Thursday, February 16, 2012

Webster University attracts Susan Polgar, top ranked chess coach

Webster University attracts Susan Polgar, top ranked chess coach
9:50 PM, Feb 15, 2012
By Ann Rubin
NBC TV - St. Louis (KSDK)

Webster Groves, MO (KSDK) - They've never had a team before. But next year, Webster University will have the top ranked chess team in the nation.

So how did they pull it off?

Texas Tech had that top ranked team, but apparently not the funding to keep them.

So Webster University offered the head of the program, the manager, and many of the players a new home.

"Imagine if you would have like 8 Michael Jordan's or 8 Tom Bradys on a team. It would be insane. But unfortunately there's no funding. And if we don't have funding they would go elsewhere," said manager Paul Truong.

And now that's exactly what's happening.

The head of the Texas Tech chess team is moving to Webster University and taking her best players with her.

Susan Polgar, a grandmaster and former women's world champion, says Webster provided not only the right funding, but the right fit.

"Because they are a global university, because of the location, that it's in the Midwest right in the middle of the country and also, not less importantly that St. Louis is the chess center of America today," said Polgar.

The city is home to both the World Chess Hall of Fame, and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, places which have already attracted international attention.

"They said it's the Mecca of chess. So for us it was really exciting to hear that international players from half a world away have already heard about the club and St. Louis," explained Tony Rich, Executive Director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Call it a strategic move. They're counting on the fact that having top level players will attract more top level players to the area.

In fact, Lindenwood University announced it too will be starting a chess team in the fall, complete with scholarships.

They're recruiting from Iceland to India and are looking forward to some stiff collegiate competition.

"We're really glad Webster is starting a chess program so we can make us work harder to make ours stronger. And the players know each other so there will be some friendly competition in the area. If it can be friendly," said Grandmaster and new Lindenwood coach Ben Finegold.

The top ten players from Texas Tech will all be starting at Webster in the fall. Susan Polgar will start June 1st, in time for a summer tournament.

Source: NBC TV - St. Louis KSDK

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