Clubs turn to online chess


The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta closed on March 11 because of the pandemic. Its founders, Karen Boyd and Grandmaster Ben Finegold, are streaming online and planning the club’s in-person re-opening. The Dallas Chess Club vacated its rented location in June. Its staff is running in-person chess tournaments at hotels.

Twitch Streamers

Grandmaster Ben Finegold and his wife Karen co-founded the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta (CCSCATL). Ben has a popular Twitch channel; Karen has a stream too.

On his September 21, 2020 Twitch stream, Ben presented games with the London System and the French Defense, openings that Karen plays. For each opening, Ben found games with strong players where Karen’s side won. Thus, the eight London games presented were wins for White and the seven French games were wins for Black.

Viktor Korchnoi

Most of the French wins that Ben showed were played, as Black, by former World Chess Championship Challenger Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi. Thus, Ben told Korchnoi stories, including how Soviet defector Korchnoi feared the KGB. One particular KGB story is also in the October 2016 issue of Chess Life, which had a photo of Korchnoi (1931-2016) on its cover. In that issue, Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan wrote that, when he served as Korchnoi’s second in 1980, Korchnoi took the guest bedroom in a two-bedroom Zurich apartment:

“So I’ll be doing you a favor by taking the master bedroom?” I queried. Viktor confirmed this would indeed be the case and so I reluctantly agreed. At last we spoke our final good nights and Viktor closed his guest room door with a cryptic, “I hope you are not nervous,” comment… What Viktor had been trying to say that first night is that if the hit was going to happen during my visit, the assassin would not shoot the guy in the guest room but rather the one in the master bedroom.Yasser Seirawan

Two Online Chess Games: London and French

One of the London games was Kovacevic — Fressinet, Salona 2000. Ben highlighted two particularly dramatic sequences. The first was when a black bishop attacked the white queen. The second was a battery attack along the g-file, using all three of White’s major pieces (two rooks and a queen).

Queens and rooks are called major pieces because each can, with just the help of a king, checkmate an enemy king. Thus, king and queen versus king is a win, and king and rook versus king is a win too. The minor pieces (knights and bishops) cannot accomplish the task: King and knight versus king is a draw. King and bishop versus king is a draw too.

Ben later showed a game in the Exchange French with that same battery attack, colors reversed, along the g-file. Once again, the two rooks and the queen lined up to win. That game was Hovind — Alekhine, Hamburg (ol) 1930.

As pointed out by Ben, in the games’ annotations in this article, attacking with two rooks in the lead and the queen bringing up the rear of the battery is called “Alekhine’s gun.” However, in both the Kovacevic — Fressinet and Hovind — Alekhine games, the line up was rook in front, then queen, and then a second rook at the base of the battery.

One last similarity that Ben noted was that in the Kovacevic — Fressinet game, the losing side’s black rook on a8 didn’t move. Likewise, in the Hovind — Alekhine game, the losing side’s white rook on a1 didn’t move.

Dallas Chess Club

The Dallas Chess Club moved out of its rented location during June of 2020. Currently, it has a GoFundMe which states, “Due to COVID -19, the club was not able to hold any tournaments during March, April, and May. As a result, no income was generated to pay the rent, office supplies, utilities, and other expenses required to keep the club running. The club would love to return to holding the busy, bustling chess tournament held on Friday nights and the Fide Tournament held on the weekends. We have set up a GoFundMe Account for the Dallas Chess Club to raise funds to cover the cost of moving to a new location, utilities, furniture, office supplies, and setting the club up.”

Dallas Chess Club FIDE Open, August 22-23, 2020, photo by Oklahoma Chess Association
Dallas Chess Club FIDE Open, August 22-23, 2020
photo by Oklahoma Chess Association

Dallas Chess Club continues to organize in-person tournaments at hotels. Here is a photo from the DCC FIDE Open, August 22-23, 2020, at the Embassy Suites Dallas.

CCSCATL Reopening

The CCSCATL plans to re-open on Wednesday, October 7, with limited hours. On Wednesdays, for a one-game-per-week tournament, the club will be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. On Fridays, for a six-round blitz tournament, the club will be open from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Since the club’s location is 3200 square feet, and only 10-12 players are expected each evening, social distancing will be possible. Masks will be required and hand sanitizer will be available. Weekend tournaments, which attract bigger crowds, may re-appear in November. To donate to the club,

NM Spencer Finegold, GM Ben Finegold

Even when the club re-opens, streaming will remain Finegold’s main source of income. To follow Grandmaster Ben Finegold and the CCSCATL on social media:

Ben’s son, National Master Spencer Finegold, also works at the CCSCATL and often appears on Karen’s Twitch stream. Karen adds, “I have really missed our chess friends and look forward to welcoming them back into the Chess Center. Online chess is fun but cannot compare to over the board chess with friends!

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on