Stuart Finney, 15, of Barrington, R.I., became a USCF master (2200+ rating) at last week’s Atlantic City International, where he and Alexander Ivanov of Newton won cash prizes. Finney shared the first under-2300 prize and gained his peak rating of 2208, since beginning rated play at age 6 in 2001. More information at

Despite headlines of youngsters gaining USCF-master titles at age 9, it still is a major accomplishment to become a master at any age. The New Jersey event was one of the first major events in decades at the gaming Mecca, as chess events have long found a home in Philadelphia, just 60 or so miles away. Unfortunately, the event was a big financial loss for the Chicago organizers, with just over 160 entries. Final standings, games and photos are at

Grandmaster Larry Christiansen of Cambridge was once a bullfighter? The famous photo from a vintage Chess Life cover was part of Edward Winter’s Chess Explorations featuring chess players with some unusual pets, including photos of early 20th-century world champion Jose Capablanca on horseback, found at

Joel F. Johnson, 55, of Phoenix, Ariz., first competed in chess events when he was 17, living in Lowell. Today, he is not only the most active competitor in Arizona, but in the entire country. His 2010 “Formation Attacks” (first published by in June was revised in September, and the 500-page “manual” is part of a new breed of specialized books on the game.

Now, more than ever, there are more books published on chess than all other board games combined (we don’t know about computer games), and this continues into the age of e-books, publishing on demand and the waning of many national bookstores.

Almost every master who participates in the growing writes about some aspect of chess, and Joel Johnson’s story can now be found on the Arizona Scorpion’s league link,

Answer to quiz: Nothing reviews attacking strategy better than this example, 1. Qxf7ch! leaving black completely helpless. Do you see the forced checkmate (2. PxR mate)? How all this relates to winning will be explained in coming weeks, as we review Johnson’s manual.