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Check Mates

The players on UMBC’s chess team are board-certified masters.

There are a number of successful Athletic programs at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), but none can compare to the school’s most successful squad—its chess team.

In play in some capacity since the university’s founding in 1966, the team blossomed in the mid-’90s and has since racked up more national championships than any other collegiate chess team. And, by the time you read this, they may have added another win to their record by competing in the “final four of college chess” at the President’s Cup in New York City the last weekend in March.

Repping the Retrievers at the competition will be junior and captain Niclas Huschenbeth, freshman Tanguy Ringoir, second-year grad student Akshayraj Kore, and junior Levan Bregadze—all of whom are either international grandmasters or international masters and are at UMBC on chess scholarships.

Also traveling to New York as an alternate is junior Nazi Paikidze, who is an international master and ranked sixth in the nation among female players. “Anyone who thinks women cannot play chess should play her,” notes the program’s director Alan T. Sherman. (Historically, competitive chess has been a male-dominated field.)

The team will square off against frequent rivals University of Texas at Dallas, Webster University, and Texas Tech University, but the fearsome fivesome are excited, not daunted.

“This is the crème de la crème, the absolute best four teams,” says Huschenbeth, a German native who is studying psychology and uses the handle “Dark Knight” during games. “This year, literally everybody can beat everybody.”

Win or lose, there is still fun to be had. “I’m excited to visit New York,” says Ringoir, a financial economics major from Belgium who plays under the name “Belgium Butcher.” “I love traveling, and playing in the New York Athletic Club across from Central Park sounds great.”