David Hater for US Chess Executive Board
There has been much written recently about appointed Executive Board members. I'm sure that this is but one part that the Governance Task Force is working on. I first heard about the idea of appointed board members several years ago. When I first heard about the idea, I was skeptical. Now I cautiously support the concept, but whether I will support the final proposal or ADM will of course depend on the details.
The reason I feel this way is because I believe that appointed board members could result in three advantages that may or may not occur with elections: 1) particular skill sets that are lacking could be recruited (i.e. CPA, attorney, perhaps even doctor); 2) appointed members could be used to give a voice to members or foundations that are benefactors of US Chess and 3) it could also be used to recruit an eminent member whose skills we desire, but who may be reluctant to run.
I was skeptical of this proposal because if this is not done correctly, there could be an opportunity for abuse. My specific concerns are: 1) the appointed members should be a minority of the board - elected member seats should be the primary mechanism; 2) seats on the board should never be "for sale" - just because someone donates $X should not be an automatic entry to the board and 3) the appointed members need to be via a process that would avoid the "good old boy" network.
I don't think I need to say to much about my first potential objection. My second objection is nuanced. While I would be totally opposed to using appointed seats as a fundraiser, I see nothing wrong with giving some of our significant benefactors a voice (not control) in how our organization runs. Finally, appointments should not be used as a way of the current board stacking the deck with allies or to use appointments as a way to get someone who lost an election a seat on the board.
I believe the current concept being discussed addresses my concerns because 1) appointed members would only be 1/3rd of the board and 2) the nominating committee would be a combination of delegate appointed members and EB appointed members and I have complete confidence that such a committee could effectively deal with concerns number 2 and 3.
Again, whether I vote for the final proposal will depend on how the final motion is structured, but I believe that members of the Governance Task Force have done a great job in developing a proposal that the delegates can debate and thoughtfully consider.
As with any proposal, there are always opportunities for refinement of the concept prior to a formal motion being advanced. For instance, one might place in the implementation that a “super majority” perhaps 2/3 of the existing EB must approve appointments. This would ensure that any appointed members have a consensus based support.
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Unfortunately, the Corona virus caused a disruption to the entire nation and the chess world was no exception. The first thing I want to say is that I believe US Chess Staff and the Executive Board have done an OUTSTANDING job dealing with this current crises. They have taken a measured, reasoned approach to this. They have walked a fine line between not getting too far in front, nor lagging behind. Let me offer some specific examples of actions they took that I fully support:
In short, US Chess did a great job in dealing with a difficult circumstance. I would like to think that if I were on the Board, I would be supporting similar steps.
The current Executive Board is also to be commended for years of financial stewardship which resulted in having a rainy day fund. Our ability to get through this current crises is significantly enhanced by knowing that we can still pay our bills!
US Chess President Allen Priest noted in a recent forum post that we need members to renew. I echo that comment. I know some players don't renew until they are getting ready to play in an event. With events currently not being held, it is inevitable that renewals will decrease and with that a corresponding drop in revenue. I would ask that if you are a member whose membership is coming up for renewal, please support YOUR national federation and send in your renewal!
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I am glad to have this opportunity to write about an issue that I care very deeply about: ethics and tournament chess. Clearly, this is a "motherhood and apple pie" issue. Of course, everybody says they are in favor of ethical standards and against cheating. My record though is I have been actively doing something about it. Since I retired, I have served on the US Chess Ethics Committee, including a year as chairman. I was recently elected to FIDE's Ethics and Disciplinary Committee for a four-year term. Not only have I served on these Committees, I have personally filed complaints when I discover wrongdoing; I put my money where my mouth is. I direct numerous tournaments and was the TD of the year in 2019. I will bring this experience with me to the EB and will do my utmost at all times to protect the integrity of the game.
Continued in Second Column
I realize that rated chess is only one part of US Chess's mission, but it has historically been a foundation upon which the Federation was built. We can and must expand into other areas which is in line with our 501(c)(3) mission, but we must never leave rated chess behind. Failing to address concerns about cheating or player bad behavior is the number one threat to rated tournaments. I have the background and have demonstrated the willingness to take action when necessary.
