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Alex Zelner Memorial

Updated: Jan 16

At the beginning of January the Central Florida chess community was stunned to hear the news that FM Alexander Zelner passed away.  Alex touched the lives of many throughout the chess world.


Photo courtesy of the Zelner family

Originally from Russia, Alex moved to Orlando from Springfield, Ohio in 1999. His first tournament in Central Florida was the 6th Annual Space Coast Open. From that point forward, he and his wife Catherine, and sons David, Josh and Greg, and later his daughters Roza and Zoe were staples at local chess tournaments. In 2003 Zelner opened Orlando Chess & Games with a vision to provide a tournament venue, teaching academy and retail store. For the next 20 years Alex would continue to run tournaments and train students. He was also well known as a chess vendor at local weekend tournaments, including the Space Coast Open last year. He was always approachable and personable. He had a larger than life personality and a witty sense of humor. A tenacious over the board competitor, he reached a peak rating of 2491. He was a gifted chess lecturer who could regale audiences with countless anecdotes and jokes. Those who knew Alex will not only remember him for his unending passion for chess, but for his generosity, constantly helping people in and out of the chess world. The Space Coast Chess Foundation would like to extend its condolences to the Zelner family. We will miss him!


In honor of an extraordinary person in the local chess community, the Space Coast Chess Foundation is proud to designate the 29th Space Coast Open as The Alex Zelner Memorial Space Coast Open and Chess Festival.


Spearheaded by Alex, the Zelner family sports a long relationship with the Space Coast Open. All seven members of the Zelner family competed at the Space Coast Open, totaling a record 40 entries by a single family. Alex personally played 5 times (plus additional years where he attended with the Zelner kids and competed in the Blitz). While he was most proud of the accomplishments of his family, a highlight of Alex’s personal results came at the 10th Space Coast Open in 2003 where he reclaimed his master rating.


-Authored by Steven Vigil

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