An Interview with Gary Ryan- Chess Teacher, Theologian and Philosopher

G: I am a philosopher and theologian, who plays chess.

E: Tell me about yourself.

E: Where did you do your chess and theologian studies?

G: I did my philosophy studies at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, my theology studies at Harvard and chess bootcamp  at the Chess Forum in Greenwich Village. 

E: How long have you been playing chess?

G: When I was 10, someone gave my family a cardboard box chess set with instructions and I taught myself.

E: Tell me about when you realized chess would be a true passion.

G: I remember as kid sitting in Church on a Sunday morning listening to a sermon and thinking about chess. My heart would race. I used to be part of a chess community at The Chess Forum in the 90s before internet chess. A lot of great players used to play there at all hours.

E: Tell me about the most interesting player you met there:

G: None of us stood out more than anyone else; we were all characters. We all had nicknames, including Marky D, Holy Man, Sweet Pea, Master Ernie, Russian Paul and Dr. Wu. Back in the day, WGM Jennifer Shahade, IM Greg Shahade, GM Ben Finegold, FM Mike Klein, IM Farai  Mandizha and other strong players would come as well. GM Bill Lombardy used to come hang out late at night.  I started meeting guys who worked at Chess in the Schools and liked the idea of working for a non-profit that taught chess in the inner-city.

E: Tell me more about your teaching career:

G: I started teaching with Chess in the Schools in the 90s, working alongside many great chess teachers, e,g the Shahades, GM Miron Sher, Jonathan Corbblah, Mike Klein, Elizabeth Spiegel, David MacEnulty, IM Yury Lapshun, etc. I later worked at PS 116 with IM Suadin Robovic. In my very fist ever chess class at The Chess Forum, I taught a young version of GM Fabiano Caruana.

E: Elaborate on your experience with Fabiano.

G: He was a wild-child kindergartener. He had the most mischievous demeaner ever. He would tell his opponents” move your piece here” and then he would take free pieces. His mom and dad would sit patiently in the waiting area for the lesson to conclude. They would drink tea and baklava while I would teach a class of kindergartners.

E: When did you know that Fabiano may be a prodigy?

G: I was a new chess teacher and didn’t know he was that good. That was the first chess class I ever taught. I knew that he was head and shoulders above all the other kids. Later when he was in 4th grade, I played against him in the United States Amateur Team East on board 4 and he killed me like I was little kid. His father reminded me that I was his first ever chess teacher.

E: Tell me about where you currently teach.
G: I teach curriclum and after-school classes at Brooklyn Friends, PS 40, PS 124, corporate classes and private lessons.   E: Tell me something interesting that know ones!

G: I am part of a chess cabal; David Macenulty, Ron Boocock and I meet for dinner and talk shop  bi-monthly. E: Where can people find you for lessons for over the summer?

G: We have a summer camp at Brooklyn Friends until 8/23. We learn a lot of chess, hone our skills, enjoy weekly field trips and eat ice cream; sign up here!

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