Area boasts a pair of national chess team champions: Vianney High & Webster University
by Jaime Mowers
Webster University's Gorlocks and St. John Vianney High School's Golden Griffins are celebrating their national titles. Webster University won the Final Four of college chess in Rockville, Md., last weekend, while Vianney garnered top honors in its division in the U.S. Chess Federation's SuperNationals V K-12 tournament in Nashville.
Webster University's collegiate chess team is tops in the nation, having won the competition. Also known as The President's Cup, Webster entered the Final Four tournament as the top seed. The team has four starters and two alternates, all of whom are ranked as chess grandmasters by the World Chess Federation. In fact, the entire Webster chess team includes eight grandmasters -- unheard of in the world of collegiate chess.
The tournament ended just past noon on Sunday, April 7, with Webster University victorious in its match against the University of Texas-Dallas. A celebration welcoming the national champions back from the competition was held on Monday, April 8, in Marletto's Cafeteria on Webster University's main campus.
Webster's six Final Four team members include grandmasters Wesley So, Ray Robson, Georg Meier, Fidel Corrales, Manuel Leon Hoyos and Anatoly Bykhovsky.
Webster has been ranked number one in the nation since August 2012, when the team was officially formed. Susan Polgar, Webster's chess head coach, said this is the first time in history that a first-year collegiate chess team has gone to the Final Four, much less claim a national title.
Polgar said she hopes the team will have many more national championship titles in its future.
"It's a great honor and I'm very proud of bringing the first collegiate chess title to Webster University and St. Louis - I hope it's the first of many more," she said. "I'm very proud of the team. They've worked extremely hard over the past several months not only on their chess movements, but on their physical fitness to be ready for the competition."
Polgar said many people don't realize how demanding chess can be. The team played for 10 hours during the first day of competition and four hours on the second day.
"It's actually very grueling because of the length of the competitions," she said. "Even sitting and focusing your fullest attention for four or five hours at a time can be difficult."
Polgar would like to thank everyone who has supported the chess team including the Webster University administration, St. Louis and many community members.
The Final Four is the most prestigious team tournament in collegiate chess; the winner is known as the national champion of college chess. In addition to Webster University, the other three teems in the final four were the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Texas-Dallas and University of Illinois.