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Peter Giannatos


Executive Director and Founder

Peter Giannatos grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before moving to Charlotte in 2001. He attended James Martin Middle School and Vance High School before attending the Belk College of Business at UNC-Charlotte.


Peter learned how to play chess at the age of 7, but did not compete in his first tournament until he was 13. In 2004, he competed in his first tournament, achieving a USCF rating of 589. With hard work and dedication, Peter achieved the expert rating (2000+ USCF) in 2008. Peter teaches students the same techniques he used to rapidly improve.


Peter earned his FIDE Master (FM) title (2300+ FIDE) in February of 2017. Peter is also a US Chess National Master (NM), US Chess National Tournament Director (NTD), FIDE International Arbiter (IA), and FIDE International Organizer (IO).


In the Spring of 2021, he published his first chess book, "Everyone's First Chess Workbook" published by New In Chess and Chessable. 

Peter has been featured on several chess podcasts:

Peter and the story of the CCC was featured as the cover story of UNC-Charlotte Magazine, Fall 2022


Peter spends most of his time at the CCC planning and organizing events/programs. His main focus and philosophy has always been to bring chess to a the level of other professional sports/games. Peter has been teaching and organizing chess for more than 10 years.


Peter has a Bachelors of Science in Economics from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte. 

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Grant Oen


Assistant Director/Events Manager

Grant Oen grew up near Princeton, New Jersey, and learned chess at the age of 10 from his father.  He soon became interested in all aspects of the game: playing, teaching, directing, and organizing. 


As a high school student, he co-founded Central Jersey Chess, and later continued this passion when he attended Emory University and founded Southeast Chess, which hosted large tournaments in Atlanta, Georgia.


At Emory, besides studying political science and business, Grant was active on the Atlanta chess scene, organizing dozens of open and scholastic tournaments.  He was the president of the Emory University Chess Club, wrote for Georgia Chess News magazine, won two Georgia Collegiate Chess Championships, and scored 5-0 on the 2015 US Amateur Team South Championship team.


Grant is one of the youngest National Tournament Directors (highest level of certification) in US Chess and has been the most active National TD in the country in 2020 and 2021. He has directed hundreds of tournaments including the U.S. Championship, U.S. Women’s Championship, Champions Showdown (featuring Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov), U.S. Collegiate Rapid and Blitz, Pan-American Intercollegiate, U.S. Masters, U.S. G/10, G/30, G/60 Championships, North American Junior, World Open, Millionaire Chess Open, SuperNationals, Kasparov Chess Foundation University Cup, North American Corporate Chess League, CCC’s GM/IM Norm Invitationals, and the NC Open, Closed, and K-12 State Championships.


Grant is one of the youngest International Arbiters (highest FIDE tournament director title) in the world and is also an International Organizer and FIDE Instructor.  He has been the US Chess Federation representative at FIDE Congresses, Chess Olympiads, and World Youth Championships in China, Turkey, Spain, Greece, and the Republic of Georgia.  In addition to his work as the Leagues Administrator for, Grant volunteers his time as a Castle Chess Camp board member, NC Chess Association Scholastic VP, and Councillor on FIDE’s Technical Commission.


After graduating from Emory (B.A., Political Science), Grant moved to Charlotte in August 2016 to accept the role of CCC’s Assistant Director and Events Manager.  He is a Candidate Master/Expert with a USCF rating over 2100 and FIDE rating over 2000.


Grant also enjoys poker, ping pong, and traveling.

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Ursula Smith


Director of School Programs and Human Resources

Ursula Smith lovingly embraced Charlotte as her home over 20 years ago after graduating from the University of Virginia to attend graduate school at UNCC. Shortly after, Ursula obtained a masters degree in industrial-organizational psychology. Ursula is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).


She is new to chess and joined the club after only her second attendance to the free Adult Learner's Series offered by our Center. Her passion grew quickly and she began exploring ways to lend her talents to help the Center realize its mission.


As Director of School Programs, her primary focus is to partner with our instructors and school administrators to strengthen the relationship with our growing list of schools. 

