MU Sends First Team to Pan-American Chess Championship

Tyler Messner
MU Sends First Team to Pan-American Chess Championship

The 2019 Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship is the first time a team representing MU will be playing in the competition.

Student-athlete Ciprian Comsa said the team wants to play flawlessly due to the importance of the competition. He said there’s no room for mistakes.

The championship will take place Dec. 27-30 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Teams from across the U.S. and Canada will be competing in what student-athlete Grigoriy Oparin said is one of the most important competitions in the sport.

Chess team head coach Cristian Chirila said the MU chess team will start the competition as sixth-favorite based on team rankings, but he hopes to finish first.

“It’s going to be a test of fire for most of them,” Chirila said.

In preparation for the tournament, Chirila said the team has spent the last week training all day, covering each stage of the game, tactical vision and strategies.

Athletes on the team run programs on their computers with different scenarios set up in order to learn and memorize strategies, Chirila said. He stressed the importance of this for the opening stage of a chess game, where the first few moves can have a major impact on the rest of a game.

Chirila compared the preparation the chess team is doing to when players watch film and study plays in football.

Practicing by running different scenarios on a computer can take up a whole day, Chirila said.

Oparin said he tries to practice chess, a sport he started playing when he was four years old, for at least two to three hours every day.

Physical preparation is also an important aspect before competition, the team members said. Oparin said preparing physically is important because of the long hours spent over the chess board during these matches, when games can take up to eight hours to finish.

Chirila said physical preparation helps players focus during long games, which is needed to win: “Every single slip in focus can cost you the game,” Chirila said.

In its last competition, the 2019 World Prestigious University Chess Invitational in China, the team placed second overall. Chirila said two players won individual gold medals as well.

Chirila said the competition in China and the 2019 Midwest Collegiate Championship at MU have been two highlights of the team’s first semester on campus.

Comsa said preparing for the Midwest competition was one of his favorite moments on the chess team. He said the team bonded while spending a lot of time preparing for the competition. Oparin said the team members became friends during this time.

Chirila and the athletes agreed that playing chess has the potential to help people in other areas of life. Chess can teach people to think critically about subjects pertinent to daily life and to analyze things objectively, Comsa said.

Competition teaches life skills, Chirila said, like learning how to deal with losses and how to work for long periods of time.