Liem Quang Le spreads his passion for chess through coaching

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Liem Quang Le, Webster University’s new head chess coach, began playing chess at 6 years old and became a Grandmaster at 15.

One day in 1997, when his parents were away at work, a 6-year-old Liem Quang Le looked for something to fill the time. After finding an old chess book for beginners in  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, his brother taught Le how to play chess, becoming Le’s first chess coach.

They found the book almost by accident and started to learn how to play. This one moment transcended Le’s life into the chess world.

“I was immediately fascinated by this game,” Le said. “My brother and I just kept playing each other repeatedly.”

After playing his brother nonstop, Le signed up for his first-ever chess competition, which was held at his school in first grade. He won his first competition and was introduced to other chess coaches, kickstarting his career.

While most 10-year-olds were out playing sports or going to birthday parties, Le was traveling to participate in national and international chess competitions. He finally reached the worldwide level, winning a silver medal for the World Youth Championship Under 10.

“Playing chess from an early age helped me develop skills such as critical thinking, creativity, timely decision-making and more,” Le said. “These traits are not only essential for any chess player, but also necessary throughout life.”

At the age of 15, Le was named Chess Grandmaster, making him the youngest player to hold this title at the time. For 13 years, Le has been the No. 1 ranked chess player in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

He was honored by the Forbes Vietnam 30 under 30 list and won the World Blitz Championship in 2013. These are only a few of his accomplishments.

Le graduated from Webster University in 2017 after leading the Webster chess team to four consecutive U.S. Collegiate National Championships. He did this as the team’s captain and under the leadership of retired coach Susan Polgar.

Le is now Webster University’s head chess coach, making him the youngest collegiate Grandmaster head coach to this day.

“He’s a great coach,” Grandmaster and Webster University chess player John Burke said. “It’s one thing to be a great player, but not all great players are great coaches.”

Under Le’s leadership and expertise, the team has won more titles than any other participating school – with three national titles in 2021. The team is now preparing for the Final Four National Championship.

“[Making the Final Four] is a good achievement. However, we do not have time to celebrate,” Le said. “I want to help my students excel in chess and in academics; and to make sure that Webster University retains the powerhouse status in college chess.”

Le still participates in top level chess tournaments when they do not interfere with his work at Webster. He always thought of becoming a chess coach someday and passing on his knowledge and experiences to the next generation of chess players.

“He’s one of the very best players in the world,” Burke said. “So having the chance to work with him, train with him and get advice from him is not a privilege that a lot of people have.”

After his long list of accomplishments and awards, Le still has one goal left to accomplish. He wants to see chess being taught in as many schools as possible.

“Because of my positive experiences in chess, I firmly believe all children can benefit from learning this game,” Le said. “[The Webster chess team] is contributing a small part by teaching chess to students from kindergarten to high school in the Greater St. Louis area.”

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Kelly Bowen
Staff Writer | + posts

I am a journalism major. I play on the women’s soccer team at Webster. I enjoy coffee, Mexican food and watching The Real Housewives of Orange County with my sister.