2019 Summer Update
There is a rhythm to the annual chess cycle, and I will admit I’m still learning it. Elections are on the near horizon, and a list of candidates is in this edition. However, full candidate bios are available on our website under the Governance tab’s 2019 Election Headquarters menu.
Also, we are just coming out of the heavy scholastic chess season and all National Championship events have come to a close. As an organization, we have helped to support Florida players with stipends to supplement families expenses incurred during multi-day trips to the locations where these championships were held (Chicago, Nashville, and Dallas). We distribute stipends to players and school teams who finish in 1st place at either Regional or State Scholastic tournaments; however, the second qualifier is attendance at the subsequent event in the regional>state>national tournament sequence. This year's base number is 15 individual awardees and 15 team award winners, but that number can increase as ties occur. As the cycle goes, June is the month when stipends are disbursed. This is an improvement over years past and part of our intentional effort to move awards close to the time earned. This year, we will issue around $6,000 in stipends to recognize chess excellence in our scholastic division. It is a considerable commitment and one that we plan to continue with increased financial maturity.
I also see a rhythm to annual preparation for the next national event, the US Open. As Floridians, we are so fortunate that the world loves to come here and we as chess players benefit immensely. This August the US Open will be held at the Rosen Centre in Orlando over nine days from August 3rd to 11th. There is so much packed into that event as it is more than several days to produce nine rounds of classical games. US Chess goes all out and has several side tournaments over the two weekends that bracket the usual Monday through Friday week. They also have special meetings, workshops, and recognition events during that time that often go without much public awareness.
One of the meetings at the US Open is for the Chess Journalists of America for those who write chess books, articles, create websites and produce magazines are celebrated for their contributions to the chess community. This year our own Harvey Lerman has been nominated for his work on our state publication, the floridaCHESS newsletter. As I have mentioned before, I believe Harvey’s work is outstanding and was proud to complete the nomination process to put him in contention for this prestigious award in the Best State Magazine/Newsletter-Print category. We hope that our publication merits recognition alongside past category winners like Chess Life (best cover), Cyrus Lakawanda (Best book), American Chess magazine (best story of the year), Ben Johnson (Best podcast) and chess.com (Best online news). It is another way Florida is showing the country we have something to be proud of when it comes to chess as a movement around the country.
Another seasonal pattern I’ve seen is the ever converging field of well-attended chess tournaments during the April - July period. Florida’s big money Open tournaments really take stage during the late Spring to late Summer months. As scholastic activity wanes, events like the Space Coast Open (well featured in this edition), Central Florida Chess Club’s Sunshine Open, Boca Chess Club’s Summer Solstice, and Continental’s Southern Open draw well at 100 to 200 players at each one. Even my own Jacksonville Chess Club has drawn 100 players in the Summer at our North Florida Open in July. This is great for our state and serves to keep players sharp and develop tournament directors and organizers.
In many ways this seasonal aspect of Florida chess is an important feature of our chess calendar year and as I said in my last post to you all, I’m taking it all in. Florida is a wonderful place for chess to grow, and it thrives in many cases/places all on its own. However, there are times the FCA must help usher in new initiatives to ensure we evolve or stagnation will cause us to lose out on an opportunity. One of the growing efforts in chess is support for Women/Girl growth and events especially for them. Women/Girl's movement in our state has been about on pace with the rest of the country - a little slow, but gaining. Recently US Chess published its first Women's Issue to highlight their impact on the game we all love. In state, two FCA affiliates have run All Girls or All Women/Girls events over the last few years in Tampa and Jacksonville, but we need to do more. In keeping with that pledge to do more, we applied for a US Chess Grant to host a state level Women’s/Girls Championship next year. This opportunity presented itself as a result of a $100,000 grant to US Chess by the Rex Sinquefield organization to be spread around the country to promote Women’s chess initiatives in a variety of ways. We submitted a budget plan to host a Florida Women’s Championship to help us get things started. The money must be used between Fall 2019 and Summer 2020. We’ll let you know if we get the award. Keep your fingers crossed.
