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Chess Team Aims for National Title After International Play

While many Saint Louis University students will head home for a winter break, the players on SLU’s award-winning chess team have their sights set on national play and on the movements across the sport’s international board this holiday season.

Dorsa Derakhshani and Francesco Rambaldi

Freshman Dorsa Derakhshani (left) and sophomore Francesco Rambaldi consider strategy at a chess tournament in Panama City, Panama on Nov. 4, 2017. Submitted photo

The team recently took part in a “blitz”-style chess tournament in Panama City, Panama on Nov. 4, which attracted players from Cuba, Peru, Spain and from across Latin America. Eder Aquendo and local Panamanian chess teams organized the event, which features chess played in a faster-than-normal time frame. Traditional tournaments can last up to two weeks while blitz tournaments last one or two days.

Over the University’s winter break, the team will compete in Columbus, Ohio, in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships. The Columbus tournament will run from Wednesday, Dec. 27, through Saturday, Dec. 30.

SLU’s international play in Panama and appearance at the intercollegiate championships are no accident, Ramirez continued.

“SLU is being more and more recognized in the international chess scene,” he said. “Interest in the team is spanning from potential players from Europe, Asia and Latin America, so it is clear that word of SLU’s team has spread around the world.”

Dariusz Swiercz

Sophomore Cemil Can Ali Marandi prepares to make a move during a November "blitz" chess tournament in Panama City, Panama. Submitted photo

SLU’s team has also made international headlines as the place where Iranian chess grandmaster, Dorsa Derakhshani, now a freshman, found a supportive home and chess community after she was banned from playing for Iran over her refusal to wear the hijab during international play.

During the Panama tournament, sophomore Francesco Rambaldi played a solid fourth board, holding his own against chess legends Julio Granda and Lazaro Bruzon before taking first place in the tourney. Alejandro Ramirez, SLU’s chess coach, said the Panama tournament was great practice for the team, which will be training from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily once his students finish their fall exams on Dec. 20.

When they settle down at their boards at the Pan-American championships, they will face over players from more than 60 other universities.

“Our goal this year,” Ramirez said, “is to qualify again for the Final Four, and also to have a real shot at winning the event.”

The learn more about SLU’s chess team, visit the team's website.

Saint Louis University is a world-class Catholic, Jesuit institution educating nearly 13,000 students on two dynamic, urban campuses - in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, the University is celebrating its bicentennial.
With a legacy of innovative academics and research, compassionate health care and faithful service, Saint Louis University attracts a diverse community of scholars who push intellectual boundaries in pursuit of creative, meaningful ways to impact the world, striving to serve a higher purpose and seek a greater good.