SLU Chess Team Wins Final Four of Collegiate Chess

The SLU chess team continued this year’s winning streak with a victory at the 2022 President’s Cup

Earlier this month, SLU’s chess team continued its dominating performance by winning the team’s first President’s Cup, beating out Webster University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Dallas. 

           The President’s Cup, colloquially referred to as the Final Four of collegiate chess, was held April 2-3 on the campus of Texas Tech University. It was the first time in two years that the tournament was held in person. Each team brought four players and two alternates. Over the course of three rounds, the four teams faced off, with players earning a full point for their team with a victory and a half-point for a draw. 

         SLU won the tournament with a total of 7.5 points out of 12 possible points.

          The victory in this year’s President’s Cup comes after SLU narrowly missed out on first place in last year’s Final Four. 

         Chess coach Alejandro Ramirez, a chess grandmaster and the first person from Central America to earn the grandmaster title, spoke to the University News about the team’s success in the President’s Cup and over the past couple of years.

        Ramirez said: “This is an incredible success for the program. In the past year Saint Louis University’s chess team has won just about every tournament we participated in,” referring to the Fide Rapid Online Cup and the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships. 

         In the first round, SLU faced off against UT Dallas, dominating the match with three wins, one draw, and no losses. This convincing victory in the first round set the tone for the rest of the event. In the second round, SLU faced Texas Tech. SLU was not able to match their dominating performance of the first round and split the match with one victory, two draws, and a loss. 

        In the final round of the tournament, SLU went up against Webster, who trailed by just half a point, and SLU needed a tie in the match to bring home the victory. Senior Nikolas Theodorou won an exciting game against Webster’s Benjamin Gledura, clinching a tie in the match for SLU and a victory in the 2022 President’s Cup. 

       The team’s meteoric rise since its inception as a program in 2016 is not a matter of luck or of pure talent. “These players breathe and sleep chess. There is always a tournament to follow, play in, do commentary for. Practice tournaments keep the players sharp, and it is important to travel to them to improve,” Ramirez said. 

       He added: “Of course, all of this is on top of the weekly individual and group training sessions with the coaches.”

       Ramirez also said: “It’s clear that team chemistry is playing a huge role in our success.” 

       Ramirez wanted to highlight the play of two players in particular. Of Cemil Can Ali Marandi, a Master’s student from Turkey, Ramirez said: “Cemil Can Ali Marandi is one of the most improved players on the team, jumping from International Master when he started the program to a full Grandmaster player.” Marandi’s undefeated score of two wins and one draw was integral to the team’s victory. Ramirez also pointed to the play of Polish Grandmaster Dariusz Swiercz, who scored 2 wins and lost only one game, as key to victory. 

        “Special congratulations to both, who obtained their Bachelor’s at SLU and are now completing their master’s with us. They have been part of the program since day one” Ramirez said.  

            Even after achieving this important milestone victory, Ramirez and his team are only looking ahead. “We have really won it all. Collegiate chess is a sport that is rapidly expanding. The next few years will bring more global events to the fray as travel and over the board chess resumes in other parts of the World. We won the World Rapid Cup online last year, and it would be great to defend it in person. We also have a pending invitation for a friendly match with Shenzhen University, the strongest university in China.” 

             He added: “The next couple of years will be challenging as we lose both Dariusz and Cemil Can, so it will be partially rebuilding years. However, with the team chemistry as high as it is, I expect to be winning many events.