Our community at Webster University believes transformative academic experiences begin with prioritizing research, technology and accessibility. At Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE), we believe college chess is the critical component that merges these necessary components with skill.

By working and assisting one another, we have become a premier center for chess education and outreach.

SPICE Chess team, 2024

SPICE's Mission

Our mission is to be a leader in promoting chess as a vehicle for enriching the education of children; be a leader in promoting women’s chess; recruit outstanding students to the University; earn national and international recognition for the University; support and promote competitive chess at the college level; and to support our nation’s most elite chess program.

Chess team posing for photo after National win

SPICE in the News

Chess team posing for photo after National win

Members of Webster University's Chess Team in 2023 who played in the President's Cup National Collegiate Chess Tournament or who supported the team during the tournament. They are gathered around current Chess Coach Liem Le (center).


Get Smart! Play Chess!
Chess Summer Camps 2024

Camp 1 Dates: June 18-21
Camp 2 Dates: Aug. 6-9

Ages 5-15

Table of four young chess players with two chess boards in play
Group of young chess players at table with coach showing strategies on display chess board
Young girl playing chess at camp
Group of young chess players at set of tables shaped in a U with coach showing strategies on display chess board

The SPICE Chess Summer Camp is a fun way to introduce chess to newcomers to the game as well as deepen the understanding of the game for intermediate or advanced players.

All instructors are members of the SPICE team (including GMs) and will teach based on Susan Polgar’s world-class curriculum.


  • Full day: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • Morning only: 9 a.m.–Noon

Where: Webster University, SPICE Office, Luhr Building, 475 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

Food and Snacks: Snacks will be provided. Students should bring their own lunch.

Registration Costs

Before May 1: Full Day: $359; Morning Onliy: $199.

After May 1: Full Day: $449; Morning Only: $249.

Register and Pay

Please register online or send registration form and payment to:
Webster University SPICE, 470 East Lockwood Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63119.

Contact Info

For more information, email Annastasia Wyzywany at awyzywany@webster.edu or call 314-246-8075.

REGISTER FOR Summer CAMP   Online Payment for SPICE Camp

If necessary, SPICE reserves the right to close registration when full or cancel the class for any reason.


Join Us

Become Part of Our Elite Chess Program


Chess Excellence Scholarship Applications

At Webster, we welcome those students interested in competing in local, national and international chess tournaments to apply for our scholarships. Those students wanting to apply must be at the main campus (Webster Groves/St. Louis, USA) and should do so by the Friday before the term begins.

Webster University Chess Team


Benjamin Gledura

Benjamin Gledura

  • Major: Scriptwriting
  • Chess Title: GM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2654
  • Country: Hungary

Aram Hakobyan

Aram Hakobyan

  • Major: Management
  • Chess title: GM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2621
  • Country: Armenia

Yasser Quesada

Yasser Quesada

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Chess title: GM
  • Highest USCF rating: 2609
  • Country: Cuba

Harsha Bharathakoti

Harsha Bharathakoti

  • Major: Psychology
  • Chess title: GM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2608
  • Country: India

Gergely Kantor

Gergely Kantor

  • Major: Political Science
  • Chess title: GM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2590
  • Country: Hungary

Anna Sargsyan

Anna Sargsyan

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Chess Title: IM, WGM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2405
  • Country: Armenia

Annamaria Marjanovic

Annamaria Marjanovic

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Chess title: WGM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2389
  • Country: Hungary

David Zhurbinsky

David Zhurbinsky

  • Major: Undecided
  • Chess title: CM
  • Highest FIDE rating: 2059
  • Country: USA

Ben Forsythe

Ben Forsythe

  • Major: Music with an Emphasis in Songwriting
  • Chess title: None
  • Highest USCF rating: 1730
  • Country: USA

The Webster University Chess Team is proud to list the following alumni:

