Knight Raiders: Meet the 2015 Final Four Team

Five players from the university's chess program prove hard work and skill pays off as they head to the Final Four of Chess in New York City.

Texas Tech University's chess team, the Knight Raiders, is well known for its tough competition and strategy when it comes to playing a good game of chess.

As the Knight Raiders head to the Final Four of Chess in New York City this weekend, five of the team members have prepared for this competition since they won the state co-championship at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship in December.

By practicing against their coach Alex Onischuk, an international grandmaster and top 100 player in the world, each team member is determined to come back to Raiderland with a first-place trophy.

Yaroslav Zherebukh

Yaroslav Zherebukh

Yaroslav Zherebukh
Classification/Major: Sophomore/finance
Hometown: Lviv, Ukraine
Chess Ranking: International Grandmaster
Years of Experience: 15 years

What do you look forward to at the Final Four?
– Taking a look at New York, but more importantly winning first place.

How do you prepare for chess competitions?
– I work on chess in every aspect and play at least a minimum of five hours a day.

What is it that you love about chess?
– It's the competition that keeps me in the game. I like winning and beating people in chess. When you win once, it's addictive. You want to keep winning. The other part about it is that it opens up opportunities like scholarships and being able to travel around the world and places with people from other countries.

What is your favorite thing about Texas Tech's chess program?
– I really like the chess program here. Chess-wise, it's the quality of the program, their support and how much our directors and coach help us out, both with school and chess.

 

Elshan Moradiabadi

Elshan Moradiabadi

Elshan Moradiabadi
Classification/Major: Doctoral student/management information systems
Hometown: Tehran, Iran
Chess Ranking: International Grandmaster
Years of Experience: 20 years

What do you look forward to at the Final Four?
– Well, I have played twice before in the Final Four, and I really look forward to winning, as I have in the past when I've played in this competition.

How do you prepare for chess competitions?
– We have weekly training with coach Onischuk and we play individually. I play on a daily basis.

What is it that you love about chess?
– It's a long game, and I like it. There's a lot of strategy and you have to adapt to how the game is going. It's kind of like a football coach coaching a game. Whenever the game changes, you have to find new ways to win. It's a gradual improvement and that's the beauty of the game.

What is your favorite thing about Texas Tech's chess program?
– We have a good director, a good coach and strong players. You see other teams from schools with great rivalries against each other, and we are competitive with each other. But I think what sets us apart is when it comes to our scores as a whole, we always do what's best for the team.

 

Andrei Gorovets

Andrei Gorovets

Andrei Gorovets
Classification/Major: Graduate student/interdisciplinary studies
Hometown: Vitebsk, Belarus
Chess Ranking: International Master
Years of Experience: 20 years

What do you look forward to at the Final Four?
– I'm looking forward to doing the best I can do at the Final Four.

How do you prepare for chess competitions?
– I practice playing about four hours every day to help me prepare.

What is it that you love about chess?
– Personally, it's a lot of fun, and I am very excited when I get to play chess. I and the other players from Texas Tech will do the best we can to win.

What is your favorite thing about Texas Tech's chess program?
– The people. I really enjoy having so many friends within the Texas Tech Chess program.

 

Samy Shoker

Samy Shoker

Samy Shoker
Classification/Major: Graduate student/French
Hometown: Paris, France
Chess Ranking: International Grandmaster
Years of Experience: 22 years

What do you look forward to at the Final Four?
– I'm looking forward to winning this tournament. It will be difficult, but we have a good chance to win.

How do you prepare for chess competitions?
– As a team, we prepare by playing other colleges, and it helps us because we are able to know and understand how these other teams play. Personally, I play against my team members, coach Alex Onischuk or online.

What is it that you love about chess?
– I find it exciting. I'm used to playing this game, and it's something I just really enjoy. It's difficult to say just one thing; it's the game, the community and a lot of other things in the chess world.

What is your favorite thing about Texas Tech's chess program?
– We all play for the same team, we all have the same spirit, and I feel like I'm a part of a family in the university community. We also have the chance to participate in many activities and also play against many different people from around the world.

Carla Heredia Serrano

Carla Heredia Serrano

 
Carla Heredia Serrano
Classification/Major: Sophomore/psychology
Hometown: Quito, Ecuador
Chess Ranking: Woman International Grandmaster
Years of Experience: 15 years

What do you look forward to at the Final Four?
– This is the first time I'm going with our A team. I'm looking forward to bringing back the first-place trophy to Texas Tech, have a great experience with my teammates and just experience the Final Four for the first time.

How do you prepare for chess competitions?
– I play against coach Onischuk and other team members so I can try to get more experience with the grandmasters to help me improve. I play chess every day.

What is it that you love about chess?
– I love that it's a very competitive sport, and it's all about the mind and strategy.

What is your favorite thing about Texas Tech's chess program?
– With me being a woman, Texas Tech allows me to be a part of every aspect of chess and not be restricted in an environment consisting mostly of men. I also love that our team is always playing in tournaments.

Texas Tech Chess Program

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 womens chess and reaching out to chess enthusiasts of all ages.

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