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Madison City Chess League has named Adam Epling as “2024 Coach of the Year.” CONTRIBUTED

Chess league honors Epling as ‘Coach of the Year’

MADISON – During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam Epling rediscovered his love for chess, even reading chess books and online courses. “I was hooked,” Epling said.

His rekindled interest led to Epling’s honor as “2024 Coach of the Year” with Madison City Chess League or MCCL. For 2.5 years, he has coached Midtown Elementary School’s chess team with students in grades 1-5.

“My reaction was one of total surprise for starters, because I know how many other talented and dedicated chess coaches we have in Madison. Any number of them would have been deserving of the award,” Epling said.

“But I’m truly honored and just glad to play a small role in the amazing chess community we have in Madison, thanks largely to efforts of MCCL, who does a great job promoting the game in our schools,” Epling said.

His father taught him about chess; occasionally, they joined Epling’s uncle for games. Epling also played against friends and classmates but never joined a competitive team.

He mentors many young players at Midtown and led Midtown girls to reach first-place team in the K-3 Section at the 2024 All-Girls State Chess Championship. For MCCL, he also coordinates weekly Blitz and Rapid sessions on Chess.com.

“Midtown Chess Club was actually a continuation of the one started at West Madison Elementary by a Bob Jones student (shout-out to Aubteen, now attending Duke University),” Epling said about volunteering to coach in spring 2022. “I had recently gotten back into chess and was excited to spread love of the game to others.”

In his teaching philosophy, Epling keeps a fine balance between students who need discipline for some semblance of order while simultaneously having fun to keep their interest. “At this age, it helps to focus on the team aspect: having fun with friends, celebrating when they win, picking them up when they lose and being a good sport,” he said.

The highlight in his coaching came in February with all Madison schools’ – and Midtown’s — outstanding turnout for All-Girls State Tournament. “Midtown took home the trophy for the K-3 section, which was fantastic, but more so than that, it was great to see how many girls are playing chess in our schools. That’s not something you see everywhere,” Epling said.

“Again, that’s a testament to what a great job MCCL and the local chess community have done to build an inclusive culture and make sure kids know that chess is for everyone,” he said.

A recent tournament gave fulfillment to Epling as a coach. At practice one week before the event, he explained the defense against Scholar’s Mate, a four-move checkmate pattern that fools many beginners.

“Sure enough in the tournament, someone tried it against a younger student, who successfully thwarted it and won the game. He ran to our table and was so excited to tell me! It was cool to see things you teach actually sinking in and put to good use,” Epling said.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Epling graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he earned a master’s degree in computer science.

He works as a software engineer for Sysdig, a cloud security company. He is married to Michelle Epling, President of Madison Chamber of Commerce. The Eplings’ twins, Abby and Charlotte, attend Midtown.

Away from work, he shuttles kids back and forth to activities (Irish Dance and swim team for the twins). “I like swimming, tennis, all sorts of music (I played clarinet in Auburn Marching Band) and being perpetually disappointed by my favorite sports teams — Auburn, Everton and Cleveland pro teams,” he said.

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