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On Chess: Observations from the 2017 Super Nationals VI Chess Tournament

Chess legend Gary Kasparov signed copies of his book at the Super Nationals Chess Tournaments in Nashville. May 2017
Karen Boyd

The biggest chess event of all time was held May 12-15 in Nashville. In total, 5,577 players vied for prizes in the three national events which are held together at the same site at the same time every four years. 


The event is a mix of four tournaments, the Nationals, the Elementary Chess Championships, the Middle School Chess Championships and the High School Chess Championships. These four competitions are normally held on different weekends and in different cities in the spring. However, every four years, they are held simultaneously at the same site.


The Super Nationals require a complex with hundreds of hotel rooms and scores of convention rooms, which is why this tournament has been held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort for several years.  The resort's many rooms can hold the outstanding crowd including rooms that can hold more than 2,500 people at once, not to mention the over 40 restaurants and shops.


This was my second time attending the Super Nationals tournament. There are many vendors selling their wares. My step-son, Archer Watson, was playing in the K-3 section (he is in 2nd grade) and scored four out of seven, with black winning all seven games. It is not surprising that in youth events there are very few draws and everyone plays to win, which makes it more exciting for the players, even if the coaches and parents get gray hairs prematurely.

Also appearing at the event was, perhaps, the greatest chess player of all time, Garry Kasparov.  Kasparov signed copies of his most recent book. He also made the ceremonial first move in many of the rounds for the top players in each group. It was the highlight for many of the children's short chess careers to meet and watch Kasparov play a move on their board.


There were also simultaneous exhibition matches played by well-known Grandmasters like Maurice Ashley, U.S. Women’s Champion Sabina Foisor, 2016 U.S. Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze, U.S. Olympiad Gold medalist Sam Shankland, and seven-time U.S. Women’s Champion and Grandmaster Irina Krush.  It was exciting for the kids to get a chance to meet and play their chess heroes. 


It was an awesome event and, as you might expect, you can’t have thousands of children play chess without thousands of parents, coaches, directors, organizers, and other helpers making sure everything runs smoothly. 


Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and received his first USCF rating at age 6. Finegold has secured several GM norms across the U.S. and is a familiar face around the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and a popular name within the Club’s Resident Grandmaster rotation. Finegold has offered outstanding commentary for several of the Club’s elite events.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.