Evan, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us about yourself and Premier Chess. To start, how did you come to be where you are today?
I owe it chiefly to my teachers. It was because of mentors who went above and beyond their role and subject that I learned as much as I did and discovered as much about myself as I have. In the world of chess– I suppose it’s fitting to start with chess– in the world of chess, my most recent mentor was Grandmaster Leonid Yudasin. He was a competitor in the Israeli chess scene, ranked 7th in the world. What I learned from him, while pertinent first to chess, was no less critical when applied to the rest of my life. I learned small but crucial maxims. If you have the advantage in a game, don’t rush; run out the clock. Blunders are most easily made when you think you have victory in your grasp. Overconfidence will narrow your sight and make you blind you to what you otherwise can see.
The greatest lesson Grandmaster Yudasin taught me was to control my emotions. Emotions too can cloud judgment and so when you first sit down to a game – when you greet your opponent and see the board lay before you, at that moment, there is only the game. (If you are interested in working on emotional composure, Nilcee Schneider is a meditation and wellness coach and also offers Reiki sessions.) I’ve since learned that for any sport, this advice is heeded by the best of contenders. From Simone Biles to Magnus Carlsen, they see the (spring)board in front of them and nothing else.
You said Grandmaster Yudasin was your most recent mentor. Who else has helped you on your way?
David MacEnulty is a valued friend and mentor. From him, I learned hope has no place in chess. The only time for hope is at a dead lost position, because hoping or wishing means denying a core truth of chess, that only you, yourself are responsible for your actions. To rely on anything else is to deny your own autonomy and ability. Kevin McGee, my Vice President at Oracle, used to always say “Hope is a town in Arkansas.” Grandmaster Bill Lombardy is someone who has meant a lot to me. He was never officially my coach, but I have learned a great deal from him all the same. From him, I learned to continually evaluate and reevaluate my and my opponent’s position. Who has advantage and why? And how can it be lost? Grandmaster Lombardy asked me to pick one great player and examine their full games again and again. I picked Michael Adams and to this day, I still study his matches. He also taught me the value of holistic mentorship. As a teacher, your role is not simply to pass on the expertise of your specialization, but to help connect it to greater life lessons. Everything is connected and chess is no exception.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Evan! We’ll see you again for Part II of this interview series soon.