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.