You may not know this, but St. Louis, Missouri is fast becoming the chess capital of the world.
Local philanthropist Rex Sinquefield is an enormous chess fan. He bankrolled the St. Louis Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club
. Mr. Sinquefield also assisted in our local Webster University's efforts to recruit the number one college chess team in the U.S. from Texas Tech University.
The Webster University chess team is led by Hungarian-born, American Grandmaster Susan Polgar
. Ms. Polgar became the top-ranked female chess player in the world at the age of 15. She remained in the top three for the following 23 years. She broke the gender barrier in chess by qualifying for the men's chess championship in 1986.
We have been lucky to hear several talks given locally by Grandmaster Polgar and she discussed what it took to have her collegiate chess players win the NCAA chess championships for 4 years in a row. Believe it or not, the chess team exercises regularly and intensely. In long chess tournaments, endurance and stamina are essential to success. This is why they exercise so much.
The Webster U chess team has international players from around the world: Israel, Vietnam, Brazil, the Philippines, Germany, Cuba, Mexico and Hungary.
And, luckily for those of us living in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, Ms. Polgar and the chess team believe in giving back to the community. The team has partnered with the Webster Groves School District to start chess clubs at each of the grade schools. The teams meet at least once a week before or after school and the University players act as coaches and mentors.
Our family has been lucky enough to be able to participate on these local chess teams. At our school, Clark Elementary, local Master and friend Jim Voelker and his wife Joan have volunteered countless hours launching the new chess club. Our sons Ismail, Yusuf and Ibrahim have all participated in the chess club.
Last month, the School District and the Webster U Chess Team hosted the first annual WGSD Chess Championship. All three boys participated. In the 4th-6th grade division, Yusuf won 3rd place and won the 5th grade trophy. In the K-3rd grade division, Ibrahim won 3rd place. The boys even got their picture taken with GM Polgar.
Susan Polgar & Ibrahim Hacking (8).
Chess offers many lessons for life and, for our purposes, dealing with the immigration service. Ms. Polgar has often said that when playing a game - like chess or trying to get an immigration benefit - you need to think about the end game. You need to have the end result in mind and work towards that end, diligently and intelligently. Many players know how to play the game, but they don't always know how to finish the game.
So too with immigration. When dealing with immigration, you are facing a worth adversary. An adversary with all of the resources of the federal government. When you make a move with immigration, you need to think ahead and think of the end result. Sometimes, you may outmaneuver the immigration service, sometimes you might get outmaneuvered yourself. But you always need to be thinking about that end game.
Ms. Polgar and the super immigrant students at Webster University (both those on the chess team and those not on the team) have made huge contributions in our little town in the few short years that they have been with us. We are so lucky to have them.
Thanks for reading.
PS - the Chess Club offers tons of lessons and learning opportunities. They host Sunday chess clinics for free and informal tournaments for new learners. You can access their schedule of events right here