Monday, September 09, 2013

#1 again in 2013

Sep 6, 2013, 12:58pm CDT
Webster Chess team: We’re No. 1
Matthew Hibbard
Social Engagement Manager

St. Louis Business Journal

Webster University’s chess team has only completed two weeks of the school year, but they’re already getting high marks in the chess community.

The chess team was ranked the No. 1 Division I team in the United States by the U.S. Chess Federation, according to Susan Polgar, Webster’s coach, chess grandmaster and World and Olympiad champion.

Polgar said the top rating allows Webster to attract the best chess players in the world and further brands St. Louis, and specifically Webster, as a chess powerhouse.

“Everyone wants to be the top seed,” Polgar said. “It’s a great honor.”

Although the distinction puts the chess club in the spotlight, it also comes with added pressure to keep its No. 1 status. To keep the positive momentum strong, Polgar plans to harness the power of her 14 chess players.

That team includes two chess champions, Wesley So and their newest member, Le Quang Liem. Liem joined the team this semester from Vietnam, Polgar said.

“It’s always a big challenge as a coach to make sure individual stars work together as a team,” she said. “Adding new team members changes the chemistry.”

If she can get that chemistry just right, Webster may have what it takes to keep that No. 1 status till the end.

Polgar and her Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence relocated in June 2012 to Webster University.


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Magnus Carlsen visits Webster University

World's #1 Magnus Carlsen is in St. Louis to compete in the Sinquefield Cup. But before the hot and heavy action on the chess board against Aronian, Nakamura, and Kamsky, he visited Webster University to play soccer and basketball with members of the nation's #1 ranked SPICE chess team. Here is the link to some of the photos (12 nations, 10 GMs, competing in sports):

Magnus is a new type of chess player, on and off the chess board. He is known for torturing his opponents on the chess boards for 5-6-7 hours. He will play out positions where most grandmasters would be content to agree to a draw. 

He is the same on the soccer field and basketball court. He is extremely fit and athletic. He physically wears out his opponents. Magnus simply shatters the false old stigma that chess players are nerdy.

Friday, September 06, 2013

2013-2014 Webster University Chess Team

A new year of College Chess has begun and Webster University is once again the #1 ranked Division I team in United States (both USCF and FIDE ratings). There are 9 grandmasters from 9 different countries on this year's roster. 

Here are top 10 rated players of Webster University:

Title - Name - FIDE - USCF 

GM Le Quang Liem - Vietnam - 2702 / 2802 (World Blitz Champion - Olympian - Former #1 under 21 in the world) 

GM Wesley So - Philippines - 2710 / 2747 (World University Champion - National Open Champion - Olympian - #2 under 21 in the world) 

GM Georg Meier - Germany - 2630 / 2693 (Olympian - European Team Champion - 2 time Final Four Champion)

GM Ray Robson - USA - 2623 / 2707 (Olympian - US Junior Champ - Final Four Champion)

GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez - Cuba - 2640 (Olympian - Final Four Champion - Philadelphia Open Champion)

GM Manuel Leon Hoyos - Mexico - 2552 / 2614 (Olympian - US Open Triple Crown Champion & National Open Champion)

GM Anatoly Bykhovsky - Israel - 2521 / 2618 (3-time Final Four Champion)

GM Denes Boros - Hungary - 2502 / 2546 (Final Four Champion)

GM Andre Diamant - Brazil - 2465 / 2526 (Final Four Champion)

IM Vitaly Neimer - Isarel - 2384 / 2449(Final Four Champion)

FM Jake Banawa
WIM Inna Agrest
Mara Kamphorst
Paul M. Truong

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Susan Polgar

Susan Polgar
by RYAN KOHLS on Aug 23, 2013 • 12:53 pm

“People truly believed it was impossible for women to play good chess or become a grandmaster. They really were convinced that because no other woman had done it before me it was impossible. But I learned chess quickly and it became part of my mission.”

If you love a good tale about women who are socially constructed geniuses, smash gender barriers and humiliate sexist men in sports, I’ve got someone I want you to meet.

Her name is Susan Polgar. She’s Hungarian. She’s a genius. And, she was the first woman to ever achieve grandmaster status and compete with men in chess world championships.

By the age of 15, Susan Polgar was the best female player in the world. From there the barriers began tumbling down as she defeated men, won countless tournaments and became one of chess’ greatest players. During her career she also had the opportunity to play some of the greats: Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov and Boris Spassky, to name a few.Polgar’s gender-defying ride is now the stuff of legend. Her father, László Polgar, was a psychologist and chess enthusiast who believed strongly that “geniuses were made, not born.” The key was to focus a child’s energy on one thing from an early age. Susan, at the age of 4, showed interest in the chessboard. László noticed and began to hone her skills. Together, Susan and her father began playing and practicing chess for thousands and thousands of hours. It was an experiment he had always wanted to try, so he did…and it worked.

Susan isn’t the only Polgar to excel at chess, however. She has two younger sisters, Judit and Sofia. Both followed in her footsteps, received the same treatment from their father and became chess champions. The Polgar Sisters are mainstays on the chess circuit and a popular trio of inspirational women in sports.

The Polgar’s upbringing has been widely reported and even featured in an episode of National Geographic’s “My Brilliant Brain” program.

Following an extensive career at the top of the chess world, Susan Polgar retired from professional play in 2005. Since then, she’s focused her energy on coaching university chess teams, first for Texas Tech and now at Webster University in St. Louis. She’s also started her own foundation: The Susan Polgar Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to promote chess, and its educational benefits throughout the U.S., especially for girls.

Polgar has also used her extensive experience to author numerous books on chess strategy and her rise to grandmaster status.

There is much I WANNA KNOW from one of chess’ greatest players.

I caught up with Susan Polgar over the phone from her home in St. Louis.

From the strategies of chess, to her confrontations with Bobby Fischer, to breaking gender barriers and defeating male grandmasters, we cover it all.

Ryan Kohls: Your story begins with you stumbling upon a chessboard in your home. Can you describe what made you fall in love with chess at such a young age?

