Meet the Players: GM Alex Onischuk

GM Alexander Onischuk is seeking his second U.S. Chamionship title.


By Brian Jerauld

You are the new head coach at Texas Tech, in the wake of Susan Polgar’s highly publicized departure to Webster University. Will you speak on how that departure affected the Texas Tech program? What are your goals for its next chapter?

In six years as the head coach and the director of the TTU chess program, Susan set the bar very high. Texas Tech has won a number of very prestigious collegiate chess events. Susan has done many wonderful things. I don’t think, however, that her departure has affected the chess program that much. In fact, the program has never been stronger than it is now.

My goal is to attract more young and talented students to Texas Tech and to help them to get better in chess.

Over five years of competition in the U.S. Championships, you went 49 straight games without a loss. That streak ended in 2010 - in a game where Gata Kamsky actually offered you a draw. What are your thoughts on that game, and that streak, three years later? Does that draw decline still haunt your sleep?

I did not accept a draw in that game because I thought I was better. I missed the b5 move. I knew that it was my chance to win the game and to get close to winning the title. If I had this situation today, I would do the same. This was a pure chess mistake, so I don’t regret my decision at all.

What makes you so difficult to win against?

I think many factors, but probably the most important one is a deeper positional understanding.

You are a father of twins – that’s like a built-in opponent. Is chess in your kids’ future? Do you have any thought about chess being integrated into U.S. education?

I want my kids to play chess. Children that play chess perform better academically; it is almost a fact. My older son plays some chess and I can see how it benefits him. It would be nice if we had more before and after school chess programs in the U.S.

You are also an Ironman tri-athlete. Can you speak on these competitions? Is training and running the Ironman the ultimate balance to sitting in a chair for hours?

Triathlon is my huge hobby; once I discovered this sport I became addicted to it. So far the longest race I have done is the 70.3 Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 run) and I also ran one marathon. Unfortunately, with little kids I cannot train at full strength, but my dream is to finish the full Ironman one day. I believe triathlon training improves my endurance and maybe it even helps my chess.