Maybe you've heard, but chess is serious business at UT Dallas. Perennial contenders for the national championship, the Comets are one of three Texas teams that always put on a mean show -- and unless you're some kind of Aggie, last weekend's Final Four of Chess was your best bet for a local slice of
March April madness.
Fresh off a tournament here in Dallas -- that earned the team a nod in the New York Times (a look at how Turner Construction helped the UT Dallas Grandmaster Invitational get off the ground), and saw sophomore star Julio Sadorra earn his wings as a grandmaster -- UT Dallas headed east last week hoping to improve on their fourth-place finish last year.
After a send-off rally Thursday, the team spent an intense weekend on the gridiron. The University's press office details what followed in a thrilling blow-by-blow, but long story short, after a strong start led by Grandmaster Christian Chirila in the first round, they were no match for the killer onslaught from Texas Tech, taking second place.
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Since the first Final Four of Chess in 2001, UT Dallas hasn't missed an appearance, and they've won or tied for first five times. There's that oversized chess board on the campus, and scholarships for the entire squad, whose six members are all heavily recruited from around the world. "It was a student request" that started the team back in the '90s, says university spokesperson Kara Hosek.
From there, the team added head coach Rade Milovanovic in 1999, and just got more serious from there.
It's earned the school serious bragging rights among a narrow slice of the U.S. and Canada, but Hosek says there's no great mystery behind the school's made chess such a big deal.
"We felt like it was a good move for us," she says. "No pun intended."