Webster University in St. Louis won the Final Four of college chess in Rockville, Md., on Sunday, dominating the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the hometown favorite and former powerhouse.
UMBC finished third, behind UT-Dallas.
The victory was Webster’s first Final Four championship, but not the first title for its coach, Susan Polgar, who left her job directing the Texas Tech program last year after two consecutive Final Four victories.
Polgar’s team of grandmasters followed her to St. Louis — an unprecedented event in collegiate chess that made national headlines.
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“I think Webster is now clearly the dominant force in chess,” said longtime UMBC chess director Alan Sherman. “There’s no doubt about that.”
UMBC perfected the modern collegiate chess model, offering scholarships to grandmasters from around the world, racking up championships and generating positive PR. But UMBC is increasingly the underdog now. The school has won just two Final Four titles since 2007 after winning four straight in the mid-2000s. Sherman predicted Webster’s win last week.
Webster finished with 9.5 points in the round-robin tournament, with four players competing for each team. UT-Dallas had 7 points, UMBC scored 5 and the University of Illinois had 2.5.
UMBC was out of the running for the title after the first two rounds on Saturday, when it scored just 2.5 points. The school lost its head-to-head match against Webster, 2.5-1.5, and fell to UT-Dallas, 3-1.
Webster and UT-Dallas squared off Sunday morning for the title, with each school playing four grandmasters. (UMBC came into the tournament with two grandmasters.) Webster won the round, 3-1.
“I’m very happy for the team and proud of the way we prepared,” said Polgar, whose bosses, the president and provost of Webster, traveled to Rockville for the tournament. Polgar will not, however, bring home the tournament’s coveted President’s Cup trophy.
Before the tournament started, Polgar tweeted that her former employer, Texas Tech, “forgot to send back the President’s Cup. Now the winning team will not have the cup to bring back. 1st time cup was not returned.”