Abington lecturer takes love of chess, math to international level

July 31, 2003

Abington, Pa. -- Ira Lee Riddle, lecturer in mathematics at Penn State Abington, was the chief tournament director for the 2003 U.S. Senior Open Chess Tournament, a national-title event. Riddle is Pennsylvania's only national chess tournament director and its only international chess arbiter. This international arbiter title permits him to run any chess tournament at any level in the world, up to and including the world championships.

Riddle's interest in math and chess grew simultaneously beginning at an early age. While living in Hawaii, a neighbor of his who was a competitive chess player realized that this 4-year-old boy was able to quickly grasp the strategy involved in chess. He worked with Riddle and helped him develop.

"Before I left (Hawaii) when I was 5 I actually beat him once," Riddle said. While he doesn't compete much any more, his interest in the administrative side of chess has continued. He has worked his way through five levels of tournament directors to reach the national level, along the way directing more than 200 tournaments.

Riddle tries to incorporate some of the elements of chess into his classroom. He taught at Penn State Abington in the mid 1970s and returned in the late 1990s. In 1998 he retired from full-time public school teaching. After being retired just six weeks Riddle received a phone call asking if he was willing to come back to teaching. He returned to the classroom at Penn State Abington two days later.

Riddle doesn't regret coming out of retirement. He enjoys the students and Penn State. "It was a chance to get back to a university that's been very good to me," he said. "I have enjoyed what I do very much."

In addition to teaching at Penn State, Riddle has taught math at a number of high schools and colleges since 1969. "I've always been a teacher. I've always known that I was going to be a teacher," he said. "It's frustrating, it's hard, but it's also a lot of fun and very rewarding."

Besides chess and mathematics, Riddle has a myriad of other interests. He has directed plays and musicals; is a PIAA certified volleyball and track/field official; has officiated wrestling and softball; serves as a judge in the Delaware Valley Science Fairs competition; has coached wrestling, soccer and track; and has written more than 100 articles, many of them chess-related.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 20, 2009