Football, Basketball, and Chess… and YOU could be a winner!


UMBC vs. NYU at 2008 Final Four.jpg Photo by Alan Sherman
UMBC vs. NYU at 2008 Final Four. Photo by Alan Sherman

In most parts of the world, the word “football” means “soccer.” In the United States, however, American football (with helmets and a ball that is not round) is the favorite sport to watch. Therefore, to attract attention, many universities have football teams. When a football team has a winning season, its university benefits from media attention (which attracts donors, fans, and potential students).

Unlike many U.S. universities, The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) does not have a football team. Instead, UTD has a chess team. The chess team performs some of the same functions that a football team would, such as attracting media attention. In this clip of a blindfold chess exhibition at UTD, one of the news anchors commented, “They’ve got some brains there.” The chess team’s “brainy” reputation helps UTD recruit top academic students, which raises UTD’s ranking compared to other universities.

When I started working at UTD in 1999, having one or two grandmasters or International Masters and a couple of untitled players on a four-player college chess team was sufficient to win the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (the “Pan-Am”). That annual tournament, held between Christmas and New Year’s Day, usually has between 50 and 60 four-player teams from post-secondary schools in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The 2017 Pan-Am was the 64th annual tournament. The top four finishers were Webster University, Saint Louis University, Texas Tech University, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The winning team, Webster, had an all-grandmaster line-up.

Why does it matter which team finished fourth? Because, since 2001, there has been a “Final Four of College Chess” tournament just like there is a “Final Four of College Basketball” tournament. From March 31-April 1, 2018, the top four schools from the 2017 Pan-Am will meet to determine the best U.S. college chess team. See their rosters at this link.

Scoring at the Final Four of College Chess (formally known as the President’s Cup) is by game points. That is, a 4-0 sweep is tremendously better than a 2.5-1.5 margin. At the 2017 President’s Cup, Webster won with 8 game points (of 12 possible) and Texas Tech University was second with 6.5 game points.

As mentioned earlier, the 2018 Final Four teams are

  • Webster (WU),
  • Saint Louis University (SLU),
  • Texas Tech University (TTU),
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).

Can you predict the order of finish of the four teams and the game points scored by the winning team?

Can you guess the Final Four of College Chess?

Contest rules

  1. In the Comments section to this article, list the four teams in the order you think they will finish. The first team you list would be the team you think will finish in first place. So “WU, SLU, TTU, and UTRGV” means that you think Webster will be in first, Saint Louis University in second, Texas Tech University in third, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in fourth. Your comment should also include the winning team’s final score (see #4 and #5 below).
  2. Only the first comment you put with your prediction counts for the contest. If you write multiple comments, we will still only count your first one.
  3. Your comment must be submitted by midnight on March 29, Eastern Time (the time zone in New York City, where the Final Four will be played March 31-April 1).
  4. As a tiebreaker, please also list the number of points you think the winning team will score out of 12 games played, for example “WU will score 8 points.”
  5. You must enter your correct email address in the comment so we can contact you if you win.
  6. Ten SparkChess Premium Live one-year memberships  will be awarded to participants in this contest. The memberships will go to the 10 contest participants who picked the correct finish order. If more than 10 participants picked the correct finish order, the 10 who got closest to the winning team’s final score, without going over that score, get the memberships on tiebreak. For example, if WU scores 8 points and you guessed 7.5 and someone else guessed 8.5, your tiebreak is better.


Round 1
Durarbayli, GM Vasif2694Baryshpolets, GM Andrey26701/2-1/2
Matsenko, IM Sergei2620Shimanov, GM Aleksandr27131/2-1/2
Robson, GM Ray2734Vorontsov, GM Pavlo26441-0
Shtembuliak, IM Evgeny2608Cori, GM Jorge27231/2-1/2
Ipatov, GM Alexander2723Belous, GM Vladimir26840-1
Dragun, GM Kamil2686Swiercz, GM Dariusz27571/2-1/2
Zherebukh, GM Yaroslav2701Stukopin, GM Andrey26831/2-1/2
Gabuzyan, GM Hovhannes2679Rambaldi, GM Francesco26171-0
Round 2
Belous, GM Vladimir2684Shimanov, GM Aleksandr27131-0
Robson, GM Ray2734Dragun, GM Kamil26861-0
Stukopin, GM Andrey2683Nyzhnyk, GM Illia26971/2-1/2
Cori, GM Jorge2723Hevia Alejano, GM Carlos Antonio25691-0
Baryshpolets, GM Andrey2670Ipatov, GM Alexander27231/2-1/2
Swiercz, GM Dariusz2757Matsenko, IM Sergei26201/2-1/2
Vorontsov, GM Pavlo2644Zherebukh, GM Yaroslav27011-0
Ali Marandi, GM Cemil Can2571Shtembuliak, IM Evgeny26081/2-1/2
Round 3
Ipatov, GM Alexander2723Durarbayli, GM Vasif26941-0
Robson, GM Ray2734Swiercz, GM Dariusz27571/2-1/2
Zherebukh, GM Yaroslav2701Prohaszka, GM Peter26881/2-1/2
Cori, GM Jorge2723Rambaldi, GM Francesco26171-0
Baryshpolets, GM Andrey2670Belous, GM Vladimir26840-1
Dragun, GM Kamil2686Matsenko, IM Sergei26201/2-1/2
Vorontsov, GM Pavlo2644Stukopin, GM Andrey26831/2-1/2
Gabuzyan, GM Hovhannes2679Shtembuliak, IM Evgeny26081-0

Read the follow-up for our contest winners and insights from the games!

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on