The Texas Tech chess team won the Southwest Collegiate Championship on March 23 in McAllen.

The A team, comprised of Grandmasters Yaroslav Zherebukh, Hedinn Steingrimsson, Elshan Moradiabadi and member Faig Alasgarov, were repeat Southwest Collegiate Champions.

According to a news release, the World Chess Federation is the only organization who can give the grandmaster title and it is the highest title awarded.

The team members outscored the nation’s top-ranked teams, according to the release, including University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Competing against 15 internationally ranked chess players, Zherebukh won the individual championship.

Zherebukh, a freshman from Ukraine, is the five-time champion in Ukraine.

Al Lawrence, chess program director, said Zherebukh began playing chess when he was 7 years old.

Zherebukh won many youth championships, including the World Youth Olympiad when he was 16 years old.

Lawrence said the chess program began building the A team in July, and the members participate in weekly training sessions with coach and Grandmaster Alex Onischuk.

“We have the strongest chess coach there is,” Lawrence said.

Onischuk is the third-ranked chess player in the U.S., according to the U.S. chess champ’s website, and is a member of the U.S. Chess Olympiad team.

Lawrence said he is pleased with the team’s accomplishments this year.

 “We are delighted in our top team,” Lawrence said. “These are big titles that we love finishing the year off with.”

The team works together between games preparing, he said.

“Grandmasters prepare their opening moves very carefully,” Lawrence said.

He said he and the team go through games and help find moves and use each other as resources to improve their playing skills.

“The team is spirited and have a high moral support,” Lawrence said. “They pull for each other.”

Members of the team will continue individual training and will be involved in individual competitions during the summer.

During the next collegiate competition season, Lubbock will host the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship.

The competition will be Dec. 27-29, according to the chess team’s website.

Lawrence said the chess community is delighted to host the competition.

“This will bring the top chess players here to Lubbock,” he said.

Lawrence said he is looking forward to the next collegiate chess competition season and is expecting to compete against chess players from Yale and Harvard.

The chess team won Top College in New Jersey at the World Amateur Team Championship in February.

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