Chess Chat: Q&A with Shelby Lohrman, Chess Entrepreneur

Shelby Lohrman was born into a chess family on August 6th, 1972. His Father initially wanted to name him Tigrin, after Petrosian. However, Shelby’s mother didn’t care for the name Tigrin and instead suggested an alternative chess name. At the time, The Fischer – Spassky match game 4 was wrapping up and Shelby Lyman was doing the commentating. Shelby stuck!

If you’ve attend large chess events regularly you’ve probably met Shelby. Mr Lohrman has been travelling the country selling chess equipment to the masses for over 20+ years! He states that it’s his passion for providing great customer service to fellow chess enthusiasts that is the driving force behind his success.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I learned young…You have t remember that my dad was a US Amateur Champ in the 60’s. But with him being a type A German engineer (and being my dad), made learning from him stressful. It eventually got to the point where I quit and focused on Ice hockey. I picked it back up later on in life. To this day I think about what my life and rating would have been like studying with a mind such as his.

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess affects my life decisions on an every day basis. Since I have delved back into chess, I think of things on a more strategic basis. With the advent of Amazon and Ebay, selling chess equipment has become a totally different ballgame. It’s like being at a chessboard. It is not just your plan, you have to accommodate for what your opponent is thinking too. This is why at American Chess Equipment we focus on bringing new products to market. I always have something new in the hopper. Why play an opening everyone else knows? I would much rather have them scramble and chase me.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

What do I hope to achieve professionally over the next couple of years? That is a great question. We have been growing American Chess Equipment organically over the last 25+ years. Looking at my industry, I have noticed a top down philosophy with the other vendors. I think that’s wrong. There is no innovation.

That’s why I love being with Wood Expressions! They are my parent company. They allow me the freedom to develop what I need and the tools to do so.

What are some of the products you are most proud of?

Just in the past couple of years I have helped to develop the VTEK300 chess clock, the wood grain mousepad chess boards, and tons of other chess products. The funny thing is the bigger companies out there are now copying me.

What are you working on developing now?

That’s a secret! All I can tell you is we have a couple of ideas formulating that will really rock the chess world. We need to bring chess to the masses.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

What’s my biggest barrier to achieving this goal? That’s easy. The mindset of the people in our industry. Chess is a cutthroat business. Talk to any coach out there. They are worried about keeping their students and their schools. We all need to work together building the pie, making each persons share bigger, rather than bickering with ourselves. I have been working with the groups that are out there in the trenches, building their programs, working night and day to bring chess to the masses. I even have one customer that is now doing Skype classes with a group in Alaska.

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

As to relating my goals and challenges to the chess board…to me it is like sitting across from a higher rated player. When you first sit down everyone thinks you are going to lose. With the right preparation, anyone can get beat. Get an advantage and be able to hold it, they might even offer you a draw. To me, that’s fuel for the fire. It makes me work harder for the win.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

My favorite piece of chess wisdom is you never truly lose in chess. There is always something to be learned in the game. Even if the turning point was just a blunder, you can still learn by analyzing what caused you to make that mistake.

Please take a moment to stop by these fine purveyors of chess equipment:

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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