Sunday, February 26, 2012

For kids, it’s all about chess

For kids, it’s all about chess
By Lia Russell

NICE Moves with Susan Polgar

Ask most young people what they enjoy doing that’s “free, fun and funky,” and you probably don’t expect to hear “chess.” But a local initiative describes the strategic board game in just that way, and it has children flocking to Lamberts Point Recreation Center every Wednesday to play nice – make that NICE, Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence.

Jeda Leavelle is among those kids. She’s 8 years old and has been playing chess for five years. “Once you know what you’re doing, it’s not that hard,” the Larchmont Elementary second-grader said.

Jeda plans to play in a tournament next weekend hosted by NICE. On Friday and Saturday, the Virginia Queens All-Girl Championship Tournament will be held at Norfolk State University, offering a first in Virginia: the chance for a female to take a state championship title from an all-girls chess tournament. After the tournament, the top player in each of two categories – rated (those who are members of U.S. Chess Federation) and unrated (those with no tournament experience) – will go on to vie in the national championships.

Scholarships and bragging rights are at stake, but the game offers much more. Jeda was one of about 25 children who recently gathered for the weekly after-school program that teaches and promotes chess. She is a regular participant and adheres to the program’s most important rule: Finish homework first. “Playing chess makes me feel proud of myself,” Jeda said.

Increased self-esteem is just one of the goals of NICE, founder and director Lisa Suhay said. “Chess helps kids improve their critical thinking skills,” she said. “Studies have confirmed that playing chess once a week for one year can almost double a student’s standardized test scores.” Chess also helps children with focus and life strategies, according to the U.S. Chess Federation. For girls, it has the added benefit of urging them toward science and math studies – subjects typically dominated by boys. While NICE is open to everyone in the community, including adults, one of its immediate goals is to open the sport of chess to girls.

The statistics tell the story: Of 1,100 International Grandmasters in the world, only two dozen are women, and the only one from the United States is Susan Polgar, a Hungarian-born naturalized citizen. Polgar, a four-time world chess champion and founder of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, will be in Norfolk for the tournament next weekend to support NICE and encourage female partici pation in the game. The top winners also will have the opportunity to play in the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Chess Invitational in St. Louis in July. “Chess can give girls self-confidence and is a tool to show that they are equal in areas that society says is reserved for boys,” Polgar said. Polgar, who started playing at age 4, said people often tried to discourage her from chess in her youth.

“They viewed me like I was from Mars because I wanted to play a boys’ game,” she said. “Even today there is a stigma, but it was much worse then.” The ideal time for children to begin playing chess is between ages 4 and 6, Polgar said.

Arthur Bowman, a biology professor at Norfolk State University, agrees with Polgar and often stops by Lamberts Point Recreation Center to play. He brings along NSU students to serve as mentors to the children. “This program is wonderful for the children and for the community,” Bowman said. “It’s a grass-roots initiative, but it’s really something big.”

NICE is a community partnership among Norfolk Public Schools; the Chrysler Museum of Art; Hackworth Reprographics; Navy Chess; Norfolk State and Old Dominion universities; teachers; parents; The Virginian-Pilot; the Norfolk

Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space; and the Carnegie Math and Science Initiative for Girls.


Virginia Queens All-Girl Championship Chess Tournament Friday what Opening Ceremony and Grandmaster Exhibition by Susan Polgar where Chrysler Museum of Art when 3 to 6 p.m. cost Free Saturday what Tournament Registration and Play where Norfolk State University, New Student Center when Registration: 9 to 9:30 a.m. (though advance registration at www.nicechess. net is encouraged); tournament play: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. cost

Registration and participation are free. For more details www.nicechess. net.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kicking off Women's History Month with FREE events in Norfolk, VA

Susan Polgar will Kick-off Women’s History Month in Norfolk, Virginia

Two days of events:

MARCH 2nd – (a Friday) Chrysler Museum of Art will host International Grandmaster, 1st woman to break the gender barrier in chess, Susan Polgar from 3-5 p.m. Polgar will speak on making history in chess, perform a 15-person simultaneous match (5 girls, 5 boys and 5 top Navy players) and perform a blind-folded exhibition. FREE and open to the public in Huber Court. See

MARCH 3rd –VIRGINIA’s 1st ever ALL-GIRL CHESS CHAMPIONSHIPS – The Virginia Queens’ Tournament will be held at NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Student Union. All Virginia girls ages 5-18. FREE. GM Susan Polgar will be the featured speaker at a Chess in Education seminar for educators and parents given. FREE and open to all. Authorized as CEUs for teachers in Virginia.

These events are organized by the Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE)

For more information please visit or contact NICE Director Lisa Suhay to register.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All-girl chess tourney to be held at Norfolk State University

All-girls chess tourney to be held at Norfolk State University

International chess grandmaster Susan Polgar will lend her support to girls chess and the inaugural Virginia Queens All-Girls Championships.

The Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence will hold the state's first all-girls chess scholarship championships on March 3 at Norfolk State University. The top two girls (one each from the rated and unrated sections) will receive $1,000 scholarships. This tournament to determine the girls state chess champion is free and open to all Virginia girls ages 5 to 18.

On March 2 at 3 p.m., Polgar will celebrate Women's History Month at the Chrysler Museum of Art to play a 15-person simultaneous match with five girls, five boys and five Navy chess players. The event is free to the public.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Susan Polgar Foundation National Open for Girls

A Fantastic Tournament in a Great Location!

