HARTSDALE – Rusudan “Rusa” Goletiani, 28, has defeated some of the best chess players in the world.
Just back from her most recent accomplishment – taking a silver individual medal and sharing the bronze with the U.S. Women’s Chess Team at the World Chess Olympics in Germany, she resumes teaching the game to students from age 5 to senior citizens at the Westchester Chess Academy today.
Goletiani said competing as a team member was more challenging than playing for herself, since she didn’t want to let others down.
“It puts more pressure on you because you are not only playing for yourself, but playing for the team,” she said. “But Russia and China are very strong, so it was a big accomplishment for us.”
The Hartsdale resident, co-director of the Westchester academy, grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where her father taught her chess when she was 6 (the Georgia team took the gold medal in Germany).
By age 9, Goletiani had won the Soviet Junior Championship for girls and was the Soviet representative in the 1990 World Youth Chess Tournament for Peace in Wisconsin. As a teen, she won two Russian championships and three world junior championships.
For the love of chess and to seek a better life, she moved to the United States in 2000 when she was 19. She lived in Brooklyn and began learning English before working as an instructor at a chess camp in Pennsylvania.
Goletiani then moved to Yonkers and began giving private lessons while working as a baby sitter and housekeeper for a Scarsdale family. A chance meeting with the children’s chess teacher landed her a job as an instructor in public school programs through the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.
“He said, ‘What are you doing here,’ ” Goletiani said with a laugh, as she recalled defeating the teacher in two games.
She continued teaching at local schools while competing professionally. She won the North and South American Continental Chess Championship in Venezuela in 2003. The same year, she married Mancho Surguladze and moved to Hartsdale.
In 2005, Goletiani won the U.S. Women’s Championship in San Diego. She placed second the following year.
After three years of teaching through the foundation, Goletiani and a colleague, Mike Amori, started the Westchester Chess Academy in Rye. The school teaches about 50 students each semester from Westchester, Connecticut and the Bronx.
“We share the same philosophies,” said Amori, who has taught chess for 12 years. “It’s hard work, and you have to train and get past what’s available at the surface. You have to make a commitment and push it.”
“In chess,” Goletiani added, “You need to be pushed to the next level. We both love chess a lot, and we both love working with kids.
“As long as they are interested, the age doesn’t matter,” she said.
Goletiani took a break from competition to have her daughter, Sophie, in 2007. She returned to open tournament competing last year and placed third in the country, qualifying to compete in the World Chess Olympics a second time.
Goletiani said winning two medals in Germany was a worthwhile achievement. She played 11 rounds, about five hours each, during the world games.
“At the end, when you win, you feel content because the hard work has paid off,” she said.
Her students, including Scarsdale resident Fred Wang, also appreciate her talent and hard work.
He played chess as child and took it up again after a 40-year hiatus. Wang, who has taken lessons with Goletiani for two years, referred to her as a hidden treasure.
“She brings tremendous vibrancy and calculating abilities,” he said. “She makes the game exciting.”
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– GM Susan Polgar