Three-time Dutch Online Champion

Robby Kevlishivili

Robby Kevlishvili


Graduate Student, Finance and Mathematics

Peak Rating: 2541
Home Country: The Netherlands 
Born in the Netherlands in a Georgian family, Robby Kevlishvili started playing chess at age four. His father taught him the rules and Robby joined a local chess club at age six. Soon after, he started competing in national championships, with many European and world youth championships to follow. Now at SLU, Robby is an undergraduate studying finance and mathematics. 

Accomplishments 

●  World Blitz Champion U12 (2013) 
●  Dutch U20 Champion at age 16 (2017) 
●  Silver medalist European U18 Team Chess Championship with The Netherlands (2019) 
●  Winner of the Open Vandoeuvre tournament in France (2018) 
●  U7, U8, U9, U12, U14 Dutch champion 
●  Current World Rapid #3 U20 and current World Blitz #10 U20 (February 2021) 
●  2022 Collegiate National Champion with SLU 


Akshat Chandra

Akshat Chandra 

Graduate Student in Philosophy Title: Grand Master
Peak Rating: 2536
Home Country: USA 

Akshat was born in Livingston, New Jersey, and is the only American Grandmaster on the SLU team. He started playing chess when he was around 9 1/2 years old. In fewer than five years, he approached the Grandmaster rating and recorded one of the fastest rises in the world. He was awarded the International Grandmaster title in 2016. Akshat was the 2015 US Junior Champion, 2015 U.S. National High School Champion, 2015 National High School Blitz Champion, and 2013 U.S. National K-9 Champion, all in his first appearances. Akshat also holds the distinction of being the only player to have achieved sole first in two of the top U.S. Collegiate Open tournaments - the University of Texas at Dallas Fall Fide Open and the Webster University SPICE Cup. Akshat finished high school when he was 16. Thereafter, he moved to St. Louis pursued chess and, after two years, began his college studies at Saint Louis University. Now he is studying philosophy for his graduate studies. 

Accomplishments 


●  2022 Collegiate National Champion with SLU 
●  2019 SPICE CUP Champion 
●  2018 UTD Fall Fide Open Champion 
●  2015 U.S. Junior Champion 
●  2015 National High School Champion 
●  2015 National High School Blitz Champion 
●  2013 K-9 SuperNationals Champion 
●  2013 North American Youth U18 Champion 


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Dambasuren Batsuren


Freshman, Psychology
Title: Grandmaster
Peak Rating: 2525
Home Country: Mongolia
He was Candidate Master (CM) in 2014, FIDE Master (FM) in 2015, International Master (IM) 2017. He was awarded the title of Grandmaster in 2020. As of July 2021, he is the 2nd-highest ranked player in Mongolia. 

Accomplishments 


● Won Mongolian Chess Championship 2022 


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Nicholas Ladan

Freshman, Neuroscience

Peak Rating: 2273

Country: USA 


Gabriela Antova

Gabriela Antova


Senior, International Business
Peak Rating: 2335
Title: Women's Grand Master
Gabriela started playing chess at the age of six, and her passion for the game has stayed with her ever since. Growing up, she traveled the world competing in both prestigious youth events and open tournaments where she had the opportunity to show her talent. She achieved early success at the world and European championships, which inspired her to train and dedicate even more time to chess. Currently, Gabriela is pursuing her final woman grandmaster norm and aiming to further advance her position on the women’s rank list. 
“For me, chess has always been more than just a game - I believe it is really a way of life and a chance to show what I am capable of," she said. "I am grateful to be part of one of the nation’s greatest chess teams and hope to achieve new career heights with SLU.” 

Accomplishments 

●  Multiple Bulgarian National Champion 
●  Five-time medalist of the European Youth Chess championship 
●  Third place at the World Youth Chess Championship 
●  European Youth Team Champion (2019) 
●  Member of the Bulgarian national team for the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2020 
●  Fifth place on Board 4, 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India 


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Thalia Cervantes

Junior, Sports Business
Peak Rating: 2338
Thalia Cervantes was born in the chess-rich country of Cuba. Thalia has always been a leading junior player representing Cuba and continued winning tournaments after transferring to the U.S. Federation in 2014. Thalia is pursuing a degree in sports business, which ideally combines with her ambition in chess. 

Accomplishments

• Second place, US Girls Junior Championship 2022
• Silver Medalist with Team USA in the 2021 Chess Olympiads
• First place, 2018 Pan-American Girls u20


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Sila Caglar


Sophomore: Neuroscience
Peak Rating: 2306
Title: Woman International Master
Country: Turkey

Accomplishments


In 2013, Sıla Çağlar won the European School Chess Championship in the girls U09 age group. In 2016, she won the Turkish Youth Chess Championship in the girls U12 age group. Sila Caglar repeatedly represented Turkey at the European Youth Chess Championships and World Youth Chess Championships in different age groups. In 2016, in Prague she won European Youth Chess Championship in the girls U12 age group and received Women FIDE Master (WFM) title.[3] Sıla Çağlar two times played 
Cervantes for Turkey team in the European Girls' U18 Team Chess Championships (2016-2017). Also she participated in European Individual Women Chess Championships 2017,2018, 2019. In 2020, she was awarded the FIDE Women International Master (WIM) title.


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Dhyana Patel


Freshman: Data Science
Title: Woman FIDE Master
Peak Rating: 2155
Country: India
Dhyana Patel at the age of 7 started playing chess inspired by her brother. With the endless victories and still going on she claimed the WCM, WFM title. In her journey her family, friends played a major role along with the sponsorships of PSP Pvt. Ltd and SAG.


Accomplishments

●  WESTERN ASIA YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 U18 GIRLS 
●  AICF NATIONAL UNDER 16 GIRLS ONLINE CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021 
●  AICF NATIONAL UNDER 18 GIRLS ONLINE CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021 


 

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Gabriela Luisa Vicente Feller 

Freshman: Nutrition and Dietetics Peak Rating: 1920
Country: Brazil 


 

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Layla Rodriguez

Sophomore, Economics and Marketing
Rating: 1330
Home City: Chicago
Layla is a freshman at Saint Louis University who started playing chess in second grade. She started playing chess in a club at her elementary school but soon played in more competitive tournaments and began traveling for national tournaments. She is part of the Queens United, an initiative to expand competitive female presence around elementary schools in Chicago. 


Chess Team Alumni

  • Cemil Can Ali Marandi
    Computer Science
    Home Country: Turkey
  • Nozima Aripova
    College of Arts and Sciences
    Home Country: Uzbekistan
  • Dorsa Derakhshani
    Biology Pre-Med
    Home Country: Iran
  • Alexander Ipatov
    Computer Science
    Home Country: Ukraine
  • Francesco Rambaldi
    Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business
    Home Country: Italy
  • Dariusz Swiercz
    Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business
    Home Country: Poland
  • Yaroslav Zherebukh
    Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business 
    Home Country: Ukraine
  • Stavroula Tsolakidou
    Psychology 
    Home Country: Greece
  • Karen Hoshino
    Arts and Sciences 
    Home Country: Japan