Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National Champion Chess Team Moves To Webster University

National Champion Chess Team Moves To Webster University
Posted on: 10:29 pm, April 10, 2012, by Wade Smith

(KTVI)– After winning two national championships, the entire Texas Tech chess team is transferring to Webster University.

The University promised the team more funding and gave all seven members of the team scholarships.

Members of the St. Louis Chess Club are excited about the move. “I think people will soon realize just how amazing a move like this is and how strong of a program Webster will have in the chess universe”, said Eexecutive Director Tony Rich

A member of the former Texas Tech team said, ” St. Louis is the center of chess in America and beleive this is the perfect fit for the team.”

Monday, April 09, 2012

Unprecedented chess move to Webster

National championship chess team bolts for new university
By Chris Chase
Yahoo Sports
Mon Apr 09 12:07pm EDT

The Texas Tech coach and her seven chessmasters who won their second straight national championship this month will all return next year to defend their title. But they'll be doing it at a different school.

In an unprecedented move in the world of college competition, Texas Tech's entire team will transfer to Webster University in the chess hotbed of St. Louis, home to the World Chess Hall of Fame. The private university promised more funding for the team and access to a new, 6,000-square-foot learning center in the city.

Unlike athletes who play college activities governed by the NCAA, chess players can transfer without sitting out for a year.

Coach Susan Polgar chose Webster because of its ties to its home city's chess community. "St. Louis today is the center of chess in America," she told the Associated Press. "It just seemed like a perfect fit."

Polgar is a self-taught prodigy from Hungary who became the top-ranked female player in the world at 15 and has multiple world records related to the game. She developed Texas Tech into an unlikely chess powerhouse since her arrival in 2007. The team's success drew numerous suitors from universities looking to improve their chess programs. When Webster offered full scholarships for all players, Polgar was sold.

Her foreign team -- members come from Iran, Germany, Israel, Brazil, Azerbaijan and Hungary -- said it had no qualms about moving.

Source: http://sports.yahoo.com

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Coach wins national title, takes entire team to new school

Coach wins national title, takes entire team to new school
By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
Apr 06, 2012

Some call it brazen, others unprecedented, but it is certainly shocking: A Texas coach resigns and takes the entire team to another school within hours of winning a Final Four national championship.

But it's a done deal: Texas Tech chess coach Susan Polgar is moving her all-star squad of seven chess grandmasters to private Webster University in suburban St. Louis, home to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the U.S. national championships, the Associated Press reports.

"The program grew rapidly, and Texas Tech wasn't ready to grow with the speed of the program," says Polgar, who founded the program there in 2007. "St. Louis today is the center of chess in America. It just seemed like a perfect fit."

Her players will also have access to the swanky new Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, a 6,000-square-foot shrine to the game that was bankrolled by local businessmen.

Fresh off her second straight national championship, Polgar, a home-schooled prodigy from Budapest who was the world's top female player by the time she was 15, tells the university's newspaper, the Daily Toreador, that she would love to have stayed at Tech, but with funds drying up,"the welfare of my students comes first."

The Tech students transferring to Webster in the fall will receive scholarships. At Tech, the program had a $30,000 pot for the entire team, while some top chess schools can offer individual students that much, the AP reports.

Source: USA Today

That's checkmate, Red Raiders

That's checkmate, Red Raiders

Originally published April 7, 2012 at 3:36 PM
Page modified April 7, 2012 at 4:46 PM
Seattle Times

Eat your heart out, SEC! Texas Tech won a repeat national championship — and then the coach abruptly announced that she and her entire...

Eat your heart out, SEC!

Texas Tech won a repeat national championship — and then the coach abruptly announced that she and her entire team are transferring their talents to Webster University in suburban St. Louis.

"The program grew rapidly," coach Susan Polgar told the Daily Toreador, Tech's student newspaper, "and Texas Tech wasn't ready to grow with the speed of the program."

And the sport, you ask?


Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com

Friday, April 06, 2012

College Chess Champions Switch Teams

College Chess Champions Switch Teams
By William Browning, Yahoo!
Contributor Network
1 hour, 44 minutes ago

College chess has just as much drama and strife in the world of athletics as football and basketball. Evidence of this can be found at Webster University in St. Louis. ESPN reports Susan Polgar, a legendary chess grandmaster and coach at Texas Tech, left her school and went to Webster.

She's taking her entire team of seven grandmasters with her because Texas Tech was unable to fund her program.

The move had been in the works since February, according to Webster's chess club blog. The move is a huge blow to Tech's chess club, as the program won its second straight President's Cup at the Final Four of Chess in Herndon, Va., held March 31 to April 1. Tech defeated New York University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Polgar's entire squad will get individual scholarships to Webster. Members of the chess team are highly recruited by employers for critical thinking skills. Cloud Analytics offered winners of the Final Four of Chess summer internships in Washington, D.C.

