Bryan Tillis has been on the FCA board since 2017. He has been FCA President since September 2022. He was appointed by the Board of Directors at the 2022 Annual Meeting in Palm Beach Gardens. He continues the great work of his predecessor Kevin Pryor leading our state board at building the FCA into the best State Chapter in the United States Chess Federation. He is also a well-known author on Chessable and provides content to his students on YouTube. Although he lived most of his life in Alabama he has set firm roots in Florida re-starting the Palm Beach Chess Club. He is a FIDE Trainer, and recognized chess coach. He is a FIDE National Arbiter and Senior tournament director, certified chess coach and National Chess Master.
2022 SUMMER Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
This will be my final message as the current FCA President. We have come through what is likely one of the most difficult times in chess history and I am thankful that I was at the helm to support our state’s recovery. We are now in very exciting times as we are experiencing a chess boom on so many fronts, OTB, online gaming, coaching, school clubs, endless videos, training programs and more. Just in Florida, we have had 4 new US Chess affiliates (61) and there are so many meet-up gatherings that I cannot keep up.
During my five years, we have elevated Florida to a level of nationally recognized importance. Today, more Floridians serve on US Chess committees than before and even I was elected the Executive Board last year. We currently have 500 FCA members versus 150 in 2018 and rank 4th in the nation for US Chess memberships. Our strong overall numbers allowed Florida to have 6 delegates attend the national conference in 2019. In a great reversal, our finances are in surplus over the operating budget and we have excellent fiduciary controls in place.
Concerning leadership succession, we have continued to find and elect members who work for all chess players in our state, not just their own chessdoms. As a board, we increased the number of championship events for the first time in our near 80 year history. Our board continues to financially support our best players in order to send full delegations to National Tournament of Champion events during the US Open. Furthermore, we have a website that serves as a membership database, communication portal with an election polling function. This alone streamlined so many functions that were very tedious for an organization as large as ours.
As for me, I can tell you that I do not intend to go quietly into the night, but will keep working for chess at local, state, national and International levels. Closer to home, I hope to continue to focus on developing Florida's Northwest and Panhandle region like I did for the Northeast. I truly care about the growth in Tallahassee, Pensacola and Panama City areas. Even my new hometown of Gainesville, which has an incredible level of scholastic chess players is sorely lacking a unifying presence for tournaments and broader chess culture. I hope to make a difference there while still helping where needed within the rest of the state. Also, as a US Chess Executive Board member, I will continue to recommend Floridians for service on boards, task teams and committees.
Finally, our board has continued to develop good people who are willing to subordinate their personal chess interests for the greater good of our state. I am confident in the leadership you are about to see with the upcoming change. I am sure you have seen the rise in functional activity from the board with most of them writing articles for our magazine, being TD’s at championship events, and interacting with clubs and players regionally. Some have even become streamers and YouTube content creators. It is also no coincidence that several younger aged board members and women have been recruited too. Overall, I believe our board members are some of the best at what they do in the country. I thank them all for their service. Now, I also want to thank all the people of our state for embracing, helping, encouraging and support me during my time as President of the Florida Chess Association. Our state is lucky to have such a wonderful group of players, parents, Chess Doers and enthusiasts.
See you OVER THE BOARD soon,
2022 SPRING Update
Dear members and friends,
I’m excited as this year we will host our entire slate of five state championship events OTB (over the board). In the rearview is the Scholastic Championship that was one of the best attended in years at 405 players. My role was to organize it and support the registration process, but I was not able to attend due to a conflict with a US Chess appearance. However, a big thanks to Bryan Tillis who filled in for me onsite, Jon Haskel, Chief TD and several FCA board members for staffing the event. We will return to the same location in 2023 on March 10th to 12th. The return of school chess programs will help drive increased attendance next year.
This year we’ve seen an uptick in new OTB chess clubs around the state. Most are casual meet-up groups at local coffee shops and on a college campus using a discord server to play and chat at the same time. Even I have started a meet-up for veterans in Gainesville, most of whom have some level of disability, yet come out to either learn or play the game. In addition, there has been a surge in clubs offering rated play all around the state too. At present, Florida has 58 US Chess Affiliate clubs making it 4th in the country behind TX(101), CA(85) and NY(68), but chess is growing every where.
