1st Ron Finegold Memorial

by Davide Nastasio
5/7/2018 – Open weekend tournaments in the United States are proof of chess as a very competitive high stakes sport. Local tournaments often celebrate the changing of seasons, recurring events, or, as in this case, memorialise a master player who dearly loved chess, and gifted such passion to his children. GM Elshan Moradiabadi took top honours in the inaugural Ron Finegold Memorial, held at the new Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta, which was founded by his son, Ben. Report and photos by DAVIDE NASTASIO

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Elshan Moradiabadi wins with 4½ out of 5

From March 31st to April 1st, 2018 At the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta was held the Ron Finegold Memorial, a tournament with 4 sections and 92 players.

Ron Finegold (born in 1937), the father of GM Ben Finegold, was a National Master who died after a long illness on July 15th, 2014. His passion for chess brought him to teach the game to his children.

GM Finegold celebrating his GM title with his family, and father on the left.

GM Finegold celebrating his GM title with his family, and father on the left | Photo: Ben Finegold

The Open weekend tournament in the USA is proof that chess is a sport. Five rounds in two days. On Saturday one can play for nine hours straight, for a total of three games, then follow on Sunday another six hours of playing. The last three hours are quite important because the last round is what divides the winner from the losers, those who will bring home the money from those who fought for nothing. The Open section of this tournament was particularly well stocked with two GMs, plus the US Women's Champion of 2017, and a few national masters and candidate masters.

In the early 1960s, with a rating of 2280, Ron Finegold was one of the top 50 players in the USA, and top ten in the Midwest. Clearly, he was a tough opponent for anyone. His last game was in 2013, at the Motor City Open, when he won against a junior talent: Christopher Shen, in a six hours long game!

Ron Finegold | Photo: Ben Finegold

Today, with a great scholastic program and of course many more tournaments than in the 60s, one might think 2200 players would be more common, yet they still form something between the 1-5% of the entire US chess population. If we go back to the 60s, it was clearly a great feat to be rated over 2200. Famous is his game against Robert James Fischer:


The Open section was won by GM Elshan Moradiabadi with 4½ out of 5, second and third went to Benjamin Moon and Carter Peatman.

Scott Prichard playing against Carter Peatman | Photo: Davide Nastasio

Fourth went to GM Alonso Zapata with 3½ points out of 5.


Zapata (left) gets set for the second round | Photo: Davide Nastasio)

The section U1800 section was won by Sasha Creighton with 4½ points out of 5, and Jarret Minkler came second with 4 points out of 5.

Jarret Minkler won big money! | Photo: Davide Nastasio

USChess.org has the tournament's full results.

Open tournaments are fierce also for opening preparation. The chess center brings together experienced coaches helping young students with memorizing opening prep before a round, as we can see in the following image.

One of the senior coaches prepping a young student | Photo: Davide Nastasio

While at the Chess club, I took the chance to interview the commercial brain of the chess center: Karen Boyd, the business and life partner of GM Finegold.

Karen Boyd

DN: When and where did you meet Ben?

KB: I met Ben in July of 2015, when I took my two sons to St. Louis for a math camp that my older son was attending.  Since my younger son loves chess, I looked around and found a one-week chess camp at the St. Louis Chess Club.  I got to know Ben while we were visiting, and we began dating soon after I returned to Atlanta. We had a long distance relationship for awhile, but after we married Ben moved to Atlanta full time.

DN: How did you come up with the idea to start a Chess Center in Atlanta?

KB: I had been thinking for some time that Atlanta really lacked having a Chess Center.  There are so many chess players in Atlanta! I also began thinking about the transition for Ben to Atlanta, and that he would need to find something to do for work. 

BoydIt had been an idea in the back of my mind, when one day Ben said to me that he was going to start a Chess Center when he moved to Atlanta. So he was the first to express the idea aloud. He asked if I would at least help getting the Chess Center up and running, and I agreed even though I was a bit hesitant. I had been planning to get a job programming like I had previously, but he eventually persuaded me to join him in the adventure of starting a new business.

It was incredibly difficult to get the Chess Center open, and running the Chess Center is definitely a full-time job for both of us. But it has tremendous rewards.  It is a beautiful creation, I think!

DN: Could you elaborate on what you mean by “difficult”?

KB: The City of Roswell has many stringent requirements to obtain a business license. If you make small changes to retail space, the City evaluates the entire space to see if it is up to current fire and building safety codes. We needed to knock out some non-supporting walls to create the tournament room and add doors to join the tournament room to the rest of the space.  Even though those changes are small, it was enough to trigger the evaluation of all codes. It was a nightmare and very stressful, but it worked out. We had a very supportive landlord who paid for the bulk of the demo/build-out. Otherwise, we would not have opened the Chess Center.

Chess center front

DN: Were you inspired by the St. Louis Chess Club?

KB: The St. Louis Chess Club is the most wonderful chess club I’ve ever seen and a cultural treasure, so of course we were inspired to a certain extent by it. But since the St. Louis Chess Club is a non-profit with a generous benefactor and philanthropist, Rex Sinquefield, behind it, they can do a lot more than we can do. From a business model perspective, we look more to the Charlotte Chess Center than to St. Louis. Peter Giannatos has done a great job and the Charlotte Chess Center is lovely!

DN: The Chess club is open from September 2017, could you give some numbers, like the number of tournaments run in these 6-7 months, programs or lessons given in the center, and all the other activities?

KB: We organized 75 tournaments, with probably over 2000 players participating, clearly involving all the Georgia Chess Community. We have so many different types of tournaments it is nearly impossible to not want to participate in one. We have a month-long tournament, which is played on Wednesday nights. We have a Friday night weekly blitz. On Saturday and Sunday, we organize rapid and long time control tournaments. Then on some Sundays, we organize scholastic tournaments. And of course all the other activities a chess center has like: Chess camps, evening lectures on great players, group classes on endgames, etc. Then as chess center we also close, and go to main events in order to better follow our students, and gain new one.

DN: The chess center has also been part of tv commercial right?

KB: Yes, the Chess Center was part of a commercial with the theme "Getting Together". A major social media company was interested in the Chess Center because the Chess Center brings together all kinds of people, all ages, all backgrounds. We will find out soon if we made the final cut! They filmed in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, so the Chess Center is not the only group to be represented in the commercial.

DN: Future plans?

KB: We would like to have some invitationals, norm tournaments, and develop an in-school program. We need to expand our class offerings. I would also like to add more technology features to the Center, such as DGT boards to stream top games, and electronic member check-ins that would update a list online so people can easily see what other members might be at the club at that time.  I also have an idea for a couple of chess apps that I would like to finish programming (I used to be a programmer).

DN: Thank you, Karen, for this interview and the great organization.

KB: You're welcome

Now it's time for some games from the tournament.

(A big thank to Jeff Burdette, the smiling guy in the photo, who provided some of his games for this article.)


Jeff also had the chance to play against Spencer Finegold, the son of GM Finegold, who flew from St. Louis for this special tournament dedicated to the memory of his grandfather.

Thanks to GM Finegold, who translated the scribbles on some scoresheet into PGN, we can enjoy the following games:




Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."


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