The Hull & District Chess Association is the official organisation for chess in the Kingston upon Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire unitary authority areas. I was a member almost continuously from 1996 until 2010; first as a member of Hull University Chess Club from 1996 to 1999, then when Middleton CC affiliated between 2000 and 2003, then as a member of Beverley CC from 2002 to 2010.
At the Annual General Meeting in June 2001, the then Publicity Officer was elected Grading Officer, and therefore did not want to continue as Publicity Officer. The President asked whether I wanted to replace him; I accepted, and was elected unopposed.
I started my campaign by sending to local newspapers a letter giving basic information about the Association. In the Autumn, I sent this letter to the newspaper of the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside (now the University of Lincoln); I did not send it to the University of Hull, as I expected its chess club to stay in the Association, and because those who joined the Club the previous season would already know they could join the Association. In April, I wrote to both universities' newspapers, inviting the universities' chess players to join the Association the following season. With his permission, I included the name and telephone number of the General Secretary in both letters, asking readers to contact him for further information.
Throughout the season, I sent information about forthcoming events to those on my HDCA E-mail list, and to local and university newspapers; I sent the information by post to the Secretary of each Hull & District club not represented on my E-mail list. In the case of the Hull Congress, I also sent the information to regional and national newspapers, and to a wider list of chess players. In each case, I asked the organisers what they wanted me to include, and with their permission included their names and telephone numbers. Had I thought of it at the time, I would have mentioned some of the bus services serving each venue, although I did mention that the Congress venue lies near the bus and railway stations.
During the Autumn, I wrote an article giving the advantages of playing chess. I sent it to all Hull & District clubs, again by either E-mail or post, and asked them to display it at their venues.
Each time a newsletter was published, and again at the end of the Winter programme, I sent to local and university newspapers an article containing selected league and cup results. I decided to mention each participating club at least once in each article, and each team at least once during the year.
I gave reports on my activities at Executive Committee meetings. My reports included action I intended to take before the next meeting, an idea I copied from someone I met at University.
I decided to include the name of the previous season's Player of the Year in the first results article. After making enquiries about the best method of contact, I telephoned her home address to ask permission to do so (I had been told she was at university, so one of her relatives could have forwarded a message). Her father, who answered, accused me of harassment. When I told him the real reason for telephoning, he said his daughter's achievement had already been publicised and accused me of letting someone else do the job I was supposed to be doing. He then asked the Association's President to raise the matter at the next Executive Committee meeting. However, after I gave the reason for telephoning, the other Committee members agreed that I had done nothing wrong.
The accusation was raised again at the AGM in June 2002, where it was joined by accusations of harassment dating back to my time at University. In addition, the Player of the Year herself said I would drive women out of the Association (This never happened, and in any case bullies do not seem to have a problem getting elected). As a result, I was voted out by an overwhelming majority and not reelected the following year. Significantly, my successor, who had taken part in the smear campaign, did almost nothing during his term of office, tried to excuse inaction by saying, "You can't force people to turn up", and declined to stand for reelection at the end of the season.
In Autumn 2002, it was reported that one member of the Executive Committee had asked for the Committee to discuss playing conditions, a request that was rejected. I then circulated a letter giving my own views; basically, I accept the right of players to play in acceptable surroundings, although I recognise that there is a limit to what can be done to achieve this.
At the next Executive Committee meeting, it was mentioned that a member of the Committee had asked whether Club Representatives should have a vote at Committee meetings unless they have a club to represent; a very strange question, given that nobody can be a Club Representative in the first place without having a club to represent! At the following meeting, one member objected to views on playing conditions being expressed by people who have not played at his club (or more accurately, people whom he does not accept have played at his club); he had already given such a comment in reply to my letter on the issue, when he also falsely accused me of trying to force his club out of the Association. It had already been implied at the previous meeting that I had only set up Middleton CC in order to take a place on the HDCA Executive Committee, even though the fact that I had publicised the Club meant there was nothing to prevent other people from joining and becoming its representative. As a result, the Executive Committee approved a motion stating that only those Club Representatives whose clubs have league teams may vote and table proposals at Executive Committee meetings; as the situation had stood until recently, I would have been the only one to be affected. This motion was passed at the 2003 AGM, where the case given was that clubs should not have a vote on issues that do not affect them. Middleton CC therefore left the Association.
At one point during the 2009/10 season, one of the Beverley teams had a home match. When the home captain realised one player would not be turning up, he put a substitute in his place (a substitute is someone who replaces an absent player, and takes his place in the team, when it emerges after the start of a match that the other player will not be playing). The substitute was playing on a higher board than his grade would otherwise allow. This has been allowed before, even if the Association's rules do not explicitly allow it; but on this occasion, the League Secretary gave the substitute's board and all the boards below it to the away team. The Beverley captain's appeal was then rejected by the HDCA Executive Committee.
I have been informed that one of the opponents heard me telling the captain before the match that the player would not be arriving. But the captain asked me, a few minutes into the match, whether the player had said when he would arrive, which suggests he did not hear me the first time. In any case, if the opponent believed the captain had broken a rule, should he not have spoken out at the time? I know of two occasions where a player has claimed a game due to a violation of the rules and where the claim was rejected on the grounds that the player had already finished the game.
Believing the Executive Committee's decision was final and that nothing more could be done, I sent an E-mail message to the Chess_East_Riding Yahoo! Group, recommending that the League Secretary and those who had supported him be removed from the Executive Committee at the AGM.
The Beverley captain then organised a petition calling for an Extra Ordinary General Meeting, which took place in May 2010. This time, his appeal was upheld and the original result of the match reinstated. At the end of the meeting, one member told me it is ridiculous to ask Executive Committee members to resign. Another (who had been sniggering during the Beverley captain's speech) said I was out of order and spitefully asked whether I wanted the League Secretary's position for myself. But if people are prepared to punish others for doing nothing wrong, they deserve to be removed from power. In any case, the HDCA did not consider it ridiculous or out of order to remove me from the position of Publicity Officer merely for being accused of abusing that position.
After leaving Beverley CC, and therefore the HDCA, in 2010, I started an East Riding Chess Alliance. This organisation uses the historic East Riding of Yorkshire as its catchment area. For the moment, the Alliance merely takes the form of a Facebook Group.
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