Susan Polgar: First of all, the shape of the pieces. I thought it was very cute. Later, my father introduced me to the essence of the game and I thought it was very fascinating, with the combinations and possibilities. I think also the fairness of the game. I liked the fact that it’s contained, 8 x 8, lot’s of symmetrical elements. Also, I was a small girl and it was something I could do. It didn’t matter what age, size or color you were. Unlike physical sports, where an adult will have a big advantage over a child in terms of knowledge of physical ability and build, in chess all of that disappears.

RK: You mentioned your father. When you research your family’s story, there’s a very special connection with the experiment he conducted on you and your sisters. It’s obviously made you successful, but have you ever held any resentment that he focused your energy on one thing?

SP: No, not really because although the focus was chess it was never the only thing. I was learning languages or involved with other sports as well. I travelled a lot . It was not just the chessboard, even though it was a main part of my life.

RK: Your father seems like a very fascinating man. How would you describe his character?

SP: I guess he’s a visionary. He’s very goal oriented. He sets high goals and he’s very ambitious. At the same time I think he’s a very fair person. He always takes into considering the interests of his community and the general good of society at the time.

RK: You’re the eldest of three chess grandmasters. What role did you play in developing the talents of your sisters?

SP: Well, obviously, by the pure fact that I was the oldest one, and a master level player when they started playing, I helped them a lot; hundreds and thousands of hours in practicing together. At first it was purely teaching and then it became practice partners. It was pretty important for their growth in chess.

RK: How do you practice chess for thousands of hours? What kind of strategy is involved in that?

SP: At an initial level you would practice different checkmate patterns on different setups and themes that may involve destroying the defence in front of a king. Then you try to solve examples from other people’s games or made up practice positions. That’s one aspect; to build the pattern recognition. That’s true for all levels, from beginner to grandmaster. That’s something you never stop because the sharpness in calculating and recognizing patters, efficiently and quickly, is really a big chunk of what chess is about. You find them for yourselves to gain an advantage and also to prevent your opponent from such ideas. It’s more difficult in a way because we all tend to look for ways to win and are less eager to prevent our opponent from winning. But in order to not fall for their traps it’s important to look for opportunities on both sides.

We practice from different situations that were already played by former grandmasters or champions and learn from what they did in certain situations. Chess is like an ocean with endless possibilities, but at the same time ideas and patterns repeat themselves even though circumstances are different. It’s like life. You’re from Kenya and Canada, so you travel a lot. When you travel in airports it doesn’t matter which airport you’re at, you know you go to the check-in counter, you check your luggage, go through security, find your seat, and so on. For someone who hasn’t travelled in their life it’s scary. How am I going to find things? But once you have the experience it doesn’t matter if you’re in Nairobi or Toronto or New York. The gate may look different, but yet the patterns are the same. So in a chess game it’s the same way. According to some research it has been determined that an average Grandmaster is familiar with 20,000 different patterns.

RK: How many patterns are there in chess? Is it infinite?

SP: It’s probably not infinite. I don’t know the exact number. I guess it’s 20,000 that’s important. I wouldn’t say that there are that many more. People discover news one, but with 20,000 you’ll be one of the best players in the world, you’ll be in the top 1000 for sure.

RK: Did you know 20,000 patterns?

SP: I would think so, yeah. But you know, knowing them is one thing, another thing is to be able to apply them at all times and not make mistakes. When grandmasters lose games it’s not because they don’t know them but because of the time constraints. Even though you’re familiar you don’t have the time to calculate it all out or compare the different options and evaluate which is better.

RK: You’re a bit of a chess historian. How did chess become, and remain, so popular in Eastern Europe?

SP: Well, I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert in chess history. But growing up in Eastern Europe and being in the Soviet Union numerous times, I can certainly say it has been part of the culture for a couple hundred years by now. It’s partly because of the weather, in Russia for example a lot of the year it’s cold and the activities you can do outdoors are restricted. It’s inexpensive, anyone can afford it. You can play chess in your own home, in a club, on the beach, on a car, a bus. You can play with your child, your grandparents. It doesn’t matter what your build is, or gender, or religion, it crosses through all boundaries. I think that is the secret behind it. If you want to play basketball, being 6 feet tall has an advantage over someone who is 5’4. And someone who is an adult has an advantage over an eight year old child. It’s probably the simplicity and availability to anyone, anywhere.

RK: You talked about the lack of barriers in chess. But a huge part of your story is how you broke down the gender barrier in the 70s and 80s. Back in those early days, what was the meanest thing anyone ever said or did to you?

SP: (laughs) Well, there were quite a few. The meanest thing was probably when I qualified to represent Hungary at the World Championship in 1986. I wasn’t allowed to compete in the Men’s World Championship. The title of the event included the word men. Therefore, I wasn’t allowed to play. I had many nasty comments about how women aren’t allowed to play chess and they made up all kinds of arguments why not, like women’s brains are smaller and can’t keep quiet for that amount of time. That has been a major part of my young years, that fighting and discrimination. I have to say, in many cases, people truly believed it was impossible for women to play good chess or become a grandmaster. They really were convinced as a fact of life because no other woman had done it before me it was impossible. But I learned it quickly and it became part of my mission.

RK: When you started beating these male grandmasters, was it hard to keep the smile off your face?

SP: Obviously it was very satisfying and felt good. I have to say that doesn’t happen over night. At first I was beating club players and experts. It was actually harder for those guys who lost to me in the initial years because even though they were only club players their egos were bruised. They were not used to it. It did not happen in any sport that women would beat men. They were teased a lot and reminded of it for a long time. However, when I started regularly beating masters, they slowly got used to it and it wore off the novelty element of it. It wasn’t such a sensation. Though, I am very proud that I paved the road. Now there are about two dozen women who achieved the grandmaster title, the highest ranking in chess.

RK: I was arguing the other day that baseball is the most strategic sport in the world. Do you think chess is the most strategic?

SP: Probably by definition it is. That said, I don’t underestimate the importance of strategy and psychology in other sports. People would think that because other sports are physical it’s all about what you do physically. I know in tennis or football, strategy is extremely important. But the ratio is perhaps different between the strategy and the physical effort extended in chess versus other sports. It does exist in both though the ratio may be different.

RK: That’s a very diplomatic answer.

