Hoffer's Chess Academy Images

The Illustrated Story of Coach Mike Hoffer's Chess Academy

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Winning a tournament in Chicago 1986. In the previous round I defeated Vivian Schumucker (in the plaid shirt) who was the most active woman in US chess tournaments at that time.

My son Chris started early. This was on his birthday in 1986 at the New York Open, which was also the first day he was able to walk! Judit Polgar played with Chris between every move as she was winning her section of the New York Open at age 9, placing her on the front page of the New York Times!

Chris couldn't read chess books yet, so he ate them!

A young Judit Polgar holding my daughter Mandy at the 1987 New York Open. The youngest of the 3 famous Polgar sisters, Judit was already dominating at age 10, proving women can play great chess! Judit has been the top rated woman in the world for over 20 years and in the top 50 in the world overall. The Polgar family liked Mandy so much, they asked us to allow them to keep her to make her the 4th Polgar sister!

In 1989, I became the chief columnist & games editor for The Chess Connection Magazine, an affiliate of ICCF which offered the largest cash prizes in correspondence chess history! This was at the same time as I was winning the 1989 TCC North American Championship. My games and analysis began to appear in New In Chess Yearbook, published in Amsterdam. My record as a correspondence player stands as undefeated with 61 wins and 9 draws.

Chess has always been a part of my boys' lives. L-R: Dan, Brian, & Chris.

Brothers Dan & Chris were Hillsborough County Champions for their age groups at Roland Park 1994, Dan's first tournament!

Brian Hoffer (#3 Son) won his first 4 tournaments, sweeping through 15 games in a row against Juniors, rating him in the USA Top 50 under 13! This picture is of his 5-0 Tarpon Springs victory in October 2004. Two months later he defeated National Champion Alexander Katz in 26 moves.

My youngest daughter Julia is also the youngest to insist on learning to correctly set up a chessboard on her own at the age of eighteen months old in 2006!

Coach Mike with Leonid Kozhukh after he won the State Championship on 2-26-05 with a perfect 5-0 score! Len was a very consistent and imaginative player: 1994 National K-2 (2nd), 1995 Florida State Champion K-3 (=1st), 1995 National K-3 (2nd), 1996 Florida State Champion K-3 (2nd).

Coach Mike and Julia Kozhukh. Julia equaled her brother Len's feat also winning the 1995 Florida State K-5 Championship with a perfect 5-0 score! Julia was a serious competitor: 1995 Florida State Champion K-5 (=1st), 1995 National K-5 (=6th), 1997 Florida State Champion K-6 (=2nd).

Coach Mike and Stephen Crookston, one of my favorite students. Stephen is somehow always a bridesmaid, knocking off the top players only to seem to lose one game, so his teammates loved him! In this 1995 picture, he had beaten perennial champion Cindy Tsai and lost to Kjell Ryerson in the last round (who shared 1st with Julia Kozhukh). At States in 1996, he also went 4-1 with his only loss to teammate Travis Sapp. Time hasn't changed much as he finished 1/2 point out of first at the 2009 World Open in Philadelphia; at least this time was consoled by a nice chunk of cash!

At the 1995 Florida State Championship we needed a U-Haul to bring home all the trophies our team won! Stephen & Nick Crookston are standing on the left, next is Julia Kozhukh & Coach Mike, peeking through the trophies are Leonid Kozhukh & Greg Anglen, the right eye of Jennifer Herrera, and that's my former assistant Leonardo Araujo wearing red.

Len & Julia Kozhukh were the best brother & sister I ever had the privilege to coach. They moved from St. Petersburg, Russia to St. Pete, Florida! Not only were they consistent performers, we always had a great time! Front row: Kevin Belmont, Len Kozhukh, Coach Mike; Back Row: Julia Kozhukh, and Chris Abbott. Chris was always an absolute blast to have along on road trips!

Roland Park Middle School Team, 1995 Florida State Championship in Pompano Beach. Front Row: Shena Meysembourg, Angie Essex; Middle Row: Nick Digirolamo, Steven Belmont, Jimmy Fulp, Nick Crookston (or mascot), Kevin Belmont, Lazaro Lopez; Back Row: Olutayo Akinrefon, "Moose", Coach Mike, Jarod Gilbert, Aaron Kilbride, Greg Anglen, and last, but certainly not least is Coach Willard Taylor, to whom I'm extremely indebted and grateful for so many electrifying experiences and memories.

In a scene straight out of Searching for Bobby Fischer, my son Chris falls asleep holding the 3rd place National Championship Team trophy on the ride back from Syracuse, New York on December 4, 1995. This was quite an accomplishment for players who were novices just four months earlier! This was a fabulous trip as it was the first time a lot of these Florida kids had ever seen snow, as you may see outside the windows! Seated behind Chris is Jimmy Fulp, who formed the backbone of our Roland Park team along with Greg Anglen.

