Rally Cat’s Gambit: UVM chess places in large-scale tournament


Alexandra Bodelle

The UVM Chess Club during their meeting Jan. 22. The team placed sixth in the 2023 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship.

UVM’s Chess Club placed sixth in a large-scale team collegiate competition in Seattle earlier this month.

The 2023 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, held Jan. 5-8 in Seattle, was the first time in recent history the University has sent a team to Pan-Ams, according to Chess Club President and sophomore Hayden Collins.

“We did quite well for a school that doesn’t give chess scholarships or do any recruiting,” Collins stated in a Jan. 15 email. 

Collins said he and four other players flew to Seattle Jan. 4 and spent the next days exploring the city, meeting fellow collegiate players and, above all, playing chess.

Collins said that over the four days they were there, the team spent about twenty-four hours at the chessboard—his longest game was over four hours long.

The tournament, first established in 1946 and held annually since 1962, is open to collegiate teams from the Americas, according to the Corporate Esports Association, which hosted this year’s competition. 

The tournament was broken into two divisions, Open and U1800, with 85 teams participating in total, according to the US Chess Federation. UVM placed sixth in the U1800 division—for teams with an average rating under 1800—according to the CEA.

Top rated players on the US Chess database, as of January 2023, have ratings in the 2800 range.

Chess club president Hayden Collins (left), a sophomore, playing against another collegiate opponent during the championship in Seattle Jan. 5-8. (Photo Courtesy of Jason Yu)

“Since the early 1990s, the Pan-Am has been dominated by teams from schools offering chess scholarships making it less attractive for more ‘casual’ teams to attend,” according to a Sept. 14, 2022 press release from US Chess.

The schedule for the tournament consisted of six rounds, starting the night of Thursday, Jan. 5 and running through Sunday morning, according to the CEA.

The team’s most intense match was their final one against the University of Texas Dallas’s D-Team because of the stakes involved, Collins said.

“We knew we would be top 6 if we won, top 9 if we drew, and would drop nearly 15 places in the standings if we lost,” Collins stated in a Jan. 22 email. 

The team ended up winning the match, according to the CEA.

UVM’s Chess Club meets twice weekly, with about 20-25 members regularly at each meeting, Collins said. Aside from the Pan-Ams, the club has participated in regional tournaments around New England and in the Boston area.

First-year Jonah Johnson says joining the club earlier this year was the best decision he’s made at UVM.

“The reason for that is because it’s so friendly,” Johnson said. “Being a freshman at college can be very stressful and very scary. But immediately, I found my people in Chess Club and I can say that any of them would say the same thing.”