Webster University offering rare, new chess minor

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Chess in Education, one of Webster University’s newest degrees, gives students yet another way to learn about the world of chess. 

Introduced in fall 2022, Chess in Education is an 18-credit minor in Webster’s School of Education that explores chess from a unique perspective: its role as a teaching tool. 

“We’re trying to introduce the concept of a chess educator to the students,” Jonathon Singler, adjunct faculty member and current education doctoral student at Webster, said. 

Singler played a pivotal role in developing the degree, alongside renowned chess grandmaster Susan Polgar, the former director and head coach of Webster’s chess program. 

“The core courses are focused on chess as an academic discipline,” Singler said.  

The degree’s five core courses seek to give students a holistic understanding of chess and its global impact. Students can expect to explore chess’ significance in subjects like education, history and psychology, as well as learn how to teach the game and identify its transferable skills.  

In addition, the degree helps students to improve their game with elective courses aimed at varying levels of chess mastery. 

Already distinguished as a national leader in chess education and competition, Webster is one of the few collegiate-level institutions worldwide to offer a formal degree program for chess. 

“It provides them with a unique opportunity that they will not find [at] any other school,” said Liem Le, current director and head coach of Webster’s chess program and chess grandmaster, ranked 22nd in the world. 

Webster international student Annamaria Marjanovic, also a chess grandmaster, was recruited from Hungary. She expressed her excitement for not only the opportunity to compete, but to develop her skills in teaching the game to others. 

“When you want to go into higher education, you don’t really search for chess,” she said.  

Marjanovic is currently enrolled in the degree’s introductory course, Introduction to Chess in Education, in which her class will host a one-day chess camp for children.  

“I’m excited to see what will follow,” Marjanovic said. 

Looking forward, Singler admits there is still some fine-tuning to be done with the degree. 

“Student feedback is going to be very critical . . . definitely looking forward to healthy criticism as the next couple years happen,” he said. “Like anything else, it needs more work. Nonetheless, it’s still a really nice novelty for the field.” 

There might even be a possibility for a chess bachelor’s program in the future, but for now, Le encourages students to get involved with chess at Webster. 

“It’s really a game where you can connect people, it doesn’t matter where you are, what your interests [are], what your background is. You can always enjoy a game of chess with your friends [or] your family,” Le said. 

This spring, Webster’s School of Education is offering three Chess in Education courses: Intro to Chess Education, Advanced Chess Skills and Chess Engine Analyses. 

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Joshua Wright
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