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Administrative Assistant

Originally from St. Louis, Sarah has lived in the Charlotte area a combined total of 22 years. She attended Providence High and earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from Northwestern University. Her personal introduction into the chess world came from her young son and husband, who enjoy playing chess together.

Sarah has held various positions in marketing over the years, both locally and out of state (Atlanta, NYC). When not working in her current administrative role at the CCC, Sarah enjoys her work helping clients buy and sell local real estate and being a mom to an energetic young boy.

Some of Sarah’s hobbies include jogging, travel, current events and meeting new people. She and her husband also enjoy rooting their son on at his baseball games.

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Club Events Manager

Ali-Reza Bradley Thompson began learning chess at the age of 3. Growing up in a chess-loving household, he played chess as a creative medium. It was a fantastic escape from the monotony of childhood. His family played at dinner every night and used it for resolving sibling disputes.


After living in Ann Arbor for many years, where he attended the University of Michigan, Ali found his way to Virginia in 2014 and promptly started teaching chess in local schools, eventually becoming a fixture in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC chess scene, where he had run nearly 300 scholastic tournaments.


Now, he's thrilled to share his chess, showmanship, and insights in Charlotte. You can find Ali's chess story on our blog and the chess book he published (written by Curriculum Director for, NM Jeremy Kane), here

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Walter High


Senior Tournament Advisor

Walter High grew up in Arcadia, California and earned his B.A. at Occidental College. He then came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he earned three graduate degrees, culminating in a Ph.D. in Information Science. He worked as a Librarian for 30 years, retiring in 2006 as the Associate Director of the Law School Library at North Carolina Central University. He and his wife, Karen, also owned and operated 2nd ed. Book Sellers for 27 years at the Raleigh/Durham International Airport, the only used bookstore in the United States on an airport concourse behind security. They retired from the book business in 2017.

Walter’s volunteer activities initially centered on the sport of track and field. He had been a competitive distance runner until his late 40s, having top performances of a half marathon in 1:10:47 (5:23/mile) and two miles in 9:22.  He served on the Board of Directors of the NC Track & Field Association for 30 years and also served in a volunteer administrative capacity for USA Track and Field for 20 years as well as officiating at track meets.

Walter became an active chess player in 2006 at age 57 shortly after his children began competitive play. Quickly realizing that his true strengths lay on the administrative side rather than the competitive side of the game, he became active as a TD and Organizer, initiating several new tournaments including the Ron Simpson Memorial. He served as Vice-President of the NCCA twice (2010-2012 and 2018-2020) and he was a co-founder of the Carolinas Chess Initiative which brought the U.S. Masters Championship to North Carolina in 2012 where it has since remained. His goal is to help grow chess in North Carolina through competitive play and to encourage players to remain active in the game after their scholastic careers have finished.

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Daniel Naroditsky


Resident Grandmaster/Head Coach

Daniel Naroditsky is a top Grandmaster born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. His father taught him the rules of chess when he was six, and a string of scholastic tournament victories followed shortly thereafter.  He won grade-level nationals twice, and in April 2007 became the California K-12 champion while in 5th grade, the youngest ever to do so.  In November 2007, Daniel solidified his status as one of the strongest juniors in the country when he became the under-12 World Youth Chess Champion.


Daniel successfully continued to progress in chess while attending a rigorous middle and high school, securing the IM title in 2011 and becoming a Grandmaster in the summer of 2013, before starting 12th grade. After taking a gap year to pursue chess, Daniel attended and earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Stanford University, graduating in June 2019. Daniel is also the author of two instructional chess manuals: Mastering Positional Chess and Mastering Complex Endgames — the first published when Daniel was only 14 — and is the monthly endgame columnist for Chess Life.    

Daniel also has an highly noteworthy online presence with over 100,000 followers and subscribers on his Twitch and YouTube channels.

As CCC Resident Grandmaster, Daniel takes the lead on coaching the areas top junior players along with the CCC's top competitive school programs.

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Mike Klein


School Curriculum and Program Advisor

Mike is a FIDE Master and Life National Master residing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mike's taught chess for the past 18 years. 

In addition to teaching chess, Mike is a regular contributor to, Chess Life Magazine and Chess Life Online where he researches and writes about many aspects of competitive chess.  He received his degree in journalism from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2012 and 2015, he was named Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America.