Imagine taking John Calipari and his entire coaching staff along with the players and recruits and moving them from the University of Kentucky to Louisville. That's essentially what happened when Polgar went to greener pastures at Webster. The suburban St. Louis university wasn't the only suitor for her services. When Texas Tech decided to cut funding, Polgar was heavily recruited.

Chess is highly competitive in collegiate circles. Only around 30 teams field serious enough clubs to offer scholarships. There are open tournaments all the time. Many colleges have chess clubs without scholarships that compete in local, regional and national open tournaments.

The United States Chess Federation oversees other official tournaments. The next national tournament is the National High School Championship to be held April 13 to April 15 in Minneapolis, Minn. Age levels from elementary age to seniors have their own tournaments throughout the year.

Chess is believed to have originated in India as the game "chatarung" from 600 to 1000 CE. Rules changes in Europe changed Medieval chess to the strategy game it is today with the queen and bishop becoming stronger pieces.

In the United States, the first national championship was held in 1845. The U.S. Chess Federation was formed in 1939. The organization's popularity doubled in the 1970s, thanks to legend Bobby Fischer's prominence as the world champion.

Chess is enjoyed seriously by over 100,000 people in the United States, according to Chess Life's ratings database.

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor.

Source: http://sports.yahoo.com

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Legendary coach heads to another school and takes entire team

A bold move in the chess world: Legendary coach heads to another school and takes entire team
By Alan Scher Zagier
Washington Post
Associated Press / April 5, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo.—It was one of the most brazen moves in the chess world since the Najdorf Sicilian Defense, perhaps even the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.

Fresh off her second straight national championship, the legendary chess coach at Texas Tech is jumping to another school and taking all the top members of the team with her. No one has ever seen anything like it in intercollegiate competition, not even among powerhouse basketball and football teams that are worth many millions of dollars.

Similar deals are not uncommon in academia, where a star professor recruited by another school may bring along a cadre of researchers, lab assistants and post-docs. But in the competitive realm, the practice is virtually unheard of.

"There's no equivalent," said Mike Hoffpauir, a Virginia consultant who helped organize the recent President's Cup chess tournament, the game's version of the Final Four, which was won by Texas Tech. "If the coach from Kentucky gets hired by UCLA this summer, the whole team's not going to go with him."

Susan Polgar, a home-schooled prodigy from Budapest and the world's top female player by the time she was 15, is taking her champions to private Webster University in suburban St. Louis, a city that is already home to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the U.S. national championships.

It also has a swanky new chess club and scholastic center bankrolled by a billionaire, the kind of place where students can immerse themselves in chess arcana, learning moves like the King's Indian Defense and others with mysterious names steeped in the game's 1,500-year history.

Webster lured the team with the promise of a greater financial investment.

"The program grew rapidly, and Texas Tech wasn't ready to grow with the speed of the program," said the coach, who founded the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, known as SPICE, in 2007. "St. Louis today is the center of chess in America. It just seemed like a perfect fit."

The Webster program will be based on campus, but its top players will clearly spend plenty of time at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, a 6,000-square-foot shrine to the game where the resident rock star is Hikaru Nakamura, the top-ranked U.S. player and No. 6 in the world. He, too, is a recent transplant to St. Louis. The club was bankrolled by businessman Rex Sinquefield, a retired financial executive and avid chess player who is also active in Missouri politics.

The Knight Raiders of Lubbock won their second straight President's Cup in Herndon, Va., last weekend, defeating chess powerhouses New York University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Texas at Dallas.

There are no hard feelings in Lubbock, said Texas Tech spokesman Chris Cook. The school plans to continue its chess program despite the departure of Polgar and her all-star squad of seven chess grandmasters, the game's highest competitive ranking.

"What these kids have done in the short time they've been here is amazing," Cook said. "They've put us in some niches where we haven't been before. They've put us in some countries where we haven't been before."

The championship chess team has also helped elevate the Texas Tech brand, Cook said -- though chess matches draw far less attention than Tech football under former coach Mike Leach or Red Raider basketball under the irascible Bobby Knight.

Polgar said she was recruited by a half-dozen top programs, though she declined to identify her unsuccessful suitors. In the end, she chose Webster, a former Catholic women's college in a leafy suburb that now has more than 100 campuses worldwide, including many near U.S. military bases, as well as residential programs in Vienna, Geneva and China.

Provost Julian Schuster, a native of the former Yugoslavia who calls himself "a very strong fan and casual player," helped broker the deal after learning of Polgar's interest through mutual friends. He envisions a broader academic focus revolving around chess, espousing a "dream of connecting chess as not only a game but as a didactic tool, to apply in a learning setting."

Neither Polgar nor Schuster would discuss the specifics of the financial commitment to attract the program.

The Texas Tech students transferring to Webster in the fall will receive scholarships. At Tech, the program had a $30,000 pot for the entire team, but Polgar noted that some top chess schools award individual students that amount.

