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PALS Star Coaches

Coach Griffin

Griffin McConnell is a National Master and a three-time Colorado State Chess Champion who has been teaching chess since he was 12. He has taught chess at The Challenge School, The Manning School and developed a chess club for children with disabilities at both The Havern School and Reach Charter School. In 2019, Griffin was invited to participate in the Confederation Cup for People with Disabilities in Ankara, Turkey.  He was the only player to win all of his matches and was awarded the Brilliancy Prize by the tournament organizers for playing the most brilliant game of the entire tournament, sacricing his queen to win against Germany’s Jarno Scheffner (a higher ranked opponent). In 2021, Griffin launched ChessAbilities Inc., a non-profit entity dedicated to helping promote chess and chess opportunities for children with disabilities. In 2022, ChessAbilities hosted the 1st North American Chess Camp for children with disabilities.

Griffin’s inspirational story was  featured in a short documentary (Griffin’s Gambit), produced by He is currently ranked as the top player on Team USA for People with Disabilities.  He continues working with PALS founder Lior Lapid, who captains the team and coached Griffin from 2018-2022.  Griffin was among the honored recipients of the 2021 Outstanding Team Achievement Award from the United States Chess Federation for Team USA’s outstanding success (and Griffin’s star performance) in the 2020 Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities.

Coach Sullivan

Sullivan McConnell is a National Master, Life Master and seven-time Colorado State Chess Champion who started chess coaching when he was 10. Sullivan taught the most advanced level children for the Challenge School and was the youngest coach ever hired by the school. Sullivan became a National Master at 12 and at the age of 13, tied with International Master Michael Mulyar, as the youngest Colorado State Closed Champion in Colorado history (defeating his coach, PALS founder and National Master Lior Lapid, in the very first round!).  A rising star who has already achieved an impressive (and still climbing!) rating above 2300, Sullivan is currently the second highest rated player in Colorado and is ranked #9 in the country for his age.