He's eager to help your child benefit from chess while having fun and interacting in a positive way with his/her peers.

As an instructor:

  • Taught more than 4,000 children and adults over 16 years

  • Instructor at more than 50 summer camps

  • Head coach of 2003 National K-8 Champion Team (David A. Boody Middle School - Brooklyn, NY)

  • Coach of 2003 National Sixth Grade Champion (Jayson Lian)

  • Coach of 2003 National K-8 Co-Champions (GM Alex Lenderman and NM Alex Pelekhaty)

  • Coach of 2004 National K-8 Champion (NM Alex Pelekhaty)

  • Coach of several National Champion junior varsity teams and top-five open section teams

  • 2003 Chess-in-the-Schools Instructor of the Year

  • Coach of numerous top-5 teams and individuals at NC State Scholastic Championships


Mike loves to play tennis, bike and travel.  In 2009, he completed a trip around world visiting 33 countries on 5 continents. 

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Media Coordinator and Assistant Coach

Daniel grew up in Texas, and after living in Oregon and Florida, has relocated to the Charlotte area to serve as the CCC's Media Coordinator. He studied communications at the University of North Texas and has since worked as a content producer, video editor, and photographer. His love of storytelling and the creative arts is part of what originally drew him to chess, a game that carries with it the drama and untold story of two armies slowly marching towards one another.


He had learned how the pieces move as a kid, but in late 2020 Daniel played his first real game of chess and was hooked. The competitive outlet quickly became a passion during the early stages of the pandemic as he dove into online resources, tactics, and strategy books. He has continued that desire to learn and hopes to help others to learn as well.


Daniel strives to help the chess center tell its story by using media to reach more people, build community, and promote chess and its benefits to all.

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Head Coach

Ashwin Jayaram is a 31 year old Grand Master from India, with over 20 years of tournament experience. He learned the rules at the age of 8 when he watched his cousins play chess and has been working on it since then.


He has won multiple Asian Junior and Commonwealth medals and represented India in multiple international events.


He moved to St Louis in 2014 to do his Masters in Finance and MBA in Webster University, and has recently moved to Charlotte where he currently works in the financial services industry.

Outside of his full time work hours, GM Jayaram will be assisting with the training of the CCC's top juniors in both group and private settings.

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Dominique Myers


Head Coach

Dominique Myers was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2007 all of the time that was dedicated to chess began to pay off. Dominique saw a rating gain of 1000 points in a year; along the way claiming first place in the u1200 section at the National scholastic chess championship in Kansas City, MO.


After several years of playing in January of 2009 the milestone of expert was reached. In 2009 Dominique spent the summer volunteering with Nexus, an inner-city Charlotte ministry association offering free chess classes to children. In 2010 Dominique received the SEEDS OF HOPE scholarship from Forest Hill Church to attend college at Liberty University.


Over the years with his dynamic and enterprising style of play stemming from him being self-taught Dominique has been notorious for giving Titled Players headaches. Dominique’s plan for teaching is based on a combination of techniques he used to rise through the ranks so quickly. He plans on passing on the knowledge that he has picked up over the years is from experiences playing and surrounding himself with stronger players. His goal is to help students think outside of the box, one of his favorite areas to explore as well as teaching combative and sharp play.


Dominique is considered one of the most adored instructors in Charlotte. His patience and ability to work with children of all ages and skill levels makes him one of the most sought after instructors.


Dominique is a US Chess National Master with peak US Chess rating of 2287.

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Head Coach

Alex Velasquez is a class “A” chess player who enjoys surprising higher rated opponents with his impressive positional knowledge of the game.


His passion for chess began as a high school student in his hometown of Miami, Florida where he joined the Miami International Chess Academy.


He cites local champions International Master Blas Lugo and FIDE Master Marcel Martinez as heavy influences on his game.  Once primarily a Blitz player who thrived on tactical brilliancies, Alex’s game has matured with an increasingly well rounded positional understanding of the different phases of the game and how they are integrated.


