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Chess Team in Fighting Spirit to Meet Opponents at Chess Pan Ams in Lubbock

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – DEC. 20, 2013Daniela De la Parra was 10 years old when her teacher in Durango, Mexico asked if anyone in the class knew how to play chess. Although she knew nothing about chess, De la Parra recalled hearing her dad had played chess as a young man; without hesitation, she raised her hand to compete against a neighboring elementary school. De la Parra went home that day and asked her father to teach her the game. Little did father and daughter know they were embarking on the first steps of creating a Woman International Master by the age of 19.

Chess team members representing UTB at the 2013 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship are, left to right: Jeffrey Serna, Aura Salazar, Anton Kovalyov, Armando Cortez, Daniela De la Parra, Simon Vasquez III, Katerina Nemcova, Holden Hernandez and Max Cornejo.

De la Parra, a junior accounting and finance major at The University of Texas at Brownsville, is one of nine UTB Chess Team players who will compete in the 2013 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship from Friday, Dec. 27 to Monday, Dec. 30 being held this year at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

This is ​t​he eighth consecutive year that the UTB Chess Team will compete in this important tournament that determines what teams will play in the Final Four of Chess in April,” said Russell Harwood, Chess Program Director and Chairman of the United States Chess Federation College Chess Committee. Harwood is also one of seven members of the USCF Scholastic Council.

A newcomer to the team is freshman computer science major Grandmaster Holden Hernandez, another whose chess career began via family footsteps. Hernandez was ​inspired by his older brother’s accomplishments in chess, and at the age of 11, he joined a chess club in his hometown of Güines, Cuba, where it became evident that he was going to be more than a casual player.

Hernandez enrolled at Havana University, but he abandoned his studies to play chess professionally for Cuba. For a number of years, he has been on the road attending tournaments; more recently, however, he began to focus on returning to obtain a university degree. The offer from UTB came at the right time, and he joined the team in August of this year.

“We are proud of all our players, and certainly proud of Holden,” said Grandmaster Bartek Macieja, UTB Chess Coach. “He came to Brownsville in June and immersed himself in studying English at the UTB Language Institute. His hard work paid off, and he passed the English exam for admittance to the university. Because Holden is over the age of 26, he is held to a higher standard by the USCF, meaning he must be a full-time student and maintain a 3.0 grade point average. That is certainly not a problem because he is a dedicated student in computer science, and he is especially strong in math.”

Macieja said competition in Lubbock will be strong, with The University of Texas at Dallas and Webster University in Missouri defending their top two positions, each bringing eight Grandmasters to the tournament. Texas Tech, according to Macieja, will also be a strong competitor.

“We have two Grandmasters on our team – Holden and Anton Kovalyov from Ukraine – and one Woman Grandmaster, Katerina Nemcova from Czech Republic,” Macieja said. “Texas Tech is a slightly better team than we are, but we can have a good day and defeat them. The team has been training all year and is well prepared; also, I can see a lot of fighting spirit in my players, and that is a good sign we will be strong in Lubbock.”

UTB is sending two teams to compete in Lubbock. The “A” team members are GM Anton Kovalyov from Kharkiv, Ukraine; GM Holden Hernandez from Güines, Cuba; IM Max Cornejo from Lima, Peru; WGM Katerina Nemcova from Prague, Czech Republic and WIM Aura Salazar from Itagüí, Colombia. The “B” team members are Jeffrey Serna from Taos, New Mexico; WIM Daniela De La Parra from Durango, Mexico; Simon Vasquez III from San Benito, Texas and Armando Cortez from Matamoros, Mexico.

The Chess Team’s progress at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship will be posted on the UTB Chess website daily throughout the tournament. Also, updates will be posted on Facebook at UTB News and Information and The University of Texas at Brownsville.

The University of Texas at Brownsville will host the next annual Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship at a venue on South Padre Island, Dec. 27-30, 2014.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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