Here in Florida the F.C.A. will continue to deliver more OTB Championships than ever before in our 83 year history. The Florida Senior Championship (The Villages), Lerman State Championship (Palm Beach) and the first Florida Women’s Championship near the 4th quarter. We are also hosting a Florida K-12 Girls Closed Championship on May 28th to determine our state representative for the National Tournament of Champions in St. Petersburg. Several other positions have been filled from the Champion sections at the State Scholastic. They are on the cover of this edition.
With regard to the state magazine, I am very pleased with the transition from Harvey Lerman’s +25 years of editorship to George Foote. He has brought a fresh new look to the cover while keeping what our readers want to see while adding some of his own flavor to the publication.
I’ll happily close this address by stating the obvious, Chess. Is. Back! I hope you all put down the phone or tablet and get out there and play some OTB. It is the richest chess experience available and is available almost everywhere around our wonderful state.
See you over the board soon,
2022 WINTER Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
First off, I need to remind scholastic players of the March 11-13th State Scholastic Championship in Orlando Wyndham Resort on International Drive. Pre-Covid, we drew 350, hoping for a similar turnout next month.
As I have done for the last 18 months, I’ve continued to track chess activity in our state and want to make it official OTB CHESS IS BACK! How do I know? Here’s what the numbers say in US Chess Rated events.
This story's untold part is that post-COVID events often have significantly elevated participation rates. I played in 36 events in 2021 and saw the enthusiasm around the state. I want to thank the organizers for making events available and the players & parents for the turnout.
In this edition, you will see our official announcement for Board Candidate nominations for our next election later this Summer. You can nominate anyone, but all must be vetted based upon our Bylaws to stand for election by voting members of the FCA. Bylaws dictate who can run and who can vote. They are posted for all to see at https://floridachess.org/By-Laws.
What are the qualities of influential board members? People who have demonstrated a strong bias toward supporting chess locally, statewide, or nationally. Chess-playing ability is not a requirement compared to people who are willing to sacrifice by investing their time, talent & treasure to grow chess statewide away from the chessboard. They also have to be able to put Florida's needs above personal chess endeavors (play or business/financial) to support the delivery of state programs and initiatives.
Finally, I am looking forward to our 2022 OTB tournament editions, both the Women’s and Senior Championship and the next installment of the Harvey Lerman State Championship.
Here’s to 2022 being our best chess year ever!
See you OVER THE BOARD soon,
2021 AUTUMN Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
For the last 20 months or so, I’ve worked to keep my finger on the pulse of chess in Florida throughout the pandemic. At one point all chess had stopped with only Chess Club Bobby Fischer in Miami providing signs of life, but now we can say without a doubt, OTB Chess is back…and big! There have been record numbers of participants for annual events that have returned. Our own Florida State Championship is recorded on US Chess at 244 players, a new record. A few months earlier the Southern Open had a record-breaking 359 players. Other local events are also seeing a swell in activity. Players who had not played OTB in years have decided to come back to the game along with a new crop of online-only players. This new wave of chess enthusiasts who have been wanting to try out OTB has helped to increase tournament participants. We needed this.
On the administrative side of chess, we conducted the annual Board Member election and two first-timers were elected, Ray Ratliff of Jacksonville and Anthony Cipollina of Daytona. Daaim Shabazz of Tallahassee returned after a short season away from the board while Tim Staley, Bryan Tillis and myself were reelected. I would like to also recognize Matt Kolcz and longtime Board Member, Steve Lampkin for their service. Steve, in particular, served on the board for over a decade before deciding not to seek another term. He would have easily won had he decided otherwise. Our new board is already at work on delivering value added service to chess players in our state. We also transitioned this issue of the floridaCHESS magazine from me (after Harvey retired with 28 years as Editor) to George Foote. This is George’s first issue and we look forward to continued excellence in chess publication while passing the Editorial baton.
