The ICA Youth Committee is devoted to promoting, expanding and improving youth chess in Illinois for grades K-12. Our premise is that every child should have the opportunity to learn and play chess.

Jerry Neugarten (Youth Committee Chairman) has run scholastic chess clubs and coached since 1995, initially in New York’s Hudson Valley. His former club produced a national champion. A retired lawyer, Jerry was a prosecutor in Manhattan, served as Special Assistant to District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and founded the New York State Law Enforcement Council. Raised in Hyde Park, Jerry returned to the area in 2006 and started a large K-8 club in Highland Park. The following year he spearheaded a district-wide program now serving 400 kids in 11 schools (  Over five years, his Highland Park teams have won 24 team awards at Illinois state championships. He has won community service awards for his volunteer work organizing chess programs in both New York and Illinois.  He is also a mediator and mock trial coach. He became active in ICA during 2009.

Chuck Beach has been active in scholastic chess in the Rockford/Rock Valley area since 1997. He has run the quarterly Rockford Chess Challenge for over 10 years and has helped in bringing three national chess tournaments to northern Illinois. He is the webmaster for the website which includes a rich variety of ready-to-print chess lessons available without charge. He organized the "Chess For Kids" project which purchased and distributed chess sets in every elementary classroom in Winnebago, Dekalb, Stephenson, Boone, and Ogle Counties. In 2009, Chuck received the "Those Who Excel" award in recognition of his efforts. The program is sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education to honor people in elementary and secondary schools who have made outstanding contributions to the educational community.

Michael Bologna has long been involved in Chicago scholastic chess, coaching the Edgebrook Elementary School team for seven years and supporting the  chess team at Northside College Preparatory High School.  In addition, Michael helps direct Chicago Chess Kids, a free chess club that meets most Saturday mornings at the Edgebrook Public Library.  He is a staff correspondent for BNA, the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for professionals in business and government.

Mike Cardinale has been active in scholastic chess in Chicago since 1997, first as coach of the Gale School team on Chicago’s north side, and since 2002 as chief tournament director of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago. YCFC stages six free tournaments each year for kids in grades K-8, drawing primarily CPS students. YCFC’s mandate is to reduce or eliminate socioeconomic barriers to chess participation in Chicago. Mike has modeled the YCFC program on the legendary Bad Bishops of Vaux High School in Philadelphia, who were active during Mike's high school playing days in New York in the early '80s. For his day job, Mike serves as Financial Manager of The Apartment People, a north side apartment rental agency that has generously supported the efforts of YCFC.

Jay Dembsky became involved in chess when his two sons showed interest and skill about five years ago, and Jay himself became enamored of the game. Realizing that his Glencoe community offered only basic instruction, he sought out alternatives and worked hard to bring organized, professionally coached to Glencoe’s K-8 schools. He met with only limited success despite a growing belief in the value of the game for kids. He remains a frustrated parent looking for higher level chess opportunities for his own and other kids in his community. He received a BS at Wharton (U of PA) and an MBA from the JL Kellogg School of Management. He is a former company executive and currently spends his time running a small business, doing private and non-profit Board work and coaching his sons’ sports teams.

Betsy Dynako is a National Tournament Director with USCF and an International Arbiter through FIDE. She has taught chess in schools throughout the Chicago area for four years. Betsy is also a professional chess photographer ( hailed as “possibly the best around.” Her work appears regularly on Chess Life Online and in Chess Life Magazine, and has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Tampa Bay Illustrated, New In Chess magazine, other chess publications, and in the 2004 Endo Expressions exhibit at the ARC Gallery in Chicago. Betsy is looking forward to working again this year with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

Herbert Ferguson has been teaching chess for almost 40 years and in school programs for more than 20 years. During the Million Man March in 1995 he was inspired to organize and promote chess in his Matteson/Richton Park community. He believes chess is a rich game, full of potential for developing a variety of skills, but believes that chess is underutilized in the schools. He currently teaches Social Studies and serves as the chess coach at James Hart School in Homewood. He has also been coordinating and hosting the south suburban conference championships for the past six years, serving schools in Flossmoor, Glenwood, Park Forest, Matteson, Crete, Lansing, and Homewood. Herb also participates in an evening club in Park Forest. He joined the board of CoChess in 2007 and hopes to attract chess sponsors and coaches to continue to build programs in Chicago-area schools.

