The State of Georgia Chess

The state of chess in Georgia is not good, unless, that is, one considers scholastic chess. The reality is that there is a complete division between scholastic chess and what for over a century was simply called chess. It is human nature to think of the way things are now as the way they were previously. New people to chess are surprised to learn that at one time scholastic chess was actually only a part of chess and not the driving force it has become today. With the hiring of Jean Hoffman as the new Executive Director, USCF has gone “all-in” as a scholastic chess organization. If the reader disputes the statement, I suggest he read the article on her hiring on the USCF website here: Whether or not this was a good move will only be answered by future events. Because the membership of USCF is predominately children it was probably the only move USCF could make. In Informant talk, it was a “box” move. I have decided to not write about scholastic chess here in my native state, choosing to focus on what is now called “adult” chess, and something near and dear to my old heart, Senior chess. There are far more people in the scholastic arena who can do a better job of writing about it than I can do, so I leave it to them.
I receive many emails from readers and one of the questions I am frequently asked is like the one from Dr. Orlando Cano. He asked, “… where are the chess tournaments that we used to have here in Ga.” I replied, asking the good Doctor to elaborate and he responded, “Through your website find out why we do not have good tournaments anymore.” I believe Dr. Cano, and others, should address this question to the members of the board of the GCA. Any one, or all, of them are free to leave a comment here if they would like to answer Dr. Cano, and others who are asking the same question. The fact is that the good tournaments here in the Atlanta area are now for the children. Scholastic chess has the numbers, and money. The only tournaments with a nice hotel as a venue are scholastic tournaments. The only organizer, other than the GCA is Thad Rogers. I have previously written about the location of his tournaments, which have had myriad problems. I have received emails asking me to bring out the fact that Mr. Rogers holds tournaments in other states, but not his home state. For example, Thad writes in a forum post on the website of the NCCA, titled, 40Th Annual Lipkin Pfefferkorn Open, “It will be held at the
Holiday Inn, 5790 University Parkway, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27105. That is
a stone throw from where Highway 52 intersects with University. After the first of the
year, it becomes a Doubletree Hotel. It is a very nice hotel!” (
When I ask players to recall the last time an “adult” (I REALLY hate using that term, especially since children vastly out number adults at an “adult” tournament) chess tournament was held in a “very nice hotel,” they scratch their heads while considering the question for some time. There does not seem to be the will to bring a decent tournament in a nice venue to Atlanta, the capital of the South. When questioned on why he refuses to hold his tournaments in a hotel, Mr. Rogers has previously responded, “They’re too expensive!” He has chosen to locate his tournaments in an old, run down Mall with little or no air conditioning. People are so hungry to play they have endured appalling conditions to play the game they love.
If you go to the website of the Georgia Chess Association,, you will learn the GCA is holding four tournaments in conjunction, the Georgia Women’s Open 2013; 10th Annual Georgia Senior Open; 2013 Georgia State Series III; and Georgia Collegiate Open 2013, at the Gwinnett Place Mall later this month. The first advertisement on the website showed this: Georgia Collegiate Open 2013
September 28, 2013 10:00 AM • Gwinnett Place Mall, Empty Store Space in Block “H,” 2100 Pleasant Hill Road Duluth, GA 30096
The “Empty Store Space in Block “H” has now been changed to, “Upper level next to Macy’s.”

I am familiar with the area because of the sports memorabilia shows in which I participated two decades ago, which were held at one of the ancillary buildings on Satellite Blvd. At that time it was considered to be a “good” area. I was, therefore, surprised when the Mall was mentioned during dinner conversation with the Legendary Georgia Ironman and his lady friend when she asked, “Isn’t that a bad area?” After asking several others about the area I have learned the common perception is the Gwinnett Place Mall is, indeed, considered to be a “bad area.” Perception is reality. Unlike other cities, Atlanta has always been in a constant state of flux during the course of my life. Many areas are, to be kind, not what they used to be. For that reason I decided to research the area in order to learn more about the venue chosen by the members of the board of the GCA. This is what I learned from the internet:

Gwinnett cops seek public’s help in Hertz worker’s killing
By David Ibata
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gwinnett County police on Monday appealed to the public for help solving the slaying of a Hertz Rent-a-Car employee who was found fatally wounded behind the rental car office next to the Gwinnett Transit Center.
Monique Marlowe, 24, of Duluth was cleaning a car between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Friday when a young man wearing a light blue shirt approached her, police said. For unknown reasons, the man shot the victim once and fled the area.
Marlowe was founded wounded by her co-workers and taken to Gwinnett County Medical Center, where she died as a result of her wounds Friday evening.
Maria Marlowe, the victim’s mother, told Channel 2 Action News that her daughter loved swimming and had graduated in 2009 from the University of Georgia at Athens with a degree in international business.
“I don’t know of any enemy that she had, nobody that didn’t like her,” the mother said.
The Hertz office is near the intersection of Satellite Boulevard and Merchants Way, next to the Transit Center’s pick-up and drop-off hub for bus passengers. The location is across from the Gwinnett Place Mall shopping center.
Gwinnett Place: The Long, Slow Death of a Suburban Mall
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, by Josh Green
Although the headlines tell it all, I decided to read a few reviews placed online by people who were at the Mall.
• Yoomee H.
Lawrenceville, GA
This place gives me the creeps. I don’t know why but it just does! It has that ‘eerie’ feeling as if someone’s going to run up to you and snatch your purse kind of feeling. I’ve been here with my mom and siblings and while we were walking into the mall, I felt as though the mall itself was a ‘scary place’.. aren’t malls suppose to make you feel safe? Nope not this mall. There are those people who look like they could hurt you, I’m usually a smiley type of person who likes to smile a lot (even to strangers) but here.. when I smiled at this woman, she gave me a mean look and said, “whatchu lookin’ at?!” Usually when I walk around the Mall of Georgia, people smile back at me.
• Angela H.
Atlanta, GA
To be honest, there are so many vacant store spaces in this mall that I have had no desire to ever browse the entire mall. Sure, I’ve strolled through most of the mall, but it *felt* like there were more vacancies than occupied stores.
• Brian A.
Orlando, FL
I remember when this mall was the mall to go to in the 90’s. When I was a kid, it was always a treat to go to Gwinnett Place. It was clean, had great stores, and this was before the Mall of Ga opened.

But now, it’s the exact opposite. Now a days, everyone avoids this mall, they really let it go down the shitter. It’s dirty, the stores suck and they never have good options, half of the stores that were there closed down and re-opened stores that no one’s ever heard of before, basically the clothing equivalent to the dollar general. There used to be great restaurants on the outskirts of the mall but most of them closed down and the whole area has turned into ghetto Mexico town. Avoid this shithole at all costs.
• Amanda H.
Dawsonville, GA

I will never go back to this mall.
• Sarah E.
Lawrenceville, GA
Yuck. This mall used to be okay, but has gone WAY downhill.
There is no reason that you need to go here. Don’t bother.
• Grace K.
Washington, DC
This mall used to be THE place when I was younger, but now it’s like a bad Law & Order SVU episode. Definitely creepy and almost phantomlike if you’re there near night time. Last time I went, a short creep followed me from the pet store to the end of the mall. I would definitely carry around Lysol if I had to come here (it’s more potent than pepper spray).
• Wendy T.
Snellville, GA
Three words: What A Dump!!!
These reviews were taken, and can still be found, here:
Before doing this research I had considered going to the GPM myself to check it out. I reflected on something William Coe told me during our interview at the Castle Chess tournament at Emory University. He had taken time to go by the North Dekalb Mall, saying, ”I had no desire to spend my weekend in that room.” His comments can be found on my post of June 24, 2013, “Panchanathan Storms the Castle!” ( After reading the above, and much more, including the crime statistics in the area, I decided there was no need to make the trip.
After reading the above, the question I pose is why would anyone in their right mind choose such a place to hold a tournament for anyone, much less women and Seniors? If I can learn this by investing a little time, why can the members of the GCA board not do the same thing? Or did they? Do they know these things, yet chose this place in any event? The question you should ask yourself is would you want your daughter, wife, mother, or grandmother to spend many hours over a period of two days in this place? Maybe you would even want to ask yourself if the people who signed off on this place should even be in a position to make such a decision.

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