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Site center of chess activity
Tournaments draw players of all ages
Chess WEB
Jim Lawhon, left, and Alexander Hollins compete during a chess tournament at the North Georgia Chess Center. - photo by Autumn Vetter

The mood at the North Georgia Chess Center on a recent Saturday was friendly and relaxed as the players took a break from the tournament games.

But as play picks back up, the chess personas emerge, John Austin said.

“We all develop a different style of play that reflects our personalities — or our desired personalities,” Austin said. “We might be a tiger over the board and a lamb at home.”

The 34 players from across the state enjoyed the atmosphere of gathering for the two-day weekend tournament the weekend of Aug. 4 with others in the chess community.

Joe Couvillion, owner of the Forsyth County center, said the North Georgia Chess Center Championship brought in some “strong players” to compete for a share of the $1,020 pot and their pride.

The annual event, one of several tournaments at the center, drew more players than last year for the 90-minute per side games, Couvillion said.

He started the local club in 2008 and opened the center in the Pine Creek Commons business complex a few years later.

“It’s a great addition to the community. It’s going to draw a lot of people to this area,” Austin said. “This is [becoming] the center of chess activity in the Atlanta area or north Georgia.”

Many players also compete on the Internet. But Austin, 77, said the weekend tournament allows the face-to-face interaction that adds to the appeal.

“It’s a game of great beauty and depth, and that’s why we’re all attracted to it,” Austin said. “We all long to create a masterpiece.

“You hope for [your opponent] that he won’t make a big mistake because that detracts from the beauty if you should win.”

Alexander Hollins, 12, chimed in: “You may say that, but if he makes a big mistake, I like that because I win.”

Despite the age difference in players, the two could meet all the same in a chess tournament.

“You get respect by winning games and playing tournaments,” Hollins said. “There’s no bias against or for children. If you are a good player, we will respect you, no matter your age, gender or anything.”

Players each have a rating that goes up and down by a formula based on winning or losing.

Hollins’ father, Kelly, said the ratings “will tell you your chance of beating someone.”

The younger Hollins said chess can be compared to any other competitive sport.

“You need to practice it,” he said. “There’s no limit to how good you can get.”