On my recent trip, I was surprised when a friend asked me if I had heard of Webster University and their chess coach, a woman from “somewhere in Eastern Europe.” In fact, I had just read the Chess Life article about the Pan-Am Intercollegiate tournament only a couple days earlier. The CL article was my first inkling that Susan Polgar had left Texas Tech University and started a chess team at Webster, a university in St. Louis that I had never previously heard of. (And what a team! Eight grandmasters!)
But that didn’t explain how my friend, a non-chess player, had heard of Polgar. It turns out that Susan, along with Ray Robson and Wesley So (both GMs and freshmen at the university) had appeared on the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered.” And you, too, can hear what they have to say at the NPR website by clicking here.
Unfortunately, the moderator didn’t ask the questions I would have been curious about, like: What other colleges did you apply to? Why did you choose Webster? What courses are you taking? Actually, he did ask Susan about the number of chess scholarships available at Webster (it sounds as if it’s unlimited) and sort of hinted that she left Texas Tech because of disagreements over that issue. I would have liked to hear more about that.
The NPR website also has a very recent interview and guest appearance by GM Maurice Ashley, which you can listen to here. Did you know that his sister was a world champion boxer and his brother was a world champion kickboxer? In the interview he says, “I haven’t ever been a world champion, so in my family I’ve underachieved.” Well, first American black grandmaster is a pretty good accomplishment, IMHO!
The podcast includes a segment where he plays a trivia game involving questions on chess. I was surprised that Ashley didn’t know what Aron Nimzovich famously said after losing a game to Friedrich Saemisch. Do you know the quote? (Answer below.) However, Maurice did impress me by figuring out the city named in the 1980s musical “Chess.” (Answer below.) It was kind of amusing when he told the interviewer that no chess players watched that musical. She was aghast. In fact, I suspect that most chess players don’t watch musicals. Period. But maybe I’m generalizing a bit too much here.
Finally, if you’re in a radio-listening frame of mind, I have one more treat for you. When I was visiting Emory and Henry College last week, I was interviewed for the college radio station, WEHC. The interview aired yesterday (April 17) on a program called “This Conversation,” hosted by a professor named Teresa Keller who is also the manager of the radio station. I thought she was a fabulous interviewer. She did a terrific job of summing up my occasionally rambling answers into short, comprehensible sound bites. The interview was very minimally edited; what you hear is basically the way the conversation went.
I’m afraid that I didn’t get to say anything about chess (there just wasn’t time for it), but you can hear about the mathematics of juries and sea ice in Antarctica, among other things. The interview is archived here. (Be warned, the 30-minute interview takes a little while to download.)
Answers to trivia questions:
1) Nimzovich said, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”
2) The city mentioned in the musical “Chess” is Bangkok. (You might know this from the hit song, One Night in Bangkok, which reached #3 on the American music charts in 1985.)