Not seasonal, but movement on the board of directors can happen at any time as priorities in life change. Therefore, I want to send a heartfelt Thank You to Sam Sokhanvari, who stepped down a few months ago after several years on the board. Sam is a great advocate for chess in the Gulf-Southwestern part of the state and will continue to impact his area for chess. We are likely to see him at state level tournaments as he loves to mix it up and often comes out on top in his section of entry. Thanks, Sam.
In the process of looking to bring our 13-member board back to full strength, we searched for people who are Chess DOERs who may also love being a Chess PLAYER. It is not a strict requirement that only players can contribute or even lead chess activity in our state. We know organizers, tournament directors, current/former competitive players and chess parents make up the landscape of our chess community. We also looked for this who are making impacts for chess from a position of a “labor of love” to help us round out the board as some board members are Chess entrepreneurs. Another criterion was to find people who have shown excellence with a local focus or even strive to manage statewide program ownership. To that end, we selected Matthew Kolcz, the founder and organizer of our state’s independently run collegiate chess program. Matthew turned a passion into a movement for more than just himself by creating the Florida Collegiate Chess Foundation to bring all colleges within Florida together to compete. He has been doing this for the past five years and started while he was in school at FSU. We are pleased to add him to our diverse group of chess enthusiasts who are bound to work together to serve all of Florida. Thank you all for the faith and trust you place in us. We do not take it for granted.
Hoping to see you over the board soon,
Dear FCA members and the Florida Chess Community at large,
We have just concluded one of the most exciting times of the year - the State Scholastic Championship. Our event was held in Orlando as it has been for several years consecutively and our participation rate was just inside of 400 players. In speaking with the board, I had hoped to break 400 hundred this year. We have not done that in several years. However, the event featured so many excellent players and should be a must-do event for all in grades Kindergarten to Twelveth in our state. We will seek to reach more next year. A state this large should have 700-player state championships.
At this year's championship, I had the opportunity to introduce myself as the F.C.A. President to players in the tournament hall and later to the parents during an impromptu Town Hall meeting. During the meeting, I presented some of the challenges and changes that I am hoping to address during my time in office. For example, items like identifying and developing new leaders to meet the needs of our chess community and having better financial accountability and visibility are rather strategic and take time to implement. However, other issues are at the heart of why I offered to lead the board - to improve our organization in ways that improve chess for players, parents and the Florida chess community. Another opportunity is the better use of our current membership management system to deepen the connection with our members. These are worthy short and longer-term goals for my limited time in this role.
As it stands today, I have been in office for six months and the amount of work our board had completed is chronicled in my chess journal. I've been amazed at what we have done, but it is not enough. We’ve only scratched the surface of the work to do. I freely admit there is more effort is needed from me to involve our 13-member board to best address the needs of the F.C.A. However, some of our accomplishments have been a financial budget, addressing financial issues, filling open board positions, group collaboration tools, timely responses to request/queries from members and US Chess. We have many outstanding opportunities like the issue of addressing the membership value proposition to make joining the F.C.A. more attractive. We have to get started on that and improved communication with our membership. We are just too quiet and need to do more to promote chess activity in our state with special emphasis on what are F.C.A. Affiliates are doing.
As promised earlier, we have spent time in the underserved Northwest section of our state and provided some support, but more is needed to build upon a great start. That being said, “Hats off” to Banghao Chen and son William for being the keepers of the flame in Tallahassee as they just concluded a very successful tournament there. Kudos also to the Northwest Regional V.P. Daaim Shabazz for providing close support to the work in the Capital City. I, too, played in one of Professor Chen’s tournaments since becoming President and completely enjoyed the event and hospitality.
