Texas Tech University Computer Center Helps USA Chess Team
By Al Lawrence   
September 14, 2012
GMs Alex Onischuk and Ray Robson training before the Olympiad, Photo Tony Rich of STL Chess Club

The American chess team playing under the Stars and Stripes at the recently completed chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, had some help from a bank of computers more than 6,000 miles away at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. TTU’s High Performance Computing Center (HPCC), headed by Dr. Phillip Smith, provided remote access for the U.S. team.  HPCC Associate Director Dr. James Abbott and Analyst Huijun Zhu smoothed the way. “It was the first time in history that an American team was helped by a bank of super-computers,” TTU Chess Program Director Al Lawrence said.
Although it’s illegal to use computers to aid playing during a game, they can be used for research and evaluation of anticipated positions in preparation for match-ups. Typically, top players travel with souped-up laptops. But super-computers offer much greater analyzing power.
“The computer connection to Lubbock allowed us to analyze some critical positions much more deeply,” team captain John Donaldson said. Donaldson, a non-playing member of the team, holds the official title of international master. The U.S. playing members all hold the highest title in chess, international grandmaster. Grandmaster Alex Onischuk, who played third board on the four-person squad, is headed to Texas Tech to become head coach of the chess program.
The chess Olympiad, which finished September 9,  is held every two years in cities around the world. It is open to teams from any nation that is a member of FIDE, a French acronym that stands for the World Chess Federation.
The USA finished in fifth place—edged out of fourth by China on tie-break points—among the 150 competing nations. The U.S. was the only team to defeat the silver medalist Russian team, the pre-event favorite. Armenia took the gold medal. The U.S. team’s performance guaranteed it a spot in the prestigious 10-player invitational World Team Championship to be held later this year.

Al Lawrence, the new Director of the Texas Tech U. Chess Program is a frequent contributor to USCF Publications, and will be writing an article on the US Open for Chess Life Magazine.