So far, I have told you about my coach (Grandmaster Alex Stripunsky), my first teacher mentor (Elizabeth Spiegel) and our main Steps teacher (National Master Nolan Hendrickson). Today, I have the pleasure of telling you about an old student of Elizabeth’s and mine , who went on to excel as a player and a coach — National Master Mubassar Uddin!
I first got to know Mubassar when he was in 6th grade, and I was working for Chess In the Schools. They assigned me to work with IS318k (thanks guys!) and I started spending a lot of time in their team room at tournaments. Mubassar got one of the last available seats on the bus to Nationals, and he proceeded to tie for first in the u750 section with a perfect score!
Thus it began. Mubassar quickly showed a talent for chess, and improved quickly in his first year of tournament play. Partway through 7th grade he became a member of what IS318k assistant principal John Galvin christened “the 1.d4 group” — a group of tournament players that he and I were teaching an opening repertoire with 1.d4 and 2.c4. Mubassar was like a sponge, immediately applying his learning in tournament play. I remember Mubassar having a pretty universal style — he could play strategically when the position called for it, but was also very comfortable with tactics. At IS318k, he was a member of multiple National Championship winning teams. One individual highlight was scoring 5/7 at K-8 SuperNationals.
When I finished graduate school and became the chess teacher at NEST+m, my first contact was with IS318k — I recruited Mubassar, along with Jack Wen and Markus Pond, to apply to NEST+m for high school. By my pure luck, Teseo Torras was a member of the same entering class. Together, those four would lead NEST+m to the 9th and 10 grade National Championships. We were also strong in the next grade up, with future National Master Isaac Barayev and Anita Maksimiuk. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself!
In 9th Grade, Mubassar was one of the scoring members as NEST+m won the 9th Grade National Championship. He was always an excellent team player: In the last round, Mubassar had a head to head pairing with a player from Stuyvesant, who were trying to catch us for first place. (Incidentally, his opponent was his friend Tommy Zhang, from IS318k. Not only another 318 alum, but another 1.d4 group player!) Mubassar knew the results of the other games, and realized that a draw would give us the half point needed to guarantee first place. He steered a complex position to a draw with an iron hand, explaining to me that nobody could mathematically catch us in first place.
Later that year, Mubassar excelled in the Mayor’s Cup, bringing his rating very close to 2000. But my favorite story from that year was at the Marshall: Mubassar misread the starting time for the round of a g/60 tournament, and was 20 minutes late to the board. (He was in high school. It happens!) He saw that he was paired with a Grandmaster, with a US Chess rating well over 2500. Not a problem — Mubassar won a nice game as White! I know this is one of his favorite stories to tell his own students.
In 10th Grade, Mubassar made another breakthrough, leading the team to the 10th Grade National Championship with an undefeated 5/7, playing on the top boards for the whole tournament. Finally, towards the end of the year, we headed to Saratoga Springs for the NY High School State Championship. Mubassar played a key role in the high point of NEST+m high school chess, winning a clutch last round game as NEST+m emerged from a crowded field to win the state championship. It is not for nothing that I once told Mubassar he helped me write my resume!
I left NEST+m, but Mubassar continued to develop as a player, ultimately breaking the 2200 barrier and becoming a National Master. He has been teaching chess since his sophomore year of high school, and is an excellent instructor. He is very skilled with a wide range of students, from total beginners to 1800+ players. Mubassar’s students learn fundamental tactics, a rock solid opening repertoire, and typical middlegame and endgame plans. We hope your child has the opportunity to learn from him this summer!