Mizzou Chess brings home the gold
The Mizzou Chess Program has won the 2024 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship, considered to be one of the most prestigious collegiate chess events in the Americas.
The competition January 4-7 lasted four days and featured 40 teams from universities across the country. Last year, the Mizzou Chess Program placed second behind Webster University.
“We’ve won other competitions in previous years,” said Cristian Chirilia, head coach and manager for the team. “This was one of the competitions that we haven't won before this year. So yeah, it was very important for us, and everybody was very happy.”
The Mizzou Chess Program typically competes in competitions every week, using a room in the Respect Residence Hall to practice. In the days leading up to the 2024 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship, team leadership hosted training sessions there.
Grigory Oparin is the team captain.
“We had a small training camp before the event, just four or five days training in this room, just basically spending the whole day playing some games, just studying some puzzles,” Oparin said.
Many members of the chess team are from outside of the U.S., including India, Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria. Chirila says the international identity of the team, as well as the fact that many of them have been competing since they were young, allows them to create a positive environment.
“It's a very friendly, very sportsmanlike environment here every single day,” Chirila said. “And there's a lot of camaraderie on the team as well, which is very helpful because, you know, we are a young program. It takes time to build these types of relationships.”
Chirila created The Mizzou Chess Program in 2019 through a partnership between MU and the St. Louis Chess Club. They previously won the 2022 U.S. Online Collegiate Blitz Championship.
While continuing to focus their efforts on winning competitions, the Mizzou Chess Program is now emphasizing recruitment for the future. Many of the current players will graduate in the spring, creating a new need for rookies.
“It's a transition year for the simple fact that right now we have a lot of efforts focused on recruitment, as well, for the next generation of players at Mizzou,” Chirila said.
More information on the Mizzou Chess Program can be found at @mizzouchess on Instagram or by visiting their website.