Founded in 2020, Garden State Passers continue the spirit of Montclair Sopranos. With our debut Pro Chess League season under way and previous work with other chess institutions, such as the NJSCF, the Garden State Passers are looking to make a name for ourselves in the chess world representing the great state of New Jersey.


GM Samuel Sevian

  • Rating: 2687
  • Peak: 2703
  • Nationality: US
  • Age: 22
  • SamSevian

GM Sam SevianAs a board one and the forefront of our attack Sam was the perfect choice. A grandmaster since 13 and having hit the elite 2700+ rating Sam has proven his skills and ability to perform under pressure.

Sam also has the experience with this team as he was a Montclair Soprano in previous seasons. Continuing on as a Passer now, he has similar teammates to lean on when it comes time to prep!

GM Gadir Guseinov

  • Rating: 2661
  • Peak: 2668
  • Nationality: AZ
  • Age: 36
  • GGuseinov

GM Gadir GuseinovAnother Soprano turned Passers, Gadir has a proven track record in the Pro Chess League. As a team competition we rely on his expertise in team player. Having won two gold medals at the European Team Championships representing Azerbaijan he already had the proven track record.

GM Oleksandr Bortnyk

GM Oleksandr BortnykA free agent pickup and what a pickup it was! Oleksandr brings much needed strength in the middle boards. With him in the line-up it releases the pressure of his teammates letting them play better. It’s much easier playing when you know your teammate is one of the best in rapid and extremely resourceful over the board.

GM Alexsandr Lenderman

  • Rating: 2572
  • Peak: 2654
  • Nationality: US
  • Age: 33
  • GMLenderman

GM Aleksandr LendermanAlex is the heart and soul of the team, without him we wouldn’t have majority of this squad! His eye for chess, both in his own games as well as his peers, has been the foundation for our scouting. So whether he’s playing a match or not just know he’s been involved in every single one.

GM Abhimanyu Mishra

GM Abhimanyu MishraNewcomer to the Pro Chess League and the Passers, Abhimanyu was ready to prove himself. A NJ local, this youngest grandmaster in the world did just that with an undefeated 3/4 debut! His fearless on the board leads to inspiring games that are fan favorites.

GM Bela Khotenashvili

GM Bela KhotenashviliNew to the team Bela comes to us as the 4x Women’s Georgian National Champion! Not only is she an accomplished individual she is also a gold medalist for the Georgian National Team. So having someone of Bela’s caliber was an easy decision.

WIM Meruert Kamalidenova

  • Rating: 2373
  • Peak: 2427
  • Nationality: KZ
  • Age: 17
  • Mikozovna

WIM Meruert KamalidenovaMeruert is the reigning Women’s Kazakhstan Champion and a newcomer to the Pro Chess League. She gives the team depth and multiple team lineup choices.

IM Carissa Yip

  • Rating: 2369
  • Peak: 2430
  • Nationality: US
  • Age: 19
  • Magician4MA

IM Carissa YipThe last of the Sopranos turned Passer, Carissa is the 2021 Women’s US Champion. Having outperformed her rating in the Pro Chess League before we’re excited watching her perform with an IM title now!

WIM Trisha Kanyamarala

  • Rating: 2278
  • Peak: 2299
  • Nationality: IE
  • Age: 16
  • Trisha_Kan

WIM Trisha KanyamaralaNewcomer to the Pro Chess League Trisha was scouted after having an impressive Olympiad showing for the Irish National Team. Back home she’s Irelands first ever WIM!

On the team Trisha gives us the option to play a more stacked lineup.

FM James Canty III

FM James Canty IIITeam captain, the embodiment of COE (Calculation Over Everything), Canty is the perfect face for the team. With his superior streaming and commentary skillsets we’re excited to have him here.


GM Mackenzie Molner

GM Mackenzie MolnerA founding member of the Montclair Sopranos and active member of the local chess community, Mac is back to build a winning New Jersey team.

As the first, and only, grandmaster who has achieved all of his IM and GM norms in the US, Mac has a unique grasp on the American chess scene and its players. This knowledge has helped him grow chess community locally, both as a member of the NJ State Chess Federation Board as well as with his popular GrandmasterMac Chess Academy, where he creates instructional videos and teaches kids of all ages.

Outside the chess world, Mac spends time with his awesome dog Mickey, is a fan of soccer, and like many of his teammates, is an avid and accomplished poker player. Mac should also not be underestimated in bughouse.

Sean Finn

Sean FinnFormer manager of the Montclair Sopranos, Sean is an expert from NJ working on making master. He and Mac have been building strong chess teams together from middle school in Montclair through their college years at NYU.

In addition to being a competitive player, Sean is an accomplished chess coach and teacher. He has students of all ages, all over the country, but he specializes in fostering talent in gifted, young scholastic players. As a former scholastic champion, he has unique insight into helping young chess players thrive.

Sean, like Mac, is a poker enthusiast. He is also a fiction and chess writer, dual Irish and American citizen, and always happy to discuss Irish mythology over a pint.

John Mullanaphy

John MullanaphyAnother resident expert and Denker alumni (2002), John is new to the team and the competitive chess scene as a whole.

Coming from another world, his role around here is to be the resident nerd and utilize his vast experience in the world of computer science. A nerd for the nerds one might say.

Outside of chess and programming, John is involved with various hobbies such as Brazilian jiu jitsu, drawing, streaming, and roleplaying. Most importantly though, he’s a father and a husband first; which he takes that role very seriously.

Featured Merch


Pure Salt Gaming

Let’s mine salt together! Well seasoned esports and merchandising company. Use the code GARDEN for 10% off your first purchase at:

GrandmasterMac Chess Academy

GrandmasterMac is a chess coaching organization run by Grandmaster Mackenzie Molner, designed to help bring chess to people of all skill levels.

New Jersey State Chess Federation

Helping to nurture the NJ chess scene and running the well beloved annual US Amateur Team East tournament!