Webster University Wins Sixth National Collegiate Chess Title

Webster University's Chess Team during the President's Cup Awards Ceremony

Photo: Webster University Chess Team members receive the President's Cup after winning the national collegiate chess championship on Sunday. Coach Liem Le is holding the cup.

Webster University won the President’s Cup national collegiate chess championship Sunday, a tournament where the four top college chess teams in the country compete in a round robin-style competition that lasts for two days. With this win, Webster University has tied for the most national championships in the tournament’s history.

Webster University hosted this year’s competition, the first time that it was held in St. Louis, an appropriate location as three of the four top teams in the country are based in the region. Webster faced off against the University of Missouri (Mizzou), Saint Louis University (SLU) and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to snag the title.

“This further validates Webster’s chess program as the best in the country,” said Webster University President Julian Z. Schuster. “Our players showed complete dominance this year both in the qualifying as well as in this tournament. I congratulate all the participating teams and especially our players and our chess coach Liem Le on the well-deserved victory. This win also further solidifies St. Louis as the chess capitol of the United States, as the top prize will stay within the city for at least another year or longer.”

The championship reflects the ability of Webster students to find creative solutions to complex problems, even when under tremendous pressure, said Webster University Chancellor Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble.

Chancellor Stroble with Chess Coach Liem Le and chess player Annamaria Marjanovic“This is an illustration of Webster students’ ability to compete on a global stage,” Stroble said. “Our students and alumni are incredibly talented and have been lauded for their achievements in numerous fields, from acting to animation to business to the highest positions of leadership around the world. And once again, Webster chess players demonstrate they are the best.”

During the tournament, which also is known as The Final Four of College Chess, each school’s team plays 12 games – four games during each round – while facing opponents from another team. This year, Webster faced SLU in the first round, UTRGV in the second round, and competed against Mizzou in the final round.

Webster started strong. In the first round, the team won two games and “drew” two games, a term that means that both players concluded that they could not earn a decisive victory against the other player in the allotted time for each round. Each team earns one point for a win, and half a point for a draw. In round two, Webster won two more games and drew a third, earning it 5.5 points by the end of the day, well ahead of its nearest competitor SLU, which finished with four points.  UTRGV finished the first day with 3.5 points and Mizzou had 3 points.

Webster Chess Player Aram HakobyanDuring the third round – held on the second day of the tournament – Webster won two games and drew a third, finishing the tournament with eight points. SLU finished with six points, while UTRGV had 5.5 and Mizzou had 4.5.

“Our team was focused on their game this year, winning numerous individual national titles, the women’s collegiate blitz championship, the Pan American tournament, and now the President’s Cup,” said Webster University Chess Coach Liem Le. “We faced some very skilled opponents this year, including two teams that are previous President’s Cup winners, but our strategy and fortitude led us to victory. I congratulate all the members of the Webster University chess team, including the players who played in the tournament this year, the players who helped lead the way to our victory in other tournaments, and the players who were there to show their support during the past year.”

Webster University Coach Le is a Grandmaster, ranked #1 in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and #22 worldwide. A Webster alumnus, he previously served as captain of the top-ranked Webster chess team coached by Susan Polgar, founder of SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute in Chess Excellence) at Webster University. Webster’s chess team traditionally attracts high-level chess players who value the importance of attaining a college degree.

The students who represented Webster University during the tournament are:

  • Grand Master Benjamin Gledura, from Hungary. He is a senior majoring in scriptwriting.
  • Grand Master Aram Hakobyan, from Armenia. He is a senior majoring in management.
  • Grand Master John Burke, from United States. He is a senior majoring in English.
  • Grand Master Yuniesky Quesada, from Cuba. He is a graduated student working on a master's in finance.
  • Grand Master Gergely Kantor, from Hungary. He is a freshman majoring in political science. 

Webster University won the President’s Cup consecutively five times from 2013 to 2017, earning it the title of most consecutive wins in the history of the President’s Cup. The team took second place in 2018, 2019 and 2022, and third place in 2021. The tournament was not held in 2020, due to the pandemic.

Webster chess team alumnus Reggie Jackson, President Julian Schuster and Coach Liem Le peer through a window to see how Webster's team is doing during the tournament.By winning it for a sixth time, Webster is tied with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County which won the tournament four consecutive times from 2003 – 2006, and twice again in 2009 and 2010. Since the chess team’s founding in 2012, Webster University has been ranked as the #1 team on the college circuit.

To qualify for the President’s Cup, a team must finish in the top four in the Pan American Collegiate Chess Tournament, also known as The Pan Am, held earlier in the year. It’s the largest annual collegiate chess tournament and attracts dozens of teams, including Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Yale and large institutions such as the University of Georgia. This year, 85 teams competed the Pan Am. Webster has won that tournament nine times in the past 11 years.

This past fall, Webster University became the first college in the United States to offer a Chess in Education Minor Degree. Focused on developing chess educators academically and professionally, the new degree program aims to bridge the access gap between K-12 chess education and professional pursuits.

To learn more about chess and the SPICE team at Webster University, visit webster.edu/spice/.

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