He now lives in Charlotte where he is known as both a coach and player who brings a matchless passion to the game and to his students.  Because of his own learning trajectory as a player, Alex has truly internalized the philosophy as a coach that his job is to teach students the conceptual principles that will allow them to correctly evaluate positions and plan strategically, rather than focus on the memorization that comes with practice and repetition. 


Alex brings a rare combination of good humor and serious thought to every lesson that students of the game cannot help but appreciate.​


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Mark Biernacki


Head Coach

Mark was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He learned to play Chess from his Dad and older brother at the age of 7, and immediately began competing in scholastic tournaments. In 2008, Mark competed in his first Queen City Chess Association tournament (now the CCC) and soon began to elevate his rating. In the fall of 2017 Mark obtained the title of National Master (NM), a lifetime goal of his. Also in the fall of 2017, he won the North Carolina Chess Championship.


Mark's teaching philosophy revolves around understanding positional principles - those which one may not be able to learn from a chess engine or a tactics trainer. He has nearly a decade of teaching experience and is now working full-time for the CCC. Mark plans on competing in many local and national events in the coming year in hopes to improve upon his chess accomplishments. 

Mark graduated from Myers Park High School and NC State University (2021). 

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Head Coach

Fawole John Oyeyemi is a FIDE Master born and raised in Nigeria. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Abuja, Nigeria.


John was the 2003 Nigeria Junior Chess Champion and 2013 Nigeria Chess Champion. 


He is also a FIDE Chess In Education Lecturer, FIDE Instructor, US National Master, and the US District Coach.


John has been a Chess Instructor for 12 years. He is an advocate of grassroots chess development and he is passionate about Chess Education. 


He is the founder of BruvsChess Media—a chess news website. John is the convener of Nigeria Chess Awards(called The John Fawole Chess Awards)—an annual chess awards organized for Nigeria Chess Players.

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Julian Parker


Head Coach

Coach Julian Parker was born in the Ukraine and moved to the United States in his early youth. While growing up in Brooklyn he learned to play chess.

Julian has been a head coach with the CCC since its founding in 2014. Julian's patient and polite attitude makes him a very sought after coach, particularly with beginners.


Julian is also a professionally trained dancer and continues to teach dance in the evenings and on the weekends.


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Head Coach

Geoff was born in Cape Town, South Africa and in 2003 moved to the US to teach 8th grade math.


In his first tournament on US soil, he won shared first place in the under 1600 section of the NC Closed Championships. He currently has a US Chess rating of 1775.


Always an avid supporter of chess & technology in education, Coach Geoff is excited to bring his passion for teaching to the CCC.

Geoff completed his BSc. in Communications at Stephen. F. Austin State University in 2012. 


Favorite chess quote : “Chess first of all teaches you to be objective.” - Alexander Alekhine

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Head Coach

Coach Anthony was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the 2002 Wisconsin Junior Champion and the only African American master to hail from The Badger State.

After spending time in both Houston and Atlanta, Anthony now spends his time in Charlotte teaching both adults and children how to enhance their game.


Anthony is a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu and enjoys training both the mind and body.


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Head Coach

Jay has been chess player for over 30 years and has made it his personal and professional mission to improve youth and adults alike.


He excels at fostering strong relationships between players, parents and coaches through shared passion and love for the game. His background in sales and retail affords him a creative and growth focused mindset to encourage excellence for players of all ages and abilities.

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Head Coach

Mario has been a dedicated tournament chess player since his first event in 2015 and is now a Class A player with a peak US Chess rating of 1874. He started his high school and university chess clubs, gaining experience leading new players to become stronger competitors, as well as directing tournaments.

Mario has years of experience as an instructor both for scholastic and adult students in PA, NY and now in Charlotte. He is bilingual (English/Spanish), an Eagle Scout, and a certified Chess Merit Badge Counselor.

Mario enjoys watching and playing soccer, and he graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing (2021).

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Head Coach

John learned to play chess from his father as a child but then left the game until his son joined the chess club in elementary school.

He and his wife took on the role of parent sponsor, and John taught the new students each year.  John really enjoyed getting back into chess and the opportunity to teach, and take, students to chess tournaments.


John also spend 5 years teaching middle and high school math in the public schools before obtaining his masters degree in statistics and working in the financial services industry.


