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Stephen Crookston is the founder and senior trainer at Board One Academy. A native of Tampa, he’s been immersed in the competitive chess arena since childhood. He first became enchanted with the game as a kid when he received very clear instructions from his parents: “don’t touch the ivory chess set in your dad’s office.” Because Stephen was like most kids who would like to do exactly what is off limits, he and his brother would regularly sneak into the office to have a go at the board. His mother soon learned about Stephen’s knack for the game and signed him up for a chess club. He’s been playing ever since.

Stephen is passionate about coaching chess. He has seen in his own life the powerful effects of becoming a solid chess player under the mentorship of a great teacher. Stephen remains close to his own childhood chess coach, Coach Taylor, who trained Stephen from age nine. They still regularly get together for lunch or a game of golf. Taylor saw something special about Stephen’s skill level and brought him on to coach younger players at the age of 12.

After going away to college in Virginia, Stephen returned to Florida where he was approached to once again coach chess. He has now been coaching full time for ten years and subsequently launched Board One Chess Academy. Throughout his tenure working with young players full time, Stephen has developed a unique coaching style that he likens to being more of a trainer than a teacher. Board One Chess Academy recognizes that every child is unique and has different needs. Stephen helps cultivate a “detective” strategy in his students while making sure they always have a lot of fun. As the oldest of six children in his own family, Stephen knows how to connect with kids and enjoys investing in players of varying skill levels. Decision-making, attention to detail, and confidence are all traits that Stephen has witnessed come to fruition in his students. He loves investing in players and seeing even the most unlikely kids grow to excel at the game. 


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Alexandra Cuellar is the Program Coordinator for Board One Chess Academy. She was born and raised in Brandon, FL and now resides in Tampa. Alexandra is a certified teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida. She has years of experience working with children from preschool age to middle school. Her passion is working with children and creating a fun and safe learning environment. She is very excited to do that and more at Board One Chess Academy!