Zack Fishman is an active entrepreneur who has founded and operated companies in the finance, manufacturing, electronics, and education sectors for nearly 30 years. His business past ventures include Illini Trading, a market-making and trading firm operating on major exchanges; he also worked as a manager and trainer at TradeGroup, a division of Tradelink; and Appliance Control Technologies. He is currently Chairman of the Board at CG Industries, the leading remanufacturer and logistics provider in the appliance industry. Zack is also a well known chess instructor and tournament organizer. He has been teaching chess since 1998. He founded Chess Education Partners, a provider of chess programs for schools and community organizations in and around Chicago. Zack received a BA from the University of Illinois in 1981.

Louis Fogel is an active parent-volunteer in the Evanston chess program. He learned how to play chess in third grade, and won the Minnesota State Championship (junior high division) in 1984. He received a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a law degree from the University of Chicago. He has extensive experience tutoring students in math and science, and was given the Booth Award while at U of C, presented annually to the top teaching assistant in the University. He works as a patent litigation attorney in the loop. His son Alexander is a top young player in Evanston and won the Sportsmanship Award at the 2009 National Youth Action tournament in Oak Brook.

Kiran Frey is a physician and psychiatrist with a long record of public service and philanthropy. She became involved in chess when her son, Rishi Sethi, became a strong youth player in 1997. The following year she and Rishi started the Barrington Chess Program, which today is thriving. Rishi later paired with GM and former U.S. Champion Yury Shulman to found Chess Without Borders, whose mission is to promote learning by combining chess education with service and philanthropy. The program has won numerous major awards including a Presidential Medal for Community Service in 2005 and two Governor’s Awards from the state of Illinois. Dr. Frey is board certified in psychiatry, forensic medicine and disability analysis. She is a consultant for the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, a member of the American Board of Forensic Examiners, and a medical examiner for the Lake County State’s Attorney. She currently works part time with Alexian Center for Mental Health.

Steve Froehlich is a CPA in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. His volunteer chess work began in 1992 when his three sons were active members of the MacArthur-Eisenhower Scholastic Chess Club, and he’s remained active in the MacArthur club ever since. He organized the Northwest Scholastic Open in 1998 and has run it consistently since then. He also organized the state scholastic championships in 2000. He has served as president and secretary of the MacArthur club and as treasurer of CoChess.

Adam Geisler is a sixth grade teacher and chess coach at Bateman Elementary School in Chicago.  He started Bateman’s chess club from scratch in 2006.  Over the past few years, the club has evolved into a competitive team playing in YCFC and CPS tournaments.  In 2009, he organized the first Bateman Invitational Tournament.  Before moving to Chicago in 2002, Adam spent two years in China teaching and traveling.  While there, he learned the Chinese version of chess, as well as Go.  He enjoys incorporating the history of chess into his Social Studies lessons.

Hector Hernandez is a former president of ICA with a long record of commitment to youth chess in Illinois. He won the Billy Colias Excellence in Chess Teaching Award from the ICA Warren Program in 2000, the “Service to the Community” award from ICA in 1998, and the “Pride of Pilsen” award from the Pilsen Together Chamber of Commerce in 1996. He has worked since 1978 to promote chess through Chicago Public Library chess clubs, simultaneous exhibitions and tournaments. He has served since 1989 as the branch manager of the Rudy Lozano Library, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the same year founded a successful evening chess club that meets at Lozano (now called the Knight Moves Chess Club). KMCC has won 14 national and state titles and was named one of the nation’s top 50 library programs for young adults by the American Library Association. Hector’s USCF rating has been as high as 2167.

