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SLU Chess Team Qualifies for 'Final Four'

01/15/2020

Fresh off matching wits with teams from across the nation at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships over winter break, Saint Louis University’s Chess Team will spend spring preparing for a new battle royale – the Final Four of Chess – in April.

SLU chess player Oleksandr Ipatov contemplates a move.

 SLU chess player Oleksandr Ipatov (left) contemplates a move at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships in December 2019. Ipatov's play would help SLU qualify for the Final Four of Chess in April. Photo by Dayah Dover

SLU’s chess players placed third out of 63 teams at the Pan-American tourney in Charlotte, North Carolina, earning a spot at the Final Four in New York, where the nation’s new collegiate chess champions will be crowned.

“Overall the Pan-Americans are a very stressful time, and the competition never takes a breath from start to finish,” coach Alejandro Ramirez said. “Players train very hard for these four days and I'm proud of the job that they did.”

Building on Months of Wins and High Scores

SLU’s team and its players have been competing in international and national tournament since the summer of 2019 to hone their skills. Over the past summer, SLU chess players took on foes at tournaments in Greece and Turkey.

The team won the Midwest Collegiate Chess crown in October 2019, taking the top team slots in the tournament’s Classical and Blitz sections.

Sophomore grandmaster Benjamin Bok matched wits against European champions and Chess Olympians at the 2019 FIDE Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk in the Russian Federation that same month, going on to defeat Ivan Saric, the 2018 European Champion.

In November 2019, team members traveled to China to play international chess powerhouses including Princeton and Oxford Universities at the 2019 World Prestigious University Chess Invitational Tournament.

About SLU's Play at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships

December’s Pan-American championship is one of the most important tournaments on the Billikens’ chess calendar. A six-round Swiss event, the tournament’s format is a more unforgiving one than more traditional nine-round events. Teams compete to end up in the top four of the Pan-American tournament in order to qualify for a chance to play for the national title at the Final Four of Chess.

“A crucial mistake might be enough to get you eliminated from the top four,” Ramirez explained. “Sometimes even a bit of luck is involved.”

Tournament Highlights

SLU's chess team poses with their trophy after placing third at the 2019 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships.

SLU's chess team poses with their trophy after placing third at the 2019 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships. SLU will now advance to compete for the nation's top chess honor at the Final Four of Chess in New York later this spring. Photo by Mike Klein, courtesy of Chess.com

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.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications