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St. Louis: the new home of collegiate chess

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 8, 2012 - In just the past few days, St. Louis has become the new home of collegiate chess in that U.S. Lindenwood University and Webster University have become the two latest institutions to offer chess scholarships, and each is committed to a developing a world-class program.

The Chess Club and Lindenwood have been in talks for a few months about the possibility of getting a strong chess team at that university. The club is serving mainly in an advisory capacity as university officials have begun actively recruiting the top chess talent from across the country and the world.

Lindenwood wanted to be different from other top chess schools by offering many more scholarships and packages for the strongest chess players and for developing chess players as well. University officials are hoping that the "A" team will be filled with grandmasters and international masters, but they said they also hope to get 20-25 other chess players to come to the school, which would give them four to five teams available for competition (usually chess collegiate teams are four to five players).

The university is retaining me as their coach, and I have already received e-mails and phone calls from prospective chess players finishing high school from all over the world. Lindenwood wants to create a great chess atmosphere at the school, along with great academics.

Webster University stepped into the national chess spotlight after pulling off a major coup by luring GM Susan Polgar and the SPICE program (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) to St. Louis. Susan is bringing her championship chess team from Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, to Webster, along with a number of top players. The Webster team will feature eight grandmasters and two international masters, which creates two formidable teams.

Susan said she felt that this would be a perfect location for her chess team as the Chess Club and Scholastic Center and World Chess Hall of Fame have already made St. Louis the center of chess in the U.S. Susan, her husband Paul Truong, and their family will move permanently to the St. Louis area in June, and the strong grandmasters will soon follow for the fall 2012 semester.

The city of St. Louis is the big winner here, as many of the students in these programs will be able to play in strong events at the Chess Club, and the development of both of these programs will continue to bring international attention to our city. Prior to these monumental announcements, St. Louis was clearly the center of chess in the U.S., and starting in the fall of 2012, I think it would be safe to call us the chess center of the world!{jcomments on}

Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.