Letter from MECA President Michael Dudley

07.10.20 Maine Chess Association President Michael Dudley shares an open letter with the Maine chess community.


Dear Maine Chess Community,

Perhaps it feels hollow to talk about where chess fits into the current landscape of American life. While Maine is somewhat geographically removed from population centers and hubs of activity, the public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 affects our daily lives indisputably, and many of those changes we thought might be temporary or short-lived are instead becoming more permanent. Simultaneously, public outcries and protests in the name of racial equity and justice have brought to light an entirely different kind of virus: the persistent institutional racism that is woven deeply into our social fabric. In defense of the human condition, our collective immune systems are fighting two infections. I ponder this essential question in response to both pandemics: are we vector, are we cure, or are we both?

Running alongside these social quandaries is our place as an organization dedicated to promoting a game and its collective and competitive community. Our sphere is one typically marked by physical closeness: two competitors sitting across from one another, roughly three feet apart, touching the same pieces and clock, sharing the same air, all while engaging in the intellectual warfare of chess with several other competitors at the same time in the same room. One factor packing us further into playing halls is the sense of openness and welcome that is typical of chess in Maine. Our tournament attendance prior to COVID-19 is evidence that we are welcoming more players to the game than ever before. Tournament directors and organizers in Maine were already creative and flexible, finding new ways to deliver a positive chess experience to a growing population of players. When I travel to other venues to talk to chess leaders, I confidently sing the praises of the work we do to promote chess in Maine. I believe we run the best chess events in the country, full stop, and that we will persist in that work together.

Our health and social environments, and the adaptations our chess community has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, will intersect in the coming months as the first in-person chess events are run in Brewer and Bangor on July 11 and July 18, respectively. For the first time in almost four months, tournament play over the board will resume, and undoubtedly, it will not look the same as it did months ago. These two tournaments, and the collective wisdom quickly building from our online chess events, will inform how we administer chess events in the future.

In addition, it is worth pointing out that it is not just tournament competition that has built our collective knowledge. I have been president of the Maine Chess Association for a little over two years now, and in that time, I have seen our community's collective strength grow with help from a diverse group in an array of unique events. MECA Secretary Wyatt Hendrix's lectures online have brought chess learning to those with a laptop and an internet connection. 2017 US Women's Champion Sabina Foisor has made the journey to Maine twice to offer her expertise and brilliance to Maine's female players, and to celebrate the christening of a new event in honor of Kathy Richards, one of Maine's greatest chess coaches and players. Last year, NM Majur Juac and Russ Marofsky offered their help and insight to bring chess to kids in Portland, many of whom are children of color whose families have emigrated to Maine. NM Juac stayed to deliver chess instruction in Bangor, and a unique perspective to a small group of players at the Bradley Open in Connecticut. Later this year, Senior Tournament Director and FIDE National Arbiter Nita Patel will direct our State Championship as it opens to players from other states. Our chess community is stronger for welcoming these folks into the fold and learning from them.

With that in mind, we will slowly and cautiously open our playing halls again. I hope to see you at either one or both of July's tournaments. As President, I am making a pledge to the chess community on the two fronts I mentioned at the beginning of this letter; I hope you'll join me.

In regard to the public health crisis posed to us by COVID-19, I am urging all competitors and tournament organizers to take action as recommended by the federal and Maine Centers for Disease Control. Please stay home if you are sick or exhibiting any symptoms of illness, particularly upper respiratory illness. Please wear a face covering at all times while present at tournaments, and practice social distancing when not at the board. Please help TDs and organizers maintain sanitation by cleaning equipment and practicing hand hygiene. Please remember that these measures protect others from the harm that exists around us. As a tournament director and organizer, I pledge that I will take these measures seriously and enforce them without equivocation or exception at my events. As a competitor, I pledge that I will adhere to them without prompting to the best of my ability.

In regard to striving for human justice and equity, I am urging all competitors and tournament organizers to do the work of creating and maintaining an inclusive and sensitive environment for all. Encourage participation in the spirit of goodwill and enjoyment. Project respect to all competitors, tournament staff, and volunteers. Be conscious of the language you use and the behaviors you exhibit, and how it might affect those of different backgrounds than yours. Actively consider the points of view of those with whom you share the space. Share airtime, and yield to others who might not normally have the privilege of voice. As a tournament director and organizer, I pledge that I will make my events a space welcoming to folks of all identities and backgrounds and that I will use my privilege and power to make space for others who do not have it. As a competitor, I will support directors and organizers in doing the same.

Chess is for all, and I'm convinced we can do better than ever. I am committed to making our chess community better for everyone in any way I can. With that said, let's get back to playing. Wipe down your sets and your clocks. Get ready to meet new people and welcome them. I hope to see all of you over the board, or online, wherever it is you come from.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Dudley
Maine Chess Association


This community is lucky to have someone to lead us through this crisis! In tough times people and communities look towards leaders for guidance and I'm glad the Maine chess community has the dedicated leadership of Mike!

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