Chess team director shares game philosophy, recruiting criteria

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Story last updated at 1/10/2010 – 12:59 am

Texas Tech University SPICE (

… I received a number of e-mails asking about my coaching philosophy and recruiting standards, etc.

Question: What are some of my recruiting criteria to put together a top notch college chess program to win national championships?

Answer: I look for a number of things. I believe they are very similar to other sports. Here are just a few of them:

• Professionalism (Will the recruit take pride in what he/she does and give his/her all?)

• Work ethic (Will the recruit be willing to put in maximum effort academically and in chess training?)

• Coachability (Will the recruit be willing to be coached to improve his/her chess strength? There is no perfect chess player. Every player has room to grow.)

• Team player (Will the recruit put the team concept above personal accolades in team competition? Team unity and chemistry are extremely important for success.)

Question: What is my coaching philosophy and how am I able to achieve so much success with the Knight Raiders chess teams in just two short years?

Answer: The answer is quite complex. There are a number of little things that create one big success. However, my job is very different that many other coaches at Texas Tech or at other universities.

An athletic coach usually has the responsibility for one team. In chess, there are multiple divisions. Therefore, I have to recruit, coach, and work with the A team, the B team, and the women’s team, etc. Each team and each player has completely different training regiment.

In addition to coaching, I also have a numerous other responsibilities as the director of SPICE. But to make the long story short, here is my coaching philosophy:

• I treat my players the way I would want to be treated.

• I give my players complete respect and I would never raise my voice or have harsh words toward them, even if they lose.

• My motto is “Win with grace, lose with dignity” and I expect all my players to follow it.

• I dissect the styles, strengths, and weaknesses of my players and I work with each player accordingly.

• I praise my players when they do well and I comfort them when they do not. There is no need to dwell on the negatives. The point is to learn from mistakes and not to repeat them .

• I commit 150 percent of my effort to my players and I expect them to do the same for me.

• However, I do not expect and I do not want my players to live, eat, drink, and breathe chess 24/7. When they train, I expect them to train hard. When they play, I expect them to give their all. But when we have down time, I also expect them to have fun and relax.

• I always stress the team unity concept and I was extremely pleased to see the players from my three teams work together, help one another, and cheer each other on at the national competition.

Question: Where do I find my players and what kind of majors do chess players usually major in?

Answer: My players come from all over the country and all over the world. They have very diversified majors and they take their studies seriously. A number of them are in Honors College. I have nearly 20 players after just two years and here are the backgrounds of just my three teams at the recent national championships:

A team: Davorin Kuljasevic, Croatia, graduate student in finance; Gergely Antal, Hungary, senior economics major; Gabor Papp, Hungary, senior finance major; Chase Watters, Texas, graduate Ph.D. student in microbiology.

B team: Zachary Haskin, Texas, freshman, Spanish major; Josh Osbourn, Kentucky, sophomore, English major; Konstantin Parkhomenko, Russia, final-year law student; Brett James, Virginia, freshman engineering major; Shail Shah, India, graduate student in biotechnology.

Lady Knight Raiders: Lilia Doibani, Moldova, first-year law student; Rebecca Lelko, Ohio, freshman, math major; Stephanie Ballom, Texas, psychology graduate; Ananya Roy, Georgia, freshman, political science major.

Question: How important is physical fitness in chess competition?

Answer: There is a big misconception that chess is not a physically demanding sport. Many of my players regularly hit the gym, play tennis, soccer, volleyball, swim, jog, or do yoga, etc. When you play two games per day, up to 4-5 hours per game, plus many more hours in preparation, you better be physically and mentally fit. Otherwise, it is not possible to handle this kind of grueling competition.

Source: AJ

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