Hi everyone! Matan here. I wanted to tell you about commentating on the PanAmerican Intercollegiate Chess Championships for chess.com this past weekend.
Anand Dommalapati, the tournament director, asked through a mutual friend if I would be interested in commentating. It was a completely new thing for me - I have never even streamed myself playing blitz! But I decided I should be open to this type of new experience. I teamed up with a fellow master for 15+ hours of commentary on the biggest intercollegiate tournament of the year.
It ended up being an absolute blast. I really felt the excitement of the event, as if I was a player or a coach there myself. But instead of focusing on one game, or one team, I was paying attention to seven four board matches simultaneously, meaning there were 28 games in play at any given moment! There was always something happening: A brilliant move, a subtle positional decision, or just a good old fashioned blunder. The end of each round was especially tense, with players reaching time trouble and individual games determining the outcome of an entire team match.
This was also an opportunity for me to take a closer look at the world of intercollegiate team chess. I didn't attend a school with a chess program - my undergraduate degree is from UMiami, and my master's degree in teaching is from Bank Street College, in Manhattan. It struck me what a tremendous diversity of experiences is available to students interested in playing competitive chess in college: There is a core group of top programs, which invest serious money (read: scholarships) in recruiting elite players and coaches. These schools include St. Louis University, Webster University, University of Missouri, the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas Tech, and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. These schools boast rosters packed with titled players, including players with 2500 and 2600+ US Chess ratings. These schools offer amazing opportunities to serious chess players from all over the world: The chance to get a high quality American college education, while remaining deeply involved in serious competitive chess.
But these schools are just the tip of the iceberg: There were another 51 teams in the tournament! The vast majority of the schools competing do not offer scholarships for competitive chess. However, their students are getting the opportunity to travel around the country to represent their school in serious intercollegiate chess competition. They are bonding with their teammates, making friends from other schools, strengthening the chess community, and most importantly, remaining involved with the game they love. There are even some players getting into chess in college - many of the less experienced teams brought some unrated players!
This made me think about our students at Master Chess. Maybe your child shows an extreme passion for competitive chess, and shows the drive and determination required to excel at the highest level of scholastic competition. They may be a future member of one of the elite college chess programs. But collegiate chess, I saw, is not only for those students. Anybody who loves chess, who sticks with it, who enjoys the process of learning and competing, can find a home on an intercollegiate chess team. It makes me happy to know there are so many opportunities for young adults who love the game and want to remain involved with it as they pursue higher education.
Until next time!