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Rob Lazorchak- Program Director

Rob is the Owner and Program Director of Diplomat Chess. He is a certified Advanced Coach by the United States Chess Federation, FIDE Instructor, Tournament Director and he holds a master degree in teaching. 

Outside of Diplomat Chess, Rob’s work is featured on, and he created the chess curriculum for the e-learning platform, Kids Academy. He consulted on the app, Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf, which was recently acquired by

When not teaching chess, Rob serves on the Board of Directors for the New Jersey State Chess Federation and is a member of the Rotary Club of Montgomery.

Rob received his high school diploma from The Pingry School, completed his undergraduate studies at Franklin & Marshall College, and earned his masters from American University.

Coach Rob lives in Montgomery Township, NJ, with his wife and two sons.

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Ashley Smurthwaite - Program Manager

Ashley Smurthwaite has been recently hired on to perform as the Diplomat Chess Program Manager. She has been working with elementary after-school programs since 2016 in a variety of ways. Prior to joining the Diplomat Chess team, Ashley was the supervisor of the Edith Bowen Laboratory School at Utah State where she pursued her undergraduate degree in Biology. She has also worked as a Camp Director for summer camps in Chicago and served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children within the foster care system. Her education led her to Washington DC where she achieved her Masters in Public Administration and maintained a connection with after school programs through her work as a Program Manager at Magnus Chess Academy. Ashley continues to love working with children and in her free time enjoys being outdoors and on the beach.

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Eya Setsu- Program Assistant

Eya Setsu recently joined the Diplomat Chess team as the new program assistant. Though she is an amateur chess player, she is an active professional violinist and violin teacher who enjoys working with students of all ages. She is an avid supporter of after-school enrichment activities as well as community outreach and is excited to support Diplomat Chess in bringing after-school chess to local communities.

IM Farai Mandizha- Coach

Farai Mandizha is an International Master and inspirational chess coach known for his unique tactical playing style. His teaching centers around helping students understand the unique properties of each piece and the various ways they cooperate to achieve goals. To Farai, the essence of chess is that it is constantly changing, so rather than asking students to strictly memorize, his focus is on how to help students think through various positions. 

Coach Farai has been invited to, and personally played in, every Chess Olympiad since 2012. He is working to attain the title of Grandmaster, and is also on the cusp of becoming one of the top 100 rated players in the country.

meet the founder

Steve Abrahams - Online Coach

Steve Abrahams is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina but has played and coached chess all across the United States. He is a USCF Expert and earned a peak FIDE Rating of 2072. Steve was the 2006 New Hampshire High School Champion and 2016 Southern Open Champion u2400.

Steve is a certified FIDE Trainer, has been a professional chess coach for over 10 years and has worked with over 10,000 students in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, and Florida including local, state and national champions.

 Steve has written articles for Chess Life Magazine, Chess Life Online, and during his career. In 2017, Steve Co-authored the book "Become a Chess Champion".

Steve lives happily in Tampa, Florida with his wife Lindsey, son Nicholas, and two dogs Jethro & Izzy.

meet the founder

Seun Bisiriyu- Coach

Coach Oluwaseun “Seun” Bisiriyu-Salam is a certified FIDE Instructor (FI), a chess expert with over 23 years of tournament play FIDE (2188 highest), and a US Chess Federation Certified Club Tournament Director. He also has a FIDE Organizer norm. Seun has worked, and still works, as chess instructor with different chess organizations and has taught kids from a number of schools in New York and New Jersey.

Seun graduated from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria with a BA in Philosophy, where he started teaching chess. As a prominent member of the University chess team, he won the Overall Best Male Athlete Award for 2002/2004. He later joined Pedachess, as one of the pioneer chess instructors in Nigeria. Seun has represented Nigeria at the top level in chess. Although Seun loves everything about chess, teaching kids how to play chess is his passion. He believes every kid should learn chess even if they don't intend to be professionals. Chess helps a kid develop a thinking system that is analytical, logical, rational and strategical, a thought process that can be transferred into other areas of life.

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Andrew Chan- Coach

Andrew Chan, CFA, is an expert-rated member of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). He is a current USCF top 100 NJ rated player at 2150 and top 25 NJ blitz rating of 2223.

Originally from New York City, he played on the top boards of the 1986, 1987, and 1988 NYC and NYS High School Championship Stuyvesant team, and the 1991 and 1992 US Amateur Team East Top College Cornell University team. A candidate master at age 16, he attended the American School of Chess and has been mentored by Grandmaster Edmar Mednis (noted chess teacher and author) and Grandmaster William Lombardy (coach of World Champion Bobby Fischer).

He is a volunteer and board member of the West Orange Chess Club, where he also serves as the Director of Player Development & Youth Program since 2013. He has taught at chess enrichment programs in Chatham, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Montclair, Randolph, South Orange, West Orange, and Whippany for over 300 students.

Alessandro De Marchi-Blumstein- Coach

Chess has been an important part of Coach Alessandro’s life for more than a decade. He started playing when he was 6 and began playing tournaments at 10. In high school, he discovered that, in addition to playing chess, he also enjoy teaching it and directing tournaments. He has been teaching and directing chess for six years now. Coach Alessandro also leads the Rutgers Chess Club and sits on the NJSCF board of directors. Outside of chess, he is a senior at Rutgers-New Brunswick studying computer science and an avid player of other strategy games such as Magic: The Gathering. 

meet the founder

Maxim Farberov- Coach

Coach Max is an expert level chess player (USCF rating >2000) who has been playing competitively for fifteen years and teaching for six. Growing up, he was a top junior player and won the 2011 New Jersey Scholastic Championship. In high school, he formed a chess program at his former elementary school in Summit, NJ and volunteered his time to teach the children after school. In college, Coach Max served as the President of the Rutgers Chess Club and captain of their chess team. Since graduating, he has returned to serious tournament chess with the goal of achieving the national master title.

Max Humes- Coach

Max is a senior at Rutgers University studying computer science. Inspired by the recent chess boom, he became an active member of his school's chess club. As an avid tournament player rated around 1500 USCF, Max is always looking to improve his own chess and share his knowledge with the next generation!




I feel very lucky to have found Robert and Diplomat Chess. Any school would be fortunate to have him as part of their educational programming and staff. If you have any questions regarding this recommendation please don’t hesitate to reach out.



I have known Rob for two years, and have employed him as a private chess tutor for my elementary school aged son him during most of that time. I observed Rob to be kind, patient, and understanding. Further, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to make chess exciting and fun. My young son was hooked. As a graduate of Teachers College at Columbia University, and a veteran teacher of more than 15 years, I immediately pinpointed Rob as a “natural”. He truly shines when he works with young children.



As soon as our son began learning chess with Diplomat Chess, he loved it. Their love and understanding of the game is always evident. Not only is our son learning and honing his chess skills, he is also learning to navigate hard life lessons. There are valuable lessons in chess that span far wider than the game, and the instructors knows how to highlight and enforce those in a kind and thoughtful way. We didn’t expect our eight year old to be beating us at chess quite this soon, but we’ll take it!