SP: I think it’s very true. People underestimate the physical effort that people make in chess. People doubt or question whether it’s a sport at all. You can ask anybody who competes in chess and has to fight for 10 to 11 grueling hours and see how much it takes out of them physically and mentally.

SP: (laughs) Sometimes, but it’s certainly not the norm. If it’s a match you’re playing for two months, like (Kasparov) did against Anatoly Karpov in the 80s. Or for 50-60 days in a row you’re under pressure and every single move you make has a great weight on your shoulder and things are not going your way on top of it. Moments like that, when you feel you’re putting in all the sleepless nights and the result is not there, it can be very painful. If he wants to use the word torturous that’s his choice of words, but it’s certainly very, very tough.RK: I read a quote from Garry Kasparov where he described chess as “mental torture.” Do you agree with that?

RK: Back in the day, how hard was it to turn your mind off of the game? Were you constantly dreaming about chess?

SP: I would say that in every world champion’s life there is a concentration of a few years, before they become world champion, where they prioritize chess as the most important thing in their lives. They pretty much underline everything towards that goal of becoming a world champion. That will include physical exercises to enhance endurance and energy during the competition. It may include a special diet , a special sleeping schedule that will accustom towards one at a big championship. They sacrifice entertainment and social aspects. So, I would say when you live those years, obviously you have times that you even sleep with some specific chess positions or patterns. In fact, I know numerous people who come up with great ideas in dreams. It happened to me as well. You’d be surprised, I heard it even from athletes in physical sports. They dream about tennis and then implement what they practiced in their dreams.

RK: There’s a lot of mind games in chess. There’s this video on YouTube ofKasparov playing Magnus Carlsen. He walked up to the table, didn’t shake his hand, played and then walked away. What were some of your strategies for getting the upper hand mentally?

SP: Well, I never used any of those tactics. Garry is famous for intimidating his opponents. I don’t like those type of tactics. In some cases, it’s part of the game. I was just on the other end. I got prophylactic by those things. The majority of the players don’t try anything special. They may try to ignore their colleagues before a big match or minimize communication. That’s understandable. I wouldn’t go an extra mile to intimidate them.

RK: What do you remember about playing Bobby Fischer?

SP: It was a great honor and it was something magical in a way. All chess players of my generation were fascinated by Bobby Fischer’s games. He was a hero to most of us. He defeated the world by himself. It was a very inspiring story. When I actually met him and became friends and he stayed at our house while he lived in Hungary for a number of years, it was a great pleasure to spend time with him and play chess. I’m quite happy with the scores I had against him. He was still a strong player at that time. But, he of course had a problem of keeping consistency. He was in his early fifties. He wasn’t competing much at that time.

RK: There’s a fascinating story online about you confronting him about his anti-semitic views. You’re Jewish and you said you “tried to change his views but was unsuccessful.” What were those encounters like?

SP: At first it was shocking to me that he really believes those things. When I confronted him about those things he was defensive. The bottom line is that in his younger years he had some very negative experiences with people who happened to be Jewish. Some people who influenced him the wrong way and took advantage of him. Instead of evaluating that those particular people did that to me so I hate them, he was generalizing that this group of people is this way. But when I confronted him he was giving me examples like, “Look what this guy did to me.” So, at the time when he was still in Hungary he was clearly less extreme than he became later in some of his interviews. We’re talking about 1993-1994, when I used to spent time with him.

RK: You blogged about the new centre dedicated to him in Iceland. Do you think that overall his impact on chess remains more positive than negative?

RK: Because it’s not really you anymore? SP: Absolutely. I honestly despise the fact that there’s so much focus on a negative side. He was a sick person and became mentally ill. He deteriorated over the later years of his life. Imagine today you and I all of the sudden grow a mental illness and become crazy. What does it matter what we say?

SP: Exactly. It’s not in his control. He’s sick. Let’s say someone gets in an accident and loses his legs and can’t run. Even though he was an Olympic champion runner, why should that take away from what he did before? His common sense and his mental state wasn’t the same when he made those crazy statements about 9/11 and so on. In my mind, it doesn’t take a thing away from his amazing skills on the chessboard or how he revolutionized chess. I would say he single handedly created professional chess that thousands of people benefit from. And yes, it’s very sad the things he said and how crazy he became. It’s just unfortunate he didn’t have anyone near him to control the damage to his image from those crazy statements.

RK: Do you remember where you were when you heard he died?

SP: I believe I was in Texas at an event my foundation was doing.

RK: Kasparov famously played IBM’s Deep Blue computer. I heard you were declined a chance to play. Do you think you could have defeated Deep Blue?

SP: We’ll never know. I actually had an opportunity for a friendly encounter at the IBM headquarters. I played there against Deep Blue. It was a draw.

RK: You’re still young enough to play professionally. What made you decide to step away from the game?

SP: I pretty much achieved all the titles I could – world championships, Olympic medals. I think I can inspire the next generation and motivate a lot of people and help our game grow through my stature in the world of chess.

RK: You have a chess foundation now and focus on bringing women into chess. Has focusing your energy on those endeavours been satisfying?

SP: Yes, very much so. It’s nice to see the number of women’s participation growing and the level of self-confidence in women growing. Even the women who never become professionals, it gives them confidence in their lives and careers. So for thousands of girls who I affected through my foundation, I get so much feedback that it’s life changing for so many young people.


1) Her official website:

2) Follow her on Twitter: @SusanPolgar

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Revolutionary Mind, an interview by Renata Holcmann

Polgar: The Revolutionary Mind, an interview by Renata Holcmann

I was interviewed by Renata Holcmann of Columbia University. With her permission, I would like to share what she wrote with you.

The very first time I heard the name Polgar was when I was at a local chess tournament in my hometown of Papa, Hungary. Both me and my sister won first place in our categories and some people were murmuring that “they might be the next Polgar sisters.” This idea of sibling chess prodigies very much appealed to my mother and she encouraged us to keep playing and hoped that we -as sisters- would go far with chess. Unfortunately, this dream of hers evaporated in a sudden moment when my sister decided to quit chess when she lost a game to me. So from then on, it was only me, who followed the news about the Polgar sisters and dreamed of meeting them one day. But out of the three sisters I really wanted to meet Susan – the oldest one –, who was the fore-runner in the Polgar family and became a true icon, for many of her accomplishments, in the chess world.

