Thursday, June 7, 2007

A big month for chess

A Big Month for Chess (as published in my monthly column on

On May 12, 2007, an extraordinary event took place in Lubbock, Texas. I was invited by the President of Texas Tech University to give two commencement addresses to the graduating class of 2007. I have done countless speeches over the years; the largest was to a crowd of about 5,000. But at the United Spirit Arena at Texas Tech the crowd numbered nearly 25,000!

This was intimidating to say the least. Moreover, my speech was taped for broadcast by C-SPAN. Talk about pressure! But I knew that this was a very important occasion for chess, so it was well worth it. Here is the link to my second commencement speech, and here is some information about the entire event.

Immediately after the conclusion of my first commencement address, Texas Tech President Whitmore asked Chancellor Hance and Regent Miller to join us at the podium. I did not realize what was about to happen, but they awarded me with an honorary Doctoral Degree from Texas Tech. It was quite an honor for me and the entire chess community.

After the graduation ceremony concluded, I was escorted to the press room for a monumental announcement that I believe will affect the chess community for years to come. Joining me were Texas Tech President Jon Whitmore, Provost Bill Marcy and Senior Vice-Provost Jim Brink. The announcement was to introduce the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE). This will be the first center of its kind in the world.

Our motto is Academic Excellence through ChessThrough SPICE, Texas Tech has focused the resources of a major university and Big 12 Conference member on providing scholarships for chess players, conducting research into various aspects of the game, championing scholastic, college and women’s chess and housing an outreach program bringing chess to enthusiasts of all ages.

Here is the vision for SPICE:

It will become the premier center for chess education, research, technology, and outreach in the nation.
It will help attract outstanding undergraduate and graduate students to TTU/HSC.
It will provide a substantial amount of scholarships to chess players.
It will be a world-leader in promoting women’s chess.
It will support the nation’s most elite chess programs.

The SPICE Mission

To promote chess as vehicle for enriching education.
To serve as the global center for chess research, education and development.
To support and promote competitive chess at the college level.
To recruit outstanding undergraduate and graduate students.

There are plans for much bigger projects, but we are not here to compete against any other universities or colleges. The goal of SPICE is to work with our friends and colleagues to enhance chess, education, technology, research, etc. Many more major announcements will be forthcoming.

I strongly believe that College Chess is a critical bridge between Scholastic and Adult Chess. If we can successfully promote College Chess, we will retain many more scholastic players and transition them to Adult Chess. Chess as a sport has plenty of room to grow. Therefore, it is vital that we work together and assist each other for the best interest of our sport.
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Ben Johnson said...

With Susan at the helm, it seems conceivable that Texas Tech could become the premier chess university in the country and blaze a trail that other universities will follow, becoming a huge force in revitalizing U.S. chess. What needs to happen to get there?

Anonymous said...

What needs to happen is to have an executive board with serious people who want good things for chess. That is why she recommended Mikhail Korenman, Paul Truong and Randy Bauer.

The old regime must go in order for this federation to grow.