Our dear friend from the chess community, Juan Sena, has been diagnosed with ALS, an incurable neurodegenerative disease that comes on quickly and has devastating effects. While it's impossible to anticipate how quickly the illness will progress, there are inevitably mounting costs: insurance deductibles, loss of income due to inability to work, additional familial strain . . . it's hard to overstate the crushing impact this disease brings with its unwanted arrival. Perhaps the worst part of ALS is that the mind stays fully active while the body degenerates. Fortunately, that means that chess-playing can remain a constant for Juan, though his beloved teaching cannot.
Juan and his family are grateful for any and every contribution from the chess community and beyond. Please read the testimonials below and think about how you can help our friend in need.
"We have known Juan for over ten years through our son Hugh. He would come over most Saturday mornings to tutor our son. In all those years there was never a down day for Juan. He brims with joy for the game and joy for life. Much of his teachings are his great life analogies. He has a passion for the game of life. The chessboard is merely his tool for his broader teachings. Juan is a true stoic. He does not let his circumstances define him, but rather chooses to live life one day at a time being focused on the moment he is in. He has always been that way. He is full of joy and brings that force of positive energy with him wherever he goes. "
"Coach Juan is one of the most generous and positive people we’ve known, and he’s a great chess coach. He is amazingly encouraging and positive, and he’s helped our son’s game improve tremendously. He instills a love for chess, and he is diverse in his teaching of tactics, expanding our son’s horizons, thinking, and approach to the game. Coach Juan’s lessons are some of the most enjoyable times for our son, to not only learn about chess but about life as well. We are fortunate to have Juan as a coach and teacher. “
GM Irina Krush:
"Over the last four years I have had a chance to get to know Juan through his work with us at GM Chess, and his sense of humor, good nature, and positive outlook have made him one of my favorite people. He is a caring and patient teacher and an empathetic friend, always ready to offer a supportive word. The strength and resilience he has shown in the face of such a crushing diagnosis have been an example for me personally. I've never heard a word of complaint from him about his condition and for me, the biggest “success” in his battle is that he is still the same Juan today as he was before his diagnosis. Juan is a chess player to his core and still tries to play as frequently as possible. I know he would be most appreciative for any help the chess community can offer him. "
"Juan recently mentioned in one of our lessons that his occupational therapist wants to learn to play chess. In fact, an impromptu chess club has formed among Juan's fellow patients. After therapy, they sit down and play a few games. This is a testimony to Juan's love of chess and his positive approach to life. In the midst of facing his own illness, he has found a way to enrich the lives of others through chess. I have studied with Juan for the past year, and his ability to pinpoint exactly what a student needs to work on is impressive. Sometimes my progress is slow—it's hard to jump into serious chess as an adult. But Juan shows infinite patience and kindness. Even in a game I've lost, he is quick to point out what I did right. Then he shows me how I can build on that. Juan teaches many talented children, some of whom may become masters or even grandmasters. But he shows the same interest in my progress as he does in that of his younger students. That has meant a great deal to me. Juan is an inspiration. Thanks to him, I will continue to soldier on at the chessboard."
Noah Chasin, President of the Marshall Chess Club
"Some years ago when my son was still on the NYC scholastic chess circuit, I would spend entire weekends sitting in school auditoriums waiting for rounds to end. Invariably I would notice an affable, elegant, mustachioed gentleman setting up at a table at the front of the room, offering to analyze games with any and all comers. That was Juan Sena, and my son and I got to know him through his selfless, generous, and straight-talking advice about chess, about sports, about life. To this day I still watch Juan as he sits at the Marshall Chess Club and offers to analyze games in between rounds for anyone smart enough to seek out his wise counsel. Juan is the purest kind of chess player: he plays, studies, interacts all for the love of this beautiful game. He has told me again and again that he plays to learn—not for money, not to gloat about rating points—and that he himself is always learning—from friends, opponents, and above all, from his students, who understandably adore him. Juan has the rarest gift of being universally admired within (and outside!) the chess community. He is a true pillar of NYC chess and, as such, is unsurprisingly stoic in the face of his foreseeable future. I hope that we all can give back even a small portion of what he has given to us."
“Juan Sena is a very special chess coach. I know this firsthand, having worked with him on a variety of programs over the last thirty years. From classrooms in public and private schools, where his lectures have given inspiration to thousands of enthusiastic students, to analysis tables at major scholastic events, where his quick insights have led youngsters across the board to competitive success, Juan Sena is always on top of his game. In every way, he’s a teacher’s teacher. Beyond his obvious skills and qualifications as a dedicated educator, Juan is a really good guy. His upbeat nature and active mind, his wit and buoyant sense of humor, his concern for others and their troubles, his willingness and commitment to being truly helpful, and his simple love for life, make him not only a great coach and mentor. All of that also makes him a wonderful human being. I want to thank the Marshall Chess Club for its effort and willingness to set up this worthy GoFund. To be sure, I am contributing to it and hope others will do the same.”
GM Giorgi Kacheishvili:
"I was very saddened when my friend Juan, whom I've known for ten years, told me about his condition. Those who know Juan don't need an introduction, but for those who don't I can say that Juan is a loving and responsible teacher; despite his age (and now even his condition), there is not a drop of laziness in him and he's more energetic than most teachers much younger than him. I wish that he will always remain so, but there is no cure for his condition and it will be a constant struggle for him. He is an amazing fighter, but in this battle he really needs our help. I hope the chess community will come together for Juan and show why our motto is "gens una sumus" (we are one family). "