Susan (Zsuzsanna) Polgar was born in Budapest, on April 19th in 1969. Both her parents –Laszlo and Klara Polgar- were school teachers. When I asked Susan how she started to play chess, she quite surprised me with her answer: “Accidentally. I was searching for a new toy and found the chess set.” Then she went on explaining with quite an enthusiasm how she immediately fell in love with the shape of the pieces. She demanded her mother to play a game with her, but she told her that she has to wait until her father comes home and he would teach her then. Then the studying of this royal game began for Susan, just at the age of four! She very much enjoyed learning tactics and found the checkmate puzzles a lot of fun. Not long after her 4th birthday, she entered a chess tournament in Budapest. She competed in the 1st to 4th grade category (almost everyone was twice her age) and won all her ten games, becoming the Budapest Champion. After this event, her life changed forever. The media started following her every move and she was labeled as a “wunderkind.” Hungary’s reaction to her sudden success was divided: a small group of people responded positively to her great achievement, believing that she truly is a chess prodigy. While others started attacking her parents for not letting her play with dolls or at the playground, instead making her sit by the chessboard for hours. This was the bigger group, the pessimists and jealous crowd who also thought that her winning the Budapest Champion title was just an accident, a one-time lucky event and saw no future for her in chess. They could not be more wrong about her…

When Susan turned six years old, her parents made a decision to home-school her since she already knew how to read and write, was years ahead in Math and also spoke Russian fluently. Susan claims, “My Russian became almost as good as my native tongue” due to being enrolled in a nursery school in the previous years where they only spoke Russian. Also, not being in school all day, gave her the chance to spend more time with chess. Predictably, because of this, her parents were constantly attacked in the media. Susan emphasized how much her parents sacrificed for her and her sisters to make it possible for them to succeed. There were many hurdles over the years, but they gave a tremendous support for them at all times. At the time in Hungary, it was acceptable for a high-school aged athlete to be home-schooled in order to practice more and travel to competitions, but nobody had ever heard of keeping a child home -from the very beginning, grade one- to improve her chess skills! Then again, the world still had to wait and see how Susan’s hard work and determination would pave the road to her successful future.

Susan has two sisters, Sophia who is five and a half years younger and Judit, who is seven years younger than her. Being the oldest one, Susan often taught her sisters chess throughout the years, but she was also setting a good example for them about her work ethic. She worked extremely hard, some days practiced even six to eight hours! Usually, she played in ten to twelve tournaments per year. These were long competitions that lasted two or three weeks. Starting from age four, Susan studied from books and studied with different chess coaches. From our conversation I found out that her father was an excellent teacher, but she also had other influential coaches in her life. For instance, Eva Karakas gave Susan the love for the game, but she gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from Laszlo Hazai and Lev Psakhis as well. She studied chess in various ways:

* Solved puzzles to improve her tactical and calculation skills
* Studied many grandmasters’ games to understand different strategies
* Memorized master games and played blindfold chess to improve her visualization skills
* Studied many endgames
* Played a lot of practice games with family members and friends
* Regularly played in club tournaments

In 1979, at the age of ten, Susan became a National Woman Master after finishing in sixth place in the Hungarian Women’s Championship. In 1982, she earned her first FIDE Master norm after beating a much higher ranked player –Laszlo Liptay- with black pieces in the last round of the Balatonbereny, Hungary tournament. (FIDE is the World Chess Federation.) Soon after that she earned her other two norms and became a FIDE Master and automatically received her Hungarian National Master title as well, since the FIDE Master title is a higher. I asked Susan how she felt when she was just a child, competing against -very strong- adult players, all the time. She told me that she greatly enjoyed the challenge, and it made her feel big, she wanted to be looked at more than just a little girl, she wanted to be taken seriously.

In 1981 she played abroad for the first time, in the World Under-16 Girls’ Championship in Westergate, England. It was a tough tournament, but after defeating two main rivals of the tourney -the English Teresa Needham and the Polish Jolanta Rojek- she only needed a draw in the last round against the American Baracca Shabbaz to win 1st place. So even though she was up a pawn, she could agree to a draw and with that she captured the World Under-16 Girl Chess Champion title.

Susan, even though she was a top-class player- was left out of many chess tournaments due to being a female chess player. According to Susan, her the most painful experience was when she was denied the chance to compete in the Men’s World Chess Championship, -after qualifying for it from the overall Hungarian Championship- providing her an unreasonable explanation that it was only for men and she could not represent Hungary. The most shocking fact was that she was officially the #1 ranked female player on the July 1984 world rating list, but still FIDE would not allow her to play. I can only imagine the sadness she must have experienced at that time, but she turned her frustration to strength and from then on -because of this unfair treatment-, she tirelessly fought for equality in chess. In the 1986 FIDE Congress she finally achieved that they officially changed the name of this event, leaving the “Men’s” part out of it and making the title the World Chess Championship. So due to Susan’s incredible success in chess and her courage to stand up and fight for her beliefs, today girls and women can compete in chess tournaments among men.

Susan‘s prowess in chess rightfully earned her a place to be in the highest circles of the chess world and this gave her the opportunity to not only meet, but play chess with many of the most elite chess players and world champions of our times. Among them were Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov and Anand.

In 1984, after ten years of hard work and sacrifices, Susan became an International Master. In the summer of 1988, in Royan, France, Susan earned her very first GM (grandmaster) norm. A year later, she earned her second GM norm, in Leon, Spain. Also, in 1988, she was selected with her two sisters –Sophia and Judit- along with Ildiko Madl to represent Hungary in the Olympiad in Thesasaloniki, Greece. Susan played on the first board all the fourteen games -without a break- and scored 10.5 and did not lose a single game! Her sisters and Ildiko also performed well and the Hungarian teenage team won the Olympiads, beating the “unbeatable” Soviet team.

In 1990, the Hungarian team –with the same players- won the gold medal again in Novi Sad. But besides the team’s gold medal, the Polgar sisters also won individual gold medals on board one, two and three. (Ildiko Madl only played two games at this time.) This time, Susan scored 11 points, winning eight games and drawing six. This again, was truly an unbelievable achievement at such a high-class competition.

