As I sit here beginning to write these words I find myself still numb and trying desperately to process the terrible news which I received earlier. On Wednesday February 17th the chess world lost an amazing person with the untimely passing of Sevan Muradian at only 40 years of age from a heart attack.
Sevan was a Chicago-based tournament organizer and promoter. Yet to describe him as just that leaves too much unsaid. It would be far more accurate to say that Sevan was an Armenian bundle of energy constantly striving to, and succeeding in, pushing the boundaries further than any of his friends and colleagues thought was possible in search of ever greater results.
His extremely long list of chess-related accomplishments include having International Arbiter and International Organizer titles, Secretary of the FIDE Rules Commission, winning the 2007 USCF Organizer of the Year award, running events in which norm seekers were able to earn IM and GM titles, being a former board member of the IL Chess Association, and a current member of the board of the Susan Polgar Foundation. All of this while running literally hundreds of weekend tournaments.
As an organizer Sevan was always looking to deliver the best product he could to his players. Regardless of whether the event was one of his closed events for norm seekers looking to earn their IM and GM titles, or an afternoon blitz tournament he always strove to make sure that every player had a reason to want to come back.
Often it’s human nature for us to complain that we would like for something to happen and that we don’t understand why no one is doing it. When Sevan wanted something he went out and did it himself if no one else was. Wanting to see Chicago get back on the map as a serious chess center that could help generate titled players by giving them opportunities to play in closed events where norms would be possible Sevan decided to start the North American Masters series back in 2005. As a result numerous players were able to earn IM or GM norms in the events which Sevan organized and ran, including many players who earned their final norm at one of his events.
When Sevan wanted chess players in the Chicago area to have access to a full time club where weekend tournaments could be held on a regular basis along with lectures, camps, classes, and other events he opened the Chess IQ Academy.
Normally in an obituary there are some words along the line of “…is survived by his wife and two daughters, along with his brother, nephew, and…” but for Sevan it goes so far beyond that. He touched so many lives that it’s more appropriate to say that Sevan Muradian is survived by his thousands of friends in the chess world.
Here is how Sevan’s friends and colleagues remember him:
GM Susan Polgar, former World Champion: “Sevan made a huge positive impact for chess. He was a great organizer, promoter, and arbiter who gave so much to our sport. I am honored that he was my friend and a big supporter of the Susan Polgar Foundation. He will be missed. RIP my friend and thank you for everything that you did for chess.”
Chris Wainscott, writer for the ChessIQ Blog (and this obituary): “Sevan was like a brother, mentor, and friend all rolled in to one. He was one of my closest friends in the chess world, and someone whom I relied on quite a lot. I feel lost with his passing and I question whether there will ever be another one like him. I feel extremely grateful for all of the friendships that I have made with so many others as a result of knowing him.”
GM Yury Shulman, former US Champion: “I want to express thanks to Sevan for his efforts in organizing numerous chess events and inviting me to give lectures at Chess IQ Center and for inviting me to be a member of the Chicago Blaze team and to round-robin tournaments. Sevan’s efforts encouraged so many players to learn chess as well as to set higher goals including achieving International titles. Although we had so many opposite views in our conversations, I was impressed how Sevan handled all uncomfortable situations with a smile and we were always in the end in good terms no matter how different were our opinions. Thanks for being a great example of an organizer who could do things and not plan them indefinitely. The chess community of Chicago will remember you.”
IM Awonder Liang: “This is a sad day in chess. Mr. Sevan Muradian was a great gentleman and an exceptional chess leader. My brother Adream and I played in countless chess tournaments of his and always had a great time. My entire family will remember him forever. Rest in Peace, Uncle Sevan. We will miss you in every chess tournament!”
Will Liang, father of Awonder: “Sevan was one of the most supportive and helpful chess leaders to Awonder’s chess pursuit. His passing is a big loss to chess and for Awonder and our family.”
Nicholas Bartchowski, Chicago area chess player: “I remember it was one of my first times playing at his chess center about four years ago. I didn’t know any openings back then. I played vs the Dragon as White and afterward he came over to me and told me the name of the opening and what to do against it. He told me to drive my h pawn up the board and checkmate Black, meanwhile Black is trying to checkmate White on the queenside. ‘White is trying to break open Black’s kingside’ I remember him saying. Ever since then whenever I think of the Dragon or put my bishop on g7 I think about Sevan.”
Brad Rosen (from his speech at the US Amateur Team North) –I met Sevan about 12 years ago. Over that time I got to know Sevan well and worked with him on many matters very closely.
- Sevan was a giant…. a force of nature, on the Illinois, the United States and the World Chess stages. He was the pioneer and trendsetter in internationalizing US chess.
- Sevan, through his own organization ran 266, events and worked with many other organizers on countless events all over the world. One of Sevan’s shining accomplishments is bringing norm events to US shores where players could earn international titles. He ran 31 such norm events, but importantly inspired many others across the US to do the same….the Continental Chess Association for that matter. Make no mistake about it, Sevan is the one who kicked this phenomena off in earnest….and in so doing raised the level and of quality of play in this country immeasurably, and even more importantly, gave many US based players the opportunity to earn their international titles without having to leave the country. That is huge.
