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President's Report From Ruth Haring Print E-mail
By Ruth Haring   
May 22, 2012
USCF President Ruth Haring, Photo courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club
The US Championship has now concluded and I would like to extend hearty congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura, 2012 US Champion.  Hikaru has been having exceptional results lately, and at the time of writing, he ranks number 5 in the World in the live rating list!

Irina Krush is our new US Women’s champion and showed her strength with excellent opening preparation and consistent strong play.  Congratulations to the 2012 US Women’s Champion, Irina Krush!

Once again, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis exceeded all expectations in providing a truly exceptional experience for our champions with their outstanding organization of the US Championships and commitment to excellence. Be sure to stop by the club in Saint Louis if you are in the area this summer for your vacation.   You can have a friendly game of chess and also visit the World Chess Hall of Fame across the street.  See the club website for a list of upcoming events

Last weekend USCF launched our beta for online play.  I urge all of you to register and try out USCF online play at http://chessserver.rmrdevelopment.com/  Be sure to send in your comments and suggestions to our development team.

The remarks below were made to open the USCF Executive Board Meeting on May 19-20 in St. Louis.  

Today, I am going to speak first about our Scholastic and National events. Then, I will discuss our  “chess community” and my thoughts on new challenges facing the organization. Finally I will discuss our promising future.

The 2012 Scholastic Chess Nationals have brought Chess in the United States fantastic publicity this spring.  These scholastic events include the National Elementary Championships, this year held in Nashville, the National Junior High School Championships held in San Diego, the National High School Championship held in Minneapolis, and the KCF All-Girls Nationals held in Chicago.  Kudos and thanks from all of us to Pat Knight-Smith, National Events Director and Asst. Executive Director for doing all needed to make these events successful.

The 2012 headline is not the attendance numbers but rather the fantastic rock and roll performance of Brooklyn Intermediate School IS 318 who wowed us all with their fairy tale win by a Junior High team of the National High School Championships.  

This exceptional result was featured in two New York Times stories, with coverage in Forbes Magazine and on MSNBC and the Minneapolis CBS News affiliate. This PR storm followed on the footsteps of the release of the film “Brooklyn Castle”, which is a documentary about IS 318, “the inner city public school that’s home to the most winning Junior High School Chess team in the country”.  If you get a chance, go see this film!

The KCF All-Girls National was held in Chicago in April and broke last year’s attendance records.  238 girls played in this event !  But best of all, the Under 18 section was won by 11 year old Anupama Rajendra!   The All-Girls National is a qualifier for the World Youth.  Qualifiers include all perfect 6-0 scores and all players who take 1st place in a section.

Here in St. Louis, on the 19th of May, 2012, the USCF executive board is proud to be witness to the final rounds of the US Championships.  Our top players are truly world class competitors.  As expected we have tough battles for top honors between Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky and between Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih.  Since we have such strong US Chess champions, their  accomplishments sometimes overshadow the accomplishments of the other players. We should note with extreme pride the results and commitment of all of our championship contenders who are battling long and hard to victory. Team USA will be very competitive at the Olympiad in Istanbul.

Saint Louis hosts some of the best fighting championship games in the world, featuring the no-draw before move 30 rule, and organizational excellence of exceptional quality. We are also very pleased to have a superstar team of chess commentators for the US championships, Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade and Grandmaster Ben Finegold.  These two “talking-heads” have a world-wide following and are blazing a trail for the future of chess newscasting with their insightful analysis, stories, and interviews.

National events in the second half of 2012, include the G/10 Championship in Las Vegas, the National Open in Las Vegas, the US Open in Vancouver, Washington, the G/30 and G/60 Championships in Pleasanton, CA, and the K-12 Grade in December in Orlando. These are all great events and you should come out and participate if you can.

As you may have concluded from my remarks about our national events so far this year, USCF continues to have stable and healthy revenues which I have commented on at length in previous messages.  

Since we have successfully defeated the dragon of impending financial doom, and we now have a more fiscally healthy organization, I will note that we still have work to do on governance and are awaiting our 501c3 approval.  With this as a backdrop, we now need to change focus and work to raise funds to support our national teams.  This year is an Olympiad year and we are seeing substantially higher fees from the organizer. We need to increase our fund raising efforts to ensure our team has first class accommodation and support in Istanbul.

In chess terms, USCF was under attack. We defended our position and have consolidated. We are now putting our pieces in the best possible strategic positions, looking for opportunities to make our position even better.

Today the situation which we must examine is not on the chess board, but with the people who move the pieces.  The chess community which includes players, coaches, teachers, tournament directors, organizers, parents, family members and other volunteers supporting our chess endeavors and events. We all are working together to develop chess, to develop our players to their full potential, and support the organized activities of schools, teams, clubs, and affiliates

Many of our members who are involved in organizing tournaments, coaching, training and tournament directing came up through the ranks as a chess enthusiasts and tournament player.  As such, we have developed a taste for winning at chess and enjoy the fruits of victory.

When your goal is to promote Chess, “victory” should be defined as the promotion and growth of the game for the betterment of the entire community.  This means introducing more people to chess, showing them it can be fun and challenging, and working to persuade school districts and community organizations that chess teaches skills that help to improve our minds and change lives for the better.

In these challenging economic times, it is natural for there to be competition for chess pupils, players for tournaments, etc.  Let us keep it at the top of our minds that “winning” means promoting chess after which there will be plenty of students for everyone.

I urge all members to think about who the community is and how best to serve, to advance the game of chess.  I think it would be wise to think of our membership as our customers, and in the case of youngsters, their parents.

We need to ensure that not only do we discuss the very real benefits of chess as a discipline that improves study skills and therefore grades, when speaking with school administrators, but also show the parents that we provide a safe and healthy environment for their children at all of our chess events.  

Our organizers, clubs and affiliates should each think about their image and what they can do to ensure they generate positive publicity and positive feeling in the local community.  This means asking what activities you need to support at the local level and to determine if there are actions you can take to help local organizers and scholastic organizations to be more successful and to coexist in a cooperative and synergetic manner.

One of the key attributes of competitive chess is the fact that two competitors sit opposite each other at the chess board, shake hands, and then play the game.  This act, of shaking hands, of following the rules, is an act of good sportsmanship, an act of respect.  I expect the same high standards that chess players have for each other, when starting a contest, of all people involved in all aspects of chess.

So, if you need more players in your local tournaments, think out of the box.  Rather than having competing events with another organizer you may partner with other local organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, martial arts studios, dance studios, Hip-Hop, etc. to get exposure for youngsters who may not be introduced to chess otherwise.  

As an organization, USCF will be discussing how best to support affiliates, clubs, organizers and tournament directors through programs, training, recommendations and other certification actions that will serve to provide confidence to the community of the excellent benefits of our game, and with the goal of growing membership so that we can continue to support key chess events.

The best outcome of our very successful scholastic programs of today will be if the parents and coaches and students continue to be a part of the chess community long after the current class graduates—and that they choose to be a part of the chess community of the future.

With the very exciting energy we have in the American Chess scene today, I am sure we can look forward to a day, not too distant, when some of our 2012 scholastic champions are winning our national championships and becoming the role models and grandmaster superstars for the next generation of youngsters to emulate.