Paul Kash has been involved in scholastic chess in Illinois since 1997. Early in his career Paul started a chess program at Driscoll Catholic High School and then went on to be an assistant coach for the Evanston Township High School chess team. He is currently teaching and coaching chess at Whitney Young Magnet High School. His Whitney Young team has finished second at the IHSA State Chess Championship for three straight years. Paul's teams are characterized by their love of playing chess. He consistently has ten or more players coming to practice every day of the school year. Over the past two years Paul has become involved with elementary school chess by running tournaments and chess camps at Whitney Young.

Michael Leali started playing chess when he was 11. He started a club in Peoria for grades K-8 in 1992, and has coached at several Peoria schools: St. Thomas from 1992-1995, Father Sweeney from 1996-1998, Peoria Academy from 2000 to the present, and the Hult Health Education Center from 2005 to the present. He has co-organized major tournaments, including the Illinois State Elementary Championships in 1996 and 2005 and the National Elementary Championships in 1998. He co-founded the Greater Peoria Chess Foundation and has served as the Foundation’s Treasurer, Vice-President and President.

John Lee

Herbert Lichtman is an attorney and money manager who coaches in Highland Park.  Herbert has experience in corporate training and a passion for using technology to improve education, and he has taken the lead in training other Illinois coaches on how to teach chess with "smart boards."  His son Sam is the top player at Highland Park's Indian Trail school and is learning to coach in his own right. 

Mark Nibbelin, a former school teacher and athletic coach, became involved in chess 12 years ago when his son took up the game in second grade. Mark became a regular at his son’s club. When his computer skills became known he was asked to help out with computer operations. One thing led to another, and Mark soon had several roles in BNASC. He was chief computer TD at their tournaments, Webmaster, and Chairman of their Board of Directors. Mark continues to manage computer room operations at large tournaments, including downstate state championships, and trains others to do so. He has been a Delegate to the USCF. He particularly enjoys teaching chess to young children, including kindergarteners, and remains convinced that chess is a wonderful activity for both children and adults.

Tom Panelas can’t play chess to save his life, but he’s been hooked on the game since the day his son first asked to play him six and a half years ago. Along with another parent, Tom co-founded the chess club at Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park, and the club, which is still going strong, has been one of the school’s most popular and successful extracurricular activities. Tom is also a co-founder of the Chicago Blaze team of the U.S. Chess League. His constantly evolving blog, The Knights of Castle Kimbark (at, continues to be primarily about chess. He’s eager to see chess in the area expand from its North Shore epicenter to the city and South Side. He’s worked for Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. for many years and today is the company’s public-relations director. Tom lives with his family in Hyde Park.

Andi Rosen has served as director of the ICA Warren Junior Scholar Program since 2006. She became involved in chess when her son Eric learned the game at age 8, and on the way home from attending his first tournament, announced that “I want to do this forever.” He is now 16, and recently attained the ranking of National Master. Andi works as a freelance editor, and has a Bachelor’s degree in communication and social work from Antioch College, and a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She started a chess club at Skokie’s Middleton Elementary School in 2003, and served as an elected board member of Skokie elementary district 73.5 from 2002 to 2009. She served on the district’s gifted education committee, and is particularly interested in how chess can fill a need for gifted children, as Illinois provides no funding for gifted students and many districts in the state lack the resources to offer gifted programming. Andi serves on the ICA Executive Board and is married to fellow Youth Committee member Brad Rosen.

Brad Rosen is the father of Eric Rosen, and his interest in chess was reignited when Eric started playing competitively in 2001. Eric, now a senior at Niles North High School in Skokie, plays for his school team and continues to play in open tournaments throughout the country. Brad has tried his hand at playing tournament chess himself (so he knows how hard it is). He also penned The 64 Square Jungle parent chessblog from 2004-2008, which sought to promote chess culture and recognize the accomplishments of many in the youth chess world that otherwise received sparse public notice. Brad currently serves as part of the communications /public relations team with the Chicago Blaze of the US Chess League. Brad received his law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology Kent College of Law, and Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Illinois. He currently has his own legal practice after serving as corporate counsel over the years for various organizations. Brad is married to fellow Youth Committee member Andi Rosen.

