USA + DR: Commissioning International Collegiate Chess
FIU Chess Team (left to right): Matthew Kolcz, Laura Matzdorf, Juan Gomez, Juan Eduardo. Photo Credit: UNIBE : 4th place

USA + DR: Commissioning International Collegiate Chess

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Cultural. Immersion. Surreal.

These are the three words to best summarize our experience.

Florida International University's college chess club put together their leadership skills and gathered a team to send to Dominican Republic.  Since February, the idea was semi-serious until the deadlines for tickets and registration were closing in.

UNPHU winning 1st place.

There were moments when plans to go weren't going to happen, but with the final push from Matthew Kolcz (Florida Collegiate Chess Chairman), his assistant Juan Eduardo, and President of FIU's chess club Laura Matzdorf, we made it happen.

(Left) Rafael Mota with (right) Pedro Dominguez Brito, President of the FIDE Ethics Committee
Photo credit: UNIBE

That is not to overlook the insurmountable efforts by the Dean of Students of UNIBE university, and head Advisor of their chess program, Rafael Adriano Mota Mencia.  Through numerous hours of communication, he finally convinced the FIU team to accept the invitation.  FIU and myself are forever in his debt for the amazing hospitality he and his family gave, along with many others who attended the tournament.  

However, the following shout-out is necessary. To Kolcz's mentor, NM Bryan Tillis of Palm Beach Chess, who lit the fire for him to take the lead, giving some wise words of leadership.  Paraphrased: delegation is good, but true leadership comes from initiative, a battle plan; just like in Chess, the pieces will follow.

Matt playing against GM Ramon Mateo

Now that all recognition has been given, let us get into the experience.  The scenery was beautiful, the tourist attractions interesting, and culture kind.  We were told that DR was the place to retire to, and we could see why.  If you like history, then you might find it interesting that it's illegal to modify any of the buildings within the Colonial Zone. Some buildings were 500+ years old, like the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. If you want to feel like you're in New York, check out the Columbus Park (Parque Colon). They also installed a permanent marble chess board during our stay right in the tourist attraction walkway.

What really set this tournament apart from the ones we normally attend in the US is their attention to detail.  UNIBE went all out with an opening ceremony that included their choir that sang the National Anthems of both the USA and DR. After that, they held an opening speech with the school's Dean, the President of the FIDE ethics committee, and FIU as special guests.

UNIBE Choir FIU President Laura Matzdorf reciting the Olympic oath, a tradition for sports-related events.

FIU results, left. All competing teams, right.

Finally, the part you all came to see, the games. UNPHU were the winners with 16 team points, their team average of 1872, FIDE. Many universities sent in students new to tournaments, but that didn't mean they couldn't play well!

But first, speaking of games, how could we forget the extremely hard work by the international arbiter, Wilfredo Paulino. It was at the conclusion of the tournament when I found out that he needed to personally input every game into the system (that's about 300 submitted games between 13 teams, 4-5 players each, for 5 rounds).  That tedious work is to be respected, and he's a very nice guy, too! The dude was smiling after the tournament was over, and we can all imagine why!

From board 1 to board 4, here are the top FIU games of the tournament:

Our first board, Juan Eduardo is a NM in the USCF, and a CM for FIDE. In this game, he shows off some timely tactical shots over is opponent.
"My mindset the entire game was 'attack'," Eduardo.

Our second board, Matthew Kolcz, was learning to continually attack with a thematic idea, and win in psychology. When you're castled and your opponent's not, you can get away with sacrifices to blow up the center and expose the opponent's King, and make your opponent uneasy.
On board 3, FIU honor's student, Juan Gomez, who was able to make a miniature look like a breeze, even with the Caro-Kahn. With quick exploitation of opponent's mistakes, he wraps the game up in attacking fashion.

And finally our board 4, Laura Matzdorf. Unfortunately her 4th round win had an illegible score sheet, but we still have some solid attacking play from her 2nd round game against her much higher rated opponent.
Keep in mind, the team compositions of the tournament were whatever the team decided, and she was paired up with the opposing team's strongest player most games. Maintaining her resilience and endurance was certainly the life of the FIU team. We commend it.

If I can obtain them, I will also talk about the winners UNPHU games.

Let us also not forget our amazing donors on the GoFundMe Campaign who helped to make all this possible!

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