First Thanksgiving Open at the CCSCATL

By Davide Nastasio

I never get it right, so I had to copy and paste it: CCSCATL stands for Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta,

The Chess Center is what true chess fighters, aficionados, and amateurs on the road to mastery really needed.  Then we add the fact that the center is run by one of the best GMs in the U.S. (among the top 50 players by rating) with great experience in teaching, plus a professional tournament activity spanning decades.  Clearly, there is no better place for improving one’s own chess and just coming out to play more often.

The Chess Center is a wonderful venue, and recently the Georgia Chess Association benefited from all the center has to offer when they held their class tournament here.  At the Chess Center, there are many activities during the week. The month-long tournament is on Wednesday nights and one game is played each week. The Thursday Night Blitz will return to Friday nights in January (back by popular demand!). The Friday Quick Quads will be moved, most likely to Thursdays. There are also Sunday chess classes, and Tuesday lectures on great players of the past.

The reason I like the Chess Center is human contact. Yes, we can play tons of games online, but that is not the true function of chess. Chess is learned through human contact, because chess is not only a sport, an art, or a science, but also a spiritual journey we go through with other human beings.

The Chess Center has already held many tournaments  (blitz, quads, open, etc.), as well as the grand opening day blitz unrated tournament which had 74 players competing for several cash prizes.  The Thanksgiving Open was the important one because it marked the real beginning of activity for the Chess Center. Previously it was thought that, in Georgia, if one would have two tournaments in a short interval of time this would hurt the tournament organizers because less players would participate. In this case we know the chess center has already increased the number of players and the participation. The weekend before Thanksgiving, a Georgia Chess Association tournament was held at the Chess Center with 80 participants. One week later — and notice this is the Thanksgiving week/weekend, where most people are still visiting their families — the Chess Center organized a tournament and 68 players showed up! This will also greatly benefit the USCF, because one of their mottos is “Activity generates memberships.”

But one more important function of the Chess Center is to provide assistance to our players traveling to national tournaments. December 8-10, 2017, at the Scholastic Nationals in Florida, GM Finegold will be there to help our scholastic players with analyses of their games and good chess lessons!

Now let’s finally come to speak about the tournament which was won by NM Vedic Panda.  After the last round Panda had to play against LM David Vest, who is a chess veteran.  Vest has been noted to pull some upsets in many tournaments, even against stronger IMs and GMs, especially when the game would decide who would get the money in the tournament! NM Vedic Panda won the Open section with 4.5 out of 5.  He brought home $600 for just playing his beloved game on the weekend!




Alexander Rutten and Kevin Wang each got $300 and tied for second.  Rutten broke expert for the first time!

There was a three-way tie for first in U2000 of the Open section: Lawrence Zhou, Vignesh Sekar, and Harry Le . They each got $50.



Vignesh Sekar (on right) playing strong chess!


In the U1800 section there was a 4-way tie for first: Steven Boshears, Joshua Lin, Connor Liu , and Ryan Ottaviano.  They won $143 each.

Here we can see Ryan Ottaviano playing and mercilessly beating  every opponent thrown at him, like a true chess machine!



Ryan Ottaviano, a great piano teacher, thinking in musical notes.


Jonathan Aslan came in first in the U1400, with a prize of $250.  He had not played for 7 years prior to this tourney. Thanks to the Chess Center, new and old players are coming out to play in tournaments.

The tournament has attracted players from many different states: Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and many more.



PhD grad student Todd Mendenhall (on the left) came all the way from North Carolina to play at the CCSCATL


Always in the U1400: Evelyn Qiao, Kovid Parashar, and Dheemant Parashar all tied for 2nd. They got $66 each.  The U1000/Unr prize was split two ways between Srihan Avirneni and Christopher Taylor.  They received $25 each.


Pro and Cons

The Chess Center is a dream come true! There is a chess library in one of the skittle rooms where I read one of the books on Fischer penned by GM Mueller.

But what matters to a tournament player is to know the result in rating change, and the Chess center is quite professional about it. Just a couple of hours after a tournament is over (also on Sunday!), one can go to the USCF site and see the results of the tournament in terms of rating change.

GM Finegold announced the pairings in English and French, which surely would help if we had players coming from Canada. The pairings were ready before the start of the round at least 15-20 minutes before, in one case even 1 hour before, giving time to prepare for the next opponent.  And the Chess Center has FREE Wi-Fi!

The cons are easy to spot.  GM Finegold ate all the Thai without offering any to anyone.  He also didn’t order pizza. After all, we know chess is a sport, and the brain consumes a lot of calories!




Another con is that the kids, under the guidance and the smart lectures held by GM Finegold at the Chess Center, are definitely becoming stronger. Soon we will have a new generation of masters in Georgia, younger and stronger than ever! This will definitely be a pain for some adults.

Final thoughts: The Chess Club is the heart of the chess community, and the chess community must treasure it and gather together to be part of all the great initiatives they have. Real success today is made by a team, not by an individual, and clearly the Chess Club has the best team.  We are lucky they gave us this great place where we can play and practice the sport we love.

Here are some selected games.  I must thank GM Finegold, because it seems one of his skills is to interpret hieroglyphs and translate them into chess algebraic notation.  I also want to thank Vedic Panda for sending some of his games.



The following game is interesting for the endgame, where one can witness the power of the bishop pair and the central passed pawns.













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