The Susan Polgar Foundation’s Ninth Annual Girls’ Invitational and Webster University awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships on Friday, July 27. The scholarships were given to the top three places in the week-long chess competition.
Fourty-eight girls — ages 6-18 — participated in the six-round competition. Each round was played on the main stage at the Loretto-Hilton. Margaret Hua, 14, competed. She said she enjoys chess for the competition and opportunities to make new friends.
“I like the competition and you can always meet new people through chess,” Hua said. “It’s interesting. Everyone has their own story.”
Hua learned to play chess at a summer camp when she was eight years old. This year was the third time she competed in the Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational.
Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster won third place at a chess competition 40 years ago. He said he didn’t make chess a career like Polgar has. However, Schuster has kept chess part of his life.
“My dream always was to love chess and to bring chess and education together,” Schuster said. “We have a pleasure to bring chess and education and the young people together from all around this great country to enjoy in playing chess and to pursue their dreams both in education and in chess.”
The money for the scholarships comes from a pool of scholarship funds Webster gave the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE ) program. Susan Polgar, director of SPICE, decides how to distribute the scholarship funds, said Anne Edmunds, vice president for enrollment management.
Originally, only the first and second places were to be awarded scholarships. But at the closing ceremony, Schuster announced that they would also give the third place champion a scholarship.
“We will extend an additional scholarship for I think the person who has been in my shoes,” Schuster said. “That place will be associated with a scholarship.”
The scholarships cannot be combined with Webster’s academic GPA based scholarship. Also, if a participant competes in and wins more than one invitational, they do not receive both scholarships.
The champion received a netbook computer as well as the scholarship ($13,000 per academic year for four years). The second and third places each received a scholarship. The top chess player under the age of 13 and the top player under the age of 10 were both given netbook computers.
The chess competition was held July 22-27 at Webster University. Polgar said chess helps develop and maintain many skills suck as logical thinking and planning.
“It’s a constant circle: evaluate, analyze and make decisions..” Polgar said. “That practice in itself is absolutely crucial in our academic lives and later in work. To teach that and instill that at a young age is I think very beneficial towards children.”
Vitaly Neimer started playing chess in Russia when he was five years old. Neimer, 24, is on the SPICE team. The team will be at Webster University this fall. Neimer said in chess, feedback is important.
“You Learn from your mistakes. And this is how you improve, from losses. Mainly from the losses not from the wins,” Neimer said. “You’re always improving yourself.”
He said the Girls’ Invitational allows for the contestants to receive feedback and improve their skills. He was one of several SPICE team members who helped with the Girls’ Invitational. He assisted the girls and their families while they stayed on campus.
Webster hosted and sponsored the competition. The university paid the majority of the cost, according to Polgar. The girls and their families stayed on campus in student housing. Webster also provided meals.
Polgar, chess grandmaster and director of SPICE, transferred her collegiate chess program to Webster this summer. Her Division I team had been at Texas Tech University for the past five years.