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A Harvard chess team tied for first place in the prestigious Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship held two weeks ago, tying the University of California at Berkeley and defeating 17 other squads.
The team, representing the Harvard Chess Club, collected five of six possible match points in the Salt Lake City tournament, matching Berkeley's score and edging third-place Toronto's 4.5 in the four-day annual event, the only collegiate chess championship in the country. The victory marks the third top finish for the team in the 1980s and its second in a row with the same four-member squad.
The team, consisting of captain Daniel H. Edelman '91, Issa N. Youssef '90, Andrew H. Serotta '91 and Vivek V. Rao '92, won the tournament outright in 1988, the first time in Harvard history, and was seeded first coming into the 1989 competition.
Despite the Harvard squad's confidence about this year's tournament, the players said they found some unexpected competition from the major contenders.
"I was surprised at the strength of the competition," said Rao, "because I wasn't aware of the strong graduate students" on other schools' teams.
While students enrolled in any one of a university's degree programs are eligible to participate, Harvard's team is one of few contenders that boasts an all-undergraduate squad. Threequarters of Berkeley's team is composed of graduate students, said Rao.
Harvard's victory came after a close brush with defeat, when in the third round it lost to Berkeley and fell behind the Californians a full point, 3-2. It remained behind the west coast team until the sixth and final round, when fourth-ranked Toronto edged Berkeley and Harvard defeated Minnesota, raising its score to a tying five points.
Said Edelman, the team's captain, "I think that the mark of a championship team is one that can recuperate from a loss."
Though both Harvard and Berkeley each won the same number of rounds, Harvard members said they would have come out on top if a different scoring system had been used.
The tournament's tally took into account team wins but ignored individual victories. "It was just a shame they didn't take into consideration how we individually played," said Youssef, referring to a tie-breaking system used at other tournaments which would have garnered Harvard the crown solely.
Following the top three places were Stanford University at fourth and the University of British Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Rhode Island College tied at fifth.
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