How St Louis Became America’s Chess Hotspot
When retired financier Rex Sinquefield decided to retire in his home state of Missouri, he thought it would be nice to have a chess club. The next thing we know, renowned chess coaches began moving to St Louis to be close to this chess club.
That’s how the story of St Louis Chess Club, one of the world’s best -known chess clubs, began. Sinquefield had always been a chess aficionado and simply wanted a place for his hobby. But he never dreamed that his humble new club could gain such attention and become the ultimate chess hotspot.
Before the club was founded, St Louis was just a regular city in Missouri with about 300,000 residents. Thanks to one man’s passion for chess, the city transformed into a go-to place for both professional and amateur chess players. Additionally, it has inspired the creation of numerous chess clubs across America.
The Ultimate Hotspot for Chess Lovers
St Louis Chess Club was founded in 2008 and it wasn’t long before it began attracting chess enthusiasts from all over the U.S. The club appealed to both the locals as well as seasoned chess players from other countries, all eager to hone their chess skills. In less than a decade, St Louis gained a world-class reputation as one of the best and the biggest chess clubs in the world.
No one expected St Louis to become so relevant so soon. Some of the famed chess experts who moved their teams to St Louis area were Susan Polgar and Alejandro Ramirez. Everyone wanted to be close to this chess hub including the renowned professional chess players Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.
Tony Rich, the executive director at the club told Forbes magazine, “I did not expect that we would get great chess players, grandmasters, or even amateur players to move to St. Louis because of the club.”
St Louis has built its reputation as the ultimate chess hotspot partly thanks to hosting various tournaments. The club hosts the Sinquefield Cup (named after the founder Rex Sinquefield) which gathers the world’s famous players and was the highest rated chess tournament in 2014. The club also hosts the United States Chess Championship.
The club takes time to plan these large events which are broadcast online and watched by people all around the globe. There are also open tournaments more players can take part in as well as a Scholastic Grand Prix, a chess tournament for children. Other events include Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz and GM/IM Norm Tournament.
A Mission to Promote Chess
Apart from organizing these major events, St Louis Chess Club (and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis) invests a lot of time and effort into promoting chess locally. For this purpose, the club organizes educational programs aimed at teaching people about chess. There are lecturers who teach chess to children and organize educational field trips.
The club is doing its part in getting everyone interested in the game. There are school and outreach programs designed to encourage more people, especially kids, to take an interest in chess and develop various important skills as a result.
St Louis Chess Club is actively working on popularizing the game and there is even a Grandmaster-in-residence who provides lessons and takes part in the club’s chess events.
The Club’s Achievements
In 2013, St Louis Chess Club received the greatest honor-it was declared a chess capital of the U.S. by the Senate. This honor is the result of the effort that the club puts into promoting chess as well as attracting the most elite players to the area. It was also named the Chess Club of the year in 2010.
What contributes to the popularity of St Louis as the capital of Chess is also the World Chess Hall of Fame. The museum was unfortunately closed in 2001 but in 2011, Sinquefield decided to revive the World Chess Hall of Fame. He provided the funds necessary to move the entire place to a location just across the street from St Louis Chess Club. Together, these two facilities are known as Saint Louis Chess Club Campus and they are a sanctuary for chess lovers. Visitors can enjoy various exhibitions and workshops and learn about the game of chess.