In these six months, I have met so many wonderful people who care about chess and people. I recently had the pleasure of meeting four chess-playing children from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine and was amazed at the outpouring from the Florida Chess community to help their chess club. I have written an article in the Spring floridaCHESS edition detailing the experience. Conversely, I've also learned about missteps and the disappointments that some have experienced with our organization over the decades too. In addition, I've seen the time and efforts of people like Harvey Lerman who painstakingly puts together one of the last full-fledged chess magazines in the country and Jon Haskel who invests several days a month to bring chess to significant numbers of players in our state and around the country. I have seen players who travel from panhandle to the end of the peninsula to play chess and parents who do the same and sit for hours in folding chairs while their kids pursue their passion. I'm taking it all in and feel a great responsibility to do more and better in the next six months. After all, our focus is on chess, but in the end, we are really delivering an experience that affects people in very personal ways. I completely get it and now more than before.
See you at the board,
2019 Winter Update
Dear FCA Members,
Hopefully we are all looking forward to a prosperous new year. Like most, I enjoy looking back at my previous year’s goals and establish new goals for the coming year. The hard part is keeping them close enough to adjust daily activity toward longer term objectives and to deal with the unexpected things thrown at you that can derail plans. One of the first objectives for our board was to backfill open positions and we’ve done just that in the first few weeks of the year. I ask you to join me in welcoming our newest interim board members. Krista Alton of Tampa is now a Director At-Large. In her new role she will focus statewide on supporting Girls/Women’s Chess. Krista recently worked with me in the Girls Club Room at the K-12 Grades Nationals in December. She did a great job and she will fill the role of Florida Representative on US Chess’ Women’s Initiative Committee.
The second new board member is George Foote of Jacksonville. He will join us as the Northeast Regional Vice President and will take over the work of growing this region. George has run and organized tournaments in the area for over 20 years and is a big part of the renewed chess energy in that part of the state. Both will serve in their positions for the remainder of the term ending with the 2019 Elections this August.
From the standpoint of dealing with the unexpected, the FCA was recently subjected to a financial loss due to fraudulent representation via email. They successfully presented themselves as, “Kevin Pryor FCA President,” by masking my personal email address to direct and facilitate the transfer of funds to a PNC Bank account as a cover for the fraudulent transaction. After discovery, quick contact with law enforcement and banking authorities led to the recovery of a substantial amount of the funds. The total amount lost is about 15% of our resources and we continue to work with those authorities in hopes of recovering it all. I want to assure everyone that NO member information was ever at risk.We do not collect financial data on members.Moreover, we have taken steps to ensure this type of loss does not recur. Also, Board members’ personal information has been removed from the FCA website. You can still reach us at our general inbox email@example.com.
As it stands today, we would like to recover the remaining amount through personal and corporate sponsorships of our events or direct donations to the FCA itself. We will incorporate web and event advertising, and we are open to suggestions from you. In addition, we have an FCA supporter who is willing to match every dollar donated by June 1st up to $1000. To that end, we have created a donation page on our website to track this activity. Please donate.
As part of our 2019 plan, the board agreed we would continue to expand our tournament offerings this year with both a Senior Championship and Girls Championship. We also have plans to invest in developing our board member involvement regionally and to enhance our value proposition for both individual members and affiliates. We will deploy new initiatives to become more visible statewide and have special emphasis to support areas that have been underserved over many years like the Panhandle.There will be some change this year when it comes to stipend distribution. The 2019 US Open will be in Orlando (Rosen Shingle Creek), so we will use that event’s proximity to reduce stipends expense for chess excellence at our Scholastic Championships this year.
The FCA is a long-standing, positive force state supporting chess in all regions and levels including scholastic chess, club chess, tournament chess, professional chess leagues, and businesses. We are more determined than ever to make 2019 another great year. I invite you to join us in making it so.