The grand plan for our board is to ensure we conduct the four OTB events as we originally planned in 2020. Our four events are the Lerman Florida State Championship, Florida Senior Championship, Florida Women’s Championship and Scholastic Championship. The scholastic event is already booked for March 11-13 at the Wyndham International Resort in Orlando. We are working on setting dates and locations for the other two. The 2022 State Championship is set for September 3-5 at the DoubleTree in Palm Beach Gardens.
Finally, I was elected to the US Chess Executive Board and I thank the chess players of Florida for helping me place second with over 1,000 votes. I plan to continue to serve Florida Chess either directly or indirectly for the foreseeable future. I would not be there without you and will not forget who helped to put me there.
Please continue to stay safe.
See you over the board,
2021 SPRING Update
Winter has turned to Spring, and more than flowers have started to bloom as OTB chess events are growing too. Last year there were seventy-four (74) OTB events in the seven months after Florida's comparatively brief lockdown. So far, in the four months of 2021, there have been eighty (80) OTB events in our state, with new locations of Fernandina Beach, Lakeland, Gainesville and Pinecrest added to the cities mentioned in my last address. How many players are going? There have been five OTB events with 40 or more players, and with the mass vaccination efforts allowing most adults to get shots within a day or two, expect those numbers to soar. OTB chess is also springing to life on the national scene, with Continental Chess Association announcing OTB events around the country and the National Open in Las Vegas is on and expected to draw over 300 players. US Chess, however, remains optimistic about the back third of the year for OTB chess, but they canceled more events planned for the early Summer.
As the authorized state affiliate for US Chess, we must identify our state representative for the five national tournaments that require one person from each state, whether online or OTB. As the board of directors, we have continued to push forward with championship events online. Thanks to the efforts of NM Bryan Tillis for organizing those events on LiChess. We have held online events for three of those with just two remaining, the senior (50 y.o.+) and girls (K-12). Still, we are planning to hold our Florida Senior Championship OTB as most seniors who desire the vaccination have received it by now. Therefore, look for more information about us partnering with our FCA affiliate, The Villages Chess Club, in July for the senior event. In addition to the Senior event, we will run our state championship this Labor Day weekend OTB as is our tradition. We hope that our state continues to rebound from the worst year in our lifetimes.
Finally, I was identified by a nominations committee looking for candidates to run for the Executive Board of US Chess and have launched my campaign. I have worked to represent Florida, and the effort has gained national attention. I thank the people of Florida and our board of directors for our collective success over my three years as President. If you are interested in more information about my campaign, see my US Chess candidate website at kp4eb.org.
Stay safe. Take available precautions. Embrace the new normal and go play some chess.
Here's to seeing each of you over the board again in 2021,
2021 WINTER Update
Dear Members and Friends,
We initially thought it would be gone by now. We’d be back to playing in huge ballrooms, meeting spaces, coffee shops, chess houses, or even our own homes now. COVID-19 continues to dominate almost every aspect of everyday life. The virus has shown itself to be entirely indiscriminate as to whom it spreads, and even worse, which lives it claims. Worldwide the numbers are approaching 100 million infected with 2 million lost. In the U.S., we lead the world with 25 million cases and 430,000 lives lost. Florida is 3rd in cases with 1.6 million, and 25,000 have perished, with the highest concentration in our southern Atlantic coastal cities. Distance when gathering continues to be the watchword around the world. Many fear gathering with strangers and with family until recently announced vaccines can be administered. It is a very challenging time, indeed.
As a result, the U.S. Chess Federation continues to cancel large national in-person events to prevent the opportunity for “super spreader” gatherings. Our national organization has continued investment toward online play, including a recently developed online rating addition to each member’s page. We also have made our debut in online rated games with our first state championship event, Florida State Blitz Championship. This event would have been a side event during the state championship weekend, but it drew 61 players in our first online competition. The effort was championed by board-member, Bryan Tillis, of F.C.A affiliate Palm Beach Chess. We have plans to continue to expand our online championship tournament portfolio in 2021 as we can no longer wait out the virus. As it stands now, we lost a year of activity, and we all need to bring some normalcy back, and playing chess is a part of that normal state.
