Monday, June 28, 2004
6:04:00 AM EDT

Moral Courage


Israeli chess body wants to sue Libya over ban.


Vadim Milov: I'm going to sue Fide for failing to fulfill their obligations and for forcing me to miss the World Championship!


 “In the status, principles and aims of FIDE it states FIDE is democratically established and bases itself on the principles of equal rights of its members as well as FIDE events (competitions, congresses, meetings) may be hosted only by Federations in whose countries free access is generally assured to representatives of all Federations.”


 “In relationship to an organization a right is a thing to which somebody is entitled. While active, a right can only be permanently removed or restricted through due process. Due Process is to be informed of any charge, given time to prepare a defense, being allowed to defend oneself, and to be fairly treated. As I have said I believe only the body that grants the right can permanently restrict or remove that right.” [Wayne Praeder, 2004-06-12]

“One of my theories is that people who play chess learn to put the end above the means. You try to do whatever works, to win the game or save yourself from losing. Since chess itself is an amoral activity, people who spend a lot of time playing chess may learn to think in amoral ways.” [Tim Hanke, 2004-06-22]

“It's my tournament, I can ban anyone I want to, as long as I have adequate motive and am not in violation of any laws in doing so.”

What is moral courage? Courage itself consists of two elements. As General William T. Sherman put it, courage is "a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger / and a mental willingness to endure it." To know the danger and run away is cowardice. To do something risky with no sense of its danger is foolhardiness. Courage lies in the balance.


Moral courage adds a third element: the matter of principle. Simply put, it's the courage to be moral-to take a stand on matters of integrity, to put conviction into action, to walk the talk that's implied by those five core values. It's the courage to be honest, responsible, respectful, fair, and compassionate. When the 23 members of the Maine Commission on Ethical and Responsible Student Behavior, for example, undertook to identify the core values “fundamental to a caring, civil society,” they found those five—and then added courage. A person who is courageous in the face of ethical  challenges,” says their final report, does “the right thing even if it’s not popular,” refuses to “stand  idly by while others engage in unethical or harmful behavior,” and will not “sacrifice aspirations when confronted by academic or ethical setbacks.”


Moral courage is not simply about risking life and limb in the face of mortal danger-though it may include that outcome. It's about risking reputation, self­ confidence, or position because of moral convictions. It's not about whether you have the guts to go bungee jumping. It's about whether you dare confront your boss about his bigotry, your daughter about her disrespect, your nation about its unfairness, or your peers about their prejudices.


What characterizes moral courage? It seems to involve several key attributes: a willingness to risk rejection, to bear personal sacrifice, to exercise tenacity and persistence with no assurance of success, to refuse to compromise on a comfortable way out, and to understand the importance of ethics in a world that often doesn't.


"It has become abundantly clear that men and women of good conscience can no longer support FIDE in the face of its hapless organizational bungling and callous destruction of professional careers." [American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, 2003]


“However understanding both sides I would still suggest that, at the annual meeting in August, the USCF board display some moral strength and engage in a serious discussion concerning dropping its' support for FIDE.” [Wayne Praeder, 19 Jun 2004]


FIDE reform should not be about changing faces in its leadership but must be focused on reconstituting the roles, mandates and democratic vision embodied in the FIDE Charter. I am supportive of the following policy framework:


Subject: A New USCF International Policy
Drafted by: GM Larry Evans and Larry Parr



Here are five principles for a new American policy:


1. The purpose of America's international policy is implied in the USCF's Mission Statement: Our goal in the foreign arena is to order affairs so as to promote the growth of chess in America. As a practical matter, this goal can only be reached by refurbishing FIDE's disastrous image so that sponsors will prove more willing to finance international chess events in this country and elsewhere.


2. American representatives abroad are to advocate consensual American values and must never support or subtly condone attacks on democratic values.


3. The FIDE motto Gens Una Sumus ("we are all one") means precisely what it says. The United States is to support inclusion, not exclusion, and to insist that FIDE adhere to its own bylaws which state that the organization is "concerned exclusively with chess activities."


4. The United States is to support absolute openness in FIDE -- ranging from full public disclosure of finances to energetic debates in the General Assembly to unflinching support for a free investigative press. American representatives are to be expected AS A MATTER OF COURSE to offer frequent press briefings concerning American policy and international chess events.


5. The United States is to seek counsel with democratic nations, first and foremost.



We argue that if the United States were to pursue a well-formulated and energetically advanced Action Program in international chess, we could effect major FIDE reforms within 12 to 18 months. Here is a preliminary four-point program:


1. America is to carry on extensive consultations with other advanced chess nations concerning an Agenda for Change which is to include formation of a FIDE "security council" of both permanent and rotating members. Permanent members will each have a veto over all FIDE actions.


2. America is to establish an Association of Advanced Chess Nations (or call it what you will) within FIDE. Our natural hunting grounds for members in such a group among the democracies of Western Europe and the emerging nations of the former Soviet empire. Our representatives are to pursue this project energetically, telling these countries -- if necessary -- that our future membership in FIDE will likely depend on successful reform. There are to be no winking of eyes and no private assurances that this new mood in America need only be weathered or a few months.


3. Our American representatives are to present an already prepared Action Program to be used as a BASIS FOR DISCUSSION among fellow members of the proposed Association. This program is to be formulated by the Policy Board after receiving input from different sources. While our diplomats are to fight for this program, they may compromise when absolutely necessary. (Threatened anti-American speeches do not constitute an adequate excuse to cut and run.)


4. Members of the proposed Association -- with our American representatives at the forefront -- are to engage in "vigorously frank diplomacy" (another Dulles phrase) with members of the General Assembly. The point will be made that unless the Third World members accept reform, the Western democracies will first withdraw active support for all FIDE projects and will within a short period of time begin planning for a new organization.


Q: Where do you stand on drug testing? Are you prepared to destroy the careers of those who will not take drug tests? Are you prepared to acquiesce in such destruction? Are you prepared to participate in enforcing such regulations by blackballing American players who will not sign testing waivers for team events?


There is a lot of material on this issue so I will try to keep my answer short. Being elected does not give me a mandate to do what I want on your behalf. I have no intention of imposing my personal views and agenda about this issue on the organization. I will advocate the membership’s direction in this regard. I am therefore displeased that I have heard nothing more about the proposed survey to the players on this topic. We are told the USCF cares about its players; therefore we need to find the most balanced approach to this issue.  I agree.

My personal views are that any type of drug testing is inappropriate for recreational or league chess.

For professional chess I will defer to the view of the Association of Chess Professionals on this matter. I have written GM Lautier to find out what is the ACP position on anti-doping testing in chess.

For players who have chosen to be chess athletes and to compete in Olympic movement activities I would support drug testing. I am familiar with the FIDE anti-doping regulations as well as WADA’s out of competition doping control program. It is important to note that athletes can be selected for doping control at any time, anywhere. I believe the point of contention is centered on allowing players a choice. Just because one is a FIDE National Chess Federation you should not be required to have anti-doping controls in all your activities. Just because one participates in any FIDE competition should not constitute a decision to also be an international Olympic competitor or athlete. Thus I would continue to urge FIDE and the USCF to limit testing only to events where it is absolutely essential for qualification into the Olympic Games.


Pending membership input on the subject, I support the official (yet un-enforced) USCF position which states:


DM01-07 NDM 01-117 (Substitute for ADM01-61) - Joel Benjamin (NY), Mike Goodall (CA/N) - The Delegates believe that drug testing is unnecessary in chess and urge FIDE to limit testing only to events where it is absolutely essential for qualification into the Olympic Games. PASSED.


DM01-10 ADM01-64 - Bill Goichberg (NY), and Joel Benjamin (NY) - USCF's FIDE representatives are instructed to actively campaign at all FIDE meetings against the practice of requiring drug testing at any chess tournament or match. PASSED


Rather than continuing to deal with this issue off the cuff, we really need a well defined plan and strategy on how to address the issue of drug testing as well as FIDE. Though I find it a bit impractical (as there is no plan), I’m generally in support of EB 04-35: "The Executive Board votes no confidence in FIDE's recent policies and leadership, specifically the fast-play knockout World Championship, drug testing in chess, and the Presidency of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The USCF Executive Board and its FIDE representatives will work with other FIDE members to replace the current FIDE President and reverse his mistaken policies." If no progress is made I would suggest that at the annual meeting in August, the USCF board display some moral strength and engage in a serious discussion concerning dropping its' support for FIDE. Supporting musical chairs within the leadership of FIDE will change little. The key will be to have a detailed reform plan and then to form a coalition toward implementation of true FIDE reform regardless of current leadership.


From a Fresh Start to a New Dawn

From a Fresh Start to a New Dawn (Part II)

From a Fresh Start to a New Dawn (Part III)