Check Mate – Chess Club Brings UMass Another Win

Kings of their day

Kings of their day

Dan Roche

Forget the Final Four because the real action is in intercollegiate chess. At least it is for the members of the University of Massachusetts Boston Chess Society, who recently won their third consecutive title in the Eastern Class Championships. Held in Sturbridge, Massachusetts on the weekend of March 5th, the ECC is a regional tournament that draws students from all along the northeastern United States. For fifteen years it has pinned the kings of college chess into combat for prize money totaling as much as $10,000 in this year’s meet alone, with individual prizes of up to $1500 in the Master’s section.

This year’s group consisted of UMB students Joe Perl, Dmitry Frenklakh, Dan Korsunsky, Kelvin Lo, James Jean and Leo Kharin. Nearly 140 students participated from schools across the region. They competed in the 5-round Swiss system favored by the ECC, in which points are awarded to the victor of individual matches. The team that accumulates the most aggregated points – one for a win, a half-point for a draw, and none for a loss- claims the tournament’s trophy. Each player has two hours to execute their tactics, with an additional hour granted after forty moves, if necessary. The UMB squad this year beat out second-place Clark University by more than four points, fairly running away with the title. The team, says member Dan Korsunsky, hadn’t planned to claim the day.

“Coming in we all thought this tournament would just be practice for Foxwoods,” Korsunsky said. “We never expected to win, and now that we have we are thrilled about it.”

The Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut is the host of the Foxwoods Open, which will run this year from April 12th through the 16th. It is one of the nation’s premier chess tournaments and referred to as a “Super Open”, roughly equivalent to the Super Grandmaster Tournaments in other countries. The competition will be extremely intense, though Korsunsky and the gang seem confident after such a strong showing in the ECC.

“What you learn is to respect an opponent,” Korsunsky said. “So during a game if you lose focus and underestimate, you are doomed.” Chess is a cerebral, strategic game where each move introduces new variables, opportunities and dangers. Korsunsky stresses the importance of staying humble, as a game that constantly evolves can present unforeseen traps and entanglements. Chess demands intense focus and concentration, and so it is in this way that he says the squad have learned to “celebrate in our own ways and keep an eye on the big prize.”

The UMass Boston Chess Club meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:20-3:20 PM on the third floor of the Campus Center, in the student organizations room at 3-3100. Games are usually played in the game room on the upper level of the Center. Library hours, for tutorials or to test your skills against our campus Kasparovs, can be had by sending an email to [email protected]. Basic memberships, which allow access to club material and free admission to all on-campus competitions, cost two dollars. Team memberships, which are more tournament-based, cost fifteen.

Coming up in addition to the Foxwoods Open is the Massachusetts Inter-Collegiate, being held on April 3rd in the Campus Center. At last Fall’s Inter-Collegiate, the UMass Boston team took on all comers- including two squads from Harvard- to win by three points. With this success, not to mention the team’s three-year-long winning streak in the ECC, it looks like UMass Boston has developed its own homegrown juggernaut in advance to this year’s Foxwoods Open. While nothing is guaranteed, it would be hard to discount the abilities of this talented and committed group, the UMass Boston Chess Society. So, see you at Foxwoods!