HOWEVER, some people/clubs are working to bring OTB back with limited gatherings and finding options like outdoor events. In our state, new clubs like the Volusia County Chess Club, Cheesy Chess Club, and Chess At The Park have sprung up, and people (masked or not) are coming out to enjoy playing OTB after almost a solid year pause. A look at statewide activity shows there have been 74 rated events in Florida after the total shutdown of rated chess from mid-February to May 1st. Although that list consists of online & OTB, the leading OTB cities are Miami, Tampa, St. Pete, and Jacksonville.
Our board has discussed our next move concerning the March placeholder for the scholastic championship. The consensus among board-members is not to hold the event as the virus continues to drive more cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, which means more online state championship events for the majority of the calendar year.
As a board, we continue to look for people who are ready to use their talents and resources to help fulfill the F.C.A mission. In a move to support board activity transparency, we recently opened access to our Legislative Action webpage to allow members to see how each board member has voted on issues over the last three years. Also, we recently backfilled our only open position, Northwest/Panhandle Region Vice President, with Colby Ferraro, who lives in the Tallahassee area, but has ties to Pensacola as well. We will support him in building a team that helps the F.C.A. better connect in a long-neglected section of our state. Colby is currently developing a team with representatives from Gainesville, Tallahassee, Panama City, and Pensacola. Other board members have taken on roles to expand the chess media footprint with endeavors like the Florida Chess Live stream. I continue to be thankful for such a responsive and engaged chess volunteer team during this challenging time. We will get through this - together.
Yours In Service,
2020 FALL Update
Dear Members and Friends,
COVID times continue with 40 million infected world-wide, 8 million in the U.S. and 200K American lives lost. In Florida, 750K have contracted the virus with 16K deaths labelled as COVID related. Over the board chess has all but vanished as the world tries to adhere to infectious disease experts encouraging and governments mandating everyone to maintain a 6-foot personal bubble to slow the spread or wear face masks. It is a strange time seen last around the turn of the 20th century with the Spanish Flu. Since my last message the entire world shutdown and people were told to stay indoors. Businesses closed, churches closed, parks closed, sports stopped and the people identified as “essential workers” have become the new heroes around the world. It has been strange to say the least.
Our beloved game and all the over the board meet-ups, tournaments, training, conventions, championships also shutdown. This drove all of us to make the sideline activity of online chess and training to be the only way to stay home and get in a game. As a result, online chess has exploded with sources like chess.com, Twitch, Chess24, LiChess, ICC, YouTube and podcasts boom. Streaming video feeds have become million dollar businesses for favorites like Nakamura and others who we never heard of before. Even tournament juggernaut, the Continental Chess Association was forced to hold online tournaments. Also, anti-cheating detection programmers are in demand and their programs are crunching miles of pgn game data to catch cheaters in post-tournament analytics. Social media is buzzing with chess content like never before. Our adaptation to this new normal has come without instructions, but the nimble have found a way.
In our state, however, we have been mostly quiet without over the board activity. It stopped our scheduled Women/Girl’s & Senior State Championships. People who rely upon in-person chess training and events for income have not been able to meet as state and municipal governments would not allow groups to meet or hotels to book gatherings over a handful of people. I last reported one of the final events was the Corona Open in Clearwater back in mid-March. There were ZERO rated events in Florida in April. Some signs of life in May with two held online by Palm Beach Chess. Since then there have been 21 rated events at the new FCA Miami area affiliate, Chess Club Bobby Fischer, leading the way with 15 in-person events with all players wearing masks. In Tampa, F.C.A. affiliate, Alton Academy 4 Chess, has also begun to hold OTB rated events and training for children. In other words, OTB is crawling back to life, but the risk of infection continues to impact its rise.
Within the Association, our F.C.A. board member election cycle is complete and we are working to support both online chess, new media options and the return to OTB chess. In fact, we have already reserved the Wyndham in Orlando for the State Scholastic Championship in March. US Chess has also scheduled the National Grades Championship in Orlando this December. FIDE has also begun promote championship events in early 2021. We hope and pray for the return of normalcy.
