Written by Cory Chandler
Ashley Carter (2nd from left), who will be attending Texas Tech to play chess, tournament
winner Courtney Jamison (center) and other finalists, pose with Susan Polgar at the
In chess, as is so often the case in life, the queen is the most formidable piece
on the table.
She glides or stomps across the board at will, in straight charges or cutting diagonals,
more nimble and much more domineering than her short-legged spouse, whose role is
limited to sidestepping attacks.
Yet as few as two decades ago, the chess world didn’t treat women players with the
An example: in 1986, Susan Polgar was the first woman in history to qualify for the
World Chess Championship, but was barred from the competition because of her gender.
Polgar shattered that ceiling, eventually becoming the first female grandmaster,
and opened the door for other women to compete on equal footing.
This point could best be illustrated by the 5th Annual Susan Polgar National Invitational
for Girls that took place July 27-Aug. 1 at Texas Tech.
The tournament pitted 52 girls – some of the nation’s most dominant under the age
of 19 – against each other in the tournament’s largest pool to date.
“It is heartwarming and very special to see such an excitement in these girls for
the game of chess,” said Polgar, director of Texas Tech’s Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE)
. “I created this tournament to provide a venue for aspiring female chess players
to compete against each other.”
Drive of Champions
The future femme phenoms – one a mere six years old – gathered in the Frazier Alumni
Pavilion off the Drive of Champions to test their mettle through six grueling days
of play. These 18-and-under participants beat out thousands of girls who compete
annually in chess events across the world for the honor of representing their state
in the prestigious tournament.
Courtney Jamison, representing Texas, walked away the winner.
Claiming second: Ashley Carter of Michigan, a recent high school graduate who will
attend Texas Tech to participate in the Knight Raiders chess club.
Carter, who has played chess for more than 10 years, has competed in all five of
Polgar’s invitational tournaments and said Texas Tech’s chess program attracted her
to the university.
“I think Texas Tech will be a good place for me,” Carter said. “I have always wanted
to attend a chess school.”
A Nice Draw
Recruiting students like Carter is, of course, one of the main goals of establishing
SPICE and hiring a player of Polgar’s magnitude to lead Texas Tech’s burgeoning chess
In the past, Polgar hosted the girls’ tournament in locations such as Florida, Arizona
and New Jersey. Now Texas Tech will host the event for the next ten years.
This means the nation’s elite female players will gather in Lubbock each year for
a week on campus, bonding with peers from around the country on an extended tour
of the university and city.
“There were players in this year’s event from almost every state, which is part of
what makes it such a great tournament- you get to meet girls from around the country,”
And the tournament just keeps growing.
“The tournament has become a tradition,” Polgar said. “The girls are excited about
it and there is a lot of word-of-mouth advertising for Texas Tech as girls go home
and discuss the tournament with their friends.”
Carter was impressed.
“It’s a very pretty campus,” she said.