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Entire Chess Team Follows 'Queen' To New School


Intercollegiate chess is not regulated by the NCAA, so the two-time national champion Knight Raiders, the chess club at Texas Tech, are doing what would be impossible in the more profitable publicized and regulated world of, say, college basketball, football or other sports.

Susan Polgar, the Texas Tech coach, is moving to Webster University in St. Louis and she's taking the entire team with her. Polgar is, herself, a grand master, a former women's world champion and a one-time child prodigy from Hungary and she joins us now from Lubbock, Texas.

Hi. Welcome to the program.

SUSAN POLGAR: Hi. It's a pleasure (unintelligible).

SIEGEL: Now, you should explain. A few years ago, you set up the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, SPICE, at Texas Tech. Isn't it disloyal to leave and pack it in for St. Louis?

POLGAR: Well, what happened was, when we moved here, we were promised that there will be support of scholarships. And, unfortunately, that never really materialized and, for the past five years, we entirely relied on a private donor that supported the scholarships to be able to recruit excellent student and chess players and...

SIEGEL: And has Webster University guaranteed scholarships for all?

POLGAR: Yes. Webster University has committed to give them comparable scholarships as what they got here at Texas Tech and that was the reason why this whole idea of moving came about.

SIEGEL: Now, when seven students all decide to transfer to another university where they'll get scholarships, it sounds as if they weren't all that attached to their degree program or their professors or their advisors at Texas Tech. Didn't anyone say, but I'm really involved in the department here or, you know, this is where I've really gotten academically involved?

POLGAR: Well, they have all been recruited by the chess program and, to be quite frank, based on their statements, they never heard of Texas Tech University in Azerbaijan or Germany or Brazil.

SIEGEL: They hadn't heard about Bobby Knight in Azerbaijan?

POLGAR: Apparently not.

SIEGEL: Apparently not.

POLGAR: Yeah. Other than the chess program - and, obviously, once they came here, they enjoyed very much their stay here and appreciated the education they got. However, the primary decisive reason why they chose Texas Tech - because of the SPICE program.

SIEGEL: Sometimes, when professional teams move, you know, it's for the big stadium or the arena that somebody's willing to build there. I gather, at Webster University in St. Louis, there is a big chess facility that you're going to be able to use.

POLGAR: Yes. It was a nice coincidence that even though the sponsor behind the St. Louis Chess Club didn't have anything directly to do with our moving to Webster, but nevertheless, it's very nice that, for our team members, the world famous St. Louis Chess Club, which is the venue of the U.S. championships for the past few years and in the coming-up championship in May, we'll be right around the corner about a 10-minute drive from the Webster campus.

SIEGEL: At Texas Tech, your seven players were the Knight Raiders. That's Knight with a K.


SIEGEL: Both as in the chess piece and former basketball coach, Bob Knight, perhaps. And, at Webster University, what will the name of the team be?

POLGAR: Well, their athletic teams are called the Garlics(ph), so...

SIEGEL: The Garlics?

POLGAR: No. Gorloks.

SIEGEL: Oh, Gorloks.


SIEGEL: The Gorloks? I say that like it makes sense. They're called the Gorloks?

POLGAR: Yeah. It hails from kind of a funny thing that Webster University is Lockwood Avenue and where it meets with Gore, they simple took the first three letters of the two street names.

SIEGEL: Well, Susan Polgar, we'll be keeping an eye on the Gorloks of Webster University and how they fare next year when you take SPICE, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, with you to that campus. Thanks a lot.

POLGAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.