The reigning queen of college chess, fresh from a second straight national championship with her Texas Tech team, is decamping for another college with all the top players, shaking up the library-quiet world of chess.
Coach Susan Polgar, four-time chess world champion and five-time Olympic Gold Medalist, said today that she made the move to assure that the education of her team of collegiate champions would be protected.
“After we won the Final Four, I was hoping that the team’s support would be ensured to enable our students to continue with their studies,” Polgar said. ”But [Texas Tech] wasn’t able to ensure my students in a timely manner that they would have scholarships so they could graduate on time.”
Polgar decided to leave her position as chess coach at Texas Tech early last summer and all seven of her division one champion team members have decided to come with her. Polgar and her team, made up of international students ranging from freshman to graduate levels, will make the move from Lubbock, Texas to St. Louis and private Webster University.
Webster was able to provide guaranteed comparable scholarships for each student, Polgar said. Students will have access to the nearby World Chess Hall of Fame and the U.S. World Championships in a city Polgar calls the center of chess in America.
“The university is an overall good choice for them, but it is a decision each member made individually,” Polgar said. “Their interest in Texas Tech came from the combination of the chess program and academics so it was natural for them to follow the program.”
But as their teacher, coach, and self-proclaimed honorary team mom, Polgar said she wasn’t surprised by her students’ decisions to leave with her.
“We are one family and in that spirit they know how much I fight for them and not just about chess, but with whatever they need help with,” Polgar said. “They all are international students and it is part of my job to ensure that they find a home away from home. I am very proud and very happy for them.”
Texas Tech spokesman Chris Cook told the Southeast Missourian that the school will continue its chess program despite the loss of the top coach and seven grandmasters on the team.
“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.”