We started with this team of novices and 4 months later won huge trophies at Nationals and then here at the State Championships. Not everyone in this picture played for Roland Park, yet they all belonged to our Tampa Chess Club. In the front row are Amanda Hoffer, Chris Hoffer, Lydia Pendino. Holding the trophy are Greg Anglen, Ramsey Neville, & Lazaro Lopez (in the shades). Travis Sapp is wearing the cap. Jimmy Fulp is mid-back row wearing an Orlando Magic shirt. Coach Mike stands at the upper right hand side.

This is an all too familiar scene at States of players waiting in line for Coach Mike to go over all of their games. Len & Julia Kozhukh are in their yellow TCC shirts. Julia reminded me of a deer in headlights seeking my final prep before every round! Travis Sapp is eagerly seeking resolution of his position. The casually cool big kid on the couch next to me is Jason Harlow, a good player and very bright fellow with a great sense of humor and uncanny knowledge of 60's music.

The dawn of a new era December 14 at the 2003 National Championship in snowy Chicago with new students RJ Dellecese & Dion Larson who both won trophies in their first major event!

Our players sometimes win trophies larger than the student! Pictured L-R: Nicholas Katz, Austin White, Coach Mike, & Alexander Katz at the 1994 Florida State Championship in Lakeland. Alexander was the K-1 State Champ with a perfect score of 8-0!

Alexander Katz who won the State Championship by 1.5 points with 8-0. Two weeks later he won the National Championship in Pittsburgh with another perfect score of 7-0!

Nicholas Katz, Alexander's younger brother won a nice trophy finishing 9th in the section his brother won. He was 5th in the 2005 New Jersey State Championship. Nicholas is a good-natured kid with a giant heart!

Coach Mike and Austin White celebrating our collection of trophies from States. Austin finished 5th in the K-3 scoring 6 out of 8 in his very first tournament!

Coach Mike & Kevin Wagner, one of my favorite students from an incredible family. This kid was very gifted and fun! We'd sometimes break for Foosball in the middle of a training session. He was very torn between chess and acting. It looks as though Broadway may have won him over.

My #1 Son Chris in the red visor taking on National Champ Alexander Katz at our chess club while #3 Son Brian kibitzes.

This is a good example of the rich and diverse ages, genders, and nationalities who have always inhabited our chess clubs! I truly enjoy having a "United Nations" flavor to our teams. That's the vivacious Linne Katz watching her son Nicholas play. Austin White is in the foreground & Coach Jeff York is in the background.

They start coming to our club at a very young age! That's Linne Katz holding Benjamin, the 4th Katz boy, while my beautiful daughter Mandy is holding her nephew and my then newborn grandson Kaden, who literally came straight from the hospital to support the debut of our USF chess club!

We owe a so much to our chess moms who devote their time and patience for all of us! I'd be nowhere without them! That's Linne with Benjamin again and Joshua Katz, #3 Son. Joshua is a character! He gave me a wonderful compliment that night when he peered up at me and asked, "Coach Mike, are you an adult?" I told him no, I'm really a big kid and to keep it a good secret! It wasn't long after this that big brother Alexander began losing mad rating points online with ICC and no one could understand why, until they realized Joshua had been logging in with Alexander's password so he could play online chess, too! Unfortunately for us, the Katz family moved away to New Jersey. Today you will find all three of these guys, Alexander, Nicholas, and Joshua on YouTube featuring their guest appearances on New York City Public Television's local chess show!

A visit to our photo gallery would not be complete, and my students would never forgive me, if we did not include a shot of Coach Mike (a.k.a. "Chess Bully") doing his trademark banging away at the demo board to drive home a theme! I learned to start doing this when I was directing the chess program at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and had to maintain the rapt attention of over 50 students at once. Not only does this tactic work, the kids stand in line after class waiting to take their own swing at the demo board, and for whatever reason, most of them are girls!

Coach Mike with Grandmaster Joel Benjamin. At 13, Joel bested Fischer's record as the youngest U.S. Master ever and has won every US title ever since. He is a 3 time US Champion, fantastic writer, and computer opening programming consultant. Joel is a great guy with a terrific sense of humor. I will never forget how he was cheering me on during my game with Vasily Smyslov, right behind Smyslov's back! When I first met Joel at New York in 1986, he was seven years younger than me. For whatever reason, in this picture of us taken in Chicago, he is now clearly seven years older than me!

GM Jaan Ehlvest of Estonia & Coach Mike in Miami. Jaan is a very engaging and polite person who is also incredibly humble for once being rated #4 in the world! We are fortunate he has now chosen to make his home in the US.

GM Alexander Ivanov (Sasha) and I have shared some memorable times over the years, from hanging out in Plant City (of all places) with the late GM Igor Ivanov, to this animated all night speed chess session in Miami. Sasha is using his finger to admonish his opponent for making a particularly ethnic move! His sense of humor is unparalleled on myriad subjects! He is originally from Arkhangelsk, Russia "on the White Sea in the Arctic Circle". He now lives in the US with his with wife Esther, who is a very strong chessplayer herself!

Coach Mike surrounded by all of his offspring at the time. (I've had two grandchildren since.) I am very blessed to have a loving and supportive family! Everything I do is for them.

Birthday celebration at our chess club on February 15, 2011

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