On Chess: 2014 Proved Banner Year For Chess In St. Louis
By BRIAN JERAULD
There should be excitement for what may come in 2015, as each passing year has proved better than the last. As we say goodbye to 2014, here are a few monuments St. Louis built in 2014:
Webster University Wins Second Championship
While the CCSCSL catered to scholastics and professionals, Webster University gave St. Louis strong chess-representation by filling in the collegiate gap. In April, the Webster Groves university’s Grandmaster-laden team won the President’s Cup, the final four of college chess and the most-prestigious national event for post-secondary schools.
It was the second-consecutive championship for Webster, a successful defense of the 2013 crown and clear dividends paid on the decision to bring in legendary coach Susan Polgar, along with her SPICE program (the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) in 2012. Last April’s win was actually Polgar’s fourth-straight President’s Cup win, nabbing her first two at Texas Tech before transferring to the St. Louis suburb.
St. Louis is now a steaming hotbed of collegiate activity, as top students from around the world are pouring into the city to become a part of Webster’s SPICE program — which just sent three teams to the 2014 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship in South Padre Island, Texas, last week. The teams finished first, second and fifth out of 45 teams, again qualifying Webster for the 2015 President’s Cup. A three-peat may be on the horizon.
Arch Bishops Win U.S. Chess League
With St. Louis as nothing less than a high-powered magnet for chess talent, national championships are apparently coming a dime a dozen. In early December, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops became the 2014 champions of the United States Chess League, beating out 18 other cities including the Dallas Destiny in a thrilling final match.
Despite having the sweetest chess team name in history, the Arch Bishops had mustered just a single disheartening playoff appearance in its previous five years within the USCL — though 2014 proved to be a clear season of destiny right from the start. In an outstanding assembly of all the chess starpower that St. Louis could offer, Webster University standout Grandmasters Wesley So and Le Quang Liem teamed up with CCSCSL’s Resident Grandmasters Ben Finegold and Varuzhan Akobian, storming through the regular season and winning the USCL Southern Division.
With a roster balanced by homegrown, up-and-coming power, such as 15-year-old Julian Proleiko and National Master Matt Larson, a junior at Crossroads Prep, the Arch Bishops earned the second seed and marched through playoffs — squeaking by the defending champion Miami Sharks in the semifinals, as well as Dallas in the finals, in nail-biting gauntlet-style Blitz playoffs.
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