  • GM Wesley So
  • GM Liem Le
  • GM Ray Robson
  • GM Illya Nyzhnyk
  • GM Lazaro Bruzon
  • GM Aleksandr Lenderman
  • GM Georg Meier
  • GM Jorge Cori
  • GM Vasif Durarbayli
  • GM Aleksandr Shimanov
  • GM Emilio Cordova
  • GM Jose Martinez
  • GM Peter Prohaszka
  • GM Denes Boros
  • GM Manuel Leon Hoyos
  • GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez
  • GM Anatoly Bykhovsky
  • GM Ashwin Jayaram
  • GM Priyadharshan Kannappan
  • GM Andre Diamant
  • GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez
  • GM John Burke
  • IM Yuriy Krykun
  • IM Vitaly Neimer
  • IM Eric Rosen
  • IM Justus Williams
  • IM Aaron Grabinsky
  • IM Brian Escalante
  • IM / WGM Irene Sukandar
  • WGM Anna Sharevich
  • WGM Katerina Nemcova
  • WIM Inna Agrest
  • FM Ezra Chambers
  • FM Joshua Colas
  • WFM Luisa Fernanda Mercado
  • Tom Polgar-Shutzman
  • Roman Kozelov
  • Kenneth Fernandez
  • Shawn Swindell
  • Kaleb Gosdin
  • Hannah (Tori) Whatley
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Paul M. Truong
  • Leeam Polgar Shutzman
  • Nimish Datta
  • Joshua Figueroa
  • Dr. Jonathon Singler

Coach Liem Le

A Chesterfield resident, Liem Le is originally from Vietnam, where he was honored by Forbes Vietnam as 30 under 30 (2015). Le became a Chess Grandmaster at 15 years old and the World Blitz Champion at 22 years old. He has been the No. 1 ranked chess player in Vietnam and Southeast Asia since 2009. He is currently the No. 20 ranked chess player worldwide.

Le previously served as captain of the top-ranked Webster chess team (2015 to 2017). He won four consecutive Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championships and Final Four Championships with Webster from 2013 to 2017. From June 2021, Le has been the Director of SPICE and the Head Coach of Webster University Chess Team.

Coach Le is considered the youngest and highest ranked collegiate grandmaster head coach in the U.S. He has coached more than 100 students, including many Grandmasters with remarkable success.

Chess Accomplishments:

  • Winner of World Blitz Championship 2013
  • Winner of Biel Grand Master Triathlon (GMT) 2022
  • Top 4 of Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022
  • Winner of Asian Continental Championship 2019
  • Winner of World Open 2019
  • Winner of Saint Louis Summer Classic 2019
  • Winner of ACP Tour 2019
  • Winner of Bay Area International Open 2019
  • 2-time winner of SPICE Cup (2011, 2015)
  • 3-time winner of HD Bank Open (2013, 2015, 2017)
  • 2-time winner of Aeroflot Open (2010, 2011)
  • 2-time winner of Zone 3.3 FIDE World Chess Championship (2007, 2015)
  • Winner of Kolkata Open 2009
  • Winner of Lishui Open 2009
  • 2-time winner of Dragon Capital Open (2008, 2009)
  • Team Gold Medal at 2008 Olympiad Group B

Notable Recognition:

  • Awarded three Labor Orders by the President of Vietnam (2006, 2011, 2013)
  • Awarded the title Blitz Player of the Year by Asian Chess Federation (2013)
  • Forbes Vietnam 30 Under 30 (2015)

SPICE Founder Susan Polgar

Susan Polgar was the top-ranked female chess player in the world at the age of 15. In 1991, she became one of the first women to be awarded the title of Grandmaster by The International Chess Federation (FIDE). Polgar was Women’s World Champion from 1996 to 1999. She won 11 medals at the Women’s Chess Olympiad (4 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze).

Polgar founded the SPICE Institute in 2007 and was the Director of SPICE and the Head Coach of Webster University Chess Team from 2012 to 2021, with a successful track record. After her retirement in May 2021, Polgar became the Director Emeritus of SPICE.


In 2022, Webster University became the first in the nation to launch a Chess in Education Minor. It is an 18-credit minor focused on developing chess educators academically and professionally, bridging the access gap between K-12 chess education and professional pursuits. Students who embark on this academic path will learn how to teach chess as a sport and an academic discipline while identifying and solving gaps in the field through projects. These future chess educators will be able to identify and socially advocate for areas that need progress, such as sustainable scholastic programming, women’s chess, research best practices and more.

