Alexander Onischuk

Lubbock, Texas
Chess Highlights: 
2010 SPICE Cup Champ, 2009 World Team Championship: Silver (Individual Gold), 2006 U.S. Champion, 2nd at 2007 Biel
Alexander Onischuk was recently named the new head coach of Texas Tech's nationally recognize chess program. The program made headlines last year when Susan Polgar took her program and most of her players to Webster University in Saint Louis. Onischuk has won more than 20 tournaments, including the 2000 Ukrainian Championship and the 2006 U.S. Championship. He became a grandmaster in 1994 at the age of 19 and relocated to the U.S. in 2001. When he won the 2006 U.S. Championship, he called it the happiest moment of his career to have his name on a trophy alongside players such as Fischer and Morphy. Onischuk, the 2010 SPICE Cup Champion, was key to America's bronze medal finishes in 2006 and 2008 Olympiads. He has an impressive international record: He placed second in the 2007 International Chess Festival in Biel and also won the super-strong Moscow Open in January 2009. He delivered a gold-medal performance on board two at the 2009 World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey.

Alexander Onischuk called winning the 2006 U.S Championship the happiest day of his life. Not that he's unused to winning. Alex placed first in more than 20 tournaments, from super strong Round Robins in exotic Beijing and chilly Siberia to the 2000 Ukrainian Championship. Alex became a GM in 1994 at the age of 19, but this hardly qualified among his happiest moments, because that was a matter of "when, not if."

He is known for his professional, solid style, and is repertoire is very well analyzed, but it is also more predictable than most top U.S. players. Some of his lines as Black (particularly in Double King Pawn games) allow a weaker but well-prepared opponent to force a draw. Such a strategy makes it hard to win clear first in a Swiss, which usually requires a huge plus score.

Alex ran into a typical roadblock at his first U.S. Championship, where he placed eighth. One opponent traded queens into a dead draw, following a previous game by Alex. The advantage of having a stable opening repertoire is that you're bound to know the strategies and details of your lines better than if you played four different openings.

Alex thinks that what separates him from Grandmasters of a slightly lower stature is his superior understanding of the game, gained from working with elite players, including former World Champions Anatoly Karpov and Veselin Topalov. In addition to seconding Karpov in matches against Anand (1997) and training him for his victorious match against Kasparov (2002), Alex got the chance to play blitz with the Russian legend. "The first time we played" Alex said, "I won with black, and thought I'd do pretty well. Then I lost 25 games in a row. I was already a GM and didn't think I could lose 25 games in a row to anyone!"

For five years he played for the championship college team at the University of Maryland Baltimore Country (UMBC) and graduated in the spring of '06 with a degree in linguistics. Onischuk is now the head coach of Texas Tech University's nationally recognized chess program.

If he could play any champion from history, he would play Paul Morphy. "I'd play 1...e5, and he'd go for the King's Gambit," he said. "I'd probably lose."