Eileen Schmakel has been involved in scholastic and adult chess for the past eight years. Her son, Sam, started playing chess in 1st grade and is now one of the state’s top 8th grade players. She started the chess club at Sam’s school, Decatur Classical School, and ran the club for six years. Decatur is a small selective enrollment CPS school with 300 students, more than 80 of whom were regular members of its chess club. Eileen has years of experience dealing with the Chicago Public School system. She has also organized and hosted numerous chess seminars for visiting Grandmasters and titled players, both at the University of Chicago and at her home. She has over 10 years of food and beverage experience in the hotel industry.

Trevor Scott has been coaching the Walt Disney Magnet School Chess team on the north side of Chicago since he founded the program six years ago. In addition to coaching in the all-year program at Disney, he has been teaching chess for five years in the Worlds of Wisdom program, an extension of Northeastern University. Because of his work with WOW, their online kid’s magazine has a chess component where Trevor designs end game activities for kids to practice on. The Disney chess team has excelled and won multiple YCFC tournaments because of Trevor’s passion. While wearing his cape during the school day, Trevor Scott works with the Technology Coordinator to keep all the technology in Walt Disney running. Trevor has been playing chess since he was taught by his older brothers at age eight, but hasn’t competed since high school.

Joe Splinter began playing chess competitively in college. In 1977 he joined the Bloomington-Normal Chess Club and competed in Peoria, Rantoul, and Springfield. In 1981, he joined the St. Charles Chess Club. He became a USCF Expert in 1985 and his current rating is 2113. In 1987, he began teaching chess part time to adults and school-age children. He has coached and helped host the annual tournament for the Benjamin Middle School team since 1991, during which time Benjamin has won four Illinois State Championships. Since 1997, he has also coached and hosted annual tournaments for the West Chicago High School team. He has taught group and individual lessons since 1996 to top nationally-ranked kids for ICA’s Warren Junior Program, and was a recipient, in 1998, of the program’s Colias Teaching in Excellence Award. He is a regular chess instructor at camps, local libraries and park districts, and recently has expanded his teaching to business groups, clubs, home school groups and retirement communities. He’d do even more in chess, but alas, his full-time accounting job gets in the way.

Jennifer Stevens got involved in chess through her son Matthew, a third grader who has been playing two years. Matthew is in the Warren Junior Scholar program and is one of the top chess players his age in the country. Jennifer has a BS in Business Management from Ateneo de Manila University in Manila, Philippines, and received a grant from Tufts University in 1990 to study the American fast food industry. She moved from Boston to Chicago in 1999 and worked for David A. Noyes, an investment firm in Chicago, before moving to Burr Ridge in 2002. She volunteers in her son's school and supports the school’s program for gifted kids. Her husband James owns a meat packing plant in Chicago. They also have a daughter, Jenna who is 4 years old. Jennifer is interested in promoting chess because she has seen how it benefits kids academically and emotionally.

Phillip Yontez is a Highland Park/Highwood parent-volunteer whose two young daughters are enthusiastic members of the Wayne Thomas club. Phillip played on his high school chess team sometime in the last century and also represented Northwestern University one year at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Tournament. He is a software development project manager. Phillip made his chess coaching debut with the Highland Park program last year but has tutored students in math and other subjects for many years.

Pattie Zinski is the chess coach at Saint Michael School in Wheaton, where her son Max is an avid junior high player. With her guidance, the Saint Michael program has developed from an after school club, to a team that competes at the local, state and national level. Pattie also directs the All Wheaton Scholastic Chess Championship, which this year drew 180 scholastic players from Wheaton schools. Pattie received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and her joint J.D. and Masters of Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University. She practices law part time as international trade advisor to Newell Rubbermaid Company.

Michael Bologna has long been involved in Chicago scholastic chess, coaching the Edgebrook Elementary School team for seven years and supporting the  chess team at Northside College Preparatory High School. In addition, Michael helps direct Chicago Chess Kids, a free chess club that meets most Saturday mornings at the Edgebrook Public Library. He is a staff correspondent for BNA, the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for professionals in business and government.