Senior Tournament Director Luis Salinas, surrounded by chess computer pairing equipment at the 2020 Texas State and Amateur Championship.
Senior Tournament Director Luis Salinas
Surrounded by chess computer pairing equipment at
the 2020 Texas State and Amateur Championship
Photo by Jim Hollingsworth

Our Player of the Month’s story could almost have been titled “The Chess Player Who Wasn’t.” Fortunately for thousands of chess players, from world-class Grandmaster to novice, a more appropriate title is “Third Time is a Charm!” The first chapter happened many years ago, when he was a young lad growing up in Laredo. His father tried teaching him chess and he just didn’t get it. He may have been too young. Or maybe his father was better at other things than teaching chess, such as family values, instilling a work ethic and laying the foundation for his protégé’s life success.

The second chapter happened when his oldest brother learned chess at the local Boys Club and returned home to teach his younger brothers. But his brother did not get all the rules right and taught the others. One interesting rule was pieces giving check cannot be captured. Once the Queen was unleashed it was game over. Chess did not make sense and he still did not get it.

Fortunately, his Uncle came to the rescue in the third chapter. He may have struggled with chess, but he was the “Monopoly King” of the family. The other brothers teamed up and introduced special rules, such as the ability to quickly transfer houses and hotels between properties (like Park Place and Atlantic Avenue). His Uncle stopped in, saw what was happening and said, “Hey guys, you can’t do it that way. You must sell back your buildings for half price and build on other property only if you have enough money.”

He asked his Uncle, “Are there any other rules we’re doing wrong in the other games we play?” Suddenly a real chess player was born!

Life went on and he became a decent player in school. He joined the Navy and served honorably; achieving the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (PO2, pay grade E-5). Two friends organized a ship-wide tournament during a deployment, and he won First Place. The prize was $70, and he suggested only a small trophy and spending the rest on a party when they returned to port. However, $70 could buy a huge trophy in those days and that is what they did. He protested but he was their hero and champion deserving of the best.

He left the Navy and returned to Texas. He used his GI Bill to go to college and study electrical engineering. He had become a strong chess player by then and was tempted to attend the University of Texas at Austin. But he decided so many chess clubs in the Austin area would be too distracting. He enrolled at Texas A&M and became the Chess Club President; not as distracting while allowing time for chess between classes.

After graduation he specialized in microwave technologies. He played an important role in keeping our Soldiers and Allies safe during the Gulf War. His microwave radar assets detected scud missile launchers in the Iraq desert. The hours were long and tiring. After the war, Dr. Tim Redman, two-time US Chess President, offered him a position as Assistant Director of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) Chess Program. He enjoyed a long successful career at UTD and retired at the end of 2019. In his free time, he served as the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Dallas Chess Club. It is significant he ensured the Dallas Chess Club’s TCA membership remained current, even before the current discounted rate of $10.

He is a man of renown. Few are as knowledgeable as he about Texas Chess Association Bylaws, bidding procedures, and tournament administration. In 2004, he demonstrated exceptional competence and professionalism when the old Watauga Chess Club hired him to be Chief Tournament Director for the Region II Scholastic Championships. He asked just one question upon entering the TD/Computer Pairing Room, “What version of SwissSys are you using. 4.0, 5.0 or 6.0?” “6.0” was the reply. “Good, because each version does things a little differently and I know what each does.”

He last played in a rated tournament in 2001. On his MSA page his high expert’s rating of 2073 stands out like a bright beacon. Even more impressive is his extensive directing history, with over 2,500 tournaments as Chief Director.

Due to the pandemic, the Dallas Chess Club is shuttered, and its equipment is in storage. Yet he still organizes and directs major tournaments attended by many of the world’s top players. He is a FIDE Arbiter, International Organizer, Senior Tournament Director, US Chess Life Member, TCA Patron member, and a friend to all chess players.

For having a huge impact on chess across Texas and well beyond its boundaries, we at Texas Chess Association proudly salute Luis Salinas as our December 2020 Player of the Month.