The Dirty Laundry of Atlanta Chess

While living in Greenville, SC, the octogenarian, LM Klaus Pohl, said something that stuck with me. When asked what he thought of the new Chess Center in Charlotte Klaus said he did not like to play there because the young players offer too many draws. Upon further questioning Klaus said that with scholarships so important the young players were “afraid to lose,” so therefore made far too many draw offers. From the time I began playing in USCF tournaments rating has been King. This was, though, the first time I had heard anything concerning what the rating points could possibly mean toward earning a scholarship. Another player listening to the conversation said, “Everyone knows rating points are being bought and sold like it’s an open market.” My reply, “I did not know that,” elicited this response, “Ah, come on man. You worked at the Atlanta Chess Center. Surely you were aware of that kind of thing taking place.” With a blank look on my face I replied, “Not really.” I am not saying it did not happen, just that I was completely unaware of it if it did, in fact, happen while I was employed at the House of Pain.

There were rumors going around before I returned to Atlanta. I will not print rumors. I did, though, reach out to several people involved with Chess in Georgia, writing, “If you would like to comment on any of this, let me inform you that I may use anything you say, or write, UNLESS YOU WANT IT KEPT PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL!”

No one responded. They ain’t talking.

In an article appearing at the Georgia Chess News website, Meet the 2019 GCA Candidates (http://georgiachessnews.com/2019/04/27/meet-the-2019-candidates/), David Hater,

candidate for the position of OFFICE OF 1ST VICE PRESIDENT writes: “I am running for 1st Vice President of GCA. I previously served on the GCA Board in this position, but I resigned from the board because, in my opinion, the board had become dysfunctional. Several months ago several GCA Board members encouraged me to run for the position again. I agreed to do so only after Scott Parker also agreed to run for President of GCA. My hope is that the next board will place personal feelings and animosity aside and work for chess instead of for their own interests/pet projects or a narrow constituency.”

The fact that Colonel David Hater felt he had to resign from the GCA Board speaks loudly. The fact that David, a man I admire and respect, felt compelled to write, “…the board had become dysfunctional,” screams out in pain. Nevertheless, David did not respond to my entreaty.

One of the board members did say, in an off hand comment at the Ironman Chess Club, they were “fed up” with all the “screaming and shouting” at the meeting of the GCA board. Although no names were mentioned the fact is that it is now, and has been for some time, an open secret that Thad Rogers was not happy when Parnell Watkins used his affiliate, American Chess Promotions to rate some of the events listed below. The thing is that Thad Rogers

and Parnell Watkins

were earlier listed as running for the same office, that of 1st member at large. The only one leaving a statement at a page mentioned earlier was L. Thad Rogers, the man who became POTGCA again after the previous president, Fun E. Fong, abdicated, leaving Chess behind like it was the plague. From reports it is obvious Chess in my home state of Georgia has quickly devolved under the caretaker leadership of Thad Rogers.

The Georgia State Chess Championship begins tonight and there will be an election Sunday. Chess players, and members of the GCA, can only hope responsible leaders, such as Scott Parker

and David Hater, gain a seat on the board.

Alan Piper was known as “The Pipe” at the House of Pain. As one of Alan’s victims eased down the stairs those below watched as someone said, “It looks like he got hit by the Pipe,” while others nodded in agreement. One wag said, “Sometimes you hit the Pipe. Sometimes the Pipe hits you.” Alan once won a state championship (I want to say Missouri, but could be wrong) when younger and was a NM. Although uncertain about Alan’s age, the fact is he has been eligible for the Senior tournaments for many years and must be seventy, or older.

