By GM Bartek Macieja
Popularity of Scholastic and University Chess
Scholastic and collegiate chess in Brownsville, Texas, is huge. Almost every primary, elementary, middle, and high school has a chess program. Simple scholastic tournaments gather a few hundred participants (on average), local scholastic championships over a thousand. The 2017 South Texas Scholastic Championship, organized by the University of Texas – Rio Grand Valley (UTRGV) Chess Program on the UTRGV Campus in Edinburg, attracted 1426 participants.
Chess is also truly appreciated at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The collegiate team ( https://www.utrgv.edu/chess) is strongly supported by the leadership of the university. The team won the national collegiate championships in 2018 and 2019 and was named “The Chess College of the Year” both years. In recognition of our success, the team was invited to the Capitol in Austin, and honored by the State Governor, Senate, and the House of Representatives ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6FvTj9rsnU).
The Mathematics of Chess
Using this momentum, the Chess Program and the Math Department designed a new academic course – “Mathematics of Chess.” The official code was: Special Topics in Math (MATH 3399). For the first time, the 3-credit-hour upper level course was offered to UTRGV students in the Spring 2020 semester. The main goal was to expand educational benefits offered to students at UTRGV. The topics included (but were not limited to): Combinatorics, Independence and Domination Problems, Graph Theory, Game Theory, Rating Systems.
It is widely believed that chess can serve as an excellent tool to improve students’ understanding of practical mathematical and logical problems. The course confirmed it.
The official feedback submitted by the students included comments such as:
“Endowed me with new intuition and approaches to problem solving in mathematics and in the real world.”, or
“This was an interesting class that made me consider math in a new light.”
The response was inspiring, so we plan to continue the course in the future and to further develop it.
14 students registered for the course and 1 audited it. Most of them were from the UTRGV Math and Science Academy, the remaining were regular UTRGV students. There was no requirement as to major.
More information about the UTRGV Math and Science Academy (and the Chess Program there) can be found on: https://www.utrgv.edu/msa, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhkH0SZDtfY, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVKTRJqoCGg
The course was conducted by:
Dr. Alexey Glazyrin (who won a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2001, https://faculty.utrgv.edu/alexey.glazyrin/Glazyrin_cv.pdf) and
GM Bartek Macieja (who won the European Individual Chess Championship in 2002, http://macieja.com).