By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
June 04, 2012
NEW ORLEANS — A national chess tournament organized by grandmaster and coach Susan Polgar is still offering Texas Tech scholarships worth up to $10,000 a year to its high-school winners — even though Polgar and the entire Texas Tech chess team left Lubbock in April for a private college in Missouri.
The eighth Susan Polgar Foundation Nationwide Open for Boys and Girls is the first national chess championship to be played in New Orleans, where the 19th-century chess great Paul Morphy lived, organizers say.
About 120 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and states from Pennsylvania to California, participated in the three-day tournament ending Sunday at the Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome, organizers said.
“I would say they’re mostly from the mid-South and South, but we do have a few from other parts of the country,” said Jean Troendle, of Cajun Chess. U.S. Chess Federation national scholastic tournaments attract a couple thousand students, she said.
She and Polgar both said the scholarships remain valuable prizes.
Polgar said her presence and the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, known as SPICE, were part of the attraction for chess players at Texas Tech, which won its second straight national championship this year.
“But I am confident that they are planning to hire a very capable grandmaster coach,” she said. “What they are telling me is future winners of the scholarship have nothing to worry about.”
Texas Tech has said it is looking for a top-level coach and plans to rebuild its chess team after Polgar’s departure for Webster College with the entire team of seven chess grandmasters — the highest possible ranking and one that can be given only by the World Chess Federation.
Polgar said the scholarships are worth about $10,000 a year to out-of-state students.
“That is not sufficient to have a full ride for our team members,” she said. At least two schools — the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Maryland in Baltimore County — have paid all expenses for grandmaster students for more than a decade, she said.
Michael Tisserand, whose two children competed, said, “My kids are young and scholarships are not in our view. It’s rating points and trophies and bragging rights that motivate them. And, really, just to play a long game and have that experience of accomplishment.”
On Sunday, the tournament’s final day, Polgar held a $50-a-head ($25 for children) breakfast at Brennan’s, located in Morphy’s boyhood home.
Morphy learned the game by watching one as a child and was considered one of the city’s best players by the time he was 9 years old. He followed his father, a state Supreme Court justice, into law, but was too young to practice when he got his degree in 1857. He won the First American Chess Congress that year, traveled Europe playing chess in 1858, and was world-famous by the time he was 21.