April 23, 2009

Candidate Statement for June Chess Life

This year is the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the USCF. Its 1939 charter (still in effect) declared that the missions of the USCF were: to hold two national tournaments (the US Open, and the US Championship); to promote the knowledge of chess and to help players become masters of the game; and to foster the development of chess clubs and other chess organizations. I believe that those goals are still the proper goals for the USCF.

But today, the US Championship is struggling, and its success in any year depends almost entirely on the out-sourced organizer. Attendance at the US Open has been declining for years. Apart from publishing Chess Life, the USCF spends little to promote knowledge of the game, never mind mastery. Fostering the development of chess clubs and organizations is not a focus.

Here are some of the things which I think the USCF must do:

  1. Eliminate the requirement for USCF membership to play in USCF-rated tournaments, especially for juniors. Rating chess tournaments should be covered by rating fees, which should be nominal. A USCF membership fee should not be an obstacle to playing rated, organized, chess.
  2. Expand the number of national tournaments, and involve the USCF in co-sponsoring and underwriting major regional tournaments, along with state affiliates and local organizations. The US Championship should not be out-sourced, and it should be held in major cities. It should have a prize fund of at least $200,000 every year. Private for-profit companies, such as Continental Chess Association, control too much of the tournament scene. I support the effort to bring the Chess Olympiad to Chicago.
  3. Organize chess leagues in schools and work-places, with proctored matches on Internet servers, benefitting from the experience of the US Chess League.
  4. Have 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, and be able to receive tax-deductible contributions. That means operating for the good of chess and the community as a whole, rather than focusing so much on membership service. We need to be an organization that can attract charitable contributions. We should build an endowment for the USCF through concerted fund-raising.
  5. Sponsor and underwrite chess courses, training camps and summer institutes, especially for juniors and for those representing the USCF in international competition. Provide scholarships. Lack of means should not be an impediment to talented players becoming masters.
  6. Recognize that in twenty years from now, the USCF will probably not be publishing a paper magazine, and continue to move chess news and features, tournament announcements, and competitor information onto uschess.org. The USCF should have a world-class web site.

Some of these ideas must be phased in rather than implemented all at once. For example, eliminating the requirement for USCF membership to participate in USCF-rated tournaments might dramatically reduce the number of dues-paying members, causing financial problems. But we should be moving towards not requiring membership fees on top of entry fees for tournament entrants.


Jerry said...

Speaking of chess leagues in the workplace, the Chicago Industrial Chess League has always seemed interesting to me. I don't know if other cities have anything similar. I know a friend of mine used to play in a workplace league when he worked for Wang in the Boston area.


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