By Seth Stevenson
Before any of the six entrants in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup had nudged a white pawn to e4, they’d already been hailed as the strongest collection of chess talent ever assembled. The tournament, held in St. Louis, featured the top three players in the game. The weakest competitor in the field was the ninth best chess player on the planet.
The favorite was current world No. 1 and reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen. The young Norwegian—who is among the best players in the history of chess—strolled into the lounge of the St. Louis Chess Club as the most alluring grandmaster ever, a brilliant, handsome 23-year-old with a modeling contract for the clothing company G-Star Raw. Forget about his overmatched foes. If anything could stop Carlsen, his fans reckoned, it would be the swirl of distractions occupying the parts of his brain not given over to memorizing Nimzo-Indian variations.
As the tournament began on Aug. 27, Carlsen was mired in an ongoing faceoff with FIDE, the international governing body of chess….
…Sinquefield launched the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in 2008 on a quaint, brick-laden block in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. The center has 6,000 square feet of playing halls, libraries, and classrooms, and more than 1,000 dues-paying members. Across the street—past a phalanx of outdoor chess tables arranged on the sidewalk—sits the World Chess Hall of Fame. Sinquefield apparently dug its archives out of mothballs from some sad venue in Florida, augmented the existing collection with his own trove of chess memorabilia, and housed it all in a gorgeous, dedicated facility replete with a gift shop full of Bobby Fischer tchotchkes. Not far from here, on the same side of the city, is Webster University, home to the nation’s best college chess team.
Together, these institutions have made St. Louis the new center of American chess. Susan Polgar, among the best female chess players ever, relocated here to coach the Webster team.
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