Barrington chess master heads to U.S. Senior Championship

Alex Goldin of Barrington barely remembers a time when he wasn't playing chess.

A native of the Soviet Union who emigrated to this country 20 years ago, he started playing at the age of 4 along with his twin brother and sister.

“As a child, I thought chess was magic,” Goldin says. “I fell in love with it.”

By the time he was 17, Goldin had won the USSR junior championship and the USSR championship one year later. After playing in three international tournaments, he won the title of Grand Master in 1989.

It is a title he still holds, and next week, he will be put to the test.

Goldin is one of 10 players invited to play in the first U.S. Senior Championship, hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. Of the 10 players, eight are no longer playing competitively, including Goldin.

Five are U.S. Chess Hall of Fame members, and all 10 have invitational ratings over 2,500, as certified by the U.S. Chess Federation. With an invitational rating of 2,554, Goldin sits in the middle of the pack.

At stake is a $50,000 prize for the champion, but every player will win a cash prize, down to $2,000 for the last place player.

“None of us are in it for the money,” Goldin says. “But it's nice that they (U.S. chess officials) are finally showing some respect for us. The conditions are really nice and they're covering the cost of everything for us.”

Typically, he adds, all of the attention in chess is to develop younger players and prepare them for international competition. With this new senior division, these veterans are getting to show their game.

Fans can watch the action on an online broadcast stream, with commentary by a team of grand masters, including Tatev Abrahamyan, Robert Hess and Jesse Kraai. For more information, visit

The U.S. Senior Open will run simultaneously with the U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls' Junior championships, all at the Saint Louis Chess Club.

“One of the best aspects of chess is that it's truly a game for life,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the Saint Louis Chess Club.

Goldin won the New York Open during his first visit to this country in 1991, and he also played at the U.S.-China Summit, where he played first board. But he hasn't played in a competition since 2003, when he won the American Continental in Argentina.

Since then, Goldin has shared his expertise in the game with students. Previously, he coached chess clubs at schools in Barrington, Cary, Fox River Grove and Palatine. He now teaches the game to students online.

Over the last month, he also has led two-week chess camps, including ones at Barrington High School and at North Central College in Naperville.

He still loves the game and he says it offers many benefits for young players, especially in today's world of instant gratification and fast-paced competition.

“In sports, kids are taught to be fast, they're always chasing and pursuing something,” Goldin said. “In chess, they learn patience, focus and concentration. They learn to analyze and process things. It's amazing at these camps how kids sharpen their observation skills and learn to pay attention.”

He will be drawing on his own advice this month when he goes up against this legendary field.

“We all know each other,” Goldin said. “We all know how one another play.”

In order to get ready, he expects to work out physically to improve his sharpness and endurance, as well as go over his opening preparation, and play a lot of training games.

“I'm very excited,” he said. “I still love the game of chess.”

For the past 10 years, the Saint Louis Chess Club has hosted the U.S. Junior and U.S. Junior Girls' championships, reflecting the trend in national chess circles of looking for ways to encourage young players and rising prodigies. The new U.S. Senior Championship is a departure from that trend. Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club
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