The following results for the past 12 months was taken from the USCF website:

10487030: ALAN G PIPER
Current Published
Rating ( Supplement)
Regular Rating 2000 2019-03
(Current floor is 1600)
Quick Rating 1905 2019-03
Blitz Rating 1808 2019-03

Rank USCF ID Name Games Wins Draws Losses
1 14916346 SHANMUKHA MERUGA 50 1 0 49
2 14114923 KAPISH POTULA 19 1 1 17
3 14299428 SAITHANUSRI AVIRNENI 14 7 0 7
4 14577814 DAVIDE NASTASIO 3 1 1 1
5 15909472 TAIYE HILARY ESTWICK 1 1 0 0
6 16045110 TYLER JAMES BREDOW 1 1 0 0
7 16045235 CASEY WASSERMAN 1 1 0 0
8 14822494 TYLER SCHMUGGEROW 1 1 0 0
9 14684432 JOSHUA MORGAN KAROL 1 1 0 0
10 12365700 J PARNELL WATKINS JR 1 1 0 0

http://www.uschess.org/datapage/gamestats.php

The Pipe has obviously played an inordinate amount of games with two players. The number of losses to the two much younger players is simply staggering. Usually when one is drubbed in a match there are no further matches. One of the members of the GCA board, a very nice woman, Anna Baumstark, told me it was all “public record on the USCF website.” I decided to take the time to check it out…You, too, can check it out here: http://www.uschess.org/msa/MbrDtlMain.php?14114923

On September 12, 2015. Alan Piper played in the INVITATIONAL QUAD #10 (GA), directed by Grant Oen. The Sponsoring Affiliate was SOUTHEAST CHESS.

Pair | Player Name |Total|Round|Round|Round|Round|
Num | USCF ID / Rtg (Pre->Post) | Pts | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
———————————————————————–
1 | KAPISH POTULA |2.5 |W 2|D 3|W 4|* |
GA | 14114923 / R: 2014 ->2053 | |B |W |B | |
———————————————————————–
2 | CARTER F PEATMAN |2.0 |* |W 3|W 4|L 1|
GA | 12945576 / R: 2101 ->2108 | | |W |B |W |
———————————————————————–
3 | ALAN G PIPER |1.5 |L 2|* |W 4|D 1|
GA | 10487030 / R: 2070 ->2071 | |B | |W |B |
———————————————————————–
4 | SHANMUKHA MERUGA |0.0 |L 2|L 3|* |L 1|
GA | 14916346 / R: 2088 ->2053 | |W |B | |W |

Alan would not play again until August 13, 2016 when he participated in the CHESS BUG ATLANTA TOURNAMENT, directed by JOSEPH COUVILLION, with CHESS BUG ATLANTA, being the affiliate. SHANMUKHA MERUGA was clear first with 3-0. KAPISH POTULA finished clear second with a 2-1 score, the loss was to Meruga. Alan Piper won a game from a class C player, and lost two other games, one with a class B player, the other to Kapish Potula.

Let us go back to the tournament prior to the Quad, August 8, 2015, the LOGANVILLE SUMMER QUAD, directed by Grant Oen, with the affilate being Southeast Chess. The Pipe won all three games; gained 29 rating points which raised his rating to 2079. He beat Shanmukha Meruga, rated 2054, in the first round, then two class A players, Vedic Panda and Davide Nastasio.

After playing in the aforementioned CHESS BUG ATLANTA TOURNAMENT Alan did not play again until January 22, 2018 when he played a match with Shanmukha Meruga. The TD was J PARNELL WATKINS JR, and the affiliate was Gwinnett Chess. The time control was G/30;d5. Meruga won all four games, gaining fourteen points to end with a rating of 2056. The Pipe lost twenty points dropping to 2019.

After a couple of blitz quads on July 13 the next match with Meruga took place the next day, July 14. The TD was J PARNELL WATKINS JR, using the affiliate of the acting President of the GCA, L. Thad Rogers, AMERICAN CHESS PROMOTIONS. It was a real old fashioned, “speed,” time control of five minutes only for the games. Meruga won all ten games.

Three days later another match was contested between the same two players, named, PIPER MERUGA MATCH 2. The time control was, G/25;d5. The TD was J PARNELL WATKINS JR, and it was rated using the affiliate of GWINNETT CHESS. Meruga won all five games.

Two days later, July 19, 2018 there was yet another tournament contested once again by the young whippersnapper and the old leaky Pipe. Once again it was directed by J PARNELL WATKINS JR and the sponsoring affiliate was again GWINNETT CHESS, and once again Meruga won all ten games played at a “speed” TC of five minutes for the entire game.

