Chess Program Makes History with National Awards
Red Raiders named Chess College of the Year and their coach named Grandmaster of the Year.
Written by K'Leigh Bedingfield
Al Lawrence and Alex Onischuk
Texas Tech University made history by being named Chess College of the Year by The United States Chess Federation, along with the program’s head coach Alex Onischuk being named Grandmaster of the Year.
“No college program has ever in history won both of these awards in the same year,” Texas Tech’s Chess Program Director Al Lawrence said. “Being chosen as Chess College of the Year by The United States Chess Federation is a wonderful recognition of Texas Tech’s achievements.”
Texas Tech’s nationally recognized chess program was nominated for the award due to its skillful players and its outreach in the Lubbock and campus communities.
“Outreach for the chess program and the Knight Raiders, Texas Tech’s chess club, is our number one priority. We’re committed to sharing the many benefits of chess—and the fun,” Lawrence said. “The Lubbock community and Texas Tech students have a rare resource: some of the top chess players in the world.”
Top chess players in the world include Onischuk, ranked as one of the top 100 players in the world for the past 18 years. Onischuk began playing chess when he was 6 years old and continues to play while he trains students in the program.
“In chess, winning Grandmaster of the Year is a bit like a journalist winning the Pulitzer,” Lawrence said. “Coach Alex had an incredible year competitively, while at the same time, devoting his full time to Texas Tech’s team.”
Lawrence and Onischuk came to Texas Tech two years ago and helped the team advance to the Final Four of College Chess tournament this year.
“Despite the challenges of having to reconstitute our chess program, we have done so with great care, integrity, and effectiveness,” said Juan Muñoz, senior vice president for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement and vice provost for Undergraduate Education & Student Affairs. “This award acknowledges that Texas Tech University will remain a formidable presence in collegiate chess for the foreseeable future. We are so very proud of this recognition, and of the members of the Texas Tech Chess program that have so aptly earned it.”
Onischuk said both awards are great recognition for the program.
“We are honored to get these awards,” he said. “Our students come from all over the world, and I get to learn so many new things from my students every day. They all work hard on chess, and I’m glad that they all have improved individually during the last two years.”
The program will receive the awards at the U.S. Open Chess Championship in Orlando, Florida, this August.
“I congratulate the chess program and coach Alex for these national honors that bring great distinction to Texas Tech University,” President M. Duane Nellis said. “Our chess program provides another avenue to recruit some of the brightest, hard-working students to Texas Tech, so their success and commitment is important in helping us become a top-tier university.”
Texas Tech Chess Program
Through the Texas Tech Chess Program, the university has focused its resources on providing scholarships for players, conducting research, championing scholastic, college and women’s chess and reaching out to chess enthusiasts of all ages.