Moradiabadi's travels in South Carolina

by Elshan Moradiabadi
11/17/2018 – Chess is booming in the USA now with the help of the current challenger for the highest honour in chess, Fabiano Caruana, who was born in Miami, grew up in Brooklyn, NY and lives in St. Louis. Currently, he is in a 3-3 tie with the incumbent, World Champion Magnus Carlsen, after a week of intense play. GM ELSHAN MORADIABADI — seen here either practising his 70s disco skills or calling on one of the kids — reports on his recent travels in South Carolina. | Photos: David Grimaud

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Scenes from SC

Some US chess hubs are widely known to chess fans. New York City, for instance, has a long history as a home to strong chess players including world champions like Capablanca. There are also nationally known competitive scholastic chess programs in NYC and the historic Marshall Chess Club. The 'Empire City' also was host to part of the first world championship in 1886 as well as the most recently completed one in 2016.

St Louis, which Caruana now calls home, was one of the other hosts for the first world championship, and these days, thanks to the St Louis Chess Club and World Chess Hall of Fame the city is now “the capital” of chess in the US.

Other major cities have growing scholastic programs (e.g. in the Bay Area, Chicago, and Dallas) and thanks to the chess scholarships available at different universities, chess is taking a great leap forward in states like Texas where three college chess powerhouses are located.

David GrimaudThough the preexisting chess culture in the aforementioned places and states helps to grow programs quickly, some other states are building the culture and programs at the same time. One of these growing states is South Carolina (just a little south of North Carolina!).

In previous articles, you might have read about the growth of chess in North Carolina, where thanks to several programs, clubs, and individual benefactors, chess is growing at a good pace. Although chess is growing in South Carolina as well, the chess programs still rely heavily on local individuals.

The main benefactor, who loves the game immensely and works hard to greatly improve chess in the state happens to be the president of South Carolina Chess Association. A chess aficionado (and also a solid 1800 in my opinion), David Grimaud (pictured) has a dream to turn chess into a popular sport/activity in South Carolina. 

An entrepreneur and busy man, David tries his best to allocate enough time to chess. In order to promote chess in SC, he recently started a chess venture with Charlotte Chess Club president Peter Giannatos named “Think Move”. The program is working across the state of South Carolina with a strong concentration in the city of Greenville and is pursuing the goal of providing students of different levels with after-school chess training.

Nevertheless, what brought me to this week-long chess tour was something rather accidental to say the least! Despite the fact that I knew David and his bi-annual promotional week before the South Carolina Championship (he had planned and organised simultaneous exhibitions and lectures by GM Lubo Ftacnik and IM Danny Kopec in the past) my journey began with an innocent Facebook conversation with another chess lover from Charleston, SC. Cornell White reached out to me on April 3rd of this year with regard to organising a simultaneous exhibition at the Charleston Chess Club. After discussing the possibilities, dates, and expenses, we made a quick outline of a plan. He then immediately told me that he was going to raise the money through fundraising. While I was initially skeptical about this prospect, Cornell proved me wrong with his persistence and excellent outreach. He conducted his fundraising on Facebook, where he reached out to his club members and he even put out a cash donation jar (pictured) in his local barbershop! 

donation jar

For Cornell, 'impossible' is a word that is not in his lexicon. He did not leave a single stone unturned until he made sure this event would take place.

Intrigued by Cornell’s passion, David suggested that we turn this one simul in Charleston into a week-long visit to major cities of SC, where I gave lectures and simuls. Initially, I was even going to play in the SC State Championship (which I had already once played back in 2016 along with my fiancé WGM Sabina Foisor) but there was a schedule clash with the first round of the FIDE Women’s World Championship. Thus, I had to skip the event so that I could provide good moral support for Sabina.

The South Carolina chess association website provided thorough coverage of our travel across the state, where I played four simuls with the overall score of 60-0. The details of these simultaneous exhibitions are as follows:






October 29

Roly Poly Scholastic (Greenville) 




October 30

Greenville Chess Club 




October 31

Charleston Chess Club




November 1

Columbia Chess Club














In these four exhibitions, we had several talented kids taking part who managed to give me a hard time at various points — a good sign!

Here are some pictures and games from the trip:


Last simultaneous exhibition: NM Sam Copeland explains the details and rules to the players | Photo: David Grimaud

father daughter

Columbia, SC (last simul) Daddy plays and the daughter records — it won't be long until he's a spectator of her performance!


My opponent answered with 1…a6!!???
I knew he might have studied the famous game of Karpov-Miles from European Team championship 1980! Now, I am no Karpov, but he wasn’t Miles either!

I consider myself lucky in a couple of games, like this one against Mike Sailer (US National Master). Fortunately for me, I was the one who only made the penultimate mistake!


NM Mike Sailer

Mike Sailer gave me a hard time during my simul and had me at the brink a couple of times

This was definitely not a game to be proud of among my sixty games during that week in South Carolina. However, I had my moments in a few of the games. One of them happened next to Mike’s game where, in the above picture, my opponent is about to reset the pieces.


Finally, this report will not be complete without a thorough photo coverage from Charleston: A simultaneous exhibition on Halloween! David was supposed to go as the Pope, but the Halloween shop was out of stock for Pope costumes! The irony is that we later realized that we actually are going to play in a church!

Halloween costumes

Friar “Brother David”, Father “Elshan” [themed based on Father Brown Character], and Friar “Brother Elijah” (a coach at David’s chess program) are ready for Halloween night action

simul in costume

A last word of prayer to the players


Classical play against the Dragon | Photo: David Grimaud

Cornell White

Cornell White made sure that everyone had ample drinks and cookies

simul group

And the simul is over! David is as usual behind the scenes and is taking this picture similar to all the other ones you see in this article!

In the end, let us wish David and his team a lot of success in their endeavours in the South Carolina chess scene!



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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