Friday, February 17, 2012

This is the chess equivalent of the entire championship University of Alabama football team and coaching staff up and transferring

Sinquefield should focus on chess, not public school, boards
The Kansas City Star

Before Rex Sinquefield became a multimillionaire and a political kingmaker, he was a chess player.

And whatever you think of Sinquefield’s libertarian views and shameless flaunting of his fortune to influence Missouri government, know this: He is revered as a chess patriarch.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, a sparkling chess palace that Sinquefield renovated out of a 1897 building, has 700 active members and is host to the nation’s top tournaments. It has a grandmaster in residence and it helped persuade the nation’s top-rated player, Hikaru Nakamura, to move to St. Louis.

Sinquefield, a retired investment fund manager, engineered the move of the World Chess Hall of Fame from Miami to St. Louis. He and his wife, Jeanne, purchased the chess library of the brilliant recluse, Bobby Fischer, which includes notebooks Fischer used to prepare for his legendary match against Russian Boris Spassky.

Because of Sinquefield, dozens of schoolchildren in the St. Louis area play chess. And now the nation’s top-rated chess team has announced it is moving from Texas Tech University in Lubbock to Webster University in St. Louis.

This is the chess equivalent of the entire championship University of Alabama football team and coaching staff up and transferring to Creighton University in Omaha.

Hungarian-born chess champ Susan Polgar, who coaches at Texas Tech, says she is bringing five grandmasters and two international chess masters with her, and an additional three grandmasters are expected to join the team next year as freshmen.

I emailed a news clipping about this to my son, who plays on a chess team at a university that happens to be where Sinquefield did his graduate work.

“Wow,” he emailed back. “That is huge news.”

It’s rare that I am able to tell my son something he doesn’t know, much less get a “wow” out of him. So I thank Sinquefield for that.

Polgar told me Sinquefield wasn’t instrumental in arranging the move, but he was a factor. “We felt it was a nice coincidence,” she said. “We will be in the Mecca of chess in America that grew out of nowhere thanks to the generosity of Mr. Rex Sinquefield.”

Julian Schuster, the provost at Webster, a private, non-profit university, said the school aspired to become a “truly international university,” and chess, being an international sport, fits with that mission.

The school will at first provide scholarship aid for chess players out of its merit scholarship pool, Schuster said.

“We will also approach donors and other interested organizations and foundations,” he added.


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