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Storied Player and Coach Jerald Times Is SA’s New Director of Chess — and He Has Big Plans for the Program!

Rooms buzzing with energy; blue and orange backs hunched over chessboards; the murmur and occasional shout of unsolicited advice; cheering and a little good-humored trash talk from scholars looking on as their peers scrimmage between tournament games; coaches doling out words of encouragement, guidance — and occasional remonstrance; and child after child heading off to compete with confidence, and whether winning or losing, demonstrating excitement and relish for the game of chess.

This is what Jerald Times saw and heard at the New York State Scholastic Chess Championship — his first major tournament as Director of Success Academy chess.

“What I saw this weekend is a very powerful program,” said Times. “And coaches who are truly fulfilling the mission of Success Academy. They are with their kids up to 12 hours a day — building up the kids and the community.”

Times joins Success Academy after six years of coaching for one of the country’s top chess programs at The Dalton School, and has a long, storied career as a player and coach. In 2002, he was among the top five African-American players in the world — a self-taught Master with a rating of 2400 — when he was recruited by Geoffrey Canada to run Harlem Children Zone’s chess program. “I didn’t realize it then, but that was the end of my playing career,” Times recalls.

He loved teaching, and even more, he loved bring a chess program from good to great. In 2010, he was recruited to lead a team in a South African Township that, decades after the end of Apartheid, remained severely segregated and underresourced. Times did so well with his Township team that he was hired to coach the national South African team at the All-African Games before he returned to the U.S. to work at Dalton.

Joining Success Academy is a kind of homecoming for Times. He grew up in Harlem where he got his chess bona fides playing around the neighborhood and was the Harlem Chess Champion at age 14. “It was funny because when I was interviewing with Eva, I kept mentioning all these places in Harlem and she knew all of them,” Time recounts. “It wasn’t until later that I realized she grew up there!


Times described three particular strengths he observed in the SA program as he moved from team room to team room over the weekend: “The coaches are great team builders — they know how to identify talent and nurture that talent,” he explained. “They are also great community builders: they have truly invested families in the team and in the game of chess.” Finally, Times said, there is culture of incredibly high expectations that everyone has bought into.

The hard work of SA coaches and scholars was in full display at the tournament. SA Bed-Stuy Middle School 8th grader Jessica Hyatt won the State Champion title for the High School Under 1800 division with an undefeated (6-0) tournament, leading her team to place 2nd in the division. SA Hudson Yards Middle School meanwhile placed second in the Elementary School Championship division, bested only by Speyer Legacy — a private school that actively recruits top chess players — in a loss that came down to one, nail-biting last game.

“What this shows me is that Success Academy has finally arrived as a competitor in the Championship division,” said Times. The Open or Championship divisions are the most competitive divisions at chess tournaments, with no rating maximum for participation. “The question now is how do we make it to that top spot. It will be huge not just for SA, but for the whole charter school movement, when we start winning those Open Division Championships.”

Times already has some ideas for how to make that happen. He’s re-working the curriculum — incorporating some of the great ideas he’s seeing among the coaches and making the connections to academics more explicit. He also aims to beef up development in grades K-2 (“I want to start sending our kids to some K-1 tournaments!”), and he plans to bring in more Grand Masters to teach specific knowledge to SA players — particularly around their openings. “The bottom line is that teams from Speyer and Dalton are beating us because they are better prepared for the first 15-20 moves,” Times asserts.

With some tweaks and some elbow grease, Times is convinced nothing can stop chess at SA. “This is a program that may not even be fully aware of its own potential. There is an incredible amount of talent here and I see no reason why we can’t be the best chess program in the country.”


bed_stuy_ms_team-1SA Bed Stuy Middle School team placed 2nd in the U1800 High School Division. Left to right: Jessica Hyatt (undefeated winner of the State Champion Division title), Geah Jean-Baptiste, Mouhamadou Tall, Micah Scobie.

High School Under 1800
2nd Place – SA Bed-Stuy Middle School
4th Place – SA High School of Liberal Arts

High School U1200
2nd Place – SA Hudson Yards Middle School
3rd Place – SA Bed-Stuy Middle School
5th Place – SA Harlem East Middle School

Junior High Championship
3rd Place – SA Hudson Yards Middle School
5th Place – SA Midtown West Middle School

Junior High Under 1600
2nd Place – SA Harlem East Middle School
3rd Place – SA Midtown West Middle School
4th Place – SA Bed-Stuy Middle School
5th Place – SA Myrtle Middle School

Junior High Under 900
2nd Place – SA Harlem 1

Elementary Championship
2nd Place – SA Hudson Yards Middle School

Elementary Under 1400
2nd Place – SA Bensonhurst
3rd Place – SA Hudson Yards Middle School
5th Place – SA Harlem East Middle School

Elementary Under 1000
3rd Place – SA Upper West
4th Place – SA Midtown West Middle School
5th Place – SA Bensonhurst

Primary Under 800
1st Place – SA Washington Heights
5th Place – SA Union Square


Written by Success Academy March 15, 2019

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