See you over the board soon, I hope,
2020 Spring Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
This year started off with the promise of new events and a board committed to achieving goals that make chess better for everyone in our state. I took on the responsibility to organize our largest annual event, the state scholastic championship, and we were well on our way to doing all we promised including a Women’s and Senior State Championship before mid-year.
Then a tiny thing became the big thing that took over the world - the Novel Corona Virus. A new germ that captured the attention of everyone and has shut down national economies, stopped all spectator sports with the threat of overwhelming healthcare systems everywhere. At the time of my writing it has infected over 50 million people and has claimed over 1,250,000 lives worldwide. Over The Board chess has been impacted and is evident by looking at the number of rated events in our state in 2020: January 38 events, February 46 events and March only 13 events as of the 15th of the month. The last event was on the 15th and it was titled The Corona Open by the Clearwater Chess Club. At this point, there will likely be no rated events in Florida until May or June as “Social Distancing” and “Stay at Home” have become statewide mandates to slow the spread of the virus. They also have limited gatherings in some states to 10 or fewer while forcing many “non-essential” businesses to close.
We did, however continue with and held the Scholastic Championship on the 1st weekend of March and it drew 349 players, but about 10% of that number of players withdrew and an untold number of them stayed away as the count of infected people in Florida grew to around 10 total. Extra precautions were required and ample amounts of hand sanitizer with a new focus on washing hands more often and for at least 20 seconds were new features. Also, fist bumps or nodding in recognition replaced shaking hands before and after games. Players were allowed to wear germ masks and gloves if they wished, but few did after the first round. At that point, things seemed to feel normal. The event was flawlessly run by FCA Board members and our thanks to Jon Haskel for being the Chief TD. We also thank every player and parent who made the decision to come and we completely respect the choice of those who did not.
At this time, the virus is now a world-wide pandemic affecting over 150 countries and US Chess has canceled all of the Spring Scholastic National events as well as every event through mid-June. I’m sure they are hoping to bring OTB events back online before the US OPEN. In Florida, we had to cancel our Women/Girl’s Championship that was slated for the next weekend after the scholastic championship. Yes, within a week things got worse as the number of infected and deaths began to rise. We hope to reschedule the Women’s event. As it stands, we have a tentative date for the Senior State Championship in May, but that may be in jeopardy too.
Our hope turns to the 2020 Florida State Championship this coming Labor Day weekend. We hope the world is back to spinning on its axis and chess players feel safe to be in a room with hundreds of people by then. I really hope we are back to normal for this event as the FCA Board has voted to change the name of this year’s event from the Arnold Denker to the Harvey Lerman Florida State Championship in honor of one of the most respected and beloved chess servants in our state. Harvey has done so much for chess that it only seems fair that chess does a little something for him. Congratulations Harvey! The honor is well deserved.
I will close with the words that characterized our time.
Stay safe. Be well.,
2020 Winter Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
Happy New Year 2020! A new year brings new hopes and opportunities for all. In addition to important life decisions and goals, there are tournaments to prepare for and a desire for a targeted increase in our coveted individual US Chess Ratings. Coming to the game competitively in my late 50’s, my target has been a modest 1500 rating. However, I’ve found an appreciation for doing the work required to help others pursue their goals just as enticing as playing. Yet, like you, I plan to play in a few events this year and I desire to study to get better at the game we all love. I want to better myself over the board, but making the time to play/study chess is often sacrificed in pursuit of “doing chess.” Former Indiana basketball coach, Bobby Knight, once said “The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win.”
The same is true with the will of our volunteer board of chess doers to help the Florida Chess Association become one of the best state affiliates in the US Chess Federation. Winning as a chess doer means your preparation to win as an organization is not going to help your rating, but the collective ratings in your state probably will rise. As board members, we have to prepare ourselves to meet the current and future needs of the chess community by planning, leading and organizing activity within our state to grow the game and the grow the players.
