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,…
Quan Ince is a Chess in the Schools alumnus. He graduated from The Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics in 2015, and has been working in chess education as a coach and manager since 2017. Chess in the Schools is excited to warmly welcome him back, now as an instructor.
So you are an alum of CIS? Tell us about what that was like, and what you have been up to since.
I’m an alum, I graduated high school in 2015 and was in the College Bound program, but I’d been going to CIS tournaments since 7th grade. I remember my stepdad taught me how to play, and then I went to these tournaments, and everybody was beating on me. It was bad. (laughs)
Those kids were really good, and after losing to them for a while, I thought I gotta get good! I didn’t know you could be that good at chess!
It can seem crazy to see the level these kids are at.
I was going in, and they were telling me the name of the opening I was playing, and I’m like “what? I’m just moving the pieces…” (laughs) I didn’t know there were names for all these things! I realized, they’re really trying to beat me, and they’re not just moving the pieces in ways that look nice.
Well, it sounds like chess has stayed with you. Do you want to mention what you are doing now?
Well, after school, I ran into this guy who’d started his own chess coaching company called Imagine That, and even though I knew how to play, I didn’t really know how to coach. The most coaching I’d done was at Chess in the Schools. When I was a senior in high school, I’d help out kids with their games. But like, having a whole classroom in front of me, and directing kids, and teaching someone the game—it was all brand new to me. I started with after-school programs, and after a year or two I had whole-day programs I’d do. So I ended up learning from Imagine That and I wound up teaching with them for about 5 years.
Sounds like you have been teaching chess for a while now. What do you enjoy about it?
The part of it that I love is the belief. Some kids might approach chess thinking it’s too hard or that they can’t do it, but then I come in and I show them that anyone can learn and anyone can become good at it. My favorite part is when the kids get excited and want to show me how well they’ve done.
That sounds really holistic, like your experience in chess affects everyone involved, not only the kids but you too since you didn’t realize you’d have this aptitude for coaching, or that you’d enjoy it as much as this.
Has being a chess instructor affected your perception of the game or how it’s played?
Definitely—it made me realize how bad I was (laughs). I played chess since I was a kid, but when I got to coaching, the kids would ask me questions about their games, and I’d have to stop and think about moves and strategies I’d never thought about before. And it made me realize more about how I played when I was a kid, how I’d make moves that just felt right naturally, but maybe weren’t the right moves. I’ve developed into more of an in-depth player, by teaching chess.
Do you see effects chess has had in other areas of your life, outside of playing it?
The biggest thing now is strategizing my life. I used to tend to put things off, but chess teaches planning, and now I think it’s informing how I spend my time, plan my days off, things like that. But it’s also made me realize that not everything is a race, you know? You want things done, but sometimes there’s a motion to things, there’s a process to things and to the time and the steps they take.
What are some of the best things that have come from your relationship with chess?
I would say the best things have been the connections.
Yes. A lot of the people I’ve met through the chess program and through teaching chess have been really beneficial to my life. Sometimes I tell people I’m a chess teacher, and it makes them curious so they want to connect with me and learn more about it.
Sounds like chess can open doors. And now, how do you feel coming back to Chess in the Schools, is it exciting?
It’s exciting, but it feels a little unreal in a way, kind of surreal!
Words of advice for current CIS students and other players out there?
Envision yourself winning the game. Chess is a mental battle. You have to believe you can win! Too many kids don’t go into the game thinking they can’t win. So you have to believe you can win. And once you can see yourself winning, bring it to life!