Baruch Chess Team Faces National Competition in Pan-Am Tournament


February 02, 2004

The Baruch College Chess Team participated in the Pan-Am Intercollegiate Chess Team Championships, the top college chess tournament held in the Western Hemisphere, from December 27-30, 2003. A pure test of endurance and skill, the team was scheduled to play 36 hours of chess during the four-day stay.

A typical day started at 10 a.m. and ended as late as 1 a.m. the following morning. With a hectic schedule to manage and almost no time to eat, the chess team faced great adversities representing Baruch.

“The conditions were comparable to some of the biggest challenges students face today, like having six finals with no time to study,” said Ariel Krinsphun, a member of the chess team. “The chess team undertook a tough task.”

Along with Krinsphun, the team consisted of Mitchell Krasnerman, Bobby Moy, Michael Layevskiy, and Vitaliy Popov. Each round of competition featured four players starting for Baruch.

On the first day, the team bumped into chess addict and current heavyweight champion boxer, Lennox Lewis. Lewis gave the team advice and confidence who compared chess to boxing because they are both littered with tactics, combinations, and planning. After wise words from Lewis, the team headed to the tournament site as the competition was about to begin. Baruch was ranked 28 out of almost 40 teams that participated, meaning that it would be the underdog in practically any match-up.

The first test for Baruch was Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), which shocked the tournament last year by finishing ahead of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton, and Stanford. Baruch fell into an early 0-2 hole, with Krasnerman and Moy losing their games. All UPR needed was a draw from one of the two remaining players to win the match. Krinsphun however, remained focused and gave Baruch its first win. Layevskiy fought hard and gave Baruch another win. The match lasted almost six hours and ended up as an impressive 2-2 tie. Tired but not beaten, the team came back to the hotel in the middle of the night, only to wake up and play the next morning.

Baruch’s next opponent was the University of Southern California, which finished tied with MIT, Stanford, and Princeton last year. The score was 2-1 in favor of Baruch after just three hours of play. To win the match, all Baruch needed was Krinsphun to draw. And Krinsphun did just that, giving Baruch its first victory with a score of 2.5 - 1.5.

Later that day, Baruch was matched up against an improved Stanford team. This year Stanford added Cindy Tsai, who has never lost a game in the Pan-American Youth and Junior Championships. Krasnerman went against her, and it was not until after four hours that Tsai won. Krinsphun lost his game. Popov, in a clearly better position still offered hope for the team. Unfortunately, he was unable to close out the position and lost. Layevskiy scored the only points in the match by drawing his game and finishing off the 0.5 - 3.5 loss. The team did not take its first loss lightly, and after some serious talk that night, they were ready to face its next opponent the following day.

After three rounds of play, Baruch had already caught the attention of top teams. “Before the tournament no one knew who we were,” said Moy. “Now top schools placed us on alert.”

Baruch went on to play the University of Delaware the next day. Moy won his game quickly, and gave the team a 1-0 lead. The pace then slowed down, as it was three hours later before Krinsphun drew. Popov played a seesaw game keeping the match in uncertainty. However, after four hours, his opponent ran out of the time allocated for the game and automatically lost. Baruch took a 2.5 - 0.5 lead and held on to a 2.5 - 1.5 win. With the win, Baruch moved into the top 10, scoring 2.5 out of a possible four points.

MIT was up next for Baruch. This team included the former U.S. Women’s Champion Elina Groberman. Krasnerman fought hard before running out of time. The match was still looking great as Krinsphun reached a favorable position early on. Moy reached a slightly better position, but time pressure caused him to make some less than accurate moves that led to his defeat. After just three hours, Krinsphun won his game. Layevskiy lost after a five-hour effort. The end result was a 1-3 Baruch loss.

On the last day, Baruch was paired with the University of Toronto, whose losses so far were to University of Texas (UTD) and University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), the top two seeds. Krinsphun won after a hard fought positional game and Layevskiy lost after he failed to equalize the position. The score was now 2-1 in Baruch’s favor. Krasnerman’s game was now the deciding factor. It was nearly six hours before he lost, with the match ending in a 2-2 tie.

Overall, the Baruch team finished with three out of a possible six points to finish within the top 20, well ahead of their seeded position. The final break down was two wins, two ties, and two losses, making Baruch the top Under 1600 team in the tournament.

“We got the opportunity to play Stanford, MIT, and schools from other countries,” said Popov. “I feel honored. No other Baruch sport teams compete at this level.”