Mister Omar’s Chess Academy snags another trophy for Yellow Springs

Mister Omar’s Chess Academy — The Yellow Springs Kings chess team — went into a weekend tournament in Cincinnati with a target on their back as their reign ended.

Placing second in the non-rated high school division at the Queen City Classic, held Feb. 28-29, the Kings fell a half point short of becoming three-time tournament champions. The team placed first in 2018 and 2019.

“Maybe we were meant to get second this year so we stay hungry,” said Omar Durrani, the academy’s founder and teacher. “There’s no doubt we will be back next year. The kids are very ready and this second place motivated them even more.”

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Despite now living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and working as a financial analyst, Durrani continues to teach chess to students in Yellow Springs via FaceTime and then flys to Ohio for practices once the annual tournament gets closer.

“I remember driving through this little town that seemed almost like a fairy tale, almost like a small land with a theater,” Durrani said while speaking of his first impression of Yellow Springs.

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While attending Wright State University in 2011, Durrani started a chess class in Yellow Springs, and because of the class’s popularity, he was hired as a resident chess teacher at the Antioch School, a private pre-K through sixth grade school.

Ten years later, the academy has grown into an independent team with some local fame. Dave Chappelle’s children, Sulayman and Ibrahim, are decorated students of the academy.

When Durrani left for Florida in 2015 to get an MBA at Florida International University, he continued teaching chess to students in Florida. It wasn’t until 2018 that his Yellow Springs students asked him to come back to secure a first place finish for Mister Omar’s Chess Academy.

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The first year back, the Yellow Springs Kings won their initial first place at the Cincinnati tournament — one of the largest scholastic chess tournaments in the Midwest.

“I love the mental battle that chess entails,” Durrani said. “I love the strategy and intellect needed to win and be successful in chess and in life.”

“People don’t really talk about chess and people don’t know about the greatness of this game … “Trying to really invest in this neurological game and show it’s validity and coolness to the next generation and to the kids of the world.”

Anyone interested in joining the academy can reach Durrani directly at omarwillspeak@gmail.com.

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