In Memory of IM Ilya Figler
It has been a rough year for chess with the passing of many players. Recently, Mikhail Layevskiy, a beloved friend of the club, passed away and we honored him with a memorial blitz tournament. Last week, we were devastated to learn of the passing of IM Ilya Figler. IM Figler was vital to the New York chess scene. He was a respected coach, friend to many and a great player.
IM Figler was the two-time Moldovan champion and, upon moving to the United States, earned the National Master title in 1997. He obtained the IM title in 2010 and became a FIDE Instructor in 2011. He worked primarily as a chess coach and teacher in a number of schools, including the Ethical Cultural Fieldston School and the Hunter College Campus Schools. His students will remember him especially for his dedication and the joy he brought to each lesson. In his free time, he played frequently at the Manhattan Chess Club (when it was still in existence) and at the Marshall. His last tournament was only a few months ago.
The Marshall's Executive Director, Bryan Quick, sent out an email to members sharing the club's condolences:
"Ilya was a member of the club for decades and was a dear friend to many in our community. He dedicated himself to teaching chess for more than 30 years. An innovator, he was an early pioneer in bringing chess to early childhood education. He also coached numerous National Championship teams (and individual champions) in his work with the Hunter College schools. Ilya will be deeply missed."
News of his passing spread quickly and many were able to attend his memorial on February 16th.
On social media, NM Alex King wrote a short obituary. Many players responded by posting their favorite chess experiences with IM Figler. Among the commenters were GM Maurice Ashley and IM John Bartholomew. IM Bartholomew recounted how IM Figler once beat him "in textbook fashion" and was "totally schooled by this unassuming older guy!" GM Michael Rohde, a regular at the club, praised his "dynamic/intuitive style" and the fact that he was "never afraid of complications." Shaun M. Smith, Director of Programs at Chess-in-the -Schools, said that Figler was "One of the nicest chess players! [He] always greeted me with a smile, a handshake, and a few kind words." NM Evan Rabin of Premier Chess called him a "kind soul" and referred to him as one of his mentors. The fact that so many players had lasting memories of IM Figler shows how important he was to our community. May he rest in peace.