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Chess Team Wins 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship

by Joe Barker on 01/10/2022


The Saint Louis University chess team won the 68th annual Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship. 

SLU fielded two teams in the tournament. The A Team was a perfect 6-0 — the only unbeaten team at the tournament — and finished first overall. The B Team finished with a 4-2 record and a tie for 10th out of 57 teams. The four-day tournament kicked off Thursday, Jan. 6, and wrapped up Sunday morning. 

SLU’s A Team, made up of Dariusz Swiercz, Nikolas Theodorou, Benjamin Bok, Robby Kevlishvili, Akshat Chandra and Cemil Can Ali Marandi, defeated squads from the University Texas Rio Grande (teams A and B), Webster University, Harvard, Texas Tech and University of Texas at Dallas. 

With the win, SLU qualified for the 2022 Final Four College Chess Championship. SLU will be facing UT Dallas, Texas Tech and Webster University. The defending Final Four Champions, UT Rio Grande Valley, were unable to qualify this year to defend their title. The Final Four will tentatively be held in the first weekend of April. 

“Despite excellent tournament wins in the past years, winning the Pan-American feels very special,” Coach Alejandro Ramirez said. “It is a tournament victory that has eluded us despite coming in second and third on several occasions since the team's inception in 2016. To win it with a perfect score feels even better. The motivation of the team was very high, and the players prepared through winter break with tournaments, training sessions with assistant coach Varuzhan Akobian and plenty of studying. Their hard work paid off as things clicked exactly when they needed to these four days.” 

Ramirez also noted two members of the team, Swiercz and Ali Marandi, were able to end their SLU careers with a big tournament win. 

“Both players started their SLU careers as part of the original 2016 squad, and they were able to finally take home the trophy after five years of coming so close, in their final year of eligibility,” Ramirez said. 

SLU B defeated George Mason University, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University and UC San Diego, but lost to Chicago University and University of Texas at Dallas. The B Team is composed of Stavroula Tsolakidou, Gabriela Antova, Thalia Cervantes, Karen Hoshino and Varenya Chilukuri.

After a year of online-only events, the tournament marked a return to in-person competition. The event took place in Dulles, Virginia. The team event pitted four players from one university against another. Individual scores are added up, and whoever is on top takes the match point. In case of a 2-2 tie, the teams split the match point. Teams were allowed to bring alternates as part of the team strategy.

SLU won the following awards at the event:

Ramirez said Bok and Antova really stood out at the tournament. 

“Of special note was the contribution of captain Benjamin Bok for the SLU-A team, scoring an impressive 5.5/6, as well as helping with key strategic insight for the event,” he said. “In the B team, Gabriela Antova also scored 5.5/6 which earned her best second board of the entire tournament, outscoring several grandmasters.”

About SLU's Chess Team

Established in the fall of 2016 as a partnership between SLU and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, with support from SLU alumnus, University trustee and chess enthusiast Rex Sinquefield, the team is not just a club activity but rather a strategic effort by administrators and alumni to recruit promising players and build on the University's excellent academic reputation. 

The team currently has 14 members and recruitment efforts continue through donor-sponsored competitive chess scholarships, which can include room and board, tuition and fees.