An organization of three years, the Knight Raiders have managed to rise from a low-ranking team to the best college chess team in the United States.
“It’s fantastic,” said Hal Karlsson, senior faculty adviser for the Knight Raiders. “We didn’t expect for it to happen this soon.”
The Knight Raiders’ A-team competed in the President’s Cup: The Final Four of College Chess competition against University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, on Saturday and Sunday in Washington, D.C., Karlsson said.
“We’re the national champions now,” Karlsson said. “We’ve had a competitive team now for three years, and the year before we won this, we were ranked fourth coming in, the bottom, so I figured we’d get second (this year and) we’d be very happy.”
The Knight Raiders competed in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship in December, qualifying them for the Final Four competition, as the fourth highest ranked team, he said.
This is the second time the Knight Raiders have qualified for the Final Four and beat out 24 other teams to get there, including Stanford and Yale.
“It’s a good feeling for the entire team because they’ve worked very, very hard to be able accomplish this,” said Paul Truong, assistant coach.
The Knight Raiders have won 10 national titles, two state titles and one regional title since their start, Truong said.
Susan Polgar, Grand Master and head coach for the Knight Raiders, said the team is excited and overwhelmed by the unexpected win but hope it brings more pride to Tech.
“I think the team did great, and I think that was different; that we were confident at winning,” said Polgar. “That perhaps we were more unified and working together more as a team than our competitors, and I’m very proud of our guys that they gave their all.”
Truong said Polgar proved herself as a head coach, taking the Knight Raiders to the championships.
“Susan (not only) became the first female head coach to coach a men’s Division I team, but a national championship,” Truong said. “You cannot even imagine, let’s say, a female coaching a men’s basketball team or men’s football team to the national title, but in chess, she showed that it can happen.”
The Knight Raiders Final Four team consisted of Grand Master Anatoly Bykhovsky, Davorin Kuljasevic, Andre Diamant, and International Master Istvan Sipos, Faik Aleskerov.
“I think that now we have to start preparing for next year because winning is great but defending the title is even more important now since we have a tradition and we hope to win many more championship titles,” Truong said.