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On Chess: Saint Louis University makes its opening move in collegiate chess

Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

While the chess world was focused on the Sinquefield Cup, the Saint Louis Chess Club was already planning its next move. The year's strongest tournament, won by Armenia's Levon Aronian, brought together 10 of the top chess players for a two week stay in St. Louis. The next task is to attract even more grandmasters for a longer stay.

The Saint Louis Chess Club is teaming up with Saint Louis University to create the strongest collegiate chess team in the country.

Designed to attract the best and brightest minds internationally, SLU's chess team will compete for some of the most coveted collegiate titles in the country. I myself am lucky and honored to have been selected to be the team’s coach. The program is still in its infancy and is in the recruitment process. (Editor's note: The chess team at Webster University is currently ranked #1.)

Having come from a collegiate chess background, I understand what it takes to create a top-tier team. I am originally from Costa Rica but was attracted by a chess scholarship to attend the University of Texas at Dallas, one of the traditional powerhouses in college chess in the country.

Thanks to this program, the quality, level and popularity of chess in Dallas has simply exploded. I arrived in that Texas city 10 years ago, where I met hopeful youths such as Jeffery Xiong, Ruifeng Li, Sarah Chiang and many others. Thanks to their constant sparring against the university's grandmasters as well as receiving lessons from them, these youngsters are now strong titled players, participating in national championships and breaking records (Jeffery Xiong is among the youngest grandmasters in the history of chess).

The combination of the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center and Saint Louis University will no doubt increase the level of play in the area by leaps and bounds and will be very beneficial for the sport overall. The program is expected to attract grandmasters and titled players from all over the world as well as some of the most talented juniors in the country. Part of the players’ responsibilities will be to give back to St. Louis via community service, lessons at the chess club and to the local youth.

It will be the first time in its nearly 200-year history that SLU offers competitive scholarships and recruits top-tier chess players from around the globe. Surely, this was largely inspired by legendary world champion Garry Kasparov's commencement speech at the university in May. I will be doing my best to uphold the vision of the university as well as the chess club's.

After 10 years in Dallas, it is only natural that I make my way to permanently live in St. Louis. I simply join the growing list of grandmasters who call St. Louis home.

Alejandro Ramirez has become a frequent guest of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, through roles as both the Club’s Resident Grandmaster rotation and as a player in the nation’s elite events. On Chess is provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.