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"One of the most brazen moves in the chess world since the Najdorf Sicilian Defense"
April 6, 2012 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Just hours after winning a second consecutive national championship, a legendary college coach decamps to a Division I program with a brighter future- and takes her entire team with her. A college chess coach makes a move that even the most cutthroat men's basketball coach would envy.

Susan Polgar and her Texas Tech Knight Raiders are moving from Lubbock to obscure Webster University, just outside St. Louis. Polgar's crew of international grandmasters made the move to secure enough scholarship funds to graduate. Webster announced the move in February, but Polgar waited until this week, after her team finished first in the President's Cup, informally known as "the Final Four of college chess," to confirm the team's departure.

Proving that chess is a game for gentlemen, Texas Tech says that there are no hard feelings.

The move is just the latest step in St. Louis's development into America's chess capital. The city's Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is already home to the game's US Championships.

Chess previously in less rarefied air.
posted by Snarl Furillo (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder how this will affect the ongoing litigation involving Polgar, her husband and colleague Paul Truong, and (iirc) Texas Tech as an institution? I know that they settled with the USCF a while back, but I thought some of the individual suits were still in process.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2012


I doubt a men's basketball team would need to move uni en masse in order to secure enough scholarship funds for their team members to graduate.
posted by localroger at 4:07 PM on April 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


Championship basketball players do not graduate.
posted by bukvich at 4:14 PM on April 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


Go University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers! College chess is a great way to get your university on the map among the kind of smart people that you want as students.
posted by persona at 5:17 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


to obscure Webster University,

I look forward to taunting my Webster alumni wife and best friend with this phrasing.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Championship basketball players do not graduate.
The top four or five probably don't, but plenty of basketball players on championship teams have to graduate, if the school plans on playing in future championships.
posted by SMPA at 5:42 PM on April 6, 2012


Check!
posted by Xoebe at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2012


Many universities have had chess teams since the Pan Am tournaments of the post-Fischer era. After success by small, state schools, like the University of South Florida (which had GM Larry Christianson, whose still a great player and a big part of the Internet Chess Club) bigger schools started giving scholarships--I think Harvard, Yale, and Rhode Island were some of the first.

Either UT Dallas or University of Maryland has won the Pan Am for 18 of the last 19 years...UT Dallas was only a half-point behind Texas Tech at the Final Four this year. I don't know who's behind it--can't remember--but there's a St. Louis chess donor who's done a lot for American chess (and St. Louis chess in particular). Our top player, Hikaru Nakamura, relocated there, and someone helped him land Kasparov as a coach--though it didn't last long (which is what happened to the highest ranked Magnus Carlsen last year).

Note: I remember, back in 1994, when the University of Florida offered their first chess scholarship, to GM Gabriel Schwartzman, the youngest GM in the world at the time.
The school didn't even have a team--even though we had several IMs. He/we just played at the local club (we met in a bookstore--Books, Inc.).
posted by whatgorilla at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


whatgorilla, I think you might be thinking of Rex Sinquefield, who seems to have been the primary donor for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center (which sounds like the title of a Michael Chabon novel to me). Sinquefeld's causes seem to be education, music, chess and possibly small-government conservatism. Interesting guy on the whole.

This story was totally fascinating to me because the academic players in it (including the Final Four contenders) don't have much of a national profile (except perhaps for Texas Tech), but they were clearly the name schools for competitive collegiate chess. I love places that develop little niches like that.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:41 PM on April 6, 2012


Ma'am and George must be so proud of Webster.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:56 PM on April 6, 2012


There's nothing going on in the flyover states.
These students can go about their business.
Move along.

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:31 PM on April 6, 2012


In what universe is the Najdorf called a "move"?
posted by thelonius at 9:12 PM on April 6, 2012


I swear I played in one tournament that had a college section where UTD was the only team that showed up (the rest of the section being made up of whoever was local). Not surprisingly, they won handily.
posted by hoyland at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2012


The World Chess Hall of Fame (additionally the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame) is just across the street from the club too. There are a couple art galleries (and the requisite gift shop) on the lower floors, and then permanent exhibits along with the actual Halls of Fame galleries (plaques, and an iPad directory) on the third floor. There's a board that was used in the "backroom game" 3 of the Fischer-Spassky 1972 championship, signed by each of the players.

More stuff.
posted by brentajones at 10:41 PM on April 6, 2012


Check!

Atari.

Oh, doh, wait, never mind....
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:39 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder how this will affect the ongoing litigation involving Polgar, her husband and colleague Paul Truong, and (iirc) Texas Tech as an institution? I know that they settled with the USCF a while back, but I thought some of the individual suits were still in process.

Yeah, the whole thing with Susan Polgar is kind of weird. She is practically the face of chess in the US despite her and her husband having gotten into a gigantic fight, involving plenty of litigation, with the USCF (it started with her husband repeatedly impersonating another poster on Usenet). She went from being on the USCF executive board to being kicked out of the organization entirely. It is odd how little it seems to have affected her brand.

I think all of the litigation has been wrapped up one way or another by now, but I'm not certain. I know the USCF is still trying to recover from the legal costs they incurred.
posted by dfan at 7:21 AM on April 7, 2012


IIRC, one of the Polgar's associates was even prosecuted by the FBI for his role in hacking into emails between the USCF board and their lawyers. The whole thing was a catastrophe.
posted by thelonius at 9:03 AM on April 7, 2012


Yeah I've heard all about all the, ahem, interesting things that she and her husband has done, but Polgar does have a knack for getting publicity about her and her chess program, and overall that's a net positive for chess in America since it seems she and Sinquefeld are the only ones that able to successfully publicize chess in the U.S.
posted by gyc at 1:58 PM on April 7, 2012


Susan's husband has pretty amazing stories about encountering pirates during their family's escape from Vietnam.
posted by of strange foe at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2012


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