ST. LOUIS – The four top college chess teams in the country were in St. Louis this weekend, competing for the President’s Cup National Collegiate Chess Championship.

The Webster University squad won, earning its sixth national title.

John Burke has been playing chess since he was a 6-year-old, and began playing in tournaments at 8. He hasn’t stopped since.

“I take a lot of pride in the accomplishments of the team. It feels good to be a part of a team and be able to contribute to their success,” he said.

All the players are students currently working on their bachelor’s degrees.

International student Aram Hakobyan said it was a happy accident that got him into chess.

“I was 5 years old. I was supposed to go to school, and luckily, I broke my leg, and I was supposed to stay at home,” he said. “So, I had to do something that was not so active.”

For Webster University’s Chess Coach Liem Le, winning this title was a full-circle moment for him.

“I was a student at Webster before I graduated in 2017, and that was a last time Webster won the President’s Cup. So after six years, I’m back as a coach, not just a player anymore, but I helped bring the championship back to Webster,” he said.

The chess program launched at the university in 2012.

The team knew who their opponents were in advance, so they were able to watch their previous games and predict their moves.

“We can study their strengths and weaknesses and tried to catch them off guard, and kind of have a game plan going into every round, so we don’t feel unprepared at any moment,” Burke said.

“The chess team not only have won the trophies, I think that we are continuing to win hearts and minds of the young people for the game of chess,” said Dr. Julian Schuster, president of Webster University.

And on Tuesday, Coach Liem Le will play against the current number one-ranked chess player in the world, Grand Master Magnus Carlsen.