There was the usual feverish excitement as the two teams vying for the championship squared off. After a weeklong rally on campus, fans gathered in the arena and tried to cheer their schoolmates on to victory. Who would come up with the most strategic moves and winning plays to capture the title?
Alas, just as they were eliminated from that other big-time college sports competition (which had a little championship game of its own last night), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers played runner-up to the University of Texas, Dallas this past weekend in the President's Cup, the chess equivalent of the Final Four of NCAA Division I basketball.
Even in defeat, however, UMBC can hold its head high. The chess team was going for a fifth championship since the event began in 2001, and all the matches were considered close. Now, UT Dallas has tied this competition at four titles each, after also sinking UMBC to a second-place finish in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, the other major college chess tournament, last December. The intense mind-game rivalry brings credit to both schools.
UMBC officials are right to emphasize that sports and other extracurricular activities merely complement - and help call more attention to - the school's rich academic experience. But in the tradition of athletic competition, UMBC's chess coach has recruited three new grandmasters and anticipates being in the winning column next season.