The UMBC Chess Team is Final-Four Bound, As Usual

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UMBC's Niclas “The Dark Knight” Huschenbeth (left) at the Pan-Am championships (UMBC)
UMBC’s Niclas “The Dark Knight” Huschenbeth (left) at the Pan-Am championships (UMBC)

The Ravens advanced in the AFC playoffs over the weekend, leaving football fans daydreaming about another Lombardi Trophy. The Terps’ basketball team has only one loss, meaning a March Madness run may soon be in their future. But amid all the well-marketed hype, let’s not forget the area’s other dynasty: the UMBC chess team.

While most students were lounging at home over the holidays watching NFL commentators talk about so-called “chess matches” on the football field, UMBC’s chess team was once again advancing to the Final Four, while actually playing chess. The squad has qualified for every President’s Cup, which is known as the Final Four of College Chess, since 2000. They’ve brought home the top prize six times.

As would be expected from such a run of success, the UMBC chess program isn’t successful by accident. The program was built by Professor Alan Sherman in the 1990s. According to the Washington Post, the school was the first to offer scholarships, and recruit from other countries. Grand Master Niclas “Dark Knight” Huschenbeth, for instance, is a former German chess champion.

The success has also attracted wannabes, who have since joined UMBC in elite company. At the Final Four, which takes place in April in New York City, UMBC will once again take on longtime rivals Webster University, The University of Texas at Dallas and Texas Tech.

UMBC finished third in qualifying at last weekend’s Pan-Am Intercollegiate Championships in South Padre Island, Texas. UMBC lost to UTD, but we’ll see whose king remains standing once the board is back in the I-95 corridor.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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