Chess Players Finally Get Their Faces on a Billboard, and There’s an Uproar

Webster athletes whine

It seems chess players, even grandmasters, just can't win.

Witness the ridiculous scene down in Missouri, where Webster University put up an amusing billboard on I-70 featuring two members of its chess team dressed in sports gear—Mara Kamphorst and Wesley So, who is a grandmaster—and the headline, "Our top recruits are chess players." Webster did, in fact, win the 2013 Final Four of College Chess back in April—after two team members transferred to Webster from Texas Tech. But the billboard is also meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It appears right after a load of billboards from the University of Missouri-Columbia boasting about its nationally ranked Division I athletics like football and volleyball.

But some Webster athletes are angry, and are calling for the billboard to be taken down. "It's like a slap in the face," whined one women's soccer player. "They've damaged the name of Webster University and insulted the entire athletic department," added a women's basketball player. See what happens when you give some nerdy chess players all the attention? The cool kids just can't handle it.

The university's director of marketing communications, John Costello, said: "We went into this with the specific goal that we might be able to get some PR out of this. So far it’s working marvelously." Added the chess team's coach, Susan Polgar: "It was a brilliant move. … This was just one idea that was tried, and it got global attention, so from a marketing standpoint I think it was successful."

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