Texas Tech, Geosciences’ Professor Awarded Top Honors from United States Chess Federation

For chess players all over the world, Texas Tech University now offers the perfect location for success.

Written by Jessica Benham

For chess players all over the world, Texas Tech University now offers the perfect location for success.

The U.S. Chess Federation named Texas Tech Co-College of the Year (with the University of Texas at Dallas), and Hal Karlsson, professor of geosciences, received the Special Service award for his dedication to the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE).  Lubbock also was named Co-Chess City of the Year (with Tulsa, Okla.).

Karlsson, who helped start SPICE and currently serves as advisor, said he felt that Texas Tech's recognition was well-deserved.

"Texas Tech hired Susan Polgar and Paul Truong and made SPICE into a formal institution," he said. "This went way beyond what any other school has done and shows tremendous dedication to chess."

Truong, director of marketing and public relations for SPICE, said that due to the creation of SPICE, Lubbock and Texas Tech are now known as one of the major centers of chess in the world.

"As of a year ago, chess was not noticeable in West Texas," he said. "A year later, SPICE and Texas Tech are about to host the 2008 Spice Cup (Sept. 19-28), the highest rated 10-player round robin international tournament in U.S. history. It is like bringing Wimbledon or the Masters to town."

Karlsson said the award - an acknowledgment of SPICE by the highest chess authority in the U.S. - hopefully will help the institute to recruit more students and attract funds.

"It publicly acknowledges our efforts in forming SPICE and honors us for bringing a chess program to Texas Tech," he said. "Clearly the awards are given for significant contributions and or milestones. SPICE was a milestone in the history of chess - at least in the U.S."

The USCF cites the accomplishments of Texas Tech for creating SPICE, setting up a chess program, and running rated tournaments both on and off campus. Both the university and the city were instrumental in supporting those events.

"This brings incredible recognition to SPICE and Texas Tech," Truong said. "We are now known nationwide and internationally as a major force to be reckoned with. Chess players want to compete in Lubbock, and potential students want to come here to study."

He said that the institute hopes to be able to raise more funding and financial support to recruit the brightest young talents worldwide - an accomplishment that is already underway with the Knight Raiders addition Texas Tech student and International Chess Master Gergely Antal from Hungary.

Truong said that SPICE can play a major role in Chancellor Kent Hance's goal to increase enrollment to 40,000 students because there is no limit to how many players can represent Texas Tech in various chess divisions.

He said that Karlsson is very deserving of the Special Service award, because without him the creation of SPICE would not have been possible.

"I am so happy for him," he said. "Dr. Karlsson truly deserves this recognition and we are all so glad to see him honored with such a prestigious national award. I must say that without him, SPICE would not exist today."

He said that Karlsson is the vision of hard work and persistence combined with honesty, integrity and loyalty.

"He loves chess and he knew long ago what this sport could bring to Texas Tech and West Texas," Truong said. "It is the perfect way to recruit top-notch students and bring fame and recognition to this wonderful institution. He gave his heart and soul to this project and the success of SPICE is due to his commitment."

CONTACT: Hal Karlsson, professor, Department of Geosciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742- 3130, hal.karlsson@ttu.edu.

Paul Truong, director of marketing, SPICE, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-7742, or paul.truong@ttu.edu.