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UMBC chess team, a perennial favorite, finishes fourth

The renowned chess team from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County came in last on Sunday in one of the nation's premier college tournaments, the first time in a decade that the school did not finish in either first or second place.

Texas Tech University took top place after a series of team round robin games in what is called the President's Cup, held this year in Tysons Corner, Va. The tournament is regarded as the "Final Four" of college chess. "Our players are depressed," said Alan T. Sherman, director of the program.

UMBC has dominated the world of college chess for the past decade, giving the relatively small college a place on a prominent stage, winning six of the past 10 Final Four tournaments. This year's team was led by Sergey "The Stealth" Erenburg, an international grand chess master, along with grand masters Leonid "Chief" Kritz and Giorgi Margvelashvili and international master Sasha "Plaplan" Kaplan.

Sherman, who also is an associate professor of computer science, said Margvelashvili had to be pulled from the games after undergoing emergency surgery on Tuesday. But he said that was only a contributing factor to the poor showing.

"I think some our players just did not have a good tournament," he said. "It was a very close event. The final outcome was very much in doubt until the very last event." The University of Texas-Dallas came in second and the University of Texas-Brownsville finished third.

UMBC qualified for the tournament by finishing second in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships that concluded in December in Milwaukee. UMBC had won the Pan Am games the year before.

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