In January of 1991, Susan earned her final GM norm in Pamplona, Spain and with that she became the first woman ever to earn the highest chess title of International Grandmaster. When I asked her what it meant to her to achieve this great height in chess, she told me that: “It was very special to me. Even when I was a teenager, many professional players doubted me. They simply didn’t believe that it was possible for a woman to meet all the requirements to earn the Men’s Grandmaster title. I was very eager to get there and was working very hard for many years. So when I finally earned the title, it was justification as well as fulfillment of my long-awaited dream.”

In 1992, the Hungarian Chess Federation organized the Blitz (5 min.) and Rapid (30 min.) Women’s World Championship in Budapest. Susan scored 22.5 points out of 25 games and won 1st place. In the fifteen-round rapid tournament, she collected 12 points without losing a single game and again finished ahead of her sisters, at 1st place. Susan repeated these phenomenal performances in later years and in 1996 she won her fourth Women’s World Chess Championships. To add to that, she is the only World Champion, male or female, who ever won the triple crown (blitz, rapid and classical world championships). She is also a five-time Olympic Chess Champion who collected ten overall medals (five gold, four silver, and one bronze). When I asked her about her favorite game, she told me that it was from the 2004 Olympiad, in Calvia, against Maia Chiburdanidze, the former Women's World Champion. I looked at the game. It was truly brilliant, full of tactical ideas and strategic maneuvering. In the endgame, Susan had two passed pawns -supported by her rook- that were unstoppable, so after the 39th move Chiburdanidze resigned.

Susan holds a record for 56 consecutive Olympiad game unbeaten streak and all on board one. In fact, she has never lost a single game. In 2005, Susan played 326 simultaneous games (won 309, drew 14 and lost only 3), and by doing so, she broke four previous world records. In 2006, she became the Woman’s Chess Cup Champion. She won the US Open Blitz Chess Championship three times, in 2003, in 2005 and in 2006, ahead of all the other male participants.

When I asked her how she could become such a strong chess player -in other words, what was her recipe for success- she told me “The love of the game was number one, then discipline, but also, perseverance and motivation were essential too.”

In describing herself as a chess player, I learned that first, she wants to achieve a solid base, so she plays the opening carefully. She always plans ahead, looks at the whole picture and reacts to the needs of the situation at all times. So in order to succeed, one must be a flexible, universal player.

In 2002, Susan founded the Susan Polgar Foundation, a non-profit organization to promote chess as an educational tool –especially among girls-, as well as a social and a competitive activity. She is also the director of SPICE, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence where she has been coaching the Knight Raiders Chess Team. She expressed to me that she greatly enjoys sharing her knowledge with her students and loves to see them improve and perform well in tournaments.

Her chess team recently had a huge success at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, beating teams like Yale and Stanford. The TTU Knight Raiders made the Final Four in its first try in Division I. They won the Final Four which is the National Division I Championship in the second try, in spite of being the lowest seed. Again, she made history.

In an article called, “Knight Raiders Win National Championship” Paul Truong said that: “Susan became the first female to coach a men’s Division I team to the National Championship. You cannot even imagine, let’s say, a female coaching a men’s basketball team or men’s football team to the national title, but in chess, she showed that it can happen.”

She dominated the coaching scene by coaching 3 different teams with 2 different universities, TTU and Webster University, to win three straight Final Four Championships.

Susan also sponsors and organizes several prominent annual events, such as the Susan Polgar World Open and National Open for Boys and Girls, the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls Championship and the prestigious SPICE Cup at TTU and Webster University.

Over the years, Susan won many impressive awards for her work. Here are some examples:

* “Coach of the Year” (2013)
* “US Scholastic Chess Ambassador” (2006, again, she was the first recipient ever)
* “Chess Educator of the Year” (2003, she was the first recipient ever)
* Three-time Winner of the Chess Journalists of America Award for Best Magazine Column and Best Endgame Analysis

I asked Susan what her message is to today’s young chess players. This is what she responded: “I believe chess is a great opportunity. Whether you just play for fun or play competitively, you improve your thinking skills and learn many life skills. Also, you can use chess to open doors to a better future. In the United States there are more than thirty colleges that offer chess scholarships. In addition, chess can also help you get job interviews and potentially help you get hired. It truly has countless benefits.” I could not agree with her more.

Susan Polgar truly made a difference in the world. By breaking the gender barrier, she proved that woman can play chess just as well as men or even better. Due to her efforts to achieve equality in chess, today, girls and women do not have to go through any hurdles –that she experienced- but can freely play chess anywhere in the world. In my view, sports must have freedom, so that any athlete/player can reach their full potentials without facing unnecessary obstacles along the way. Susan is one of the purest examples of motivation and perseverance; she showed the world that everything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard. She is my inspiration and I am certain that there are many others out there who feel the same way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

About Webster University Chess Team

Webster University Final Four roster:

- Grandmaster Wesley So (board 1 for the Filipino Olympiad team), freshman, who is the No. 1-ranked overall player in the Philippines and No. 2 under 21 player in the world. He also recently reached the "Super" Grandmaster rating, one of only about 50 current players in the entire chess world of more than 700 million players to break that mark.

- Grandmaster Ray Robson (member of the US Olympiad team), freshman, who is the youngest American ever to achieve the Grandmaster title, currently ranked No.6 overall in the U.S. and No. 9 under 21 player in the world.

- Grandmaster Georg Meier (board 2 for the German national team), sophomore, ranked No. 2 overall in Germany. He is a member of the last 2 Final Four Championship teams.

- Grandmaster Fidel Corrales Jimenez (board 3 for Cuban Olympiad team), freshman, the overall No. 3-ranked player in Cuba.

- Grandmaster Manuel Leon Hoyos (board 1 for Mexican Olympiad team), freshman, ranked No. 1 overall in Mexico and reigning U.S. Open Champion. (Alternate)

- Grandmaster Anatoly Bykhovsky, junior, ranked No. 20 overall in Israel. He was a member of the Final Four Championship teams for the past 3 straight years. (Alternate)

Chess Team Accomplishments

The Webster University chess team has been ranked #1 in Division I College Chess since its inception in August 2012. It has never relinquished the top ranking.

