Over the 2019–20 winter break, Caltech sent a team for the first time to the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, the most prestigious annual collegiate chess tournament in the Americas. The team, which includes sophomore Jason Shi, junior Tony Kukavica, freshman Michael Bregar, and junior Vignesh Varadarajan, won the Top Small College award, given to the winning school with under 5,000 overall enrollment.
The field consisted of teams from top chess programs such as Webster University, Texas Tech, and Saint Louis University as well as Harvard, MIT, and Princeton, among others. A total of 267 players on 63 teams competed, including 33 grandmasters, the tournament's highest turnout since the 1980s.
The Caltech team scored wins against Western Washington University and the University of Utah, and they held higher-rated teams from the University of Pennsylvania and Texas Tech to 2–2 ties. In the Round 4 upset against the University of Pennsylvania, Shi and Kukavica held higher-rated opponents to a draw, while Bregar won a thrilling game with the team trailing to secure the match tie.
In the final round against Texas Tech's B team, Caltech's team needed at least a tie to secure the division title, with Connecticut College in particular playing formidably to try to win the award. Caltech fell behind 0-2, but Bregar and Kukavica were able to win and bring the score to 2-2.
Individually, Kukavica scored five points out of six, tying for second place among all Board 2s in the event.
Texas Tech's A team won the event with a perfect 6–0 score, qualifying for the President's Cup, to be held later this year.
The tournament was hosted by the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Caltech team is generously supported by the George W. Housner Student Discovery Fund.
The Caltech Chess Club is open to all members and affiliates of the Caltech community. Meetings are held every Thursday from 8:30-10 p.m. in Avery Library, with a tournament roughly once per term. Visit the club website at chess.caltech.edu.