The College Final Four You Don't Want to Miss

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Forget Louisville and the other three basketball teams competing this weekend whose names I do not wish to know because they weren't in my bracket: the real Final Four action is in Rockville, Maryland, where chess teams from Webster University, the University of Texas - Dallas, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Maryland - Baltimore County will battle for collegiate chess supremacy.

The Washington Post has what must surely be the greatest account of inter-school chess politics ever written. You see, UMBC's team was the first in America to offer chess scholarships, and thus recruited a bunch of grandmasters that allowed it to be dominant for years.

This year, however, UMBC's chess director Alan Sherman, the man who built the school's chess program, is already predicting his own team's defeat. Like any good chess player, he is able to see several moves into the future, and what he sees is Webster University, lead by Susan Polgar, winning it all. 

Polgar is a stern task-master, says the Post article:

So intense is her desire to dominate the chess world that she even instructs her players to exercise at the school gym. Physical strength, she said, gives the mind endurance for long matches.

Polgar has many detractors. First, there's the Post, which calls her a "diva" because she's a pushy woman. Second, there's Sherman, who says "many people have a low view of her tactics" but cannot say if Polgar is the A-Rod of chess because he doesn't know who A-Rod is.

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Polgar, whose membership in the U.S. Chess Federation was revoked in 2010 (scandal!) used to be the coach at Texas Tech. She switched to Webster in February 2012, as did eight of her players. All six players on Webster's Final Four team are grandmasters, compared to just two on UMBC. Losers. 

While Sherman mopes about his team's chances this year, Polgar is tweeting about how her old boss "forgot" to send back the cup she's sure to win:


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.