Richard Milnamow has lived on both coasts — in Marin County, California; Bergen County, New Jersey; and Boston. His older brother was instrumental in developing Richard’s love of chess, and the two have battled for dominance at more than 50 years of family gatherings. Over the years, Richard has taught the game to his numerous nieces and nephews. He has two adult daughters who live in the Chicago area and one grandchild.
After college he began a career in sales, initially with TWA and other travel-related companies. He later obtained an MBA and began a second career in marketing research. He has traveled extensively and always found chess to be a common denominator for striking up new encounters with others. Language was never a problem, as “check mate” was universally understood.
Oleg Trifonov (intermediate group at Indian Trail) is a parent volunteer whose daughter will start kindergarten at Indian Trail next year. Although four years old, she is already an intermediate-strength player. Oleg’s USCF rating has been as high as 2035. Originally from Russia, Oleg has a degree in business and is a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker in Highland Park. He likes reading, swimming, spending time with his family and long walks with his dog.
Gopal Menon became a National Master in late 2010 and has a current USCF rating of 2266. He’s played tournament chess since 2002 and hopes to advance to even higher levels in the chess world. Gopal has been teaching chess since 2005 and bases his teaching style on the importance of practical play and an emphasis on fighting spirit. Gopal enjoys chess in other forms as well, such as chess960, blitz, and bullet (one minute chess). He achieved an all-time high blitz rating of 3163 on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) as well as twice holding the number one spot on the 1-minute best list on the same site. Away from the chessboard Gopal enjoys reading, writing haikus, music (making and listening), films, and vegan cooking.
Gary Goldstein (Wayne Thomas/Oak Terrace/Northwood) is a parent volunteer who ran the chess program at Wayne Thomas during the 2007-2008 school year, and now will run the combined program. His son Caleb is now a 6th grader at Northwood. Gary owns a nature audio recording company specializing in cutting-edge recording techniques and spends many weekends in the woods and other natural settings. He is a founding member of our district-wide chess committee and is committed to promoting chess to the entire Highland Park community. He’s proof that you do not need to be a chess expert to be an effective volunteer. We hope other parents will take his example and join the effort.
Jonathan Hrach is an 8th grader at Elm Place Middle School and has been playing chess for three years. He is the district’s top player, with a USCF rating of 1719, and a regular player in state and national tournaments. He is a member of the 4-H club, plays the cello and clarinet in several school bands, and is an award-winning Super Motocross racer in the 85 Senior Class. He can’t wait to move into Highland Park High School this fall, where he’s a shoo-in for top board on the school chess team. He currently studies chess with FM Eric Rosen and Shiva Maharaj and loves to play chess online.
Jonathan Kogen is a sophomore at Deerfield High School. He has played competitive chess since kindergarten, and now holds an Expert title from the United States Chess Federation. He won an Illinois State Grade Championship in middle school, and has won numerous awards in national and state competitions. In 2009 he won the Under 2000 class prize at the World Open in Philadelphia, as well as the Illinois Junior Grand Prix Award from the USCF. He has been named a Warren Junior Chess Scholar multiple times. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys playing and following sports.
Roman Kuperman has been playing chess since he was six years old. He played top board at Buffalo Grove High School, a perennial top 20 finisher at the state high school championship, and was president of the Knox College Chess Club, where he studied math, economics and business management. He is currently preparing to take the Chartered Financial Analyst exams and applying to graduate school while working as a campaign auditor for a nonprofit. Rated over 1800 and hoping to become a Master, he enjoys helping students improve their chess understanding and critical reasoning skills. His other hobbies include ping-pong, tennis, basketball, and swimming.
Karen Moore (Lincoln) has been a resident of Highland Park for 15 years. A Lincoln parent, she has co-managed the club since its inception in 2008. Both of her children have been members. Although she knows how to play chess, Karen enjoys learning more about the strategy from her club’s coaches. In her free time, tennis, knitting and reading are some favorite hobbies. Currently, Karen co-manages the club with Crystal Obochi, another Lincoln mom. They appreciate all the extra help provided by the club members’ parents.
Ally Connors (Wayne Thomas) is a freshman at Highland Park High School. She started playing chess five years ago at the Indian Trail club, where she quickly became one of the top players. She has being teaching since 2009 at Indian Trail, and this year teaches older beginners at Wayne Thomas. Outside of teaching, Ally is on the HPHS chess team, is an avid reader, plays piano at the local School of Rock, and loves to write and paint.
