SLU Chess Players Spend Summer Winning Titles, Honing Skills
While summer may be a time to kick back for many, for Saint Louis University’s Chess Team members, summer break meant taking on foes internationally and sharing their stories with global audiences.
Team members competed in tournaments in Greece and Turkey, improved their rankings among the world’s best competitive chess players, and gave TedxTalks in Germany.
As SLU students return to classes for the start of fall semester, the team is eager to tackle new challenges this year.
Look Back at the Summer’s Chess Highlights
- Graduate student Alexander Ipatov won the National Game in 30 championship and tying for first in the Game in 60.
- Sophomore Nikolaos Theodorou and sophomore Akshat Chandra tied for third place in the Paleochora International Tournament in Greece. Theodorou also made his first GM norm, meeting the requirements to become the maximum title in chess, grandmaster.
- Student Dariusz Swiercz achieved his life-time peak rating of 2670. He is expected to be the #70 ranked player in the World, and the top rated collegiate chess player in the country in the next rating list soon.
- Sophomore Benjamin Bok played in two back-to-back tournaments to achieve his peak rating of 2645, which puts him just shy out of the top-100 player list.
- Senior Cemil Can Ali Marandi started had an especially strong showing in the 2019 Turkish Super League, winning the tournament with his Turkish League team, Tatvan.
- In July, junior Dorsa Derakhshani gave a TedxTalk in Munich, Germany, about her choice to play chess in the United States after conflicts with the Iranian Chess Federation, which led to her being banned for playing chess for Iran.
School’s Back in Session, What’s the Chess Team’s Next Move?
- The new academic year certainly presents tough challengers, coach Alejandro Ramirez said. As a team, SLU’s players’ main focus will be to win the 2019 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the end of December.
- The team will also compete in the Missouri Collegiate Championship, and has been invited to the 2019 World University Team Prestigious Championship in Tianjin, China in November.
- Players will also compete individually in prestigious competitions throughout the year.
What New Masters Take to SLU’s Board?
- Woman Grandmaster Stavroula Tsolakidou, a freshman, joins the team. She is a four-time World Youth Champion (u14 2013, u16 2015, u18 2016), Greek #1 and World #4 in the Girls list (u20, female).
- Woman FIDE Master Karen Hoshino, a freshman, is now part of SLU’s team. She is also part of the Japanese Olympic team.
- International Master Robby Kevlishvili, a freshman, is inches away from the coveted grandmaster title.
SLU Player Has a Chance at a World Cup Title
Benjamin Bok will complete in the 2019 World Cup of Chess in Khanty-Mansiysk, Ugra Region, Russia, a 40-hour trip away from St. Louis. This event is a Knock Out style tourney, meaning players are eliminated as soon as they lose a match. Qualifying for this event is grueling, and Bok achieved it last year in an excellent showing in the European Championship.
The World Cup of Chess will feature the best players in the world, including the very elite of chess, and only the Candidates Tournament and the World Championship are considered to be more important in the entire chess spectrum.
As soon as pairings are released by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), Bok will spend weeks preparing and analyzing his assigned opponent.
The Desire and Discipline to Win
The team’s emphasis on rigor in all aspects of its player’s SLU experience, from the chess board to the classroom, helps prepare its players to succeed, in and beyond the tournaments where they play.
“The main focus is to keep the balance between a demanding academic life, social life, and a chess career at the highest level,” Ramirez said. “It is difficult enough with the chess alone!”
“Chess and academics are a tough thing to balance, but I believe that throughout the years it is clear that the players that are part of our team have been able to adapt very successfully, not only excelling in their academic duties but achieving some of their highest performances to date,” SLU’s chess coach continued.
“I think this is in large part due to the support of each other as teammates. It has been a pleasure to see many of my players come to SLU, not really knowing what to expect, and embracing their environment, their opportunities and growing incredibly as people.”
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.