I see on the website of the North Carolina Chess Association (http://www.ncchess.org/) that, "Next year’s version will be the 25th consecutive LOTS. Early rumors are that tournament organizer W. Wadford is going to make it an extra special event."
I played in the first one, I believe, or was it the second? It was held at the opulent Grove Park Inn for the first two tournaments, or was it only the very first one? I have had some memorable experiences there, but cannot recall them all now. I believe I managed to win money once or twice. Several years ago the organizer, Wilder Wadford, invited me to come up and man the demo board, as the fellow who had the job for years was going on a cruise, booked by his wife. Needless to say, I had the time of my life! Thanks, Wilder, ol' friend! Organizers like Wilder deserve our thanks and should be commended.
But what I want to talk about is the outstanding performance of three players from Georgia, Kazim Gulamali, Damir Studen, and Richard Francisco. The first two faced each other in the second round and a draw was the outcome. I sure wish the crosstable showed who had which color. They each finished undefeated and tied for second place with a 4-1 score. Damir, the current Georgia champion, had a lofty performance rating of 2505, while Kazim's PR was 2435.
Richard finished in a tie for 6-8, with a score of 3 1/2-1 1/2, losing only to GM Sergey Kudrin in round three. His PR was a not too shabby 2377.
All three of these young men 'cut their teeth' at the House of Pain, aka, the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. I have fond memories of Saturday nights when Kazim's father, Mumtaz Yusef, would order Oriental food and have it delivered, while the 'Little Grandmaster', for that's what Kazim was called, would take on all comers, as would his dad. The House was ROCKIN'! I actually played the 'little GM' once while on duty. We played standing up while I manned the counter, and I am proud to report it ended in a draw!
Damir has been a fixture from the first time he walked into the House. He has, no doubt, played thousands of games at the ACC. I recall one week night we faced off in a quick game in which he played his beloved Scandinavian. We were, fortunately, playing with a clock allowing a three second delay, as I got down to only one second on the clock! I had to make many moves, which I was fortunate enough to do. Damir did not think an old(er) guy like me could do it, but I did, and he did not like it one bit! It was one of the most exciting games I have ever played. Damir is a worthy Champion. He has worked as hard, if not harder, than anyone I have ever known.
The personable Richard Francisco has played in too many tournaments at the House to count. These guys have become a FORCE in Southern chess and one of the reasons is that they had a place to PRACTICE. I recall the great baseball Hall of Famer, and war hero, Ted Williams saying, in answer to a question about how he became such a great hitter, "Don't discount PRACTICE!" The Southern chess impresario Thad Rogers deserves much credit for opening, and keeping open, the House of Pain! I recall that, after winning big bucks in an expert tournament held in conjunction with the World Open, the Nashville Strangler, now FM Jerry Wheeler, in an interview in Chess Life magazine made a point to thank Thad for holding all the tournaments through the years.
There is nothing better for the development of young talent than a full time chess club. For example, contrast the city of St Louis, with their new, state of the art chess club, and a city a few hundred miles to the east, Louisville. I am told the latter had a full time chess club at one time, but there was not enough support and it folded. The 'official' Louisville chess club now meets on a week night at a run down fast food place with a sign out front proudly proclaiming, BURRITOS AS BIG AS YOUR HEAD! A decade from now which city do you think will have produced the 'young guns' shooting up the weekend swiss tournaments like the Land of the Sky?