While the results of specific ethics cases are confidential, I can speak about general issues. A good ethics committee member (and a good EB member as the appeals authority) is able to balance the threat to the game caused by the action with the extremely important principles of due process and allowing for rehabilitation and recognizing what is an aberration of an action versus a character flaw that is unlikely to ever be corrected. I have shown that I exercise this judgment. The same type of judgment in evaluating ethics cases is a transferable skill that can be used in dealing with other complex issues.
You should elect candidates who have demonstrated maturity, good judgment, analytical abilities, an ability to balance competing interests, respect for legal principles and due process. I have demonstrated I am such a candidate and I would appreciate your vote!
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US Chess has had issues in the past with designating products or vendors as "official" or approved. I am not going to re-visit some of those decisions. I will however give some of my ideas when US Chess embarks upon these actions.
First, I believe in transparency. However, this does not mean that contract negotiations are conducted in public. Transparency involves things like a request for proposals so that all vendors have an equal opportunity to bid. Transparency also doesn’t mean that confidential business data is open to all for review. We have to trust the Executive Board. Non-disclosure agreements exist for very good reason. No vendor will want to do business with US Chess if their proprietary information is not adequately safeguarded.
When certifying equipment, it is possible to have a much greater audience provide input because we are not entering into an exclusive relationship, nor is there any proprietary business data that is likely needed to be safeguarded.
I am not sure that designating a chess piece of equipment as "official" is the right answer. "Official" could invite players to claim that their particular piece of equipment is somehow more preferred for tournament play. I am not against affinity relationships that provide US Chess a financial benefit. This is an area where more work needs to be done.
My above thoughts represent general principles. Just as in chess general principles can be violated because the tactical situation calls for that so too with these principles – they are not inviolate, but we must always have a good reason for departing from them.
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I am in favor of electronic notation devices. They make collection and publication of games more efficient. At it’s largest and most important events, Continental Chess Association makes Electronic Notation Devices available to players in the top section. This is wonderful and is done on a voluntary basis.
I also support the current rule that states that organizers do not have to allow ENDs. There is no contradiction in this position. Organizers may require use of their own scoresheets for very good reasons. Some organizers use tournament specific scoresheets that have tournament specific data on their scoresheet.
It is not up to the Executive Board to determine whether ENDs should be allowed at National Events. The Director of Events is fully capable of making that decision and the EB should give deference to US Chess employees carrying out their duties. Only when there is good reason to believe that the US Chess employees are grossly wrong (not just we would prefer a different way) should the EB inject itself in day to day operations.
One reason ENDs have become controversial is because of chess engines and cheating. Any device can be hacked. Some devices are going to have better security features than others. Before a device is certified, it is imperative that the device has to meet certain security standards. I am not a computer scientist and would rely on independent experts when arriving at these decisions.
Finally, recently there have been issues of perception. One model of END uses a re-purposed cell phone. I fully acknowledge that some of the perceptions are not reality. However, when the perceptions are interfering with the organizer’s and TDs ability to administer a tournament, they are absolutely within their rights not to allow the devices. There is no Constitutional right to use an END! It is my hope that as the devices become more common that the perception problems decrease. In general, I favor giving player’s the maximum freedom consistent with administering the event. When perceptions interfere with the orderly administration of the event, banning devices is but one action an organizer can take to effectively run the event. As a last comment, free markets work well most of the time. When the vast majority wants ENDs to be allowed, I can guarantee that MOST organizers will allow them and ones that don’t will go out of business.
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One issue that surprised me as I embarked on this campaign is the issue of the US Chess computer systems. This is a broad term encompassing such things as Member Services Area (MSA), online communication (Chess Life Online), digital content, software supporting tournament administration etc. Several US Chess members expressed their frustration at the antiquated computer systems. I wholeheartedly agree! So does the current Executive Board!
There is currently a contract valued at approximately $1 million to completely overhaul the systems. The contract is in two phases. Phase 1 involved things that we have always had – rating systems, membership MSA. It is scheduled for initial implementation in July 2020.
Phase 2 involves upgrades to our capabilities. It will involve things like tournament administration software. Phase 2 is on hold because of the economic uncertainties associated with the Corona virus. I agree with that decision.
Continued in Third Column
One of the things that US Chess suffers from is a long memory of past mistakes – some of which are decades old. I understand that. I get that there is skepticism because we have heard about these computer upgrades before. But we must give the current leaders a chance. They were not the ones who were in power when some of these past mistakes were made.
