While UT barely made it out of the first round in this year's college basketball tournament, a lesser known member of the state university system was playing in the Final Four ... of chess.
UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College wiped the geek right off the faces of the players from Stanford to claim third place on the final day of the tournament, finishing just one point behind perennial juggernauts UT Dallas and University of Maryland Baltimore County, who tied for first.
For what seems like forever, the world of college chess has been a two-horse race year in and year out between the Dallas and Maryland teams. But with its showing in the Final Four, the Brownsville team, which has been having increased success over the past several years, is now permanently fixed in the discussion of best college chess programs in the country.
And they're woofing.
Asked if he feels his team belongs up there with the two chess super-powers, Brownsville's Chess Director, Russell Harwood, tells Hair Balls, "Definitely, because not only did we make it, but we were very competitive against the best teams."
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UT Brownville crushed Stanford, got beaten badly by UT Dallas, and tied with Maryland. Pretty darn good, says Harwood, for the college's first ever Final Four.
As we've noted before, Harwood has found great success over the past several years recruiting talented chess players from Central and South America. In fact, three of the four players who participated for him in the tournament come from South America. Freshman Mauricio Flores of Chile was named Final Four MVP, says Harwood, for playing the Number One position, going against each team's best player, and beating them all without a single loss.
The Final Four in chess pits the top four U.S. college teams against each other to decide a national champion. They qualify by being the top finishing U.S. teams in the Pan American Intercollegiate Championships, which includes colleges stretching from Canada to South America.
Harwood and UT Brownsville will host both the Pan-Am and Final Four games next year.