Friday, May 29, 2009
The construction for the SPICE Chess Park has begun. It is located between the Texas Tech University Library and the Texas Tech Student Union Building, one of the busiest locations on campus.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Polgar: Part 2: Chess proponent shares harrowing story of getting to U.S.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Story last updated at 5/10/2009 - 2:04 am
This is a continuation from last week. Some readers would like to know who my husband is and what is his role in chess.
Susan Polgar: How did you manage to survive?
Paul Truong: I guess my father and I survived because of our inner strength. We said to ourselves, "we have to live. We have to make it because if we don't, my younger brother and mother would eventually die in Vietnam." They had no way of taking care of themselves. The communists did not treat them well after learning of the escape of my father and me. They punished them. They took away everything they owned. So we had to be strong and make it. We had no choice.
SP: I've known you for more than 20 years now. I know you usually don't want to talk about it. But I think this is really important for chess fans around the country and around the world to know why you are so passionate about helping chess. I think it is very inspirational. Please go on. How did you survive?
PT: We were drifting nowhere for a long time. All of sudden, after weeks of nothing but ocean, we finally saw land at the end of the horizon.
SP: So that was it?
PT: Not exactly! We could not get there because we had no fuel. And it was too long of a distance to swim. No one would make it. But luckily, I don't know how, but the current apparently pushed us slowly closer. Then out of nowhere, Indonesian navy ships came in front of us to stop us from entering. My father was brought to the commanding ship. They told my father to turn our boat around. My father explained to them we could not. We had no fuel, no food, no water and many of our people had died. They said they had orders not to let us in. If we do, they have no choice but to shoot us down.
My father told them in that case then please just save all of us from a slow and eventual death by shooting all of us now. We would not make it anyway.
Upon returning to our boat, my father ordered everyone to throw overboard all the dead bodies that relatives were still trying to hold on to for a proper burial. This was our only hope to show them how bad the situation was. When the captain of the commanding ship saw how many bodies were there, I think he changed his mind. An hour later, an official helicopter circled around us and they officially requested to have us brought to safety. In my heart, I know that the captain had radioed for help. But he would never admit it.
SP: So this was the end of the journey?
PT: Kind of! To make the long story short, after we were brought to this wild and deserted island, we were safe. But we still had no food. I had to hunt and fish with my bare hands, and find fruits from the jungle. We had to do whatever we could to survive.
This was a real survival experience, not the game you see on TV. Many more people died as a result of malnutrition. We stayed here for about 5-6 months I think. Then finally, we came to New Jersey on Dec. 1, 1979. I spoke no English. I was frail. I was very rusty in chess. It was a disaster.
SP: So did you start to play a lot of chess in here in America? And did anyone know what you had to endure?
PT: I played in any tournament that I could afford to enter. I had no money. I was going to high school full time (without even knowing the language) and I worked seven part-time jobs at night and weekends to raise money to send back to Vietnam to help my mother, my brother and more than 60 other relatives. Most people did not know this. Some knew, but very little. I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I wanted to earn everything by merit.
I became a master again in 1980. I was right around 15. I won many tournaments, but I could not afford to enter many big tournaments, so mostly regional ones.
SP: So when did you leave chess?
PT: At the age of 17, I had to make a very hard decision. Do I want to continue to play chess and be a professional, and to fulfill my dream of being a grandmaster? Or do I just give it up and go to college and have a professional career?
I chose to leave the game. How could I be a world-class player if I did not even have the opportunity to train or play? So I went to college.
SP: What happened after college?
PT: I began working professionally. I worked very hard. I put in 16- to 18-hour days, seven days a week. I did that every day for 15 years. Then in 2001, on 9/11, you remember we had a business meeting right around the World Trade Center area that morning. I guess someone up there did not want us to go. That was when I felt that it was my calling to do something I always wanted to do, and that is to get back into the chess field. That was always my true love.
SP: Is this why making a difference for chess is so important to you?
PT: Yes. Absolutely. I lost my chance to become a very special player in chess when I was younger because of the political situation in my country. I did not have this chance. Then when I came to America, I could not pursue chess fully because I could not afford it. That is why it is my mission to change this.
I want to be able to give every child an opportunity to play this game. I want every child who wants to pursue his or her dream will have the proper guidance and assistance. I would like to promote chess as a tool to help all children academically and in life. I know that I may not reach every child. But I will give it 150 percent everyday to fulfill this mission. Why not? Who says we can't do it? If I can survive everything I went through in life, why can't I do this?
I don't know failure. I don't accept failures. I don't understand the word "impossible." I did not risk my life, give up everything to come here to just be another person. I want to make a difference. I want to give back for the blessing I had.
SP: Is this where you get your passion?
PT: Yes! Whatever I do, I give 150 percent of myself. Everything I do, I do with a passion. Everything I say, I say it with a passion. This is me. I hope my passion will rub off on other people. I hope that when more people see why I am doing this, they will join and lend a hand.