Jerry Neugarten (Indian Trail and Oak Terrace) has run scholastic chess clubs and coached since 1995, initially in New York’s Hudson Valley. His former club won numerous awards in competition and 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 a year later started the Indian Trail club. The following year Jerry spearheaded the district-wide program in Highland Park, which serves 11 schools. In the five years since the program started, its clubs have won 24 team awards at state championships. He is content manager for our website. Jerry is also a mediator and mock trial coach. He is active in the Illinois Chess Association and chairs ICA’s statewide Youth Committee.
Denise Karlin Tiemeyer is an ICU nurse for PNI, the Co-President of the Oak Terrace PTA, and the manager of the Oak Terrace chess club. She lives in Highland Park with her family of three children, her husband Joe, and their dog and cat. Every day she navigates through hundreds of emails regarding bake sales and committee meetings, dreaming all the while of climbing Mount Everest, training for the Savageman Triathlon, and doing book tours. After serving her time, Denise looks forward to relaxing by reading Reader’s Digest and spending more time with her cat.
Leo Vilker (Sherwood) is a real estate manager living in Highland Park. A former computer programmer, Leo directs many of our Highland Park tournaments. He formerly coached chess at Sauganash Elementary School in Chicago and taught chess to his sons Jacob and Michael, both strong players who attend Elm Place. Leo is a native of Russia. His goal in life had been to beat Indian Trail, a goal he realized last year.
Jon Walker (Oak Terrace) grew up in Stockport near Manchester in England. He graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Molecular Biophysics and has worked in the software business ever since. He came to the USA in 1992 for three months and is still here twenty years later. He’s lived in Highland Park for 15 years and has two daughters at Oak Terrace, Gracie in 5th grade and Amy in 3rd. Jon played chess in high school and college for fun and continues to be a student of the game. He’s happy to have Chessmaster and Promethean boards to make his lessons more interactive and fun for the kids. Jon enjoys coaching and playing soccer which is why he is often limping or hobbling around Oak Terrace.
Dan Wolf (Wayne Thomas) is a FIDE Master with a distinguished record in international chess. Born in 1946 in Romania, Dan played for the Romanian Under-21 team as a youth, was Romania’s student champion in 1970, and a finalist in the Romanian 1972 national championship. Emigrating to Israel in 1974, Dan won the Nathania Open in 1975, attained a FIDE rating of 2385 in 1977, and helped the University of Tel Aviv win the Israeli team championship in 1980. He moved to South Africa in 1982 and for many years was that country’s top ranked player. He moved to the U.S. in 1995. Dan also helps coach the Highland Park High School team.
Phillip Yontez (Wayne Thomas) 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. He is a member of the Youth Committee of the Illinois Chess Association.
John DuBois (HP Library) has been a Highland Park resident for the past seven years. He is a sales representative for Pearson Prentice Hall and has sold textbooks to Districts 112, and 113 for the past twenty-eight years. He learned how chess pieces move in junior high school, but didn’t study the game until after college. A former English teacher at Niles West High School, John sees chess as a great opportunity for kids to develop logical thinking skills as well as creativity. He is especially interested in exploring techniques for teaching chess to school children, including focusing early on endgames involving only a few pieces and helping kids learn the central ideas of positional chess. He sees the computer as a powerful tool in helping kids develop chess skills.
Kara Friedman (Sherwood) became the club director in 2011. Kara, a chess novice, is a club parent and has undertaken the oversight of the club with the assistance of four great student coaches. Kara was inspired to take on the director responsibility because of the stimulation and opportunity to excel that the game has provided for her son, Noah. Her father, Alan, taught both her and her son to play. Kara is married with two kids and lives in Highland Park. She practices law in the health care field and is a shareholder in the Chicago office of the law firm, Polsinelli Shughart.
Elliana Faletsky is the district’s #2 player and competes in many tournaments. She has been playing chess since she was 10 years old. Elli has been learning from Jerry since the fourth grade, and now helps teach at the Oak Terrace chess club. Elli lives in Highland Park and is currently in 8th grade at Northwood Junior High School. She has been in the dual language program since kindergarten and is fluent in Spanish. Elli also plays electric bass in a rock band called October Road, which performs frequently on the North Shore.
Florin Felecan (Indian Trail), an International Master rated over 2400, will coach the advanced players. Florin lives in Evanston and is a former multiple junior national champion of Romania. He played in three Junior World Championships, finishing in 7th Place in Germany in 1992. He also played in three junior European Championships, tying for 1st Place in 1994. Florin went undefeated in winning the 1998 national Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Hawaii. He continues to compile an extraordinary record, including serving as one of four advisors on the World team in the “Kasparov versus The World” chess match in 1999, and winning his first game against a grandmaster at the age of 14. One of his latest wins against a grandmaster was against Yuri Shulman in the 2009 Chicago Open.