June 1 – 3, 2012
(Friday – Sunday *** SAVE THE DATES!!)

Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome
330 Loyola Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70112

The Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, just 3 blocks from the French Quarter. Hotel features include: free shuttle, restaurant, pool, and more!




MAIN EVENT: Team & Individual - 6-Round Swiss System

SIDE EVENTS: Bughouse – Blitz – Puzzle Solving – Polgar Simul – Aquatic Simul

$99 Hotel Room Rate

* Top 3 player scores count toward team result

* School or club team trophies awarded in each section

* Special Camp with Susan Polgar

* Breakfast With Susan Polgar (Q & A Session)




Please check tournament websites for more details:

Friday, February 03, 2012

Webster University acquired SPICE and Champion US College Chess Team

Webster University
Department of Public Relations
470 E. Lockwood Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63119

Media Contact:
Susan Kerth
Interim Director of Public Relations
314.246.8232 (office)
314.220.9130 (cell)

Checkmate! Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) and Champion U.S. College Chess Team Moving to Webster University

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 3, 2012 – Building on St. Louis’ growing reputation as a world-class chess center, Webster University is making some exciting chess moves. The University today announced that chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar, World and Olympiad Champion, and her Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE), will relocate to Webster from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, on June 1, 2012. In addition, all members of the reigning national collegiate champion Texas Tech “A” chess team will transfer to Webster and be enrolled at the University in the 2012-2013 academic year.

“Chess is increasingly valued for its instructional impact,” said Webster President Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble. “Globally, educators recognize chess as a tool to cultivate interest and success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines. At Webster, SPICE and Susan Polgar will be leaders in promoting chess as a vehicle for global diversity and academic excellence, for enriching the education of children and for promoting women’s chess.”

“We are excited to be the new home of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence,” said Dr. Julian Z. Schuster, Webster University provost and senior vice president. “The mission of SPICE is to be the nation’s premier center for chess education, research, technology and outreach. Our partnership with Susan Polgar and SPICE at Webster will allow us to support and promote competitive chess at the college level. Chess has always been a global game and this important step brings a global game in these global times to a truly global university. We are excited to further enhance the image of St. Louis as a global chess center. ”

“According to recent statistics, there are about 1 billion chess players in the world,” Polgar said. “SPICE, therefore, is a perfect fit for Webster University’s global vision and presence, and I am extremely impressed with Webster’s commitment to excellence in chess and education. I am also very excited to be in the St. Louis area, near the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, the hot spot for chess in the United States, thanks to Mr. Rex Sinquefield.”

The chess players who will either transfer to Webster from Texas Tech or enroll as incoming freshmen include eight Grandmasters and two International Masters, and the team is expected to rank No. 1 in the nation in Fall 2012. “No team in the long and prestigious history of college chess has had eight Grandmasters before,” Polgar said.

Polgar, who is one of the strongest female chess players in history, is the winner of four world championships and the only world champion in history – male or female – to win the Triple-Crown (Rapid, Blitz and Classical Chess world championships). She is the first woman to break the gender barrier to qualify for the Men’s World Championship Cycle, earn the Men’s Grandmaster title, and to receive the Grandmaster of the Year Award. In 2011, Polgar became the first female head coach to lead a men’s Division 1 team (Texas Tech University) to the national title.

With its home campus in St. Louis, Webster University ( is the only Tier 1, private, non-profit U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses. Founded in 1915, Webster University’s campus network today includes metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as traditional residential campuses in Asia, Europe and North America. The university is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.

# # #

The following students have been accepted / committed to Webster University for the Fall 2012 (August)

Grandmaster Georg Meier - Germany - Sophomore
Grandmaster Wesley So - Philippines - Freshman
Grandmaster Ray Robson - USA - Freshman
Grandmaster Manuel Leon Hoyos - Mexico - Freshman
Grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi - Iran - Graduate student
Grandmaster Anatoly Bykhovsky - Israel - Junior
Grandmaster Andre Diamant - Brazil - Junior
Grandmaster Denes Boros - Hungary - Junior
International Master Vitaly Neimer - Israel - Sophomore
International Master - elect Faik Aleskerov - Azerbaijan - Graduate student

A BIG thank you to Texas Tech University

I would like to thank Texas Tech University for their incredible support for chess and SPICE in the past five years. I would also like to thank all the donors and supporters, without whom, SPICE could have never achieved this kind of success.

Chess will continue at Texas Tech and I will do everything possible to make sure that the transition with the new Director / Coach will be super smooth. My job is not finished yet as we still have a National Championship to defend in the end of March.

I am very proud to be a part of the Texas Tech family for the past 5 years. We have made a lot of history together. It has been an incredible experience and I will never forget all the wonderful memories.

As someone who has constantly looking to raise the bar and breaking through barriers in chess for nearly 40 years, I could not pass up the opportunity to work with Webster University on a global level, and to bring some of the world's best young talents to SPICE in St. Louis. My goal is to help the next generation of talented young players excel in chess while obtaining a fantastic college education.

There will be more SPICE programs in other universities in the near future. But my base operation will be in St. Louis for many years to come. Once again, thank you for everything. This is not the end of an amazing chapter. It is just the beginning of something even more magnificent.

Best wishes,
Susan Polgar
Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE