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Chess UMBC
(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

UMBC and the ‘cutthroat’ world of collegiate chess

Ah, chess. It’s a game of strategy, of planning ahead. It’s about putting the right pieces in the right places.

As it turns out, in the multi-million dollar world of collegiate chess, bold and well-executed moves are equally crucial off the board, too. And that’s exactly what a bunch of shrewd grandmasters have been doing.

But it appears that all that posturing is leaving some players behind — namely, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which for years was the dominant player in the highly competitive college environment, which The Washington Post characterizes as “cutthroat.”

Is reporter Michael S. Rosenwald being facetious? Read on before you decide.

In another article, Rosenwald describes how UMBC “was the first school to institutionalize scholarships for top players, recruiting grandmasters from Russia, Germany, Israel and beyond.”

UMBC made a name for itself that way, and didn’t have to spend a fortune doing it. That’s no longer the case.

UMBC’s chess team earned six “Final Four” championships from 1996 to 2002. But then, competing schools pulled out the big guns — celebrity coaches earning top dollar — and UMBC’s dominance evaporated.

One top chess coach recently demanded a huge pay raise from the university where she worked. The school refused. So, the coach promptly packed her bags, taking her entire team with her, and settled in at a competing university.

I’ll give you one guess which school is now No. 1. Hint: It’s not UMBC.