In spring of 2009 I was talking with local TD Steve Dillard at his Monday night tournament at the dining area of Meijers, a big box store. A woman walked up asking Steve is he could reccommend a chess teacher for her son, Michael. Steve pointed at me, I introduced myself, and have been giving her son, nine at the time, weekly lessons since then. Her name is Luba and she is from Azerbaijan, home country of former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. Because of the rich chess culture there, Luba wanted her son to be introduced to the game.
I learned Michael was home schooled. Steve mentioned it was obvious the boy had "severe psychological problems." How he could know that and why he would say it after such a short time around the young fellow was beyond my comprehension. I figured that, since Steve is a teacher and has spent much time interacting intimately with young boys, he must have some basis for the remark. Later I did mention to Steve that Michael was the most difficult student with whom I had ever worked. He said it would be best if I stopped teaching the youngster. I like a challenge, and Steve telling me that only firmed my resolve to continue the lessons. Anyone can teach the good students; it is much harder to try and reach the difficult ones.
One of the biggest problems I encountered with Michael was that he needed to play. Being home schooled and not in an after school program made it difficult for him to find partners with whom to play. Luba took him to a tournament directed by John Simmons of the company Chess Performance (www.chessperformance.com), but there were only a few players and they stopped going. Luba then took Michael to the Monday night tournament at Meijers in order for him to play other children. Since he was not ready for tournament chess, Luba wanted him to play 'skittles', not rated games. Unfortunately, most everyone there is there to play rated games! Michael would, therefore, play between rounds, but then the pairings would be announced and that was the end of the game.
This fall Luba informed me that Michael had received a magazine from the USCF. She asked me if I had purchased a membership for her son. I told her I would never do such a thing without consulting with her first. It was around this time I severely injured my back. Although I only missed one lesson, I will admit that the pain had a deleterious affect on me. Around this time Luba began to tell me about Michael playing on Monday nights. I must have missed the fact that he had actually begun to participate in the RATED tournaments. At one of our lessons he informed me he had a rating, and I asked how that was possible? Then I realized Steve must have been the one responsible for Michael becoming a USCF member. Being his teacher, I naturally asked to see his game scores. He did not have any game scores because he had not taken notation! I told them that the best way to learn was to go over the games he had played, learning from the mistakes. I strongly urged them to take notation, telling them that keeping score is not only a USCF rule, but a rule everywhere in the world, except Louisville, Kentucky! I was aware that keeping score in a USCF rated game was not mandatory here because I once informed an opponent that he must keep score and was accused of 'gamesmanship', if not outright cheating, because I had done so. I decided to leave the chess community here to their ways, although I would attend the Thursday night chess meeting at Highland Coffee. Dillard then decided to run another tournament on Thursday evenings and the turnout dwindled to zero several times I stopped by, so I stopped going. In 2009 the so called 'rule' here was that, if you deducted five minutes from your clock you did not have to keep score. That is not in the USCF rulebook, but hey, Steve Dillard marches to a different drummer, I suppose you could say.
One of the problems here is that there is nothing like the Ironman Chess Club in Decatur, Ga. It is hosted by the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear the first and third Tuesday of the month. It is from six until nine officially and, although there are adults who attend, it is mostly a place for the children to play chess. There are no rated games, no entry fees and few clocks. Parents bring their children to the church and they 'network', read or work, while keeping tabs on theiir children. Louisville desperately needed something like that then and probably needs it now. Matter of fact, EVERY community without something like that needs it for chess to thrive and grow.
Michael can write the moves because I taught him to do just that. After much prodding he finally brought in a very short game he had won. When asked about the other two games he told me he had not written them down. I asked why he had not and he answered "It slows me down." So I asked if he had used a clock and he said he had not! I managed to elicit from him that his opponents did not write down the moves and so he did not want to do so. I told him the story of the time I happened to be at a bookstore on a chess night. I was challenged to a game by a strong player and accepted the offer. I got out paper and pen and he asked, "What's that? You gonna keep score?" I told him that if I told my students to keep score how could I not? "Wow. That makes it a REAL GAME!"
This was, naturally, lost on Michael. I mentioned to them that the TD was responsible for seeing that players adhered to the rules, but that, for some reason, Steve Dillard did not. "Steve was not the TD," I heard. "It was John Simmons." I shook my head, thinking that it's not just Steve Dillard who ignores the rules, but his acolytes too.
I believe the rule says one does not have to keep score if one cannot keep score. My student is fully capable of keeping notation, as are most of his opponents, as they play almost every week. Go the www.uschess.org and click on Players & Ratings, then Player/Rating Lookup and type in Suslikov. Michael is the only Suslikov. Or you can type in his USCF ID number, 14476305. You will see that his first tournament was in August and that he has played in a dozen tournaments. Certainly he should be writing down each and every one of his games by now.
While still a USCF member I wrote to Ex Director Bill Hall, lodging a formal complaint about the fact that Steve Dillard refused to enforce the rule, but heard nothing from USCF. Steve Dillard is the 'big dog' in these parts. He has been an organizer and TD for decades. I have been told by others active in the chess community here that everyone involved with running things are the generation that has come after Mr Dillard. From my experience there is usually one person in each chess community who sets the tone. For example, in Western North Carolina that person would be NM Neal Harris, former President of the North Carolina Chess Assoc. I do not have to tell you that the rules are followed in the mountains of NC.
Michael did not like it when I told him I had looked him up on the USCF site and saw he had lost all three games in his last tournament. He does not wish to have a rating and does not want his information to be found online. He has asked me to write to USCF asking that he be removed from their files. He became upset upon learning that there is now nothing to be done.
This is a difficult situation for me, his teacher. On the one hand I'm told he has never paid an entry or membership fee, but he did actually win three dollars at one tournament. He is, at the age of ten, now a 'professional' chess player; one that does not take notation!
I find it sad that the great game of chess has devolved to this level.