Parham Maghsoodloo wins 10. Unity chess event

by Elshan Moradiabadi
5/29/2020 – With a rating of 2676 Parham Maghsoodloo is currently number 61 on the FIDE world ranking list and number one in Iran as Alireza Firouzja now plays under the FIDE flag. But at the moment Maghsoodloo can only improve his online rating. Which he likes to do in the Unity chess event, a regular online tournament that is also a favourite of Elshan Moradiabadi. | Photo: Parham Maghsoodloo | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Sundays with Unity: A fun time for every chess community!

With the pandemic putting a halt of over the board chess activities for quite some time, online chess emerges as a remedy for those who seek intellectual leisure in these trying times. For the most part, the attractive events are those which offer prize money, with a fixed schedule that may appeal to range of participants. One of these events takes place every Sunday morning (Pacific time), and is organized by the Arizona-based Unity chess club .

The driving force behind the event is Pedram Atoufi, a true chess-lover. He is from the historic city of Gonbad-e_Kavus in Iran. Twenty-eight years ago he won the Iranian U20 championship without having any proper coach or even training material! After ups and downs and eventual immigration to the US, Pedram achieved the title of FM. After settling in Scottsdale, Arizona, Pedram founded the Unity chess club, where he teaches chess privately and in groups, runs tournaments and organizes chess camps.

Pedram is a very enthusiastic person, with a passion for fighting chess. He loves sharp openings and during his peak played the King’s Indian and the Marshall with Black, and was always happy to try a gambit with White. The following recent win against none other than GM Nick De Firmian illustrates his style:


But what does a passionate chess enthusiast who runs a chess club do in such times? He decided to start a large online tournament that is supposed to run every Sunday of 2020!

The 10th edition of the tournament had a prize-fund of $1200 and on average the tournament now attracts almost 700(!!) players each week. Let us have a look at the numbers from May 17.

The Unity chess 3+0 tournament had 725 participants, including 78 GMs, 141 IM, and 167 FM, and the participants were from forty-eight different countries. You may at first think that it is easy to run such tournaments as the players just need to fire up their laptops and click on the link and join. Well, that is not the case for this event!

The tournament offers prizes and demands an entry fee. While it is open for titled players, almost five hundred entry fees must be collected and a substantial number of prizes (104 prizes were awarded, some as small as $5) must be paid out.

The way this tournament runs is intriguing. The first question that comes to mind is: how do they collect the entry fees? Answer: in each region or country the tournament has a representative who collects the entry fee on behalf of Unity chess. This is an interesting method, as it heavily relies on trust and mutual respect. Pedram likes to involve as many people as possible. Personally, I am not a big fan of 'big and messy' but Pedram loves it and runs it perfectly!

When the entry fees are collected the FIDE ID of players are matched with their handles and they are assigned to their rating category in case they are eligible for a prize. Now the players are sent a link and a password which allow them to join the tournament. Pedram also has a ‘jury team’ which monitors the event and checks when players are suspectes of using computer assistance.

Pedram and his team use Telegram to have an almost one-on-one interaction with the players. I do not know how many people support Pedram but I would guess he has up to fifty helpers/collaborators around the world. A sustainable business model? Pedram has a lion-heart and boundless optimism! Thus far, his method has been a huge success.


But let’s talk about chess and let us have a look at the last two events. The last edition of the tournament was won by Parham Maghsoodloo, currently Iran’s number one, as chess phenom Alireza Firouzja does not represent Iran anymore. Second place went to Iran’s number two, Mohammad Amin Tabatabei, while the young Russian GM Alexey finished third. Maghsoodloo is a fearless fighter, an accomplished player and has a funky ID: grizzlybear!

The 9th edition was won by GM Andrew Tang from the US.

Andrew Tang

Tang is one of the world’s best bullet players (known as penguingm),a well-known streamer, and a regular of the online chess scene. He won the 9th edition of the Unity chess open after winning the Sultan Khan cup on the server.

These young and talented players are regulars and favourites in these events, but it is great to see that some legendary players also take part in such events. One of them is Gata Kamsky. He qualified twice for the Candidates before half of the young grandmasters were even born! More of an over-the-board Buddha than a "mouse-pusher" Gata had a good run in the 9th edition of the Unity event and scored 16 out of 21 but finished only on place 105. But how is that possible?

Gata Kamsky teaches chess

The answer lies in the format chosen by Unity chess: in most tournaments on Lichess players who win more than two games in a row are “on fire” and every win counts twice. Moreover, a player can “berserk” which means that he plays with only half of his original thinking time but gets an extra point if he wins. And while Kamsky simply played his best chess and gave us some nice chess lessons he did not pay attention to playing faster or ‘berserking’. In the end Gata played 21 games in two hours while the winners above mentioned played 34 and 30 games in two hours and scored more points.

Let me tell you something, kids: when I was your age it was not nice to go berserk!

Unity chess wants to maintain this friendly chess environment for the rest of the year, all the way till the last Sunday of December 2020. Pedram also added a champions league event at the end of the year. Each week there will be an overall winner, best women player, best senior, and best U16, and U12, player. These players will play a double round robin to define the week’s overall winner ( no cash prize for it). The winners of all four weeks will play to define the winner of the season ( each month). The eight winners of each month will then play against each other in a double round robin for the first prize of $2000.


Unity Chess Club

Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.


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