Three days later there was the NASTASIO-PIPER MATCH, which was held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta in Roswell, Georgia, the seventh largest city in the great state of Georgia. The chief TD was BENJAMIN P FINEGOLD,


Meruga/Finegold in front of the Atlanta Chess and Scholastic Club of Atlanta located in Roswell, Ga.

assisted by KAREN BOYD.


Karen Boyd and Ben Finegold

The time control was G/60;+10. The three game match was drawn. In addition there was another match played that day between the same two players. The TC was G/4;+2, and Piper won 8-2.

A few weeks later, 9/8/18, Piper and Meruga were back at it, contesting not one, but two, more matches. J PARNELL WATKINS JR was again the TD and AMERICAN CHESS PROMOTIONS was the affiliate used to rate the matches. No one will be surprised to learn Meruga won the G/5 “speed” match 9-1. What is surprising is that Piper actually won a game…Three games were also contested at a TC of G/30;d10. Guess who won all three games? Yeah, Meruga.

The very next day, 9/9/2018, the two intrepid players were back at it. Once again J PARNELL WATKINS JR was the TD, but the affiliate used was now GWINNETT CHESS. The speed match, with only five minutes per game, was convincingly won by Meruga by a score of 20-0. That is ZERO, ZIP, NADA!

It will come as little surprise by now that Meruga also won the G/30;d10 match by a score of 4-0.

The very next day yet another match was contested between the same two players, again with the same TD and affiliate. The time control was G/30;d10 and Meruga won all six games.

Have you gotten a whiff of some sort of fishy smell yet?

A few days later the Pipe was back at it, but with a different opponent, Kapish Potula. The TD and affiliate was the same, J PARNELL WATKINS JR and GWINNETT CHESS. The time control was G/25;d5. Kapish Potula won all four games and increased his rating from 2136 to 2159.

One week later, on 9/28/18 the two players with the same TD and affiliate did it again. And again Potula won all four G/25;d5 to raise his rating from 2159 to 2179.

On October 6, 2018 the Pipe had a new opponent, SAITHANUSRI AVIRNENI, rated 1964. A six game match at a time control of G/35;d5 was contested and…the match was drawn! J PARNELL WATKINS JR and GWINNETT CHESS was at it again.

On October 13, 2018 there was another six game, G/25;d5 match with Kapish Potula, and again it was J PARNELL WATKINS JR and GWINNETT CHESS. Hold on to something as I inform you that Alan G Piper actually won, and drew, two of the games played, while losing the other four.

The thing is that on that very same day, October 13, 2018, the Pipe also played another match with someone else, SAITHANUSRI AVIRNENI. It was another G/25;d5 with all the usual suspects present, meaning Parnell and Gwinnett Chess. The match was drawn, 2-2.

Then we come to November 19, 2018, the 2018 MERUGA PIPER “dual.” It appears as though that between 2018-11-17 thru 2018-11-19 a NINETEEN GAME MATCH at a TC of G/25;d5 was contested by the usual suspects, Meruga and Piper. The aforementioned player, Meruga won all nineteen games…J PARNELL WATKINS JR and GWINNETT CHESS were again the usual suspects.

But wait, there’s MORE! On November 27 the same two players contested yet another G/25;d5 “dual,” which Meruga won 12-0. Again, J PARNELL WATKINS JR and GWINNETT CHESS were the responsible parties.

On December 7, a day which will live in infamy, 2018, another G/25;d5 match took place between Alan G. Piper and Kapish Potula. It was won by Potula, 5-0. J PARNELL WATKINS JR directed and GWINNETT CHESS sent it in to be rated.

After a couple more tournaments in December and a last one on January 26, the CCSCATL WINTER BLITZ CHAMPIONS, the record shows no more games, or matches, for the Pipe.

As a result of all these games, and others, Meruga became a 2300 rated player. Kapish Potula is currently rated 2187, knocking on the National Master door.

