Another checkmate for St. Louis as U.S. Chess moves its HQ here
In another sign of St. Louis' strong chess culture, the U.S. Chess Federation headquarters will relocate to the region this year.
It's been in Crossville, Tennessee, since 2003. The federation says its business needs have outgrown that community of 12,000.
The federation considered moving to other cities including Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas for the headquarters. But St. Louis rose to the top.
"It has a thriving chess community. And that's sort of the characteristic that helped it rise above some of the other places that we looked at," said U.S. Chess Vice President Randy Bauer, who also cited the city's central location, airport and business community.
Financier Rex Sinquefield is a strong financial backer of chess in the region. He was instrumental in bringing the World Chess Hall of Fame to the Central West End in 2011 and in launching the nearby St. Louis Chess Club.
But this time his financial influence wasn't a key factor in the federation’s decision, Bauer said.
"This decision was made without any financial inducement from any locations, including St. Louis. It was made strictly on what made the most sense for our organization," he said.
The announcement is another boost for what is already considered the Chess Capital of the United States.
"We've done a lot with chess in St. Louis," said St. Louis Chess Club Executive Director Tony Rich.
The club started in 2008 with a simple vision of providing a community center for people to play chess and to teach children the game.
"Since then we've grown to host every national championship for the past 10 years. We host international tournaments and events," Rich said.
The club has taught 60,000 children about the game, Rich said. He regards the addition of U.S. Chess to St. Louis as an opportunity to expand those efforts beyond the region.
"We teach in about 100 schools around the area. So, I think our two missions are just so closely aligned that it makes perfect sense for U.S. Chess and the U.S. Chess Club to work together."
Rich would like to see the headquarters become part of the chess hub in the Central West End.
Bauer is no stranger to those operations. He's been a nonresident member of the St. Louis Chess Club for about a decade.
"I enjoy the club a lot," he said.
The federation is looking at a few spots around the area but has not made a final decision on an exact location for the headquarters.
U.S. Chess employs about 20 people. Some will work from home instead of moving to St. Louis. Bauer also anticipates making some local hires because of the city's unique chess climate.