Meet the Team
President and Co-Founder
Tomo Fukui is the President and Co-Founder of Growing Minds Chess Academy. He started playing chess at the age of 5, in Kindergarten at Hunter College Elementary School. He soon became an integral part of Hunter’s Chess Team that went on to win the National Championships for 12 consecutive years. Tomo also won 3 individual National Titles (including at the very first Super Nationals in Knoxville, TN in 1997).
Along with his many scholastic achievements, Tomo also was very successful as a child playing in adult competitions, including the Foxwoods and World Opens. Over the past two years, Tomo has worked individually with 33 private students, from as young as 3 years old. He successfully led National teams of Kindergarten (6th Place), and 1st Grade Students (8th Place), as well as a 1st place finish at the Mayor’s Cup in 2014.
Co-Founder and Lead Instructor
Alanna Katz, is the Co-Founder and Lead Instructor at Growing Minds Chess Academy. Alanna is one of the top 100 female chess players in the US. In 2005, Alanna became the sole United States Girls Under 18 representative for the Pan American Chess Championships held in Brazil, and was the 11th Grade NY State Chess Champion. Alanna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from SUNY Buffalo and speaks Russian.
Alanna is an accomplished chess teacher, with 9 years of teaching experience and an extensive amount of work in the Tri-State area. She has taught in many schools, most notably in impoverished areas throughout New York City and introduced over 2500 students to chess. Alanna also spent 9 summers traveling across the United States to run competitive chess camps. She took MS 118 Bronx to the Nationals in both 2011 and 2012, where they took 3rd place in the unrated division (2011) and 1st place in the U800 division at the 2012 High School nationals despite being a Middle School team. Just this past year, Alanna helped lead Avenues: The World School to a 3rd place finish at the Elementary Nationals, U900 division.
US National Master
US National Master Ben, is in the 99th percentile of all chess players in the US, currently rated 2243. He has won numerous tournaments and represented the United States in several international events, most notably as part of a delegation called the “Collins Kids,” a group that competed all around the world, led by famed chess coach John Collins, former World Champion Bobby Fischer’s chess coach and mentor.
Ben has 15 years of teaching experience, and enjoys working with students of all ages and experience levels. He has coached teams to 1st place finishes at the NY State, NY City and Mayor’s Cup tournaments.
GM Mac Molner
Grandmaster Mackenzie “Mac” Molner is a Grandmaster, which is the highest rank a chess player can gain apart from World Champion.
He has many national titles to his name, including being the 2013 US Open Co-Champion and the National High School champion in 2004. He was one of 12 players who qualified for the 2014 US Championships.
He has also represented the US in the World Junior Championships.
FM Kyron Griffith
Kyron quickly rose through the ranks and achieved a USCF rating of 2450, placing him amongst the top 100 players in the United States.
He has a good rapport with Elementary and Middle School students, who connect with his outgoing and caring personality and also highly respect him as a chess educator.
He is currently a Junior at Columbia University.
WFM Abby Marshall
Woman FIDE Master
Abby is a 5-time National Chess Champion and became the first and only girl to ever win the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, a tournament where each of the 50 states sends a representative to compete.
Abby also represented the United States twice in the World Youth Championships in Turkey and at the World Mind Sports games in China
She is currently a senior instructor at Growing Minds Chess Academy and teaches students of all ages and abilities.
Born and raised in New York City, Andre Harding was taught the rules of chess by his father at eight years old and became a USCF Candidate Master in 2011.
Also in 2011, the World Chess Federation, FIDE, awarded Andre the title of National Instructor.
He has been a full-time chess teacher since 2005, working with thousands of students at more than 30 different private and public schools.
International Master Raven Sturt, a McGill University graduate, is an accomplished chess player and coach.
In 12th grade he became the National Chess Champion by convincingly getting 6.5 / 7 total wins. Since then, he’s gone on to become an International Master, the second most difficult chess title to earn.
Raven enjoys coaching chess and currently works with the Avenues Chess team to prepare them for major events. He studied Mandarin Chinese for 6 years and speaks an elementary level of Spanish. He teaches students of all ages and abilities.
FIDE Master Igor Shneider is an accomplished chess player and coach. He has represented the United States in multiple Pan American and World Youth Chess Championships. He earned the prestigious full chess scholarship to the University of Texas – Dallas and was a key cog on their college championship winning chess team.
While in Dallas, he started a thriving chess organization and taught chess throughout the city. Since moving back to New York, he’s worked with Avenues and is assisting with preparing them for the City, State and National Chess Championships. Igor speaks Russian fluently and teaches children of all ages and abilities.