Chess Club Mystery Patron Changes Rules

09.09.11 This article, describing an anonymous donation to the Belfast Chess Club and and a puzzling proviso, appeared on the news page recently. It seems a donor offered the club $2,500 with one requirement: the club can no longer meet at the Belfast Free Library.

The Belfast Free Library

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Chess club mystery patron changes rules

Council members puzzled over an anonymous offer to foot the bill for the Belfast Chess Club, provide the club no longer meet at the Belfast Free Library.

City Manager Joe Slocum, who raised the subject, said the donor was serious about remaining anonymous and had not offered an explanation of why the gift of $2,500 was contingent upon the club being relocated. Slocum said the Game Loft had been approached and had declined to host the club and that talks were underway with the school district.

Several councilors seemed confused by the conditions of the gift, including Eric Sanders, who has children in the club. Sanders said he didn't know why the donor wouldn't want the program at the library and raised the possibility of the city putting up the money. But Councilor Mike Hurley argued that the city receives too many other requests within that price range to simply foot the bill without more discussion.

Councilor Marina Delune asked if the city could request an explanation from the donor, but Slocum said it was unlikely he would get a response. The city manager chalked it up to the donor's prerogative to dictate the terms of the offer. Other members of the Council fished for some rationale, but the answer proved elusive.

The Council asked Slocum to invite Library Director Steve Norman to the Council's next meeting in hopes of getting more information. The matter was tabled until that meeting.

Speaking on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Norman said the chess club has been underwritten by a foundation in past years. He declined to name the group and said historically the patron had not been open to solicitations.

"They call us, we don't call them," he said.

Norman said the pairing of the club and the library was somewhat unusual -- more often chess clubs are affiliated with schools -- and while the library was happy to host the club, the cancellation of the program has opened the third floor conference room for several new youth reading groups.

"So in a way, that's a more traditional library program," he said.

Speaking on Sept. 8, Slocum said there was a lot of confusion that he believes could have been avoided with better communication between the library's board of trustees and the city. The reason the city continues to be involved in a case where the donor no longer wants to use a city facility is because of the history of the chess club in the community, he said.

"I don't know who the donor is. I don't know what the donor's goals were out of the donation," he said. "Most donors have a goal."


We thought we should point out that at no time did either the Library or the Belfast Chess Club approach The Game Loft about hosting the chess club. We were quite astounded to read this!

Game Loft co-director

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