- Sevan was an ardent supporter of scholastic chess and high end junior chess in all its forms. Sevan was the go to organizer and TD for the Denker, the Barber and Girls invitational qualifying events. He did this gratis. He arranged for or provided venues for these event — again, at no cost. He was a good friend, supporter, and currently served as the Director for the Warren Junior program.
- Sevan was the founder and main benefactor of the Chicago Blaze of the US Chess League, and brought a championship to Chicago well before the Blackhawks started making a habit of it.
- When the University of Illinois made it to the final 4 of college chess in 2012, Sevan was instrumental in arranging for high end training, public relations, and fundraising to support the team’s efforts against the formalized and well monied competing programs. He supported the 2013 U of I final four effort as well,
- Sevan was a doer– he had boundless energy and juggled more balls in the air than most people can imagine.
- Sevan ran deep and wide. He was a thinker, he was wise, he knew a lot about a lot of things. He wanted to exert an influence on all of the 64 squares of life; and he did a pretty good job of it.
- Sevan was not warm and fuzzy. He told it like he saw it, but he had a heart of gold and would generously share his considerable life knowledge, experience, and advice about studies and career with countless young people.
- Sevan was a fierce and principled adversary. You would much rather be Sevan’s friend than his foe– believe me. I had the privilege as serving as Sevan’s lawyer, his Secretary of War so to speak, from time to time. If an opponent raised a flimsy or flawed argument, Sevan was intent to mercilessly destroy it and lay it to rest. The lesson: if you wanted to take on Sevan, you better be prepared or you would surely suffer the consequences.
- If you wish to honor Sevan’s memory, let me suggest this: be the best you can be in your chess related activities and in life….and always look for the opportunity to help someone else out to improve their chess game…and for that matter, their lot in life. That’s just the way Sevan rolled.
NM Akshay Indusekar: “I met Sevan Muradian at my fourth USCF rated chess tournament. Without a doubt, he was one of the greatest chess organizers in the world. He was instrumental in my development as a chess player. He helped sponsor my training with two Grandmaster coaches and I probably wouldn’t have earned my master title without all the experiences and lessons learned from playing in his tournaments over the years. Besides chess, Sevan was a great friend and mentor. While Sevan is no longer with us, I am thankful for all the good things he has done and will remember him for the rest of my life.”
WIM Viktoria Ni: ”Can’t find the words…Thank you for all your energy and commitment which you made for the chess community. Deep condolences to the family. RIP Sevan.”
FM Carsten Hansen: “My sincere condolences to Sevan’s family and friends of which there were many. RIP.”
GM Pascal Charbonneau: “Terribly sad news. Sevan organized the tournament where I earned my third and final GM Norm, which is a memory I’ll always cherish. We became friends, and he hosted me in Chicago for a lecture and simul at his club. I also remember our celebratory dinner after the norm, and the many other times our paths crossed and we had a drink or dinner. We shared common interests both inside and outside of chess and he was an easy person to exchange ideas with. He was smart and reasonable, funny and enthusiastic. We’ll miss him.”
IM Vitaly Neimer: “I am deeply saddened by a loss of a great friend and a chess tournaments organizer Sevan Muradian. May your heart and soul find peace and comfort.”
Rachel Tan, Chicago chess parent: “Words can’t even begin to describe how sad I was when I heard the tragic news yesterday. My tears are flowing for a friend, a great man. Our dear friend Sevan Muradian, may you rest in peace. Heaven can use a TD like you when Fisher throws a tantrum. We are so honored and blessed to have known you. You were such a standup guy in every encounter we met; you showed us what passion truly means in everything you did. Our deepest condolences to your family. May they weather the storm and find peace in their hearts. Goodbye, Sevan! You’ll be sorely missed.”
Michael Jensen, high school friend: “I went to Von Steuben High School with Sevan Muradian. We were pretty close during our freshman years around 1989 – 90. We had basic computer programming class together. The old Battle Chess PC game was played whenever our assignments were completed and the teacher wasn’t looking. We had some great discussions of Nintendo Vs. Sega. It was nice to seem him a few summers ago at a hotel setting up a Chess tournament. I should have come back for the beers with you. My oldest daughter is on her 3rd year of after school Chess Club and my 5 year old is learning to play as well. Chess is still around.”
In lieu of flowers the Muradian family is asking for contributions to a college fund for Sevan’s daughters. https://www.gofundme.com/sevanmuradian
I leave you with the words of 19th century Russian port Raphael Patkanian, written about the lake for which Sevan was named. I find them appropriate as I think we all saw a little of ourselves reflected back in conversations with him.
I touched the summits of the Caucasus;
I saw in Lake Sevan my mirrored face.
Rest in Peace my friend.