Chess Team returns with second place trophy in ‘Final Four of College Chess’

From left, UTRGV Chess team member Holden Hernandez; Dr. Douglas Stoves, Associate Dean of Students; Coach Bartek Macieja; team member Carlos Hevia; team member Anton Kovalyov; and team member Andrey Stukopin, after their second-place finish in the national Final Four of Chess in New York City. (UTRGV Photo by Alex Garrido)

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – APRIL 4, 2016 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley chess team finished second at this weekend’s national championship tournament in New York City. It was the highest finish for a university from the Valley since 2010, when The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College also finished second at the prestigious tournament. 

“This was a cool experience,” said Grandmaster Holden Hernandez. “We were the third team in the race, so second place is not bad. We were super close; I am happy with the tournament.”

Webster University won the 2016 President’s Cup to claim its fourth straight national championship, but the final outcome went down to the wire as UTRGV finished as the runner-up by only one point.

Coach Bartek Macieja hand-carried the second-place trophy, a large silver cup, on the two flights back to Harlingen International Airport.

“I am bringing a cup for the second place in the nation, which is a huge achievement,” Macieja said. “I am really proud of my team; they did a really good job. The other teams were the favorites, so being so close to win the event and being best in Texas – it’s a good result.”

The tournament, which is commonly referred to as the Final Four of Chess, pitted Webster, UTRGV, Texas Tech University and Columbia University in a team round-robin tournament over Saturday and Sunday. 

UTRGV started the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Texas Tech, but lost later in the day 2.5-1.5 to Webster. On Sunday, UTRGV claimed a 3-1 victory over Columbia, but Webster was able to do just enough in its final match against Texas Tech, giving them the narrow national championship victory. 

In the end, Webster finished the tournament with 8.5 points, UTRGV 7.5, Texas Tech 5.5 and Columbia 2.5.

Carlos Hevia is the only freshman among the team of four who went to the tournament; he entered UTRGV in January,

“I feel really good, actually,” Hevia said. “I am happy to bring the second place to the university, and we are the best team in Texas, so it’s something to celebrate.”

This was UTRGV’s first trip to the Final Four of Chess. Team members include:

GRANDMASTER ANTON KOVALYOV
FIDE Rating: 2608
USCF Rating: 2679
Classification: Junior
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Montreal, Canada                                          

GRANDMASTER ANDREY STUKOPIN
FIDE Rating: 2578
USCF Rating: 2664
Classification: Sophomore
Major: Physics
Hometown: Rostov, Russia 

GRANDMASTER HOLDEN HERNANDEZ
FIDE Rating: 2523  
USCF Rating: 2603
Classification: Senior
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Güines, Cuba 

GRANDMASTER CARLOS HEVIA
FIDE Rating: 2522
USCF Rating: 2624
Classification: Freshman
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: El Vedado, Cuba

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