January 17, 2017

By: Amanda Castro-Crist

The Knight Raiders, Texas Tech University’s award-winning chess team, will head to the final four of college chess after placing fourth at the 2016 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship in New Orleans in December. It’s the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall Texas Tech has qualified for the final four.

“We are extremely proud and excited that the 2016-17 chess team has qualified for the College Final Four Chess Championship again and that our first all-women’s team was able to compete in the Pan-American games,” said Paul Frazier, associate vice president for the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. “This year, the team faced extremely stiff competition from 60 teams. To represent Texas Tech, in addition to being one of two teams from the state of Texas to qualify for the final four, is the result of the hard work of each team member and Coach Alex Onischuk.”

This is the first time an all-female team from Texas Tech has competed at the tournament. Woman International Master Iryna Andrenko, Woman International Grandmaster Carla Heredia Serrano, Woman Candidate Master Claudia Munoz and Opuriche Duruoha-Ihemebiri claimed first place among all-female teams and 27th overall.

“It was a really great experience,” Munoz said. “I had not played in many team tournaments prior to this one, but it was awesome to go there and be amongst teammates and just play a sport we really love.”

Five teams of four players from Texas Tech attended the tournament, held Dec. 27-30. The winning team included International Masters Andrey Gorovets and Pavel Vorontsov, and International Grandmasters Andrii Baryshpolets and Elshan Moradiabadi. Gorovets, Baryshpolets and Moradiabadi were part of the Texas Tech team which won the 2015 Pan-American tournament.

“It was my second Pan-American and I am happy we qualified for the final four both times,” Baryshpolets said. “This championship was special for me as I was the captain and the first board of our A-team. I am very proud of my victory in the last round, which secured our place in the final four.”

This year marked the largest Pan-American tournament showing in more than 30 years, with 60 teams from 33 schools vying for top honors. Texas Tech will join Webster University, who had two of its four teams tie for first place, Saint Louis University and the University of Texas-Dallas at the final four March 24-26 in New York City.

“Our A-team won five matches and lost only one to the top-rated Webster A-team,” Baryshpolets said. “I was really pleased with our team spirit and atmosphere. All of our chess players were very supportive of each other.”

The chess program was established within the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement 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 more information about the Texas Tech Chess Program, visit the website.