Leila A D'Aquin's candidate statements also appear in the Chess Life issues under which they are listed below.
I’m a trial and appellate lawyer who first became involved in US Chess as a chess mom. After attending numerous national scholastics and two U.S. Opens, I became Louisiana’s delegate in 2013. I’ve served on the Women’s, Senior, Program, and Bylaws committees and the Governance Task Force. After presenting the idea to then-President Ruth Haring, I worked with the Women’s Committee to establish Girls Clubs at scholastic nationals.
In Louisiana, I’ve served as vice president and president of the LCA; currently I’m the secretary-treasurer. I’ve organized and directed numerous tournaments and launched chess programs in several schools, helping three apply to the Title 1 Outreach Program.
I’m running for the Executive Board to continue serving the chess community. I hope to see the organization continue to support tournament players and chess professionals while expanding its mission to build community and enhance the lives of senior citizens, youth, and underserved populations.
The coincidence of the pandemic and the release of “The Queen’s Gambit” resulted in a chess boom in the United States not seen since the Fischer era. Long-time players, unable to meet for over-the-board games at local clubs, turned to online play. Locked into their homes with their children, who were attending school virtually and prohibited from contact with classmates and friends, parents taught the beautiful game to their kids and found their families had a new shared interest that lasted well beyond the days of lockdowns and social distancing. Organizers of events that had traditionally been held OTB at hotels and convention centers looked for creative ways to present those events online. And new virtual tournaments in which individuals and teams from around the world competed against one another were organized.
Under the leadership of then-president Mike Hoffpauir, US Chess hammered out rules and guidelines for organizing and rating online play. Post-pandemic, US Chess began rebuilding its OTB events while also looking toward a future that would incorporate expanded virtual play and serve ever-increasing numbers of scholastic players, tournament competitors, and casual players in communities nationwide.
Recently, the growing interest in our game has taken US Chess membership past the 100,000 mark for the first time. The leadership of our organization must now address how it can best serve its members and fulfill its non-profit mission to empower people, enrich lives, and enhance communities through chess. This means supporting professional players, working with organizers to increase opportunities for tournament play, and partnering with state affiliates, corporate sponsors, schools, senior centers, hospitals, and other non-profits to bring the educational and cognitive benefits, the community-building, and the just plain fun of the best game in history to people throughout the country.
The role of US Chess has expanded. We must embrace that broader role. We must look to protecting and improving the image of our sport by providing opportunities for under-represented groups to enjoy the game and by working proactively to ensure safe playing and learning conditions. We must implement measures to prevent cheating, unfairness, or inappropriate conduct, and to ensure due process and prompt attention whenever wrongdoing is suspected.
It is with that future in mind, and with the belief that my professional experience as an attorney representing businesses and organizations in litigation and negotiations along with my background as a long-time US Chess delegate, committee member, and chess mom has prepared me for the job, that I seek to join the Executive Board and ask for your support.
Last month, I mentioned the expanding role of US Chess and the educational mission of our 501(c)(3) charter. I write my June statement while awaiting the arrival of young players in the Girls Club room at Middle School Nationals in Round Rock (TX). The setting is inspiring and informative as I try to explain why, in a field of good candidates, I’m the right choice.
My involvement in chess began as a chess mom. Though I didn’t have a daughter playing, I recognized the challenges faced by parents helping girls navigate the world of scholastic chess. I joined the Women’s Committee in 2016 to help found the Girls Club and managed the first one at High School Nationals that year. Since then, I’ve volunteered in most of the more than two dozen clubs, arranging demonstrations by titled women players, town hall meetings to share ideas, and opportunities for girls from around the country to connect.
My travels to scholastics are but one example of how showing up to do the work has been the hallmark of my participation as a delegate, committee member, and volunteer. I’m not in the chess business — I’ve been an attorney for 34 years. I’m part of the chess community because I love the game and see its educational and social value to tournament players as well as casual ones. I’ve organized almost 200 rated events and directed more than 700 sections, with all proceeds going to purchase equipment for schools, benefit the Louisiana Chess Association, or to a non-chess charity such as the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve organized small camps and group lessons locally. Nationally, I've put in work on the Governance Task Force and the Bylaws, Senior, and Programs committees.
I believe community chess is important and recognize that by growing community chess programs, we also develop future tournament players and US Chess members. The perspective I’ll bring to the EB is that of a seasoned attorney, local TD, chess mom, business person, tournament player, long-time chess volunteer, and promoter of opportunities for youth and older adults. The Nominations Committee’s recommendation reflects its conclusion that my experience, ideas, and work ethic will strengthen the board and its ability to serve the members and the mission of US Chess.
The job of leadership is to bring members together, involve more of them in the work of the Federation, and facilitate the sharing of ideas. That’s the job I hope you’ll elect me to do.