Courses are internationally available online, in which students will develop skill sets such as a global perspective, research familiarization and analysis, writing and teaching curriculum, educational technology literacy, and community-based programming. As each student’s interests and backgrounds may be unique, core courses will teach chess through various disciplines such as education, history, business, psychology, and technology. In contrast, the elective courses promote passion projects, certification training, professional networking and skill practice. Each content area is critical to transforming chess students into globally focused leaders dedicated to improving communities worldwide through chess education.

Learn more about the minor in Chess and its degree requirements.

Discover chess using Susan Polgar’s comprehensive free training guide (PDF).

Spotlight on SPICE

Coach Liem Le demonstrates the "blitz" game, playing against a journalist from a St. Louis-area TV news broadcast after the team won two national collegiate titles in rapid chess in November 2022.


[Newsroom view with Margie Ellisor seated on the left, John Pertzborn seated on the right, Fox 2 logo in background between them]

John Pertzborn: All right, Tim Ezell, he wants to clarify something: He is not a chess champion. I know many people may think he is.

Margie Ellisor: They probably thought he was.

Pertzborn: Checkers, that’s another story.

Ellisor: I guess it could happen … some day. He's a Webster this morning, where he is training with some champions, at least. Have you learned anything yet, Tim?

[Room with two chess boards and four players at a table, many chess trophies on a display shelf.]

Text on screen: Tim's Travels, Tim Ezell, Webster University

Tim Ezell: I get … in the commercial break, I lost again.

Ellisor: Oh no!

Ezell: Oh yeah! It’s true. Liem Le is putting me to shame here. He is the 22nd ranked player in the world, though. So, i don't feel too bad. We’re at Webster University, the Chess Team. Thanks for having us in this morning.

Text on screen: Tim's Travels, Liem Le, Director, Head Coach

Liem Le: Thank you.

Ezell: You guys just won a big championship too, right?

Le: Yes, we did. Last month we played in the U.S. Collegiate Blitz and Rapid Championship and we won 3 titles. We won the U.S. Rapid Individual Championship and the Team Championship and also the Women’s Collegiate Blitz Championship.

Ezell: Wow! So, we're playing rapid, right? Is that we're playing right now?

Le: We just played a blitz game.

Ezell: We played a blitz game. Okay then, blitz game: explain that.

Le: A blitz game is the fastest pace you can have in chess. So, it’s … what we play is 5 minutes per game for the whole game with no increment. So, you have 5 minutes to make all the moves in the game. If you run out time, you lose the game.

Ezell: All right. You've got a couple of your team players here. Tell me who we've got joining us this morning.

Le: Yes, so over here we have David, he's from New Jersey; he’s freshman. And over here we Joshua; he's from originally from Cuba, and he's a senior.

Ezell: Awesome. All right, so we're going to show how this works. So, I got to make a move, I hit the clock, and I have 5 minutes to do all my moves. If I don’t win in 5 minutes – or lose in 5 minutes – game's over. All right.

Le: Sure.

Ezell: Shall we try it? Here we go.


[Chess game begins with pieces being moved and the time clock being hit.]

Le: That’s a good first move.

Ezell: Thank you. I feel pretty good about it.

Le: Yeah, groovy. Great.

Ezell: So, this game would typically last the whole time? What would normally happens in this game, does the time run out or somebody win first?

Le: That’s correct. Yeah, so usually the game is decided before ….

Ezell: Before someone’s time runs out.

Le: Yeah, but this game will not last more than 10 minutes because that's the maximum time.

Ezell: It lasted two minutes last time. I have to say that. How about that?

Le: Ah, you got a pawn.

Ezell: Yeah, I got some … oh. I lost my knight.

Le, laughing: No, you can take my knight.

Ezell: Oh I can, look at that. I got two pieces to one. I need my clock. Hey, we're going to be here all morning long. This game will not last all morning. We’ll have a more fast-paced game coming up in just a bit, right here on Fox 2 News in the Morning as we celebrate the Webster University chess team and their championship. Moving right along here.

[Chess clock sounds]

Pertzborn: Keep going, Tim.

Le: You’ve given me all your pieces.

[Ezell laughs, puts head on hands]

Ellisor: So close. That was so close. Yeah, that didn’t last very long.

Pertzborn, laughing: No that’s already over.

Ellisor: Alright, thanks Tim.

News and Events

Connect with Us