Here’s to seeing you at an upcoming tournament,
To the FCA Members and Florida Chess Community at large,
Thanks for all the well wishes in person, over email, social media and even on Chess.com. The outpouring has taken me by surprise and only serves to punctuate the need to make sure we build upon our past success and continue to work toward being one of the best State Affiliates in US Chess.
With this month being our country's traditional time for reflection and Thanksgiving, we should all be appreciative of what we have for chess in our state. In the South, chess is thriving with many clubs, top-notch players all over the place and big tournaments that easily draws over 150 players. Jon Haskel is almost a household name among chess players, and the Turkey Bowl event had over 200 players this year. Their scholastic scene is also strong with efforts from Bryan Tillis and the Palm Beach CC and their myriad of chess program offerings. The Orlando area often serves as the hub for statewide and National events with activities driven by the Central Florida Chess Club and US Chess hosting Scholastic National events there every year. They also have very strong chess training and a vibrant chess scene with clubs. The North had rebounded with three events in the last 12 months drawing over 100 players after the infusion of the 2017 State Championship being held there in September. In the West, you can play "Chess with Cohez" on Wednesday evenings in a pub setting or attend club events in Naples with the Southwest Florida chess club. Then there is the "Gainesville phenomenon" of a little town with annual national title expectations, not just in gymnasiums or on their many fields of play. They are Titletown for chess thanks to programs like The Oak Hall School and Williams Elementary producing grade level championships and even drawing international recognition with elementary chess player excellence via coaches like Tim Tusing and Migual Ararat.
Florida is also on the leading front with getting girls more involved in chess with the Jacksonville Chess Club's Annual Queen's Cup and Tampa's TD/Coach Krista Alton & family hosting All-Girl events are just the beginning. In fact, we will host our first Women's/Girls Championship event in 2019.
As President, I also intend to put more effort toward helping to fan the flame of chess in the Panhandle too. I have been in direct contact with a few key people who are trying to chess build activity, and they need our support. Our state is huge, but we should find ways to help that ONE extra club or school whenever we can.
Finally, there are countless volunteers who organize, teach, finance, and tournament direct on so many levels. They are not forgotten for their often thankless service to our passion and sport. That being said, there is a lot of work required to make the 3rd largest state in the USA one of the best for chess.
Join us as we continue on this journey. When we stop for a moment and take a look back at what we have in Florida, it is nothing short of amazing. We're going to build it even bigger.
To the Florida Chess Community:
First, I want to thank the Board of Directors for electing me to this position of trust and promise. I may be new to a lot of our +300 registered members, but I've been around the Florida chess scene for a couple of years now as a player, organizer, tournament director and volunteer primarily in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
My chess background: I have been member of US Chess since the 1980's , but never played a tournament game. I joined because I wanted Chess Life magazine. I loved to play, but all my games were with my Fidelity Chess computer while studying books written by Larry Evans and I.A. Horowitz. In 2014, started playing chess after a long absence via the Chess.com app. After a few dozen games I thought I should find out where people in JAX were playing to join them. My inquiries led me to a tournament that very weekend and there I met William Bowman and Steve Lampkin. I enjoyed playing that day (won 2 of 5 rounds and a provisional rating of 1350). I then asked if I could join their club. To my suprise they told me the old Jacksonville Chess Club was no more and they were trying to keep some level of rated chess going in the area. I offered to help. We rebuilt the Jacksonville Chess Club and I'm happy to say chess is back in Northeast Florida - BIG TIME. I believe some of my learnings can translate into good things for our beloved sport and our entire state.
Professionally, I am a Sr. Operations Manager for Johnson & Johnson Vision and my team is responsible for distributing our contact lenses around the world from our manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. It is a wonderful job and has taught me so much about quality, connecting with people, leading groups, having a customer focus and the importance of delivering value added change.
It is my hope to pick up where William left off with continuing to deliver needed change to our organization. I look forward to meeting many of you and working to serve you in my new position.
Feel free to email at anytime firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or ideas you may have on growing our sport in our state.