Grandmaster Alexander Riazantsev, the current Russian chess champion and European Rapid Chess champion, stopped by Webster University Sunday to talk to the Chess Team, offer them technical pointers, and answer questions about his views on the game of chess.
“This was an honor for Webster and for the members of the chess team to be able to have a strategy session with one of the top chess players in the world,” said Chess Coach Susan Polgar. “Provost Julian Schuster had a connection that allowed us to reach out to him and invite him to the campus, and he kindly offered his time.”
Riazantsev, who serves as one of the coaches of Russia’s Women’s Chess Team, as well as coach for some of the top players in the world, met with the chess team members Sunday afternoon in the SPICE offices in the Luhr Building, where he analyzed move-by-move a previously played championship game, and various variations that could have changed the outcome of the game. Students took notes and asked questions.
Riazantsev displayed a chess board on a screen and talked the students through each move from a championship game. The students asked numerous times why other moves weren’t considered at each step. He then showed them what would happen if they tried their moves and what the likely outcome of the would have been. At times, the discussion became heated as members of the team debated the moves.
The lecture lasted about 90 minutes. Afterward, he answered questions for another 45 minutes about how he trains (he focuses on openings) and whether he enjoys coaching or playing more (he enjoys them both equally). He also officiated an informal training session with the team, when they played a round robin blitz chess tournament against each other for 90 minutes.
“It was very deep. Every line he said was important and he showed just how fast-paced the next level is and how they operate in it,” said Justus Williams, a member of the team and an international relations major with an economics minor. “It’s good to be offered these opportunities, to be in the same room as the Russian champion. How he operates is very different. It was a great learning opportunity.”
Riazantsev also was on campus today (March 6, 2017) to work with team members one-on-one, discuss strategy with Coach Polgar and to meet with Provost Schuster. In addition, he conducted a live-streamed interview with media in Russia about his visit to the United States.
Webster’s team currently is preparing for the President’s Cup collegiate chess championship, also known as the Final of College Chess. Webster’s team, under the guidance of Polgar, has won the tournament four consecutive times and hopes to set a new collegiate chess record by earning a fifth-straight win.
Besides playing tournaments against other universities, Webster’s chess players also compete in individual tournaments. Currently, several members of the team hold individual national championship titles, both in the United States and from other countries. The team currently has eight grandmasters, three international masters, three FIDE masters and one senior master on the roster.
For more information about Webster’s chess team, visit www.webster.edu/spice.