Sunday, August 16, 2009

The secrets of success

Polgar: Interview with chess champions: The secrets of success
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Story last updated at 8/16/2009 - 1:53 am

In this week's column, Rich Rice, Ph.D., associate professor in English at Texas Tech, interviews me, Gergely Antal, and Assistant Head Coach Paul Truong.

Gergely is an international chess master from Hungary who plays for the Knight Raiders at Tech. He was recruited by the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, and two weeks ago in Indianapolis he won the U.S. Tournament of College Champions, the first national chess championship for Texas Tech.

RR: Congratulation Gergely! Tremendous achievement. Really, something.

GA: Thank you. But this isn't just my win. The national title goes to the Knight Raiders, to SPICE, and to Texas Tech. It's a team effort.

RR: Do you feel extra pressure being the first titled player recruited by SPICE? You're an international master, and now you're being recognized as one of the top players in college chess today.

GA: Not sure if you'd call it pressure; I just wanted to play my best. The confidence Susan has in me is important to my playing. I also wanted to make my teammates, SPICE, and Texas Tech proud. I'm very thankful for everyone's support. Studying and playing in Lubbock has really been a life experience for me.

RR: It's great having you here, Gergely. Susan, what do you look for when recruiting chess players for the team?

SP: A number of things, actually. First, I look for excellent students who take their education seriously, and who would appreciate the opportunity to receive an excellent education at Tech. That's most important. Second, I look for people who really want to learn and grow as individuals and chess players. We work hard. Third, we need team players, good citizens, and people who know the importance of positively representing Texas Tech.

RR: Chess is both art and science, certainly, and it has the ability to help others focus on what they're doing in life. Paul, what does this national championship brought about by Gergely's play mean to SPICE?

PT: In my opinion, this national title is unprecedented in college chess. With such spirited competition in the college chess arena, to win a national championship in less than two years in the development of a program says volumes about Susan's ability to spot talent, recruit and coach. She models excellence. Gergely is part of the first recruiting class. To hit a homerun so soon is very special. It says that we are on the right track, and that this program is heading in the right direction.

RR: What goals do you have for SPICE and the Knight Raiders in coming years?

PT: We have high expectations. Unlike other college sports where there are limits to the number of players in the program, chess is quite different. The more the better. And many young players now want to come to Texas Tech to play chess. No world or Olympic champion has ever run a chess institute or coached a college team before. Texas Tech and SPICE have hosted world-class, prestigious events like the SPICE Cup, SPICE Spring Invitational, and the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. If we're able to continue, we will play a role in significantly increasing the number of highly intelligent students at Tech.

RR: That's great to hear. And what is SPICE doing in the community?

PT: We've been working with Tech, the city of Lubbock, Lubbock Independent School District, Wolfforth Library, and many others. I am confident that SPICE will continue to grow in strength. One of our goals is to make the final four in the upcoming Pan-American Championship, which is the most prestigious national team chess championship in the U.S. Another goal is to work with Region 17 and LISD to promote scholastic chess. We'd like to continue to attract local students to attend college here. We've also been working to develop research projects that investigate correlations between chess and education, between chess and Alzheimer's, between chess and math, chess and computers, chess and engineering ... Winning national championships and developing research agendas can help Tech in its effort to become a tier one university.

RR: These are all very important things. Susan, what is the difference between being a professional player and being the head coach of the Knight Raiders?

SP: Not much, really. I apply some of the same principles to coaching that I've used since I started playing when I was 4. Discipline, diligence, practice, reflective inquiry, integrity, etc. Every coach uses different methods to maximize his or her players' potential for success. I communicate carefully and motivate my players thoughtfully. And, our players are very good. Gergely is one example.

RR: Final question. How do you like Lubbock now that you have been here for almost two years?

SP: I love it! My children love it! We love Texas Tech. We love Lubbock. We love the people we work with. We love the warmth and hospitality of the people in this community. When I came to town back in early 2007 to discuss the idea of moving to Lubbock to start SPICE, I was told that Texas Tech is committed to SPICE for a long, foreseeable future. I plan to be here for a long time and continue a tradition of excellence.

RR: Thank you all for your time and congratulations, Gergely, again, for capturing the first national chess championship for Texas Tech. I hope more will be in our future.
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