In this edition I have provided a look back at plans delivered and new strategic initiatives for the new year. This is where your board has to make sure we are winning with all you have entrusted to us. For example, we have evolved in the way we structure our work on the board by identifying the operational activities that keeps the organization running day-to-day, clarifying the relationship activities to be carried out by the Regional Vice-Presidents and At-Large Directors. Our focus for 2020 is in bringing value-added change through the things we are charged to do as leaders. Of course, we still have do the legislative work to ensure we are aligned with our charter, ByLaws, mission and other requirements of a recognized state affiliate with US Chess.
A new year brings new opportunities and we look forward to connecting, listening, working and growing with you as we serve the Florida chess community. As for our ratings well, we’ll work on that in our “spare” time. Thank you for allowing us to serve.
Here’s to a great 2020!
See you over the board,
2019 Autumn Update
Dear FCA members and friends,
The Denker State Championship marks the completion of our annual chess cycle and my first as President. We have to thank everyone who registered with plans to attend - TWICE! The threat of hurricane force winds required us to postpone and reset a few weeks later. KUDOS!, to fellow board member and event organizer Bryan Tillis for double duty on this event. It was great and everything from the rapid refunding of initial entry fees to the final award presentation went smoothly.
We also completed our annual board election. Forty e-ballots were submitted this year. This is a 27% participation rate and a 30% increase over last year This year we added an Elections HQ section to the website for you see the new expanded questionnaire submitted by each candidate. We hope it helped you decide the best candidate. As a result of the election, I would like to warmly welcome Tim Staley to the Board of Directors. Tim is a well-known fixture on the Florida tournament circuit and plays in as many as he is able. Tim is from Gainesville and will be the Northwest Regional V.P. This is the territory from Gainesville rounding the Big Bend to Tallahassee and continuing along the entire Panhandle area west of Live Oak. With the exception of Gainesville, it is the region with the greatest opportunity. We know there is chess out there, we will count on Tim to help us connect to it. Welcome Tim.
I would also like to thank George Foote for his time as an Interim member of the board. George is an icon in the Northeast and is that region’s “Dean of Scholastic Chess” with having taught a generation of players and organizing the marquee scholastic championship for over 20 years. Thank you. George will continue to support Florida as the new Outreach Committee Chair.
With our newly elected board, we also have new initiatives for the 2019-2020 FCA year. First is to correct our failure – not having two new championship events: This year we will crown a Senior Champion and a Women/Girls State Champion in over the board competition. We missed on both last year, but this year we have appointed an Event Committee co-led by Bryan Tillis and William Bowman to make sure this happens. We also were awarded money from a Rex Sinquefield funded grant via US Chess in support of women’s initiatives to help us put on the event.
Other initiatives for this year are: hit new financial and membership targets, clarify board member roles, clearly define the value proposition for members and establish an outreach program to energize underserved groups and areas of our state.
In keeping with my learning the “rhythm to the chess year” theme from the last edition, September is also the time where the chess community looks back over the year to recognize achievement. US Chess hosts their annual awards banquet at the US Open and this year several Floridians were recognized. Jon Haskel (Organizer of the Year) and Peter Dyson (Special Services Award). School/Players named were: K-5 Champion - Williams Elementary (GNV), Kindergarten Champion - The Oak Hall School (GNV), 4th Grade Champions - Williams Elementary, 4th Grade Champion - Erick Zhao, and the 8th Grade Co-Champion - Raghav Venkat
Finally, the Chess Journalists of America recognized our floridaCHESS publication for Steve Vigil’s article on the 2018 Central Florida Chess Championship and our newsletter editor, Harvey Lerman, won the Special Achievement Award for 25 years of service as floridaCHESS Editor for our state and the chess community beyond our boundaries. Congratulations to all.
Hope to see you over the board soon,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
My promise to the board: I appreciation for the faith the board has shown towards me, I promised to them, and now I extend it to all of you, that I will work hard to make the F.C.A. on of the premier state affiliates in our country by setting the habit of doing at least 1 task a day for the F.C.A. As manager, I know that what gets measured gets done and I will begin a journal of activities, goals and objectives to serve as evidence of keeping my word.
Feel free to email at anytime email@example.com with questions or ideas you may have on growing our sport in our state.