The team members hail from around the world: Germany, Brazil, Iran, Hungary, Israel and Azerbaijan. In interviews, several said they had no qualms about the surprise relocation. Such is their faith in Polgar, who in 2005 set a Guinness World Record by playing 326 simultaneous games -- and winning 309 of those matches, with 14 draws and just three losses. That feat also gave her another world record, with 1,131 consecutive games played.

"It was a very easy decision," said Georg Meier, a freshman from Trier, Germany. "When the program decided to move to St. Louis, I didn't have to think twice."

About 30 schools nationwide have competitive chess teams, from Yale and Princeton to Miami-Dade College and the University of West Indies. And while college chess remains a niche activity, Polgar's unprecedented move has given the game a brief moment in the spotlight.

Hoffpauir's consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton heavily recruits elite chess players for their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Some Wall Street firms do the same.

"These players that were here were the equivalent of Kansas and Kentucky, athletes at the top of their game," Hoffpauir said.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Back to back Final Four champs

Texas Tech Repeats at Final Four of College Chess
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim
April 3, 2012

Herndon, Va. – Under any other circumstances, GM Andrew Diamant of Texas Tech would have given up in a lost position such as the one he found himself playing against GM Conrad Holt of UT Dallas here over the weekend.

But when Diamant learned that the only way the Texas Tech Knight Raiders could defend their title as America’s top college chess team was to win or draw, Diamant decided to fight it out for what proved to be an exciting duel that lasted until only seconds remained on both players’ clocks.

“In a normal game, I would resign because my position was terrible,” Diamant said of his Round 3 game against Holt in a three-round tournament known as the Final Four of Chess.

“But when I figured out it was the last game to decide who will be the champion, I knew the pressure was on him, not only me,” Diamant said.

Their hands literally shook as they made their final moves. Diamant’s decision to battle it out under pressure ultimately paid off for Texas Tech, the only team to score a victory against Holt, who was the only player to enter Round 3 with 2 points.

“Sometimes what happens is I start to blunder almost every move,” explained Holt, who had what he described as a “totally winning position” against Diamant.

“I made many mistakes and eventually it’s a draw,” said Holt -- who counted 36. …. Rb2, enabling Diamant to follow with 37. Rxe6 -- as his first in a series of mistakes.

The draw – along with several other factors – ultimately enabled the Red Raiders to emerge with 8 points as the 2012 winners of the President’s Cup, which is awarded to the victor of the Final Four of Chess.

UMBC and UT Dallas, both longstanding contenders in the Final Four, each tied for second with 7.5 points, and NYU came in fourth.

“I’m very proud of my team and it’s a result of hard work throughout the year, the effort that we’ve done,” Texas Tech Head Coach GM Susan Polgar said of her team’s successful defense of her teams back-to-back championships.

“It’s very fulfilling, of course,” said Polgar, who is moving her chess program, known as the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, or SPICE, to Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, this fall.

The President’s Cup, however, will remain at Texas Tech until whichever team wins it next.

As happened last year, Texas Tech’s victory hinged on another last-round game, this time between NM Evan Rosenberg of NYU and IM Sasha Kaplan of UMBC.

Observers noted that in many ways, the tournament was decided by a team’s ability to sweep NYU, whose collective strength, at least based on ratings and titles, did not rival that of the three other teams.

Consider, for instance, that NYU was the only team that made it to the Final Four with only one IM and without any GMs, while the other teams were able to put GMs on just about every board.

Still, UMBC and UT Dallas yielded a draw each to NYU while Texas Tech swept NYU.

“When Texas Tech swept NYU and the others couldn’t, that was the delta,” said Mark Herman, executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategy and technology consulting firm that hosted and sponsored the Final Four of Chess, using “delta” as a mathematical term for difference.

As it did last year, Booz Allen Hamilton hosted the Final Four not only to support and advance the game of chess, but rather to recruit talent from among the best players in the world of collegiate chess.

Indeed, the firm extended an invitation to members of all four teams to explore internship opportunities with Booz Allen Hamilton – a significant development given the fact that last year the firm only offered internships to members of the team that won the Final Four.

Several players indicated a serious interest in taking the firm up on its offer.

Among them was IM Vitaly Neimer, 24, a freshman majoring in finance at Texas Tech. Neimer noted the similarities between the mathematical and analytical skills used in the game of chess and those required in finance, one of the areas in which Booz Allen Hamilton offers services.

“Many times in a game, you need to change the plan of the game,” Neimer said. “Also in finance, you need to change how you react.”

Herman, the Booz Allen Hamilton executive, said the nation’s top collegiate chess players represent a rich pool of talent.

“I’ve got a room full of the best critical thinkers that you’re going to find anywhere,” Herman said. “Why wouldn’t I want to recruit them?”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim will also be writing an article for Chess Life Magazine on the Final Four.