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The High Planes Drifter

An excellent article, 1st Ron Finegold Memorial, by Davide Nastasio, appeared at the Chessbase website recently (https://en.chessbase.com/post/1st-ron-finegold-memorial).

5/7/2018 – “Open weekend tournaments in the United States are proof of chess as a very competitive high stakes sport. Local tournaments often celebrate the changing of seasons, recurring events, or, as in this case, memorialise (sic) a master player who dearly loved chess, and gifted such passion to his children. GM Elshan Moradiabadi took top honours (sic) in the inaugural Ron Finegold Memorial, held at the new Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta, which was founded by his son, Ben.”

Elshan Moradiabadi wins with 4½ out of 5

“From March 31st to April 1st, 2018 At the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta was held the Ron Finegold Memorial, a tournament with 4 sections and 92 players.

Ron Finegold (born in 1937), the father of GM Ben Finegold, was a National Master who died after a long illness on July 15th, 2014. His passion for chess brought him to teach the game to his children.”

“The Open weekend tournament in the USA is proof that chess is a sport. Five rounds in two days. On Saturday one can play for nine hours straight, for a total of three games, then follow on Sunday another six hours of playing. The last three hours are quite important because the last round is what divides the winner from the losers, those who will bring home the money from those who fought for nothing. The Open section of this tournament was particularly well stocked with two GMs, plus the US Women’s Champion of 2017, and a few national masters and candidate masters.”

Reading the above made me laugh. The ‘next generation’ considers the above playing schedule “grueling.” Back in the day we played five rounds over two days at a time control of 40 moves in two hours, followed by various time limits such as twenty moves in an hour, which became twenty moves in a half hour, followed by increasingly shorter time limits for the endgame. I won the Atlanta Chess Championship in 1976 at a time control of forty moves in two and one half hours, followed by twenty moves in one hour. Granted, there was only one game played at night for five weeks, but when we sat down it was known the game could possibly last well into the wee hours. During the 1980 US Open in Atlanta my opponent, Dauntless Don Mullis, finally resigned at three thirty the next morning. The game began at seven pm. And WE LIKED IT! My heart bleeds for these namby-pamby wussies…

The address given at the website of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta is, 2500 Old Alabama Rd., Suite 11, Roswell, GA 30076. Roswell is not Atlanta. It is a city far to the north of Atlanta. In 2014 the estimated population was 94,089, making it Georgia’s seventh largest city (http://www.visitroswellga.com/). Maybe it should be called the Atlanta Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Roswell?

A game Ron Finegold

lost to Bobby Fischer

at the Western Open in Bay City accompanies the article. No date is given. The other game contained in the article is by LM David Vest, aka, the High Planes Drifter, whom I have known for almost four decades. We played many speed games over the years, with Mr. Vest usually besting me. One time the Drifter informed me he intended to sacrifice the exchange in every game, which is exactly what he did, as I lost again and again… David gave me a lesson never forgotten. I used that lesson in a telephone game with the legendary one, playing an exchange sacrifice that brought the house DOWN! I proudly showed the game to Vest, who smiled with approval.

David Vest


Scott Prichard playing against Carter Peatman | Photo: Davide Nastasio (Vest is shown in the background playing Harry Le)

is the only player to hold the title of both Georgia State Chess Champion, and Georgia Senior Champion. The man from the High Planes stopped drifting and settled down at the House of Pain. Frequently heard from the younger players were things like, “Vest got me again,” and “How come I can’t beat that old man?” They knew the Chess road led through Mr. Vest, and to best Vest was a sign that, as one young player succinctly put it, “Now I’m getting somewhere!”

Mr. Vest talks with a booming voice, which was often heard, to the detriment of the other players, when he was right outside the front door, directly below the window of the main playing room, smoking his ready-rolled cigarettes. David was known for his “A.O.” theories. That’s for “Atmospheric Occupation.” As far as he was concerned, the only hope for mankind was to get off of the planet. He could not understand why everyone did not agree with him. For some reason he thought he was the first to come up with the idea of moving off planet. He told of taking his theories to the US government, and his disappointment in being rejected…Voice booming and eyes blazing, Mr. Vest would rail against our government and threaten to take his ides to the “Communist Chinese.” One time a VietNam veteran, who had listened to some of a Vest tirade, entered the HOP saying, “That man ain’t right.” He got no argument. I attempted to council Mr. Vest about toning down his traitorously inflammatory harangues, but it fell on deaf ears…Another time one of the Chess fathers, after listening to a Vest diatribe, said, “There is a fine line between sanity and insanity, and that man is on it.”