National Championships (9)

August 2012

- 2012 U.S. Open Championship: 1st place (GM Manuel Leon Hoyos)
- 2012 U.S. Open Rapid (g/15) Championship: 1st place (GM Andre Diamant and IM Vitaly Neimer)
- 2012 U.S. Open Blitz Championship: 1st place (GM Andre Diamant), 2nd place (GM Anatoly Bykhovsky)

December 2012

- 2012 PanAm Intercollegiate Championship: Both A and B team tied for 1st place
- 2012 PanAm Intercollegiate Championship: Top reserve player (GM Manuel Leon Hoyos)

April 2013

- 2013 College Chess Final Four: 1st place (GMs Georg Meier, Wesley So, Ray Robson, Fidel Corrales Jimenez, Manuel Leon Hoyos, and Anatoly Bykhovsky)

June 2013

- 2013 National Open: 1st place (GMs Wesley So and Manuel Leon Hoyos)
- 2013 National Open Blitz Championship: 1st place (GM Wesley So)

- 2013 National G/10 Championship at National Open: 1st place (GM Wesley So)

State Championships (3)

September 2012

- 2012 Missouri State Championship: 1st place (GM Denes Boros and GM Anatoly Bykhovsky)
- 2012 Missouri State Rapid Championship: 1st place (GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez)
- 2012 Missouri State Blitz Championship: 1st place (GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez)

Major International Events

August 2012

- 2012 World Chess Olympiad (Istanbul, Turkey): Team Silver in Group A (GM Ray Robson - USA)
- 2012 World Chess Olympiad (Istanbul, Turkey): Team Bronze in Group B (GM Wesley So - Philippines)

January 2013

- 2013 World Cup Qualifier: GM Wesley So qualified for the 2013 World Cup which will take place in Tromsø, Norway in August 2013

February 2013

- 2013 Reykjavik Open: Co-champion (GM Wesley So)
- 2013 Grenke Baden Baden Chess Classis: Webster GM Georg Meier drew the reigning World Champion Anand both games in their 2-game encounter

May 2013

- 2013 Calgary International: 1st place (GM Wesley So)

Major U.S. Events (7)

October 2012

- 2012 SPICE Cup Open: 1st place (GM Ray Robson), 2nd place (GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez), 3rd place (IM Vitaly Neimer)

November 2012

- 2012 Thanksgiving Open in St. Louis: 1st place (GMs Georg Meier, Fidel Corrales Jimenez, Denes Boros)
- 2012 SLCC GM Invitational: 1st place (IM Vitaly Neimer)

January 2013

- 2013 Cardinal Open: 1st place (GM Andre Diamant)

March 2013

- 2013 Philadelphia Open: 1st place (GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez)

April 2013

- 2013 St. Louis Open Championship: 1st place (GMs Wesley So, Georg Meier, and Manuel Leon Hoyos)

- 2013 Chicago Open: 1st place (Ray Robson)

Additional collegiate chess records

• 1st team in history (Webster University) to be ranked #1 in the nation in the first year of forming a team (August 2012 - now)
• 1st team in history (Webster University) to qualify for the Final Four in the first year of forming a team (December 2012)
• 1st team in history (Webster University) to be seeded #1 in the Final Four in the first year of forming a team (April 2013)
• 1st female (Susan Polgar) to coach a men's team to the National Championship (2011)
• 1st female (Susan Polgar) to coach a men’s team to back to back National Championships (2011-2012)
• 1st female (Susan Polgar) to coach a men’s team to 3 straight National Championships (2011-2013)
• 1st coach, male or female, to win National Championships with 2 different schools (TTU 2011-2012, and Webster U 2013)
• 1st college team with 4 GMs (Fall 2011)
• 1st college team with 5 GMs (Spring 2012)
• 1st college team with 8 GMs (Fall 2012)
• Most points scored in the Final Four (April 2013 - Webster University finished with 9.5 points)
• Largest margin of victory in the Final Four (April 2013 - Webster University finished 2.5 points ahead of 2nd place UTD)
• 1st person (Susan Polgar) to be named College Chess Coach of the Year (April 2013)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Finally hoisting the Final Four Championship Cup!

The Webster University Final Four Championship team finally has a chance to hoist the President's Cup today, April 29, instead of April 7 at the Closing Ceremony.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Webster Journal Guest Commentary

Guest commentary 
Webster Journal 

By Paul Truong 
11-time national champion 
Director of Marketing for SPICE 

 In this very difficult economy, this is a critical strategical question that all businesses must ask themselves. It’s a challenging chess move which business owners, chief executive officers, as well as university presidents and provosts must make. 

Let’s say you own a restaurant with great food and service. But business is slow. Do you spend money to advertise, or do nothing and hope for the best? The right business decisions propel companies to the top, while the wrong ones put companies out of business. 

The same goes with higher learning institutions. There are countless good universities, and they’re going after a similar pool of students. In order to have an advantage, universities have to promote to be known locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. This is expensive. And even if they do, there’s no guarantee that the right audience will see it. 

Some universities choose to spend millions to advertise. Some choose to do it through athletics (football, basketball, baseball, etc.). There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Every university is different. Each has different needs. Even after these universities succeed in getting their names out, they still have to make a compelling case for the students and their parents to choose them. 

These are difficult chess moves which presidents, provosts and marketing departments must navigate through. Standing pat and doing nothing will surely lead to failure. 

Why chess? 

And why was this a brilliant move by President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster? 

A top-ranked chess program costs a fraction of a nationally ranked football or basketball program. But the benefits can be much greater in many ways. 

Here is why: 

Outside of soccer (FIFA has more than 200 member nations), chess is the second most popular sport in the world (FIDE, the world chess federation, has more than 175 member nations). According to the latest statistic, there are more than 700 million players worldwide, and 45 million in the United States alone. About half of this number is K-12 children and adolescents. 

Chess is a global game and Webster University is a global university. When the chess team succeeds on the biggest stage, it will not only promote and boost the image of the Webster Groves campus, but all of the campuses across the United States and around the world. Chess has been scientifically proven to help young people do better in school. 