There are about 40-45 million people who play this game according to the numbers I read. Why can't chess be bigger and more popular? I am absolutely positive that we will succeed if everyone works together and what we do can change an entire generation.
Source: Avalanche Journal
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Polgar: Chess champion shares personal story of struggle to escape homeland (part 1)
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Story last updated at 5/3/2009 - 2:07 am
The question of the week is very different this week. Some readers would like to know who my husband is and what is his role in chess.
My husband has been one of my best friends for more than two decades, who also happens to be my business manager and chess trainer as well. His name is Paul Truong.
He is the director of marketing and PR for SPICE at Texas Tech and is also the assistant head coach of the TTU Knight Raiders Chess Team.
He is the brain behind many current and past incredible chess projects in the U.S. His background is in marketing and PR and his mission is to bring chess to the level of popularity of golf, tennis and other sports.
He has dedicated the last nine years to promoting this wonderful game with all its vast benefits, especially to young people. Often, people ask me why he does this. I think you will know why after reading this two-part interview. It was a very emotional interview because it touched upon many painful topics for my husband, some things he usually does not to talk about.
Susan Polgar: Why are you so passionate about changing the face of chess in America?
Truong: Well, it is a very good question and one I don't think I have talked about too much. It started from circumstances I had to deal with throughout the early part of my life. Growing up in Saigon, South Vietnam, I became a chess icon at a very young age. I won many national junior and open championships. The first one came unexpectedly when I was only 5 years old. All of a sudden, I became a sensation, a child prodigy. My celebrity status skyrocketed.
I was invited by the late President Marcos of the Philippines to attend the Fischer vs. Karpov match in Manila in 1975 (which of course never took place). I also qualified for the World Junior (under 21) Championship in Manila that same year. At that time, I thought I had a chance to showcase my talent on a world stage. Then, my life came crumbling down. The communists from North Vietnam took over my country on April 30, 1975. I was no longer allowed to travel. I was no longer allowed to play chess freely.
Since my father was working for the U.S. Embassy prior to the fall of South Vietnam, my family was singled out. They considered us traitors. For the next four years, my father had to constantly be in hiding, otherwise, he would have been executed. The new government no longer allowed me to train in chess. The only thing they allowed me to do was to defend my National Championship, which I did successfully until April 30, 1979, the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
On that day, my father and I escaped by boat through an underground network, leaving my mother and young brother behind. They would never survive this dangerous escape. Our hope was to be able to get out first and bring them out later through another channel. To make the long story short, we faced death many times. How we survived was a miracle in itself.
SP: So what exactly happened?
PT: We had a lot of problems the first time we tried to escape. The wooden boat was only about 150 feet long and there were more than 600 people inside. We were sitting like sardines in a can, even worse. There was no ventilation, no food, no water and not even a bathroom. The engine could not hold up and exploded. We were stranded in the ocean without food and water for a while.
After we were lucky enough to be rescued, our boat was towed back to Vietnam and we were all thrown in jail. Luckily, the authorities did not know who my father was. After bribing the local officials, we were released and we escaped again a month later.
This time, the engine was bigger. But we had different problems. We were attacked by pirates from Thailand. They took the valuables from people on the boat. They raped our women and young girls. They even took some to their boat when they were done. We never saw these young girls again. We had to go through this five different times with five different pirate ships.
SP: So how did you get to safety?
PT: During the fifth attack, the pirates could not find any valuables because the previous four groups took everything. They were angry so they sunk our boat. We were in the middle of nowhere in shark-infested waters. Many people could not swim and drowned. Others died of exhaustion. And some died from you know... My father and I were lucky enough to live through this. An American oil tanker happened to go by, saw us and rescued us.
SP: So you were safe after this?
PT: No. After being in a small enclosed abandoned soccer field with no roof over our head, little food and unbearable living conditions for 30 days, we were thrown out of Malaysia because the locals could no longer to help us.
They put us on a boat taken from previous refugees, threw in another 350-plus refugees from different boats (now we had about 700 people total), gave us about 20 gallons of fuel and 20 gallons of water (no food), then towed us out to international waters.
Could you imagine, 20 gallons of fuel? Where do you go with 20 gallons? And 20 gallons of water for 700 people? How long can anyone last under 120-degree heat directly under the tropical sun with no food or water?
Not only that, while they towed us out, they purposely tried to sink us. They towed us in a zigzag formation to tear apart the front of the boat. They did but we were lucky that the boat did not break in half. After they got us to the point where they thought we could never survive, they left us to die.
Again, we had to drift to nowhere for weeks without food, water or fuel. Many people died of hunger and thirst. Dead bodies were everywhere. There was nothing you could do. All you could do was pray.
The second part of this interview will continue next week.