Grandmaster (GM) Susan Polgar was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2019. Along with GM Lajos Portisch and GM Bent Larsen, Susan Polgar is scheduled to be inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame on November 13, 2023. There is an error in her biography, which is repeated by each Chess Hall of Fame. The error involves women chess players’ participation in college chess.
A Mistake in her Bio
On September 21, 2023, on Facebook and Twitter/X, Susan Polgar shared her biography for her upcoming World Chess Hall of Fame induction. In yellow, I have highlighted an error in Susan Polgar’s bio: “After her professional playing career, she became the only woman to coach a men’s division I collegiate team (Texas Tech 2007-2012 and Webster University 2012-2021).” Since women compete in “Division I” in college chess, there are not “men’s” teams in college chess.
This “men’s” error also appears in Susan Polgar’s U.S. Chess Hall of Fame biography. As of September 21, 2023, that 2019 biography contains this line: “Polgar has coached men’s college division I teams at Texas Tech University (2011-2012) and Webster University (2012-2018) to a record seven consecutive national championships.” The same error appears in other reports. For example, this 2021 article about Polgar’s retirement from Webster University states that she was “the first female coach to lead a men’s division I team to a national title.”
College Chess Teams Include Women
In 1983, Inna Izrailov played fourth board for the Yale University team that won the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship (Pan-Am). In 1987, Inna became a Woman International Master (WIM). Her last name is now Koren. The Pan-Am is the premier intercollegiate team chess championship in the Americas.
While a student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Sabina Foişor gave this interview. In it, she stated that she was on the UMBC chess team, which means it was not a “men’s” team. Here is a 2011 article showing that Susan Polgar’s Texas Tech University team competed against UMBC, which had Sabina Foişor on its roster, at the President’s Cup. The President’s Cup is an invitational for the top four U.S. schools from the Pan-Am to play a round robin “Final Four” competition.
Then UMBC-student and then WGM (now International Master) Nazi Paikidze gave this interview. She was on the UMBC chess team, which means it was not a “men’s” team. Foişor and Paikidze played for the UMBC chess team in the same era that Susan Polgar coached at Texas Tech University (2007–2012) and Webster University (2012–2021).
In 2014, “the final standings of the Pan Am were: Webster University A (5.5 points), the University of Texas at Dallas A (5 points), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (5 points) and Texas Tech University A (4.5 points). UTD placed ahead of UMBC by virtue of winning their match.”
At the 2014 Pan-Am, UTD, UMBC, and The University of Texas at Brownsville (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) had women on their top teams. GM Nadezhda Kosintseva, a woman, was on the UTD “B” team. UT Dallas balanced its “A” and “B” teams so that both teams had high average ratings. Then-WGM Nazi Paikidze was on the UMBC “A” team. As indicated in italics, the University of Texas Brownsville team, ranked fourth by its team’s average rating at the start of that Pan-Am, had two women on its “A” team roster: GM Anton Kovalyov, GM Andrey Stukopin, GM Holden Hernandez, WGM Katerina Nemcova, and Woman International Master (WIM) Aura Cristina Salazar. In 2014, each Pan-Am team had four players, plus a maximum of two alternates.
In the Americas, there is no “men’s” division in college chess. The Pan-Am is open to all genders. During Susan Polgar’s era as a college chess coach, some top college chess teams had women chess players on their rosters.
Texas Tech Chess
Moreover, Susan Polgar had at least one woman, Stephanie Ballom, on her chess team at Texas Tech University. Ballom was also the Texas Tech chess club president. Susan Polgar commended Ballom for graduating, in May 2012, in this post.
Susan Polgar became the chess coach for Texas Tech University in 2007. In 2008, Ballom played on Texas Tech’s top (only) team at that year’s Pan-Am. Here is one paragraph of a report of the Texas Tech team’s third-round results:
In the third round, Texas Tech got paired up again against one of the contenders for the final 4 Miami Dade A team which has an average rating of nearly 250 higher than Texas Tech. Our board 3 Stephanie Ballom (1816) defeated a 2210 player. Our board 2 Chase Watters (1990) drew a 2285 player while our top board Gergely Antal defeated a 2357 with the Black pieces. This gives Texas Tech the second straight upset results. Every team member has made big contributions to the team results so far.
I featured the conclusion of Ballom’s win over National Master Ernesto Alvarez, in my book People, Places, Checkmates: Teaching Social Studies with Chess.
Will Errors be Fixed?
As of September 21, 2023, I had replied on Twitter and on Facebook to Susan Polgar, asking her to fix the “men’s” error. Also, I emailed three staff members of the World Chess Hall of Fame, asking them to fix the “men’s” error in both the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame bio and the World Chess Hall of Fame bio for Susan Polgar.