This is why chess is a part of the school curriculum in more than 40 countries. And statistically speaking, students who play chess collectively have higher grade-point averages. 

Many universities offer chess scholarships and create chess programs. They want to dip into this big pool of top-notch students. FYI: The average GPA of the Webster Final Four Championship team is around 3.6, and they’re all full-time students. A recent national scholastic event in Nashville, Tenn., drew 5,335 K-12 players, plus around 15,000 parents, coaches and siblings. Countless scouts and university recruiters were there for the same reason. 

Chess is the best kept secret for universities. It’s inexpensive and brings great results. Some other universities provide a lot more chess scholarships than Webster. But they didn’t have the same success. Many professional football, basketball and baseball teams spend big money but don’t win championships. The New York Yankees, New York Knicks and Dallas Cowboys are just a few glaring examples. 

Lindenwood University created their chess program at the same time as Webster. They offer a lot more scholarships. But they didn’t make the Final Four. They also didn’t get the same national and international coverage. The chess scholarship budget of the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) and some other universities are bigger than Webster University. But that didn’t yield the same success. 

Therefore, it’s very clear that Webster didn’t buy a championship. They simply did a better job in scouting for the right personnel. President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster made a better decision than other universities to bring this world-class chess program to St. Louis. This is what it takes to checkmate the competition, not money. 

Even with four freshmen, Webster is ranked as the No. 1 Division I team in the nation since its inception in August 2012, and won the Final Four eight months later, ahead of Yale University, Princeton University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, Washington University, Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), New York University, Texas Tech University, UT Dallas, University of Maryland in Baltimore, etc. This is unheard of in the history of sports. 

This chess program last year generated national and international coverage of more than 500 newspapers, blogs, TV and radio stations to tens of millions of people. The list includes ESPN, Sports Illustrated, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the New York Daily News, The Washington Post, etc. Webster University was featured this past week on the cover of The Washington Post and other media. 

It’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy, and even if you could, it would cost millions each year. This will result in long-term benefits for Webster in reputation, enrollment, as well as potential donations and sponsorships. It’s a brilliant chess move by our administrators, which will surely benefit the university as a whole. 

The competition is fierce. Every university is actively trying to get a bigger share of the best student pool. President Stroble and Provost Schuster have the long-term strategical vision to take Webster University to the next level. 

In chess, great players will look at the entire board, from both sides, to make the correct assessment and come up with the right strategical plan. To judge a position without seeing the entire picture will lead to definite failure. It takes grandmaster moves to be ahead of the game. I believe that President Stroble and Provost Schuster have clearly made the winning moves. 

Quick facts: In eight months, the Webster chess team has won six national, three state, 11 major titles and broken numerous records. It’s the strongest team in college chess history. To know more about this program, please visit

Here is another excellent opinion piece:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another College Chess Record

After this past weekend at the St. Louis Open, 3 members of the Webster University Final Four Championship team are now above 2700 (USCF) at the same time. This is the first for any American collegiate chess team.

GM Wesley So is now at 2728 USCF. His LIVE FIDE rating is 2705, which makes him the 41st ranked player in the world. He is also the #2 junior in the world, and #1 in the Philippines.


GM Georg Meier is now at 2702 USCF and ranked among the top 100 in the world. He is the top German born player and a key member of the German European Championship team last year.


GM Ray Robson's latest rating is 2700 after the Final Four. He is currently the #1 American born (representing the US) player on both the USCF and FIDE list. He is also the #9 junior in the world.


All three are members of their national team at the Olympiad.

Incoming Webster U freshman GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam is rated 2802 USCF and 2717 FIDE. He will be the first American collegiate player to be above 2800 in USCF rating. Liem is also the former #1 junior in the world and the #1 rated player from Vietnam.


There are 3 requirements for any SPICE members:

1. They must focus in their school work to maintain good grades. My standard is much higher than the standard required by the College Chess Committee. The grade point average of the team is around 3.6 / 4.0 and all students are taking full loads.

2. They must be willing to work hard on their chess to improve. So far, players from SPICE have all reached their peak ratings during their tenure with the program.

3. They must conduct themselves in a professional manner to represent themselves, Webster University, SPICE, their families, and their countries well. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

All The Right Moves

All The Right Moves 
Area boasts a pair of national chess team champions: Vianney High & Webster University 
by Jaime Mowers 
April 12, 2013
A pair of local chess teams are basking in the glow of recent national championship wins.

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.

More here.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Webster Celebrates College Chess Title

Webster Celebrates College Chess Title, As New Hire Pays Off 
by Alan Greenblatt 
April 08, 2013 3:39 PM 

If there's no such thing as bad publicity, how much is good publicity worth? Webster University wants to find out.

Last year, the university didn't have a chess team. On Sunday, its team took home the national college championship, the President's Cup, after winning what is often called the "Final Four" of chess.

Webster, which is located just outside of St. Louis, picked up its team nearly intact last year from Texas Tech. The university hired coach Susan Polgar, who had won two straight championships in Texas, and the whole team came along with her.

Webster's chess team includes eight grandmasters. It's become instantly so dominant that two of its squads qualified for the chess Final Four, although only one was allowed to play.

When it comes to winning championships, Polgar and her players "have been there, individually and collectively," Webster provost Julian Schuster said Monday at a campus rally celebrating the team's victory.

"Let us thank them for what they've done for us," Schuster said. "For the first time in the almost 100-year history of our university, we are the national champion."

Webster, which is now private and non-denominational, was founded as a Catholic women's college and has become known over the years for its performing arts programs and its business school. Its main campus is in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, but Webster boasts almost 100 satellite campuses around the world.

Schuster said in an interview that chess was part of his upbringing in Yugoslavia and that his primary goal in bringing Polgar to Webster was incorporating the game into the intellectual life of the university.

Still, he added, "there's no doubt" that their victory is good news for the university.

At the celebration, members of Webster's media relations team counted reporters in attendance, noting that the weekend tournament had garnered the university national attention (including from NPR).

"The Washington Post was the big one," said Patrick Giblin, Webster's director of public relations, referring to a front-page story that ran Saturday.

