- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri lawmakers in Washington have formed a bipartisan group to promote the scholastic benefits of chess while further pushing for recognition of St. Louis as the nation’s chess capital.

Republican Rep. Jason Smith and Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay lead the Congressional Chess Caucus. Other members include Missouri Republicans Vicky Hartzler, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Ann Wagner, and Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

The caucus launch comes as St. Louis prepares to again host the U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship, beginning on May 7. This is the sixth straight year St. Louis has hosted the paired events.

“In rural America, it is often difficult for students to gain access to the tools they need to succeed, particularly in the science, technology engineering and math areas,” Smith said. “Playing the intellectually challenging and competitive game of chess is an effective way for students to develop skills necessary to achieve success in these important fields.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/PTZx11) reported that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has hired former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and former Rep. Earl Thomas Coleman to lobby for a congressional resolution naming St. Louis the chess capital of the country.

It’s a designation many players and chess observers already informally embrace. In the city’s tony Central West End, the club bankrolled by retired financial executive and political donor Rex Sinquefield stands as a 6,000-square-foot shrine to the game. Its resident expert is Hikaru Nakamura, the top-ranked U.S. player and one of the world’s best. On the collegiate level, Webster University in nearby Webster Groves has won two straight national titles after luring the coach and most of the best players from Texas Tech University two years ago.

Clay said promoting chess in schools will help students perform better in math and science.

“Across St. Louis, schools and community centers engaged in chess programming, especially through after-school programs led by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, have seen social and educational benefits,” he said.

Both Smith and Clay hope to compete in the first congressional chess tournament later this year.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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