On their game: UTRGV chess team wins state super finals

The winning streak continues for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Chess Team.

The Vaqueros won the 2019 Texas Collegiate Super Finals last month for the second year in a row, besting rivals UT-Dallas, which hosted the event, and Texas Tech University. Again this year, UTRGV’s A and B teams took first and second place, respectively. UTRGV also won the state Super Finals in 2016.

This year and last, however, the team leveraged its Super Finals wins to qualify at the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship for the Final Four of College Chess President’s Cup in New York City, where UTRGV has reigned the last two years.

In April 2019, the Vaqueros beat Harvard University, UT-Dallas and Webster University to take the national title. In December the team will travel to Charlotte, N.C., to compete again in the Pan American championship, ideally as a stepping stone to New York, the President’s Cup and a third national championship.

Grandmaster Bartek Macieja, UTRGV’s chess coach, said the team trained hard in the run up to last month’s Super Finals. Although Texas Tech was favored to win, the Vaqueros were “motivated and hungry for success,” he said.

“I think it was one of the keys to our amazing success,” Macieja said.

The Vaqueros’ A team dominated the competition, while the B team squeaked by Tech Tech. Macieja compared winning the Super Finals to “winning half the national championship,” considering Texas has such powerful teams, and said he’s under no illusions about the caliber of the competition in Charlotte come December.

“It will be difficult for us to qualify to the Final Four, because there will be five other teams at a comparable level to us,” Macieja said.

Those teams are Texas Tech, UT-Dallas, St. Louis University, University of Missouri and Webster University.

“Some other universities are a bit quicker than us,” Macieja said. “It’s a very, very difficult tournament. I hope we win, but there is no guarantee.”