Chess has become big business in the St. Louis area. The World Chess Hall of Fame moved to the city two years ago, while St. John Vianney High School in nearby Kirkwood won its second national championship this weekend.

Webster's own champions looked a little shy and sheepish as they entered the campus lounge with their big trophy in tow, joining school administrators and someone wearing the costume of the campus mascot, the cheetah-buffalo-St. Bernard blend Gorlok.

There were no pom-pom girls, tipped cars or burning mattresses, but there were cookies in the shapes of chess pieces.

"I wasn't even aware there was a team," said Brieanna Lee, a psychology major sitting in the lounge, eating french fries and ranch dressing.

But Lee admitted their victory in the chess Final Four was "an accomplishment." Other students who happened to be in the lounge said they "lived in the music basement" or were otherwise "too busy" to follow the chess team, but generally agreed its triumph would help their school nonetheless.

Success builds upon success. Most of Webster's grandmasters hail from other countries, but one of the players from Vianney's winning chess team has expressed an interest in joining them from neighboring Kirkwood.

"What we hope is that the success of our chess team will be perceived as the success of the university in general," Schuster says. "It will permeate through everything we do and will speak to how we do things in the future."


Bringing National Championships to St. Louis

St. Louis quietly celebrates two national chess titles
April 09, 2013 12:05 am • By Jesse Bogan 
St. Louis Post Dispatch

WEBSTER GROVES • As thousands gathered Monday for the Cardinals home opener, two other local teams -- the Gorloks and Golden Griffins -- were already celebrating national championships, but in a much lesser followed event: chess.

Webster University won the Final Four of college chess in Rockville, Md., over the weekend, while St. John Vianney High School took top honors in its division in the U.S. Chess Federation's Supernationals V K-12 tournament in Nashville.

The wins are the latest nod to St. Louis, home of the World Chess Hall of Fame, as it tries to establish itself as the chess mecca. 

As quietly as the game is played, so are its championship celebrations quiet compared with mainstream collegiate football and basketball competitions. About 100 people gathered Monday in a Webster University cafeteria to welcome their winning team home.

Some hooted and hollered. Other students watched curiously from a distance as they ate lunch in silence.

Julian Schuster, provost at Webster and chess enthusiast, told the crowd that the win came from "hard work" and "vision."

"This a great day for all of us," he said.

Not only is it the school's first national chess championship, it's the first year it fielded a team, school officials said. 

Webster's bid to become a chess powerhouse happened just nine months after luring grandmaster and coach Susan Polgar away from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Traditionally thought of as a man's game, Polgar has not only broken the mold, but dominated. Originally from Hungary, this is her third national collegiate chess championship in a row as head coach.

Two of the six players on Webster's winning team followed her from Lubbock. The four others recently came to Webster to play chess for Polgar and the Gorloks, named for the private school's mascot.

All six of the championship players -- including two alternates -- are grandmasters, or top players in chess.

"We hope its the first of many national titles," said Polgar, 44, who wore blue high heels, black slacks and coat with a white T-shirt -- "2013 National Champions."

The players come from all over the world. They are Georg "German Precision" Meier, Wesley "Asian Tiger" So, of the Philippines, Ray "Fearless Attacker" Robson, of Florida, Fidel "Casanova" Corrales Jimenez, of Cuba, Anatoly "Speedy Rocket" Bykhovsky, of Israel, and Manuel "Yucatan Conquistador" Leon Hoyos, of Mexico.

Bykhovsky, who followed Polgar from Texas Tech, won the last match of the tournament. The game lasted four hours. The junior is studying finance. He said he started playing chess young and became a grandmaster by 21.

"I am going to eat with my girlfriend, it's a nice day," he said of how he was going to celebrate.

Leon, 24, a freshman studying economics, won the U.S. Open and is a 4-time Mexican Open champion. He said that many things set his coach apart.

"I feel like I learn just speaking, knowing what her opinion is about many things," he said. 
But Leon couldn't visit long. He had an Italian exam to run to after the celebration in the cafeteria.

Meanwhile, Webster University won its tournament with 9.5 points, beating University of Texas-Dallas, which had 7 points, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 5, and the University of Illinois, 2.5.

Webster dethroned UMBC, the former powerhouse in Maryland. What's more, Alan Sherman, UMBC’s chess director, had predicted Webster would win.

“I think Webster just decided they wanted to win and if they invested more money, they could just outdo the others,” Sherman recently told the Washington Post. “They have the strongest team in the history of college chess. Unlike the UMBC model, where we ramped up over a period of five years, they bought their team in a year.”

Polgar left Texas Tech less than a year ago. Schuster, the Webster University provost, helped lure her here. Both he and school president Beth Stroble traveled to Maryland over the weekend to root for their team.

"Our goal is for these young people to be ambassadors of the university, which they are, and to graduate and go on to great lives," Stroble said in an interview.

A few minutes later, she told the celebratory crowd: "I am proud of an accomplishment that is as strategic and intellectual and academic as it is competitive in any other way."

As a player, Polgar said, she was the first woman to win the grandmaster title and the first woman to qualify for the men's world championship. Now, she said, she mainly just plays chess by computer.

As a coach, she said, she sets herself apart by training players not to attack early, but also by focusing on life away from the chess board. She said the team celebrates birthdays, plays soccer to try to have fun and be in a supportive environment.

"It's a combination of things," she said of her success in coaching. "High expectations. Working hard for it and focusing on team chemistry."

Physical fitness is part of it, too. It's not uncommon for a day's competition to last 10 hours.
"People usually don't realize how important endurance is in a chess competition," she said. "It's very grueling."

She said she left Texas Tech because of a lack of a budget that was promised. She said there was also a lack of understanding and respect for chess there. 

"You know how Texas is everything is about football, football, football, and then maybe some basketball and baseball, chess certainly is not on the list."

She said she liked the chess culture in St. Louis, which hosts the U.S. championship and other competitions.

"We are very comfortable with how chess is being respected as an activity, practically like football would be respected at Texas Tech," she said.

Regarding the small turnout compared with the Cardinals home opener, she said: "I understand it's not like baseball yet, but we are working on you guys."

Full article here: