The whole purpose of my Saint Louis trip was to learn something, to get ideas and a little bit of inspiration that I can bring back to Chess Club of Arlington. 1. I don't want a club that just meets at a diner somewhere on Saturday mornings. Although, there's certainly nothing wrong with that model. It's simple and builds a nice community of chess players. On the other hand, I don't think it's possible to reproduce what's happening in Saint Louis. There's only one Mecca. And when it comes to US chess, Saint Louis is where we make our pilgrimage. Certainly, there's mystique with the chess tables at Washington Square Park, and there's the tradition of clubs like Marshall and Mechanics. However, in Saint Louis, we have a world-class modern chess facility and across the street an absolutely gorgeous World Chess Hall of Fame. Chess Club of Arlington must find its own identity somewhere in between.
2. It's not about the money, not entirely. I've heard a lot of people make comments about Rex Sinquefield and the millions of dollars in capital he used to create the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. As if all that's needed for a nonprofit to be successful is for a wealthy man to throw money at the problem. That's terribly inaccurate and simplistic. Yes, the money needs to come from somewhere. But without people invested in its success, CCSCSL wouldn't exist. It can't be just one person with a dream. This may be my greatest challenge with Chess Club of Arlington. I'll find the money. What I need is other people willing to believe in our mission and our goals, people willing to work.
3. This next point may be a little bit harder to communicate. I appreciate the autonomy of CCSCSL and yet their ability to work with other organizations. I believe the strength of the US Chess Federation is its affiliate program. These affiliates are independent organizations that collaborate and cooperate with USCF. A successful chess club, like CCSCSL, is able to work with and work independently. Their success is their own, but we all benefit. We have a lot of great chess clubs and chess programs in the Dallas Fort Worth area. I don't want to take away from what they're doing. I'm trying to create something that is unique to our community and our needs. At the same time, we should be constantly searching for kindred organizations, innovative thinkers and leaders to partner with.
4. Speaking of leadership, I refuse to believe that every idea has been tried and all options have been pursued in terms of chess advocacy in the US. We have barely scratched the surface on what is possible. I'm certain CCSCSL will be a leader in new ideas, but they shouldn't be the only one. After this weekend, I'm convinced we need a leadership conference for chess organizers, and not just a workshop at a tournament. Curmudgeons need not apply.
5. Titled players (GM, WGM, IM, WIM, FM, NM, and CM) deserve a lot respect. That's all. Chess Club of Arlington needs to find a way to create meaningful experiences for the higher rated players. Until I talk with some pros, I don't even know where to begin in this regard. CCSCSL has the benefit of constant, daily, interaction with titled players.
6. A chess club needs to be more than a clearing house for Elo ratings. It comes back to chess, and the simple enjoyment of the game. Again, we need to create a meaningful experience for our members. We need to listen to our members and what they want.
7. For Chess Club of Arlington to be successful, Arlington itself needs to become "chess friendly" (similar to the bike-friendly initiatives). Offering chess as part of the city's culture, making it a point of pride, is important. Chess Club of Arlington needs to build something that improves the quality of life in Arlington and not just focuses inward on the quality of our club. CCSCSL has been incredibly successful in this regard.
8. I still have a lot to learn. I'd like to believe that Chess Club of Arlington will accomplish all its goals within a year. I'm not ready for that. Slow growth is probably going to be our path, quiet moves intermingled with some tactical surprises to make the game interesting.
What are your thoughts? Comments, disagreements, insights, kibitzing, and questions are all encouraged. Post below.