MU's all-female chess team won the "best women's team" award at the 2020 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships, ranking 22nd overall in the competitive open tournament.

“I’m very happy with how this team played," coach Cristian Chirila said. "The goal for them going into this event was to win the best women’s prize."

Chirila said the virtual tournament was the first competition the team had participated in together. That limited experience makes the achievement even greater, he said.

Many of the women's players faced grandmasters — the highest title a chess player can attain — which served as learning experiences in which they excelled, Chirila said.

The second player on the women's team, grandmaster Begim Tokhirjonova, won a silver medal on the second board, making her the second best player in the competition based on her ranking.

The women's team was one of two MU chess teams at the competition. MU's A team finished the Pan-American Championships in sixth place after a "nail-biter" of a final game, Chirila said.

The team was defeated twice throughout the tournament, both times by teams from Webster University, which were ranked as the top and third seeds going into the championships.

"We lost by the smallest of margins," Chirila noted, explaining that although the last round yielded disappointing results, he's proud of the A team's fighting spirit.

Neither of the teams qualified for the President's Cup, a tournament also called the Final Four that is played among the top four qualifiers in the Pan-American Championships.

The chess teams' schedules will be busy this semester, Chirila noted. Both teams intend to compete again in the Collegiate Chess League, an online competition starting at the end of January.

  • Public life reporter, fall 2020. Studying magazine/environmental journalism. Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5720