By David Gardner In Los Angeles
PUBLISHED: 20:51 EST, 13 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:07 EST, 13 April 2012

It’s not unusual in sport for a richer rival to prey on the best players of a competing team after they’ve found success.

But even the New York Yankees couldn’t match the check-mate move that has shocked the genteel world of chess.

For just days after winning their second consecutive national college chess title the entire Knights Raiders team has jumped ship, poached by another university.

America’s reigning chess queen, four-time world champion and five-time Olympic gold medallist Susan Polgar, masterminded the unprecedented switch.

The team coach is taking all seven of her players with her from Texas Tech to the private Webster University in St Louis, Missouri.

A chess prodigy herself, chess grand master Ms. Polgar became the world’s top ranked female player when she was just 15.

Her team, all chess masters, were offered full scholarships by their new college, an offer that Texas Tech couldn’t match.

The Midwest city is also hosting the US chess championships next month and is home to a brand new 6,000 square foot chess club.

‘St Louis today is the centre of chess in America,’ Ms Polgar told the Associated Press. ‘It just seemed like a perfect fit. The university is an overall good choice for them, but it is a decision each member made individually.

‘We are one family and in that spirit they know how much I fight for them and not just about chess, but with whatever they need help with.

‘They all are international students and it is part of my job to ensure that they find a home away from home. I am very proud and very happy for them,’ she added.

Her team consists of players from around the world, including Germany, Iran, Israel, Brazil, Hungary and Aberbaiijan.

Provost Julian Schuster, a native of the former Yugoslavia who calls himself ‘a very strong fan and casual player,’ helped broker the deal after learning of Ms Polgar’s interest through mutual friends.

He envisions a broader academic focus revolving around chess, espousing a ‘dream of connecting chess as not only a game but as a didactic tool, to apply in a learning setting.’

Neither Ms Polgar nor Schuster would discuss the specifics of the financial commitment to attract the program.

About 30 schools nationwide have competitive chess teams, from Yale and Princeton to Miami-Dade College and the University of West Indies.

And while college chess remains a niche activity, Ms Polgar’s unprecedented move has given the game a brief moment in the spotlight.


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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