An Interview with Andy Lerner
Andy Lerner is a Chess Master and member of the Board of Directors at Chess in the Schools. He is the Managing Partner of IA Capital Group, a venture capital firm. With his generous support,…
How’d you start playing chess? What do you like about it?
Dana: I started in the second grade, through my friends, but then I got more into it through my elementary school chess team. And I really liked being on a team, working through puzzles and tactics.
Christian: Chess in the Schools actually came to my elementary school, and it was Will [CIS College Bound Manager] who originally taught me how to play. And I just had a lot of fun. Competitively, it’s taught me determination. But also in casual play, chess is a communal experience, so it teaches you ethics, how to be sociable, and good sportsmanship.
How has Chess in the Schools had an impact on you and your studies?
Selvin: I take AP statistics, and I think since I’ve been playing chess most of my life, I can do that kind of higher critical thinking now, and in my everyday work too.
Christian: Chess always got me into logical reasoning. I was already good at math, but I’ve also been able to incorporate chess skills into English and History too, since it’s taught me inference and how to hypothesize and how to understand situations holistically. It’s helped my study habits too, and it’s taught me to take better notes.
How about College Bound?
Selvin: College Bound shows how chess skills can apply to adulthood. Yesterday, we talked about college applications and how chess can be used to distinguish ourselves and get accepted. And pre-pandemic I wasn’t playing much, but eventually I thought this place would be a good way to meet new people and learn new things.
Jeremiah: Yeah, I like that I get to meet other people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. (Motions toward Selvin) Like I met him—I never would have met him, I would’ve walked past him at tournaments, but now when I see him I’m like Selvin!!! (gives Selvin a handshake)
Any favorite tournaments you’ve been to?
Christian: I’ve gotten to go to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio for tournaments. My biggest accomplishment is probably going to the World Open. Just the experience, and sitting in the halls, and seeing everybody play, and seeing my brother play—he did really well—it was very inspiring.
Dana: I went to Nashville, Orlando, Chicago, and we got to go to Texas once too. Lots of different places. And I’m super excited for the Nationals coming up.
How did your plans for the future develop through CIS?
Christian: I’m going to college—I’m very into computer science and I want to study A.I. because it’s still such a young and flexible field, and it’ll be rewarding for a lot of other disciplines. I think I’m always going to be doing chess at a competitive level, and still going to tournaments.
Dana: I want to be a doctor, and I think chess encouraged me to think about a profession which can be challenging, since it prepares you for different kinds of situational difficulties and contextual problem solving. Being a chess player helps me with the confidence to say I can be prepared for hard tasks in the future.
Will you stay connected with Chess in the Schools, down the road?
Dana: Honestly, it would feel like a waste not to, just to graduate and leave. All these years, these connections, everything that CIS has done for me—I’ll want to give back to it. Jeremiah: There are a lot of alumni now who still work as tournament directors, and I find that exciting, and one day I hope that that could be me too.
Selvin: Also, alumni help you out. I learned about a new program through one of them for first-generation students, and I might have never known about it without this connection. So I feel like the alumni still help us along the way, which is something I want to do too.
Christian: Absolutely. Chess in the Schools is like a second home. I don’t want to leave it, so I definitely plan on coming back after graduating and giving back to this community.