Chris Hrabe’s St. Louis Spotlight: Webster University Chess Team

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The Webster University Chess Team just won its fifth consecutive President’s Cup Collegiate Chess tournament, last month, continuing its dominance as the best college chess team in the country.

And it’s been relatively easy for the team, which touts about a dozen chess grandmasters. Including its head coach Susan Polgar, who was the first female to earn the grandmaster title, when she was 21-years-old. And as the coach and founder of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, she has won the last seven national championships, dating back to her time at Texas Tech University.

See previous Spotlights, here

Polgar’s current team is made up of players from 10 different countries, like grandmasters Vasif Durarbayli from Azerbaijan and Manuel Leon Hoyos of Mexico.

“Though chess I’ve played in 30 countries,” Hoyos says. “But when I came here I was like, you find people from all over the world.”

There have been only 1,600 grandmasters in the history of chess. And a dozen of them are currently on Webster’s campus.

“Normally chess players need to make a special arrangement in meeting with other high level players, and have high-level training camps in their countries or abroad,” Polgar says. “Here, they are neighbors or roommates.”

Senior Liem Le is the captain of this year’s team, and has been the No. 1 ranked chess player from his home country of Vietnam since he was a teenager.

“For some reason, St. Louis has become the chess capital of the United States,” Liem says. “With a lot of chess players relocating to St. Louis.”

And Polgar backs up that opinion, reminding us that St. Louis received national recognition from the U.S. Senate, naming St. Louis the National Chess Capital.

Before the Webster Chess Team, there wasn’t a single grandmaster in the state of Missouri, in the last five years, more than a dozen have lived in St. Louis.

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