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The Madison Record

Larson coaching James Clemens, Liberty chess teams

MADISON – A semi-professional chess player, teacher and professional scientist now is coaching two teams with Madison City Chess League.

Dr. Gerald Larson has joined the league’s coaching staff as head coach for chess teams at James Clemens High School and Liberty Middle School for 2019-2020. He also is teaching a master chess series for higher rated players on Sundays at Madison Public Library.

Larson’s master class “is intended to wake up these kids’ chess engines and get them ready to play well at Grade Nationals in December.”

Larson entered his first chess tournament in seventh grade. “I enjoyed the immersive nature of the thought processes,” he said. 

In 1989, Larson started teaching chess at University Place Elementary in Huntsville. He has instructed students at Country Day, Rolling Hills, Weatherly Heights, Chapman, Randolph, Hampton Cove, Jones Valley and Seldon Center. 

He conducted promotional events at malls, company lunchrooms and libraries. Larson was one of three organizers of Huntsville Chess Club, along with serving as Vice President of Alabama Chess Federation Scholastic and delegate to U.S. Chess governance meetings. 

“In my dotage, I’ve become passionate about teaching chess because it’s an effective antidote to one of our greatest societal threats in the age of the Internet: confirmation bias … to confirm any idea.” Conversely, chess involves “falsification thinking … to search for what’s wrong with your ideas.”

His family arrived in the Tennessee Valley in 1963 with his father’s work with TOW missile testing.

“I’ve attended 27.5 years of schooling. I’ve paid attention every single day, but my college career did have some twists and turns,” Larson said. Attending Vanderbilt University on academic scholarship, he was accepted to Vanderbilt Medical School.

However, Larson hated medical school. He tried other school options but burned out after six years at Vandy.

After Larson married in 1982 and was living in Huntsville, the physics department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville accepted him. UAH later hired him to supervise manufacturing of plasma spectrometer instruments for Star Wars experiments. He earned a master’s degree in plasma physics. 

He also earned certification in UAH Continuing Education’s Modeling & Simulation series. “I’m privileged to work at Simulation Technologies Inc. and doubly privileged to serve as their Chief Scientist,” Larson said.

A major influence to Larson was Don Rule, math teacher at Rincon High School in Tucson, Ariz. during the 1970s. “He was also chess sponsor and a wonderful man — tall, gangly, funny, erudite. Very funny. Very reliable.”

Larson’s children live in Houston, Texas; Taipei, Taiwan; Washington D.C.; and Boston, Mass. “As you can see, we have flown to the four winds,” he said.

He’s a new grandparent. As a scientist, he reads constantly. “There isn’t (much) time for anything else,” Larson said.

 

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