The Sunrise Center for Excellence in Chess offers teacher training programs led by two acclaimed instructors with long careers in the classroom and in after school. Both are also champion chess players in their own right.
FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry is a nationally acclaimed instructor who has over 40 years’ experience teaching and developing award-winning chess programs.
Sunil is a pioneer in the field of curricular chess instruction. Starting in 1979, he developed a comprehensive chess program at Manhattan's Hunter College Campus Schools, a leading laboratory school for talented and gifted students. This program evolved to the point where chess is now a required subject for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade and when the school offered pre-Sunil taught chess to those students as well. Over a 10 year period, over 500 4-year-olds were introduced to chess through weekly classes.
A staunch advocate of the value of chess in education, Sunil has worked closely with many different schools over the past 35 years. The NSCF program implemented under Sunil’s direction at Jr. High School 45 in the Bronx ran for seven years and is still regarded as a shining example of total community involvement. Curricular chess classes, active parent involvement, support from local businesses, early morning chess games with police officers, visits by the chess team to homes for the elderly, all these were key ingredients in shaping character. Not only did this team win several awards, the majority of its members went on to attend college.
More recently, Sunil designed a pilot program for Greenwich Academy, an elite all-girls school in Greenwich, CT. The program was so successful that chess is now established as a curricular subject in the Lower School from grades 1-3. Another exciting collaboration is with the Speyer Legacy School, a private school in Manhattan designed to meet the needs of advanced learners through an accelerated and enriched curriculum. Sunil teaches and directs a chess program that provides curricular instruction twice a week to all students, kindergarten through fourth grade. Middle school students (grades 5 through 8) can participate in a chess elective that meets three times in each six-day cycle. The school recently designed a state-of-the-art chess room with audio-visual and computer support.
Sunil served as the first Chairman of the US Chess Federation’s Committee on Chess in Education from 1990 to 2000, and produced Chess in Education workshops across the country. These events featured such distinguished speakers as Dr. Robert Ferguson and Dr. Laszlo Polgar. In 1998 he coordinated a Symposium on Chess in Education in the United States Senate with Senator Carl Levin as the keynote speaker.
An appointed member of the USCF Scholastic Committee from 1986 to the present, Sunil was elected co-chair of the Scholastic Council from 2012 to 2014. For his work in scholastic chess, Sunil earned the 1998 USCF Scholastic Service Award and the Meritorious Service Award in 1986 and 2004. In 2005 he was named “Chess Educator of the Year,” a prestigious national recognition by the University of Texas at Dallas. In 2007 he earned the FIDE Trainer certification(1).
A two-time New York State chess champion, Sunil is also one of the most successful chess coaches in the nation. He has coached over 200 individual and team champions in national and international youth competitions. These include the Hunter Junior High team that won the 2000 World Schools Chess Championship, Hunter’s high school students who won three consecutive National High School team titles from 2010 to 2012 and Speyer Legacy who are the 2015 National K-1 and National K-5 team champions.
Sunil has coached US teams at the World Youth Chess Championships on several occasions. Many of his students have medaled at this event, among them John Viloria, who won two consecutive gold medals (1987 and 1988) and Sunil's stepson Hikaru Nakamura, who won a silver medal in 2001. A three-time national scholastic champion, Hikaru has gone on to become the youngest American Grandmaster, a four-time U.S. Chess Champion and one of the top 5 chess players in the world.
Sunil is the author, with Ed Eusebi, of the best-selling chess book, Best Lessons of a Chess Coach published by Random House. He is also co-author of Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History, a new blended learning textbook targeted to middle and high school students that helps the student improve at chess while being exposed to the game's cultural development. The book will be released in 2017 by Mongoose Press.
National Master Bill Cornwall is widely recognized for his decades of achievement in the fields of chess instruction and chess journalism. A major contributor to the development of chess in Florida, Bill’s lifelong devotion to chess began when he pushed his first pawn at the age of 8. In the years thereafter, he became involved with almost every aspect of the royal game.
As a player, Bill began to win trophies when he was just a teen. After achieving his U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) Expert title, he won the U.S. Expert Championship. He also won the 1st Expert prize in the World Open, U.S. Open (twice), and National Open. For nearly 3 years, Bill was a Specialist Avionics Instructor for the U.S. Army. During that time, he tied for first in the U.S. Army Chess Championship. He also was awarded the special Brilliancy Prize for his play in the Armed Forces Chess Championship. A former Florida State Chess Champion, Bill has also finished first in other championships, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Tucson.
Bill began teaching chess professionally when he first became a Master over 40 years ago. Many of his students have been listed by the USCF amongst the highest-rated players in the U.S. for their ages, and they have won many titles and awards. One student, for example, represented the U.S. at World Youth Chess Championships, became Florida's first All-America Team member (a team he was on for 8 years), and became the U.S. Junior Open Champion. Another became the U.S. Elementary Champion while a third qualified to compete with former World Champion Anatoly Karpov on a team that tied for first in the U.S. Team Championships.
In 1988, Bill founded Cornwall Chess Services (CCS), a chess education business that helped establish and run chess programs at over a dozen major South Florida Schools. At the University School of Nova Southeastern University students were offered Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Chess Classes as well as a Chess Club. Individuals and teams from University School won hundreds of titles and trophies from the local to the national level including the U.S. Elementary Chess Championship. During one period, they simply dominated in Florida winning the State Elementary Championship for a record eight straight years.
