FM Sunil Weeramantry
NSCF’s founder and executive director is FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry, a nationally acclaimed instructor who has over 40 years’ experience teaching and developing award-winning 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 and again in 2017. 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 while the 7th grade team won the 2017 Grade Nationals; his Speyer Legacy are the 2015 National K-1 and National K-5 and 2018 National K-6 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 David McKay Company/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 was released in November 2017 by Mongoose Press.
(1) FIDE, Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation, is the international governing body for chess.