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SLU Chess Team Qualifies for Collegiate Chess Final Four

Saint Louis University’s chess team is heading to college chess’s championships, the Final Four of Collegiate Chess, after placing second in the 2017 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships in December 2017.

SLU's chess team qualifies for the Final Four of Collegiate Chess

SLU's chess players took second-place at the 2017 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships held last month in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Nozima Aripova

The four-day tournament took place between Dec. 27 and 30 in Columbus, Ohio. SLU competed against 60 teams from across the United States, Canada and Mexico. SLU clinched the number two spot in the six-round Swiss-style tournament by beating Harvard University. In the Columbus tournament’s format, each team played four players per round and had up to two alternates to switch between games.  Universities could field as many teams as they wanted.

The Billikens started the tournament with 4-0 victories against Penn State and University of Chicago. In the third round, SLU’s team faced a traditional chess powerhouse, the University of Texas at Dallas. The Texas university fielded five teams in the tournament but SLU prevailed 3.5-0.5 in the third round against Texas’s C squad.

The tournament’s fourth round featured a key matchup against Texas Tech's A team. Coached by former U.S. Champion Alexander Onischuk, Texas Tech won the Pan-American in 2015. Four of SLU's grandmasters faced off against Texas Tech's grandmasters, and after a grueling six hours of play and very close calls, SLU took the match by the minimum margin of 2.5-1.5.

SLU went on to face the Webster University Gorloks in the fifth round. The Gorloks, coached by the internationally-renowned Susan Polgar, current grandmaster and former child chess prodigy. After drawing on boards one, two and four, it all came down to the game between SLU graduate student Yaroslav Zherebukh and Olympic gold medalist Ray Robson. As the match progressed, Zherebukh declined a draw to tie the match in order to pursue victory, but he fell short and allowed his opponent a chance to turn the tides. Robson took the game and gave Webster the match 2.5-1.5

With a swift recovery in the final round, SLU defeated Harvard University by a convincing 3.0-1.0, securing second place. Sophomore Cemil Can Ali Marandi won best reserve of the tournament.

With Webster University’s A squad taking the tournament’s top spot, SLU, Texas Tech’s A squad and Texas Rio Grande Valley’s A squad rounded out the Final Four field.

The Final Four of Collegiate Chess will be held in New York on Thursday, March 29. The Final Four is considered to be ultimate challenge in collegiate chess and SLU’s team has already begun its preparations for the March competition.

Grandmaster graduate student Yaroslav Zherebukh

Grandmaster graduate student Yaroslav Zherebukh ponders his next move during the 2017 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships. Photo by Nozima Aripova

SLU's Team for the Final Four

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.