Chess team from UMBC wins Pan Am tournament 40 teams competed in championship


The University of Maryland Baltimore County won the Pan American Chess Championships yesterday in an anticlimactic final match pitting the university's "A" team against its "B" team.

Led by a handful of Russian players recruited to the Catonsville campus with chess scholarships, UMBC's "A" team, consisting of Belarus twin brothers Valery and Dmitry Atlas, William Morrison and Greg Shahade, took the first-place trophy and bragging rights in collegiate chess.

About 40 teams from North, Central and South America competed at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore.

The UMBC "B" team tied for second with three other teams, but under the tie-breaking rules of the tournament, it won the fourth-place trophy, behind the University of Pennsylvania and the "A" team of the University of Toronto. The Catholic University of Peru finished fifth.

Stuyvesant High School of New York City won the tournament's division for high school teams with a perfect 6-0 record. Michael Feinstein, a lawyer in Austin, Texas, and former Delaware state champion, won the open division for players of any age or circumstances.

Although it finished in the middle of the pack in scholastic play, a team from Baltimore City College earned a trophy for performing the best among teams with an average of 1,200 points or less under chess' individual rating system. The "expert" level begins at 2,000.

But it was the UMBC players who shone in the four-day competition. For example, Oxana Tarassova, a 21-year-old freshman recruited from Kazakstan, won her first five matches and came back from a losing position to earn a draw in the final against teammate Dmitry Atlas. Yet Tarassova, considered one of the nation's best women players, competed on UMBC's "B" team.

Only one player in the open competition prevailed against the tournament's only computer, a program known as CRAFTY that played from its home at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"CRAFTY looked at a daring sacrifice of a knight for two pawns and being materialistic, he thought that was great. It wasn't," said Alan Sherman, adviser to the UMBC team.

UMBC's "A" team, which had been favored in the championships, won $1,000.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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