Meet Our Staff

NM Adam Weissbarth - Founder and CEO

NM Adam Weissbarth

Adam (USCF 2255) has taught thousands of children to play chess in New Mexico, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Virginia. Many of his students have won local, state, and national championships. Adam has won numerous scholastic and adult tournaments all over the country, including two New Mexico High School Championships. Adam earned his National Chess Master title in the winter of 2006 and became a U.S. Chess Federation-certified Senior Tournament Director in 2009. He has appeared on the Howard Stern show, the Perpetual Chess Podcast, and Chess Life for Kids magazine. Adam has an M.S. in Statistics from the University of Washington, where -- in a preview of his future career -- he enjoyed being a TA far more than taking classes or doing research. Adam lives in Annandale with his wife, daughter, and son. 

Favorite non-chess hobby: Playing basketball 

Daniel Weissbarth - COO

Daniel Weissbarth

Daniel (USCF 2029) has been playing chess for as long as he can remember  and achieved the title of Expert in 2009. After working for Silver Knights (before it became Magnus Chess Academy) as a teacher for a year near Philadelphia, Daniel moved to Northern Virginia in the summer of 2009 to be the Program Director for the new branch of the company. Over the last few years he has overseen Magnus Chess Academy's growth in AZ, DC, MD, VA  and online from 10 locations and 200 students to more than 300 schools and15,000+ students each year!  He's taught a few state and national champions, a bunch of players in the top 100 in the country for their age group, and thousands of kids who love playing chess! He lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his wife, son and 23 toed cat .

 Favorite opening: Daniel has an eternal unquenchable love for the Smith-Morra Gambit.  He'll always say he's quit it, and it's always a lie. 

Deb Rubba - DC Area Program Director

Deb Rubba

Deb started as a chess parent when her oldest daughter took chess at school with Silver Knights years ago! First working for a sister company to help manage after school programs for a few years, Deb joined Magnus Chess Academy as Program Director of in-person programs in the DC area at the start of 2022 . She's still a chess parent, now with 2 kids in the program, and loves seeing a whole bunch of kids grow to love the game.

Favorite non-chess hobby: Photography and running  

Megan Campbell - Human Resources Director

Megan Campbell
Megan Campbell has enjoyed tabletop gaming from a young age. She graduated from Purdue University with degrees in Psychology and in Fine Arts. Megan is passionate about helping children develop their cognitive skills through activities such as chess. She began working with Adam and Daniel at a sister company and joined Magnus Chess Academy (then Silver Knights Chess) in the spring of 2022. She lives in Indiana with her husband and two children.
Favorite non-chess hobby: Discovering new tabletop board games 

Luke Everett - Special Projects

Luke Everett

Luke (USCF 1894) was taught how to play chess when he was six years old. Learning about pins and forks from an Australian neighbor created an enduring fascination for the game. Unfortunately, "real life" interfered with Luke's chess ambition for decades and he only started playing in tournaments after immigrating to the USA in 1996. Luke joined what was then Silver Knights after seeing how much his daughter enjoyed the after-school programs and tournament training clubs.

 Favorite opening: I'm working on a secret opening called the hyper-accelerated wombat attack. 

Mathieu Fondin - Program Manager

Mathieu Fondin

Mathieu is the program manager for the Loudoun County region, the Prince William region and the western part of Fairfax County. He's relatively new to chess but enjoying learning more about it in his role and with Coach Luke! His original goal was to beat Adam and Daniel but now he'll settle for winning against a majority of the kids in my camps.

His favorite part about Magnus Chess Academy: My favorite thing about the Academy is the people! Everyone I work with is so friendly and eager to support one-another and teach our students. From the coaches to the other PMs all the way up to the company founders. It makes me feel very fulfilled to be doing the work I do. 

Iskandar Haggarty - Program Manager

Iskandar Haggarty

Iskandar is a published poet and chess enthusiast who likes to hike in his free time. He lives in Maryland with his partner and two guinea pigs, Oliver and Oreo.

 Favorite chess piece: The Pawn! Tiny but MIGHTY! 

Andy Dubosky - Program Manager

Andy Dubosky

Andy is a former chess coach at Magnus Chess Academy (Then Silver Knights Enrichment) and is an infrequent online player at GameKnot. He is from the Baltimore area. 

Riley Loter - Program Manager

Riley has just recently moved to the state and is brand new to the area. She has never played chess but has recently played her first game with Mathieu and is ready to learn more! She has a 2 year old golden named Dolly, yes after Parton, who she adores endlessly. She loves golfing, hiking and all things being outside!


Hannah Shult - Human Resources Assistant

Hannah Shult

Hannah graduated from The College of William and Mary with a degree in Biology, and tried out a couple different things before stumbling upon the position of chess coach with Magnus Chess Academy. She loved it! Soon after, she transitioned into the role of HR Assistant which is where she's been ever since.

Favorite chess opening: As I'm still a beginner chess player, I often find myself falling back into the trusty Italian game. 

Bijal Shah - Coach Trainer and Tournament Manager

Bijal Shah

Bijal has always loved to teach and learn. She's been a math and social studies teacher for 10 years. She learned chess as a kid and teaching it to her daughter inspired her to join Magnus Chess Academy (then Silver Knights) as a chess coach in 2017. Since 2022, her responsibilities have grown to include being a trainer for new coaches and our tournament manager. She's grown a lot with Magnus Chess Academy. She is passionate about both in-person and virtual chess coaching.

