Chess Team Welcomes Champion Coach
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 15, 2013 – After a semester of eager anticipation, the members of the Chess Team at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College welcomed their new coach, Bartlomiej “Bartek” Macieja.
Macieja and his family arrived in Brownsville last December in time for him to meet and conduct some last-minute coaching sessions with most of the players prior to the team’s departure for the 2012 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship held at Princeton University. Although they were disappointed by not qualifying for the Final Four of Chess, the team walked away with the special pleasure of having defeated the teams of both Harvard and Princeton Universities.
Macieja, however, was unable to accompany his new team to the Pan Ams; he remained in Brownsville for the birth of his daughter, Sofi Alejandra, the day after Christmas.
“My wife and I are so pleased to make Brownsville our new home,” Macieja said. “When I came to interview, I was encouraged by everything I encountered on that visit. The warm-weather lifestyle and the beautiful campus had a positive effect on me, but mostly I was impressed by the tremendous support I could see for chess at both the university and the city.”
In addition to daily training sessions with the team members, Macieja is organizing workshops for teachers and coaches in local school districts and he is planning summer chess camps for students ranging from kindergarten through high school.
Training while sitting at chess boards isn’t the only way the coach and the players are getting to know one another; Macieja is leading the team in physical work outs, too, making excursions to the Recreation, Education and Kinesiology (REK) Center to exercise and play games together.
Chess Director Russell Harwood said it was hard on the team to be without a coach last semester.
“I knew Bartek was the right coach for us,” Harwood said. “Once we found him and he accepted, we had to wade through the governmental marathon of visas and so forth, but in the long run, it was all worth the wait.”
As is typical in the world of global chess, Macieja was already familiar with several UTB team members, having met them when they would be playing for their respective countries; it is via this vast, yet elite, networking web that he was made known to UTB and TSC by graduate student and former team player International Master Alfonso Almeida, who grew up in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Until now, 35-year-old Macieja has been primarily an international chess contestant, bringing with him a long list of accomplishments in a variety of categories, including Polish Individual Championships, Zonal Tournaments, European Individual Championships, Individual World Championships and World Cups.
Most recently, Macieja and his family spent a year in his home country of Poland where he completed his master’s degree in physics from the University of Warsaw.
In between participating in chess competitions, Macieja has coached through the years. His students include the 2008 Venezuelan Olympic team as well as individuals such as four-time Polish Champion Grandmaster Mateusz Bartel.
Prior to returning to Poland, he prepared the junior players of the state of Durango, Mexico, for the Mexican national championship. During this time, UTB and TSC team member and sophomore Daniela De La Parra from Durango was one of Macieja’s students.
Durango is the home of Macieja’s wife, Alejandra Guerrero Rodriguez, a Woman International Master and 10-time winner of the Mexican women’s championship.
“Yes, we met at a tournament,” Macieja said, when asked if chess tournaments were known to be a favorite hunting ground for cupid’s arrows.
Aside from his native Polish, Macieja speaks excellent English, Russian and what he refers to as basic Spanish. He is pleased his stepson, Luis Alfonso, absorbed conversational Polish over the last year living in Warsaw; now, less than two months in Brownsville, Macieja said Luis Alfonso returns home from school every day with notable improvements in his English comprehension and speaking ability.
“I am looking forward to working with all the members of the university chess team,” Macieja said. “We have an excellent group of players, and I expect really good results coming already this year.”
To learn more about chess at UTB and TSC, visit the Chess Program website.