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.
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 Gorlocks,
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
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.
SLU's Team for the Final Four
- Grandmaster graduate student Alexander Ipatov
- Grandmaster junior Dariusz Swiercz
- Grandmaster graduate student Yaroslav Zherebukh
- Grandmaster sophomore Francesco Rambaldi
- Grandmaster sophomore Cemil Can Ali Marandi
- International master freshman Dorsa Derakshani
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.