 Favorite chess opening: The Italian opening 

Xunaxi (Xuni) Caroca - Human Resources Assistant

Xunaxi Caroca

Xuni was born and raised in Mexico City and she's been in the US for 5 years! She learned to play chess when she was 8 years old. Her dad taught her and believe it or not, it is addictive! Her favorite color is blue and she love puzzles, movies and playing outside.

 Superpower you wish you had: I'd love to fly! So I can visit different countries without having to pay for airplane tickets!  

Nick Donlon - Talent Acquisition Associate


Nicholas Donlon learned the game of chess at the age of 5, and has loved the game ever since. While he admittedly plays less than he should, he always enjoys learning and studying the game. To make a career out of furthering and teaching the game of chess is a childhood dream. When he is not playing or teaching chess, Nick is either playing, coaching, or refereeing in athletics or volunteering with Special Olympics Virginia.

Favorite Chess Opening: the Vienna Gambit


Zack Mullin - Online Academy Coordinator

Zack Mullin

From a young age he has always enjoyed strategic games, and chess was no exception. While he never became a grandmaster, he's always enjoyed the strategy and tactics of the game.

Favorite chess piece: The pawns... small but deadly! 

Grandmaster Johan Hellsten - Chess Coach



Born in 1975, started playing chess at the age of six. National U20 Champion in 1991, IM in 1995, GM in 2004, Swedish Champion in 2006. Member of the Swedish national team in several Olympiads and European Team Championships. Winner of several international events, among them the Copa Entel (category IX) in Chile 2005. Author of several chess books, for example a trilogy on strategy which was published by Everyman Chess in 2010-2013 and converted into a Chessable course in 2021. Regular lecturer at the US Chess School. Johan has created several Chessable courses on chess strategy.

Favorite chess opening: The Sicilian Kan 

Paul McGuire - Chess Coach

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire in 2015 originally planned to stay with what was then Silver Knights Chess for just a short period, but has greatly enjoyed the opportunity to teach children about chess for the past several years. Paul first learned chess through books rather than playing at the age of seven. When not teaching, he enjoys watching and discussing the NBA and has an interest in international politics.

Favorite chess piece: C-pawn

Dave Shin - Chess Coach

Dave Shin

David (USCF 1810) has been teaching math and computer science and coaching chess for more than twenty years. This includes some Maryland State Elementary and High School Team champions! David has achieved the USCF Candidate Master ranking, was the New England Amateur Champion and played on the UMBC Collegiate Chess team. He once played blitz chess with his favorite player, world champion Mikhail Tal! David loves sharing his enthusiasm for chess with students of all skill levels, from new beginners to strong tournament players. David is a graduate of the University of Illinois - Champaign.

 What do you enjoy most about Magnus Chess Academy: Watching students mature and grow through chess. 

Uthra Pakkirisamy - Chess Coach


Uthra (USCF 2037) started playing chess at a summer chess camp at the age of 6. She was born and raised in Chennai, India and moved to the US in 2016. She fell in love with the game, and went on to earn the WFM title and won a gold medal at the Asian U-17 games. She has a peak FIDE rating of 2114 has been coaching kids for more than 4 years. She holds Bachelor in Engineering and Masters in Business Administration degrees. Uthra lives with her husband and two children in Fortmill, SC and currently the No.1 Women player in South Carolina.

Favorite chess opening: My favorites are Sicilian and English Opening. 

Phyllis DeMario - Chess Coach

 Phyllis DeMario

Phyllis DeMario graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Communications. After graduation, she spent several years training horses, and teaching horseback riding to both adults and children. Phyllis learned to play chess as a child, and has enjoyed playing many opponents throughout the years. She has been an instructor for Magnus Chess Academy, previously known as Silver Knights, since 2015.

Superpower you wish you had: The ability to teleport to any place I’d like to be! 

John Sullivan - Chess Coach

John Sullivan

John has been playing chess for more than 20 years. He's originally from Springfield Massachusetts the home of basketball and Dr. Seuss. He loves guitar and cooking Indian food when he is not studying chess.

Favorite chess opening: Philidor Counter Gambit 

Catherine Jenkins - Chess Coach

Catherine Jenkins

Catherine Jenkins was taught how to play chess at 8 years old by her dad and has been teaching chess classes with Magnus Chess Academy since January 2021. She is in school studying to be an English teacher and finds joy in helping students find friendly competition while developing their chess skills.

Favorite non-chess hobby: Knitting 

James Bougher - Chess Coach

James Bougher

James (USCF 1533) learned chess at age 6 has been playing ever since. He loves that chess is a strategy game of perfect information, and that any that any two people can meet and play on even terms. James has been teaching with Magnus Chess Academy since 2017.

Favorite non-chess hobby: snowboarding, playing the piano and studying Japanese. 

Bill McCauley - Chess Coach

Bill McCauley

Bill taught himself to play chess when he was ten years old, and he hasn't stopped yet. He's been with Magnus Academy for around eight years. As a retired teacher, he enjoys continuing to work with students while, at the same time, he still tries to improve his own understanding of chess strategy and tactics. Bill grew up in the northern Virginia area and has lived in Boulder, Colorado; Miami, Florida; Washington, DC; and now Ellicott City, Maryland. His other passion, beyond chess, is art, and he actively exhibits his works in local galleries and shows.

Favorite chess opening: Zukertort when playing white...Dark Knight when playing black 

Brent Layer - Chess Coach

Brent Layer

Brent (USCF 1821) taught high school math before he started teaching chess. Brent has been playing chess for fun since he was in grade school, and started teaching chess as a college student, and has been teaching chess for Magnus Chess Academy since 2014.

Favorite part of working for Magnus Chess Academy: Brent enjoys studying, playing and teaching chess, and hopes to pass on his enthusiasm to each and every one of his students!