Texas Tech University

Knight Raiders Secure Spot at 2018 Final Four of Chess

Amanda Castro-Crist

January 3, 2018

During the 2017 winter break, the Texas Tech chess team qualified for a spot in the Final Four for the fifth year in a row.

The Knight Raiders
The Knight Raiders

Texas Tech University's award-winning chess team, The Knight Raiders, will compete in New York in the President's Cup, also known as the Final Four of College Chess, after placing third at the 2017 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

It's the fifth consecutive year and eighth time overall Texas Tech has qualified for the Final Four and a move up from the fourth-place spot the team earned at the Pan-American tournament in 2016.

First-place Webster University, whose team finished with 5.5 points, second-place Saint Louis University, five points, and fourth-place University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, five points, will join Texas Tech at the Final Four March 30 through April 1 at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City.

“It is very hard to qualify for the Final Four, considering that it is always decided in the final round, and just one serious mistake could destroy your chances,” said Texas Tech Chess Coach Alex Onischuk. “We entered the tournament as slight underdogs seeded No. 5 by rating and, despite very tough competition, we have made it to the Final Four for the fifth time in a row.”

Fifty-eight teams from more than 30 colleges and universities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada competed in the tournament, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Columbia University, New York University, Penn State University and the University of Texas at Austin. Texas Tech was one of two Texas schools to qualify for the Final Four.

“Our Texas Tech Chess Program continues to demonstrate excellence with their latest achievement of qualifying for the national Final Four tournament,” said Elizabeth Sharp, interim vice president for Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. “This marks the fifth consecutive time that the Texas Tech team earned a place at this highly competitive tournament. The Red Raider community is proud of all their accomplishments and will be rooting them on to the championship.”


Four teams of four players from Texas Tech attended the tournament, held Dec. 26-30. The winning team, which finished with five points, included International Grandmasters Andrii Baryshpolets, a doctoral economics student, Pavlo Vorontsov, a computer science major, both of Kyiv, Ukraine; International Grandmasters Sergey Matensko, a graduate interdisciplinary student from Chelybinsk, Russia, and Jack Shtembuliak, a finance major from Odessa, Ukraine. Baryshpolets was part of the Texas Tech team that won the 2015 Pan-American tournament.

Vorontsov and Shtembuliak had the top performances for Texas Tech, with Vorontsov scoring six points on board 3 and Shtembuliak scoring 5.5 on board 4.

This also is the second time an all-female team from Texas Tech competed in the tournament. They were the only female team this year and finished 42nd overall. Team members included Woman International Master Iryna Andrenko, a graduate horticulture science student from Simferopol, Ukraine; Woman Grandmaster Carla Heredia Serrano, a graduate sport management student from Quito, Ecudaor; Woman Candidate Master Claudia Munoz, a mathematics major from Witchita Falls; and Opuriche “Ify” Duruoha-Ihemebiri, an accounting major from Lagos, Nigeria.

“All of our students have worked very hard throughout the semester preparing for this tournament, including completing a five-day camp right before the Pan-American,” Onishuk said. “I'm glad all our efforts paid off.” 


The chess program was established within the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in 2007 and has since earned more than 10 national titles and was named Chess College of the Year in 2014. Head coach and director Onischuk was named Grandmaster of the Year in 2014 and has been ranked as one of the top 100 players in the world for the past 20 years.

For a full listing of the Pan-American final standings, visit the tournament website.

For more information about the Texas Tech Chess Program, visit the website.

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