64 Squares, 2020 Hindsight: A Message from the Executive Director

“Hindsight is 2020” is a well-known phrase that captures the clarity that comes from contemplating life.  The year 2020 gives this idiom even more poignancy as we long for all that we once took for granted. With 2020 nearly in the rearview mirror, I am reflecting on all it was and what is to be in 2021.

US Chess is a proud organization, one that celebrates its traditions, and we relish both our heritage and current world prominence in the game. The disruption in 2020 to our game has challenged every one of us in ways we never expected.

Most everyone can envision an over-the-board (OTB), face-to-face chess match. Our most visible programs center around five major OTB tournaments each year. But in 2020, we did not hold a single OTB event as we were compelled to cancel every national event because of the pandemic. This was painful in so many ways — revenue impacts, disappointed members who live to play, second guessing decisions to choose health over play, and grief over the loss of identity. The pandemic didn’t just hit us, the national organization, but our members too. Coaches, teachers, clubs, organizers, directors, and players all have been negatively impacted this year, scrambling to make the best of what they were given. In hindsight, the impacts of a major disruption caught us off guard — we never imagined that a whole year of events could be canceled.

With disruptions to life as we know it come opportunities. For US Chess, the biggest opportunity was to fully embrace online play. In addition to adding new a ratings system for longer games online, we worked to reduce cheating in online play by endorsing two online chess platforms’ fair play methodologies. This involved expert review of the methodologies and subsequent endorsement by the US Chess Executive Board. US Chess offered free online training to organizers and tournament directors to enhance their skills. We provided more opportunities for rated play and encouraged our affiliates to run their own online events. Throughout, we had many teachable (and learning) moments, and we embrace our mistakes while striving to improve and offer the best chess experience for our players. We were blessed with the release of the Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit"  putting chess in the mainstream unlike anything else in two generations.

Most of all, 2020 taught me that chess is much more than a board game. The chess community is filled with people who care about each other, their students, their opponents, and even their rivals. We saw the best of our community with member-led charity events that benefited US Chess and others. We had top players and members volunteer their time and expertise to give back to their community. We saw many creative approaches to offering new services, making the best of our what we were given. I am grateful for the support of my US Chess team, our Board, volunteers, and members who have been with us on this most unusual journey.

With the promise of vaccines and continued personal vigilance in communities across the country, we look forward to being at the board in 2021.

Carol Meyer
US Chess Executive Director

 

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