Saturday, February 04, 2012

Susan Polgar makes a move to St. Louis

Susan Polgar makes a move; Texas Tech chess coach and grand master leaving for St. Louis university

Posted: February 4, 2012 - 9:34pm
By Adam D. Young

Polgar, a world and Olympic chess champion, will transfer her Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence to Webster University starting June 1.

Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar is making a move, uprooting the chess institute created in her name at Texas Tech and her national-championship-winning chess team to a private university near St. Louis, Polgar and officials for both universities confirmed.

Polgar, a world and Olympic chess champion, will transfer her Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence to Webster University starting June 1, likely ending the institute’s five years in Lubbock.

In addition, all members of the reigning national collegiate champion Texas Tech “A” chess team will transfer to Webster and be enrolled at the university in the 2012-2013 academic year, Polgar said.

Polgar called the planned move to Webster a “tough decision” based in part on Webster’s enthusiasm and commitment to hosting a world-class chess institute and obstacles SPICE has encountered with Tech being limited as a state university, including budgetary constraints and other problems.

“We love Lubbock and we love Texas Tech, and we’ll always feel a connection,” she said. “I’m definitely proud of our record from making it to the final four of the national championship in our first year in division one to winning the championship last year.”

Polgar praised Tech administrators for their support of SPICE, but said problems at Tech were hindering the program from expanding as she would prefer, especially in scholarships.

She mentioned SPICE recently was interested but struggled in recruiting a handful of young, international and U.S. championship and grand master chess players.

“We simply weren’t in a position to say, ‘Yes, we have a scholarship for you here,’ ” she said. “Administrators did the very best they could do. However, Texas Tech, being a state institution, they had some constraints they couldn’t step over.”

Chris Cook, a spokesman for Tech, praised Polgar for her achievements at the university, but said the university is committed to expanding its chess program, even as the grand master departs.

“We’re excited about the future of our program,” he said, adding the university plans to begin the process of recruiting a new coach and director and to fill a newly created outreach coordinator position. Cook said the university also planned to increase permanent staff and scholarship funds for its chess program, though he did not have specific numbers late Saturday.

Webster, a university with an enrollment of about 21,000 students, was eager to attract SPICE as part of the university’s efforts to develop several worldwide centers for excellence, Julian Z. Schuster, Webster University provost and senior vice president, told The Avalanche-Journal on Saturday.

“Our mission is to become a premiere global university,” he said.

He said SPICE’s mission to serve as the nation’s premier center for chess education, research, technology and outreach would work well at Webster.

“Our partnership with Susan Polgar and SPICE at Webster will allow us to support and promote competitive chess at the college level,” Schuster said in a Webster news release. “Chess has always been a global game and this important step brings a global game in these global times to a truly global university. We are excited to further enhance the image of St. Louis as a global chess center.”

Polgar said she was impressed with Webster’s vision to invest in her program promoting excellence in a game more than 1 billion people play around the world.

“SPICE, therefore, is a perfect fit for Webster University’s global vision and presence, and I am extremely impressed with Webster’s commitment to excellence in chess and education,” she said in a statement on her blog. “I am also very excited to be in the St. Louis area, near the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, the hot spot for chess in the United States.”

On Saturday, Schuster denied Webster initiated efforts to recruit Polgar from Tech, but said his university was in talks with her over the course of several months as she considered pursuing several options to advance SPICE.

Polgar said the move to Webster started as casual conversations with leadership at the private school that developed into her believing Webster and St. Louis would be the best fit for her program.

She said she plans to continue as head coach of Tech’s Knight Raiders chess team in its efforts to win a national title for the second year in a row later this month and in March.


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