As can be seen in the photograph, Mr. Vest has a large scar in the shape of a horseshoe underneath his right eye, which was obtained when he moved to Louisville and began a job working with horses, which he loved. The horse obviously did reciprocate. Dave was fortunate as a kick to the head from a horse can be fatal. One legendary Atlanta player informed me the Drifter told them he had experience with horses to obtain the job. “What he did not say was the experience came from wagering at the track!” he said while laughing uproariously. “What the hell does Dave know about horses other than the betting odds?” he added.

Mr. Vest’s rating plummeted as he continued to play Chess while pus oozed from his wound. His Master rating fell below 2100 and the word at the House was he would never be the same player. Mr. Vest proved them wrong when, after recovering, his rating steadily climbed to over 2200 once again, where it stayed for some time. After losing yet again to Vest one promising junior came down the stairs saying, “That man OWNS this place!”

Before leaving Atlanta and moving to the country the aforementioned legendary player informed me Mr. Vest was to be interviewed on an Atlanta radio station, WGST. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “I wish I were, but I’m not,” he said. “I just hope he don’t give Chess in Atlanta a bad name.” We listened with trepidation to the interview, with the legendary one muttering things like, “Lordy,” and “I hope he don’t mention Championship Chess.” When they went to a break I glanced over at the legendary one to see what can only be described as an ashen face. “I don’t know if I can take any more of this,” he said. He, and we, did. “Oh God,” the legendary one exclaimed at one point, “Chess in Atlanta will never be the same.” Having listened to Mr. Vest at length over the years I was grinning while enjoying the show. “You’ve gotta admit, it’s entertaining,” I stated. “Maybe in some kinda way in your warped brain, Bacon,” he said. “It’s sad Dave don’t know he’s making a fool of himself,” the legendary one said as he sat there shaking his head. “How did the drifter get on the show?” I asked. “He called in regularly,” was the reply.

By now you should understand why I decided to put Dave’s game through the clanking digital monsters at the ChessBase DataBase.

David Vest 2200 vs Harry Le 1971

1 c4 (David’s love of the English rivaled has that of LA Master Jerry Hanken, of whom Vest spoke highly) Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Be7 5 a3 (Komodo plays 5 Qb3) O-O 6 b4 (Stockfish plays either 6 d4 or Qb3) d6 (Stockfish plays either 6…d5, or 6…e4. Houey prefers d5)

7 d4 (This move cannot be found in the databases so must me a Theoretical Novelty. Unfortunately, it is not a good one. It is the way of Chess that the best move in the position on the previous move now becomes less than desirable.) exd4 8 exd4 Bg4 9 Be2 a6 10 h3 Bh5 11 Bf4 d5 12 g4 (I am not surprised Vest played this move, but a more circumspect move such as 12 0-0 may have been better. After 12…Bxf3 13 Bxf3 dxc4 white would have the possibility of completely ruining the black pawn structure with 14 Bxc6. There is also the possibility of playing 14 d5! Granted, black does not have to play to take the pawn, as after 12 0-0 he could play 12…Re8, for example) Bg6

Look at this position from white’s perspective and imagine your student sitting across from you. What move would you suggest, and why?

