Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Tech gets checkmated
Submitted by Jon Mark Beilue on Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:07pm
Hard times for us Texas Tech alums. First, the Red Raiders suffer their first losing football season since 1992. Then the men’s basketball team may not win a Big 12 game — and is proving it each time the Raiders take the court.
Now this. Tech is suffering the indignation of losing its entire national championship chess club. You read it right. The reigning national collegiate champions, and their coach, former world champion Susan Polgar, are leaving for Webster University in St. Louis.
Somehow I feel like I’ve been rooked.
But last Friday, Webster University smugly announced that the Hungarian-born Polgar is moving her Susan Polgar Institute of Chess Excellence (SPICE to the great uninformed) to Webster, and furthermore, taking the whole darn team with it.
Yes, exactly. Goodbye to eight grandmasters -- Georg Meier, Wesley So, Ray Robson, Manuel Leon Hoyos, Elshan Moradiabadi, Anatoly Bykhovsky, Andre Diamant, and Demes Boros, plus international masters Vitaly Neimer and Faik Aleskerov. Gone, just like that. They’re all transferring with Polgar.
This is an outrage. This is like Sul Ross stealing not only Nick Saban, but the rest of the Alabama football team. Call the NCAA. Call Interpol. Call Bobby Fischer (scratch that, he’s dead), but call someone.
It’s bad enough that St. Louis ripped my heart out in the World Series. Now the city is stomping on it. Unbeknownst to me and the rest of America, St. Louis is home to the U.S. Chess Championships, the country’s No. 1 rated player, the World Chess Hall of Fame, and a state-of-the-art chess club.
Retired St. Louis businessman and philanthropist Rex Sinquefield built the multimillion-dollar Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis a few years ago. The club prompted Hikaru Nakamura — the top-rated player in the country and No. 6 in the world — to move to St. Louis.
Mike Wilmering, a chess club spokesman, said the club wasn’t involved in discussions to bring Polgar to St. Louis but was thrilled with the development.
I just bet you are. Why don’t you go ahead and take the iconic Will Rogers statue while you’re at it?
Next year’s Webster team will include those eight ex-Tech grandmasters — something no other collegiate team has ever had, Polgar said. Pouring more salt in Red Raider wounds, the team is expected to be ranked No. 1 in the nation this fall.
Polgar is a five-time Olympic champion. In 1986, she was the first woman to qualify for the Men’s World Championship Cycle. She holds world records for most simultaneous chess games played — 326 — and for most consecutive games played — 1,131.
Polgar said she was grateful for her team’s stint at Tech, where it grow from “literally nothing” in 2007 to its status today. But in the end, she felt that St. Louis was a better home.
I’m not sure we’ve heard the last of this. While many ex-students feel like a pawn in this sordid mess, I wouldn’t expect Tech chancellor Kent Hance to take this lying down. Hance hails from another U.S. chess hotbed, Dimmitt, and may have one or two unexpected moves up his sleeves.
Normally, I would say let’s get Webster on the football schedule and exact some revenge, but the way the 2011 season ended, I’m not so sure that’s a wise move. But, please, Webster, leave our meat judging team and Law School moot court team alone. Right now, that’s about all we got.