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Meet our masters

UMBC chess team offers community chess lessons

The UMBC chess team has consistently proven its capabilities in national tournaments. The team is now offering to share its knowledge and talent with interested members of the community through its open practice sessions.

While other schools take pride in their football teams, UMBC looks instead to chess. Now, the team is offering an opportunity for the community to get involved and learn more about the game.

UMBCs chess team is an elite group of players all ranked as masters. The team has been very successful, frequently making it to the “Final Four” of chess, also known as the “President’s Cup,” as it did this April. Every year since 2001, UMBC has finished in the top four, achieving six first place victories.

Unlike football, however, chess can be seen as a more exclusive sport. Fewer people know the rules, and even fewer people are familiar with the intricacies. The chess team is working to change this.

The team is now offering open practice sessions that allow members of the community to attend and learn more about chess or improve their own skills. Attendees will learn from Master Epshteyn, the team’s coach.

Epshteyn has been working with the chess team since 1995. When speaking to him about his involvement, it is clear that he is not a mere strategist.

“During the competition the coach is ‘father and mother’ for every team player,” said Epshteyn, “taking care of everything starting from health and physical shape and ending with what is preferable to play in today’s game.”

There is no doubt, that in his twenty years with the team, his guidance has made a difference, but Coach Epshteyn remained humble stating that casting was what made the team special.

UMBC owes its continued success in part to its method of recruiting. The university offers competitive chess scholarships to the best players, thus investing in the team’s future.

Anyone who attends the open sessions will be in skilled company. These sessions are an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in chess, regardless of skill level, to learn more. This in-person learning experience with skilled players is perhaps the best way to learn.

The Master had a few words of encouragement as well. “In good old times, we got together more than 10 students,” he said. “Now it is different — new generation is lazy…” These open sessions, then, are a chance to prove this generation’s motivation and interest in the game he holds dear.

Practices will be held on Saturdays from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm, beginning Feb. 7, in the Commons Student Organizations Space. Even Master Epshteyn, though, realizes that chess is not for everyone.

When asked if he had any words for those who don’t pay chess much attention, Epshteyn simply said, “No, I don’t. Everyone in this life has his own way, his own taste, his own belief or faith, his own woman, man, et cetera.”

“But if anyone wants to sharpen his analytical skills, calculating skills, his ability to perceive and surely handle this multitasking problem which we call ‘life,’ then the game of chess will be very helpful,” he concluded.

Under Master Epshteyn’s leadership, the community has an opportunity to engage with the team and the team can anticipate future successes. After all, the UMBC football team’s undefeated status is a joke, but the chess team’s accomplishments have been hard-earned.