13 Ne5

After seeing this move one might question a student, offering 13 0-0 as an alternative. “Look kid,” one could begin, “You have followed the rules of the Royal game by developing your four minor pieces. You need only move your king to safety before developing your major pieces.”) dxc4

14 Nxg6 (I would be strongly tempted to play 14 Nxc6 bxc6 a5 Bxc4) hxg6 15. d5 Nb8!

(Shades of the man from the High Planes! Vest was famous for playing the Brooklyn variation of the Alekhine’s defense. An example:

IM Vinay Bhat (Earned GM title in 1997)

vs David Vest

1996 American Open

Los Angeles, California

B02 Alekhine’s defence, Brooklyn defence

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d5 4. exd6 cxd6 5. c4 e6 6. Be2 Nf6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. Be3 Nbd7 9. Nf3 b6 10. O-O Bb7 11. Bf4 O-O 12. Rc1 a6 13. h3 Qb8 14. Re1 Qa7 15.Qb3 Rac8 16. Na4 Rfd8 17. Bf1 h6 18. Be3 Bc6 19. Nc3 Ba8 20. Qa4 Bc6 21. Qb3 Ba8 22. Qa4 Qb7 23. b4 Nb8 24. a3 Rc7 25. Bf4 Qc8 26. Qb3 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Nc6 28.Be3 Rb7 29. f4 Rb8 30. d5 Na7 31. Na4 exd5 32. Nxb6 Qf5 33. Nxd5 Nxd5 34. cxd5 Rd7 35. Kh2 Nb5 36. Bd3 Qh5 37. Be2 Qh4 38. Qd3 Bf6 39. Rg1 Bb2 40. Rg4 Qe7 41.Rcg1 Qd8 42. Bd1 Rc7 43. Bc2 Kf8 44. Qh7 Nxa3 45. Rxg7 Bxg7 46. Rxg7 Nxc2 47.Qg8+ 1-0)

16 g5 (I would take the pawn with 16 Bxc4. The game move is more in keeping with the High Planes Drifter’s fast & loose, shoot from the hip style, but 16 Bxc4 is best) Ne8

I could not help but wonder what Mr. Vest was thinking about while looking at this position. Many years ago the Drifter said that after 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nf8 he was “Sucking them into my vortex!” This position has Vest in the wrong plane! Now he is the one being sucking into a vortex…)

17 Qd2 (Now 17 Bxc4 is answered by 17…Bxg5) Bd6 18. Be3 Be5 (Black has driven white back and the bishop takes a dominating position. The amazing thing about the position is that black has only one piece off of the back rank but has the advantage)

19 f4 (Vest could take the pawn with 19 Bxc4, but Nd6 20 Be2 Re8 black has greatly improved his position ) Bxc3 20. Qxc3 Nd6

21 h4 (Having been outplayed Vest decides to thrust his sword, or fall on it…It was still possible to castle even though black could then play 21…b5, protecting the pawn. Still, after 23 Bf3 white would have the two bishops versus the two horses, which may have been why Vest pushed the pawn, come to think of it…You see, the Drifter LOVES the horses, so how could he possibly bet against them? I have often watched his play without Queens on the board, in which his knights shine) Re8

22 h5 Nf5 23 Bf2? (He had to try 23 Rh3 gxh5 24 Bxh5) Qxd5 24 Rh3 Qe4

25 Qb2? (Dave could have tried (25 O-O-O as 25… Qxe2 26 Re1 Qxf2 27. Rxe8+ Kh7 28. h6 Qf1+ 29. Kc2 Qg2+ 30. Kc1 Qf1+ only leads to a draw. 25…Nc6 is better, though…) gxh5 (25…Qg2! The remaining moves need no comment) 26 g6 fxg6 27 Kf1 Qxf4 28 Rf3 Qe4 29 Re1 Nc6 30 b5 Ne5 31 Rc3 Qh1+ 32 Bg1 Nd3 0-1

The High Plains Drifter was a strong Chess player; strong enough to beat many time US Women’s Champion Irina Krush

in the last round of one of the 2003 EMORY/CASTLE GRAND PRIX. The upset win translated into a first place tie with GM Julio Becerra.

The game was annotated by IM John Donaldson in the award winning Georgia Chess magazine. I will admit to being somewhat disappointed when the Drifter informed me he had “chickened out” when offering Irina a draw, which was declined.

I have met many Chess players during the course of my life. The mold was definitely broken after the Drifter came down from the High Planes. He often claimed to be “above you humans.” Fortunately, Chess kept him somewhat grounded…David Vest is definitely sui generis.