August 15, 2018

The first match of the President’s Cup begins

NEW YORK CITY —

Webster’s chess team sits around a table in the Walker Hotel’s cafe eating breakfast together, pancakes, avocado toast and tall glasses of orange juice. Assistant coach Paul Truong makes jokes around the table. Everyone else is completely silent.

Grandmaster Vasif Durarbayli showed up late for breakfast. He could not sleep the night before. Truong tells the players to be in the hotel lobby by 9:30 a.m..

“Can we make it 9:35?” Durarbayli said.

Susan Polgar watches Webster play

Susan Polgar watches Webster play a game

Grandmaster Peter Prohaszka is sitting out the first round of the tournament along with fellow grandmaster Illia Nyzhnyk. Prohaszka, a freshman, is not discouraged by sitting out. He talked confidently, his bed-head hair sticking straight up. He does not mind at all that he is not playing. He only wants his team to win.

The tournament started at the Marshall Chess Club at 10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. CT). Jonathan Haber is in charge of setting up the live feed for the games and said the games themselves are all but interesting. The room where the matches take place is completely silent for several hours. The only movement is the occasional moving of chess pieces by the players, followed by the writing down of their moves.

“Like eight minutes later, they make one move and that’s it,” Haber said. “And then [the commentators] talk about it for ten minutes.”

Haber said the tournament is enlightened by the commentators. The two commentators, Maxim Dlugy and Irina Krush are both grandmasters of chess. Krush has won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship seven times. Haber said it is up to these people to make the tournament interesting.

Maxim Dlugy and Irina Krush commentate during Final Four tournament

Maxim Dlugy and Irina Krush commentate during Final Four tournament

Head coach Susan Polgar and Truong continue to stare at their computer screens, analyzing every move in all of the four games. Both coaches said they will continue to do so until the matches end. Matches can go anywhere from three to four and a half hours on average.

No games have ended yet. The coaches said it is still too early to tell who has an edge in round one.

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