With responsibility comes accountability. If the current leaders screw this project up badly enough, you can always "vote the bums out!" If this current project becomes a white elephant, then the members are entitled to an explanation. If that explanation reveals that the leaders were grossly negligent in their duties, then they should pay the price at the next election.
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I have been a continuous US Chess member since 1981 a sustaining/Life member since the mid to late 1980s. During that time, I've seen good and bad in chess "politics" and I've seen good and bad Executive (aka Policy) Boards. The current Executive Board is very good and our current financial situation (pre-Corona virus) is among the best it has ever been.
I attribute the current good times, in part, to a cohesive Executive Board that has done well in strategic issues and for the most part stayed out of the day to day running of the office and/or operations.
Stability and strategic planning are good things. Having a multi-year plan and stating with it (there are always tweaks) is an effective technique for any organization. That is one reason why I have stated that newly elected members should not be running to turn the organization on a dime. Newly elected members should be concentrating on learning as much as possible about the detailed working of the Federation and making contributions based on their skill sets and knowledge base that they bring to the position. As their knowledge base grows, so too will their contributions. Only if the Federation were in dismal shape (which it currently is not) should there be radical measures taken by newly elected candidates.
I have stated several times that I plan to be an evolutionary rather than revolutionary candidate. In any organization, there is always room for improvements. I will embrace those and will always look for new opportunities that benefit the organization. However, if I am elected, I pledge to continue the steady upward progress of the organization, not to seek dramatic changes that may not serve the organization well. I am by no means saying we need to be stuck where we are. I am saying measured progress rather than radical changes tend to serve the organization well. Some of the past "bold initiatives" have not always worked out well. I am old enough to remember Games Parlor as but one example.
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US Chess needs to support expansion into online chess. This can be more than just casual games or even tournaments. Online chess can be a very effective way of delivering content such as lessons and lectures.
There are two very significant issues when expanding into online chess: 1) how partnerships are selected and 2) protecting the integrity of the game.
There are many ways US Chess can enter the market. In the past, they tried to do it themselves and this wound up not being very successful. If US Chess decides to partner with an existing vendor, there must be a level playing field. There are (at least) two ways to accomplish this. One way is strict neutrality and there is no preferred vendor. Another way is to enter into a preferred or even exclusive relationship with an existing platform. I am not opposed to such business relationships, but they must be done above board. Public request for proposals is absolutely essential.
In my opinion there are two types of online chess. One could call the two types supervised and unsupervised. The first type is merely using online chess to transmit the moves. This has been around for decades. We used to have a National Chess League where moves were transmitted by phone. Similarly, there have been trans-Atlantic marches where moves have been transmitted electronically. The key here is that the players at one side (team?) gather at a particular location and there is an independent tournament director. This type of online chess can affect one’s over the board rating. (though currently that is suspended due to Corona virus and social distancing concerns).
The second type is usually what most people think of - players sitting alone at their computer. Obviously, that is unsupervised. Clearly, that means some people will cheat. It seems to me that there are a few ways to deal with this issue. One way is just to say online chess is the wild west and whatever happens is OK. Another way is to treat online chess the same as OTB chess and deal with cheaters accordingly i.e. membership suspensions etc. The third is some sort of middle ground where we say you are suspected of cheating and you are banned, but you have no appeal rights and no further sanctions other than being banned are possible.
I think an argument can be made for either the second or third choices. You could also opt for the first choice, but I don't think players want that. In my opinion, we have not made a decision between options 2 or 3. By that I mean we have US Chess online ratings which seems to indicate a certain amount of formality and seriousness. However, we deal with cheaters administratively rather than have them face any "real" sanctions. It seems to me this is inconsistent. If we wish to treat these games as "serious" i.e. US Chess rated, then we need to enforce anti-cheating protections to the fullest extent which confers due process rights to the accused AND subjects them to real sanctions. Alternatively, we can decide that these games are not as "serious" and we have administrative rather than judicial ways of dealing with cheaters. If that is the decision, then the games should not be US Chess rated.
There is a hybrid option. We can decide that US Chess online ratings are not meaningful. I think that is an approach I would not favor. If we did decide to embark on this option, then I certainly think online ratings should not be published on a member's MSA page. In my opinion, when we publish a member's online rating next to the OTB rating, we confer a sense of legitimacy. If we want to do that, then we need to follow that to the logical conclusion which equates to stringent anti-cheating steps.
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