John grew up in Colorado but now calls Charlotte home with his wife and two teenage sons.


John has been teaching part-time now for the CCC since mid 2021 and enjoying the challenges of playing over-the-board games at the center and expanding his chess knowledge.

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Maya Myers


Head Coach, Tournament Director, DGT Operator

Maya Myers was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY where she learned to play the game of chess at 4 years old. She is a Class A player with some of her accomplishments being a 4-Time All-Girls National Team Champion. Her passion in chess is finding tactical problems on the board as well as solving them in books.


Maya has been coaching for five years at various schools in New York City that compete at Nationals every year. When she not playing the game, you can find her directing chess tournaments. She is a US Chess Senior Tournament Director and FIDE International Arbiter (IA).


Maya was also a part of the infamous chess team I.S. 318 that has a featured film on Netflix and Hulu who became the first middle school to win the High School National Title.

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Assistant Coach

A native New Yorker, Joe earned his JD from Brooklyn Law School.  After passing the NYS Bar exam he became a federal agent and worked closely with attorneys from Main Justice in Washington, DC prosecuting large fraud cases culminating in the extradition, and successful prosecution of, Costa Rican based sweepstakes scam artists. 


He didn’t learn to play chess until he was 30 years old when a friend gave him a book by Fred Reinfeld leading to a lifelong fascination with the game. He especially enjoys working with kids as they teach him that chess is fun!


He and his wife now live happily ever after in their adopted state of North Carolina and have two adult daughters.  When not playing chess Joe likes to cook (even native Southerners grudgingly praise his grits casserole) and read – his latest interest is Science Fiction. 

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Assistant Coach

Uthra is a WFM born and raised in Chennai, India. She started playing chess at the age of 6 and moved to the US in 2016.


Uthra has a USCF rating of 2031 and had a peak FIDE rating of 2114. Of her many accomplishments in chess, she was Asian U-17 gold medalist.

She has a Bachelor's degree in Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. She lives in Fort Mill, SC along with her two kids and husband. 

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DGT Technician

Kyle was born and raised in New Jersey and became a Russian translator after earning a Master's degree in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2013. He has since worked in New York, Seattle, London and Spain as both a translator and data analyst.


As a teenager, he began solving Rubik's Cubes competitively, and the massive puzzle that is chess called to him many years later. Kyle became infatuated with chess only in late 2020 at the age of 32, but has since become an avid adult improver and tournament player with a current rating of 1527 USCF. As a result, Kyle has special insight into how to improve at chess when starting late in life by using skills acquired through other pursuits and applying them to the game. He enjoys working with both children and adults.

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Assistant Coach

David is somewhat of a newcomer to the game of Chess. He was introduced to the game as an adult and has enjoyed learning its intricacies and strategies . David grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in an athletic and competitive family. He is a graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina , where he played football and was elected as one of the captains his senior year. He majored in Social Studies with a minor in Physical Education.


After college, David pursued his passion of teaching and coaching at the high school level. He taught History, Geography  and Driver’s Education in South Carolina public schools for 38 years. He also served as a coach of football and track at several schools in the state. He was fortunate to coach many athletes who went on to play sports in college. David is a member of the South Carolina Track Coaches Hall of Fame and the Woodruff High School Hall of Fame.


David moved to Charlotte in February of 2019 and is excited about the opportunity to teach the game of Chess to the young people of Charlotte. His wife, Louise , is also a coach at the Chess Center.


David’s interests are working out, traveling, Auburn football and Red Sox baseball.

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Assistant Coach

Todd Peck was born and raised in North Tonawanda, NY. He learned to play Chess from his father and older Brother at the age of 8. By the age of 19 he had learned to play guitar and was in a local band playing multiple shows around the Buffalo, NY area. After Graduating from NT High School in 1992, Todd started working in retail and has been in operations management for 31 years.



In 2001, Todd and his Wife moved to Charlotte, NC. He attended Central Piedmont Community College and Graduated with a degree in Business Management in 2006.



In his free time, Todd writes Ambient/Drone Music that has been broadcast worldwide. Todd also enjoys taking Lego Photography and spending time with his family, hiking, playing and teaching Chess.  

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