To provide students and other chessplayers with competitions, Bill created and ran most of South Florida's regular tournaments and chess championships on a monthly basis for 8 years. Bill also helped direct national events including serving as the Assistant Director for both the overall Closed U.S. Championship and the U.S. Closed Women's Championship. Bill has been a member of both the USCF Chess in Education Committee and the Rules Committee. He was elected to represent the 4-state Southern U.S. Region to the USCF and has served as the Vice-President of the Florida Chess Association. Bill received a special citation from the President of the USCF, which said "Awarded to Bill Cornwall whose contributions have enhanced the spirit of professionalism in American Chess."
Ever since he served as the Editor of his high school's literary magazine, Bill has been interested in writing. Combining this with chess, in 1984 he created and edited the Florida Chess Magazine Checkmate! He has written a column, "Chess: A Knight's Tour," for the Tribune Network for nearly 25 years. It has appeared in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times. The Chess Journalists of America have honored Bill's column with two important awards: "Best Newspaper Chess Column" in the U.S. and "Best Newspaper Chess Column of Local Interest" in the U.S.
In the last few years, Bill has teamed up with noted instructor Sunil Weeramantry, founder of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. In seminars, they have taught hundreds of South Florida teachers how to teach chess. From this training, thousands of young students in schools and in community youth programs have been exposed to the benefits of the game.
Two NSCF-certified Senior Instructors lead the teacher-mentoring initiative at the Sunrise Center for Excellence in Chess. Both also teach students at our weekly Saturday morning open play events at the Sunrise Civic Center.
Robert McKenzie was born and raised in South Florida and is a product of Broward County Public Schools. He graduated from Boyd Anderson High (Lauderdale Lakes, FL) in 1990 where he was a stand-out basketball player. He did not get into chess until years later in college at the suggestion of his older brother. His brother had picked up the game on road trips while playing in the NFL. Robert's drive to finally beat his brother at something drove him to read a book on chess so he could improve and he soon accomplished his goal, then went on to play in local tournaments and continue his personal chess education.
Upon graduating college, Robert began his teaching career at Castle Hill Elementary School in Lauderhill, Florida as a second grade teacher. He started teaching chess to the many boys that would come to his door to see, at that time, the only male teacher in the school. He was soon teaching boys from 2nd through 5th grades along with some girls. Though a Title I school with little funding for his extracurricular endeavor, Robert was able to develop a chess club that thrived with as many as 20 children coming regularly and influencing hundreds more by the presence of a chess club at their school and the pride that engenders. His philosophy for chess is to use the game as a vehicle to help young people develop a framework for higher thinking so they can make better decisions in life and school. The first team he trained, a group of three boys from Castle Hill, won 1st place at a regional tournament to the surprise of Mr. McKenzie and he says this gave him true hope that these children could indeed accomplish anything they set their minds to.
After earning his Master's degree in Math Education from Nova Southeastern University, Robert became the Math Specialist and began teaching the whole school chess through his innovative math special. Castle Hill received its first school grade of B during this time. In 2014, after 17 years of teaching chess to boys and girls at his elementary school and now back in the classroom, Mr. McKenzie embarked on his most successful year as a chess coach in a small portable classroom with limited resources. He trained a small team of 8 boys and girls and won a number of prestigious local tournaments as a team and individually. But his most audacious move on the chessboard was yet to come. He felt he had the strongest girl players of their age in the country. He approached his principal with the idea of taking a girls team to a national competition, The National All-Girls Championship which was to be held in Chicago; she was supportive as were the girls' parents. Mr. McKenzie was able to maneuver the pieces into place for his girls to compete. In their most challenging battle to date, and facing competition from all over the country, his team placed 2nd in the nation. Winning this was a great accomplishment for a small Title 1 school. His team received a proclamation from the Honorable Mayor Richard Kaplan of Lauderhill and several stories appeared in the media locally and nationally.
Robert is currently teaching intensive math at Lauderdale Lakes Middle School in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. He continues to teach chess and share his vision for the game. This year, he has been teaching chess to over 180 students in his Friday classes as well as running an after-school chess club.
Robert McKenzie holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Bethune-Cookman University and a M.S. in Math Education from Nova Southeastern University. He is a Certified Chess Coach and Tournament Director of the United States Chess Federation and Certified Senior Instructor of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.
Chris Goldthorpe has been producing top performing chess stars since 1997. While at a scholastic chess tournament, Chris was approached to teach children he was helping between rounds. People continued to request his services as a chess instructor, and he would draw crowds wherever he taught. Now in his 20th year as a full-time chess instructor, Chris founded several South Florida chess clubs and has authored books on chess for scholastic instruction, classroom training, and self-study and evaluation. Among his programs, Chris is the chess teacher at University School in Davie which has produced many national championship players and teams.
Chris' gift for teaching began at an early age. While attending college, he tutored other students in math, and was the most requested tutor at his college, even above faculty, though he charged more money for his services. His gift for teaching is evident during the first minutes you see him work with a new student, adult or child. People who have learned chess from Chris report improvement in their everyday thinking skills, work habits, time management, and school grades. As a trained electronics engineer with a B.S.E.E., Chris brings a mathematical perspective and precision to everthing he does, including teaching and playing the game of chess.