Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess 2017

by Alexey Root
12/27/2017 – The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (Pan-Am) is December 27-30. Since there are 64 squares on the chess board and this tournament is being held for the 64th time, the players and the organiser anticipate a memorable event. In this first of four reports, WIM Alexey Root interviews Grandmaster Razvan Preotu of The University of Texas at Dallas and the organiser of the 2017 Pan-Am, Mr. Kelly M. Bloomfield. Games will be available at the organiser’s web site, and at

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Pan-Am Predictions 

The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (Pan-Am) is open to chess teams from post-secondary schools in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. At the end of six rounds, December 27th to 30th in Columbus, Ohio, four of the U.S. schools qualify for the President’s Cup, to be held March 30th to April 1, 2018. If two teams from the same school (college or university) finish in the top four, then another school high in the standings qualifies. Therefore, some contenders enter multiple teams to increase their chances for the President’s Cup. For example, five teams from The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) flew to Columbus. Each Pan-Am team has four players (called “four boards”) and may have up to two alternates.

The rules for the Pan-Am [PDF] state, “Each team must submit a roster before the close of registration indicating the fixed lineup.” Webster University announced its four teams’ lineups much earlier, in November, via Susan Polgar’s blog. Other colleges did not announce before registration closed on December 27th, but their likely lineups were clear from their Web sites. Since I work for UTD, I received an email from UTD’s coach listing our teams’ lineups.

Perhaps surprisingly, UTD’s seven GMs are not all on our top-average-rating "A" team and on our "B" team. Instead, one of our GMs, Razvan Preotu, leads the "C" team. Preotu is the co-author of The Chess Attacker’s Handbook, published in 2017 by Gambit. Eighteen years old, Preotu is a freshman and this is his first Pan-Am. Preotu predicted which teams will finish in the top four: “1st Webster A, 2nd SLU, 3rd UTRGV A, 4th UTD A.” Let us take a closer look at Preotu’s predictions.

Razvan Preotu

(Right) Razvan Preotu in November | Photo: Alexey Root

Webster University’s chess program head is GM Susan Polgar and its coach is FM Paul Truong. The four Webster teams traveled by bus from St. Louis to Columbus, a six-hour ride. At least the ride was shorter than the 10 hours by bus from St. Louis to New Orleans for the 2016 Pan-Am, which Webster won. Polgar emailed, "Since we have a small budget compared to UTD, SLU, and some other major programs, we once again have to charter a bus to take our students from St. Louis to Columbus and back." Webster’s "A" team is GMs Jorge Cori, Ray Robson (team captain), Aleksandr Shimanov, and Illya Nyzhnyk. The World Chess Federation (FIDE) ranks Cori as number 84 in the world.

GM Alejandro Ramirez coaches the team from Saint Louis University (SLU). With only one team entered in the Pan Am, the lineup is GMs Alexander Ipatov, Dariusz Swiercz, Yaroslav Zherebukh, and Francesco Rambaldi. FIDE ranks Ipatov at number 86 in the world. SLU’s two alternates are GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi and Dorsa Derakhshani, who holds the FIDE titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created in 2013 but is not new to chess. The US Chess Federation named its campus at Brownsville the “Chess College of the Year” in 2007 and the Brownsville campus’s program began in 2001. The UTRGV coach is GM Bartek Macieja. UTRGV is sending two teams to the 2017 Pan-Am. Its “A” team includes GMs Kamil Dragun, Andrey Stukopin, Vladimir Belous, and Carlos Hevia.

The chess program at UT Dallas is directed by Jim Stallings and the coach is IM Rade Milovanovic. The UT Dallas "A" team consists of GMs Anton Kovalyov, Gil Popilski, Holden Hernandez Carmenate (team captain), and Angel Arribas Lopez. FIDE ranks Kovalyov at #100 in the world. Had Kovalyov not been mistreated at the World Cup, his rank would likely be higher.

Preotu emailed that Coach Milovanovic gave him the following advice for playing first board on the "C" team:

"Play for the team. Coach said that a draw is normally a good-enough result, compared to needing wins in individual tournaments. He mentioned that I should bring a clock (required for the tournament) and a laptop to prepare for the games."

Preotu has already scoped out his competition on Board 1, noting that "Dragun of UTRGV seems like a very positional player, while Ipatov of SLU is an aggressive player."

UTD Team

(L to R) Dani Raznikov, Anton Kovalyov, Razvan Preotu (seated) Holden Hernandez Carmenate, Angel Arribas Lopez, Gil Popilski, and Denis Kadric (seated) | Photo: Alexey Root.

While Preotu prepares for his opponents, The Ohio State University (Ohio State) prepares to host the Pan-Am. The organizer, on behalf of Ohio State, is Kelly Bloomfield. He anticipates that more than 250 people (over 220 players, plus coaches, directors, supporters/fans, and reporters) will attend the Pan-Am’s opening reception at 4:30 p.m. on December 27th. Bloomfield spent $5,000 on a menu that includes hors d’oeuvres and pulled pork sliders. He will give each player a gift bag, which includes a red fidget spinner (scarlet and gray are the official colors of Ohio State) and Chocolate Covered Buckeyes. Ohio State residents are known as Buckeyes, as are the sports teams at Ohio State. Bloomfield is also the Chief Assistant Tournament Director, under Pan-Am Chief Tournament Director Grant Perks.

Kelly Bloomfield

Bloomfield will broadcast eight games at his site, "Buckeye Chess"

In a phone interview before the Pan-Am, Bloomfield said that the two largest Pan-Ams in history (108 teams in 1972 and 123 teams in 1975) were in Columbus. While the Pan-Am is not as popular now as it was during that "Fischer Boom," Bloomfield hoped for a turnout as big as the 60 teams at the 2016 New Orleans Pan-Am.  

Cleveland, Ohio, hosted the Pan-Am in 2015 yet no Ohio State teams attended. By bringing the Pan-Am to Columbus, Bloomfield wants to show Ohio State students how exciting the tournament can be. As the Chess Advisor for Ohio State, Bloomfield assembled two teams for the 2017 Pan-Am. Bloomfield’s multiple Pan-Am roles (organiser, tournament director, DGT broadcaster, advisor) convinced him to take the week of December 25th to January 1st off from his full-time job as building automation manager, overseeing 20 programmers, at Ohio State.

My next report will include photos from the site, the Hyatt Regency hotel in Columbus. Although Ohio State is the host, the hotel is the tournament site. At the hotel, players will sleep, eat, and play chess in this culmination of the 2017 college chess year.


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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