Well, tomorrow some time Ray Keene's friend will be elected President of the English Chess Federation, not that "elected" is the right term for a one-candidate affair deliberately organised in such a way as to avoid a contest. There was, of course, no need to do it that way: the electorate could have been provided with a variety of names, or the Board's preference could have been announced well in advance so as to allow for the emergence of other candidates, as opposed to at the last minute, giving opponents no chance. But instead it was deliberately done in such a way as to allow for the minimum of discussion and the maximum of dissatisfaction. So well done.
You can divide the ECF's year, like Gaul, into three parts, all of them under somebody else's thumb. The first third of the year was dedicated to Andrew Paulson's mad plans, none of them realised and the last of them, his proposal to run as Zurab Azmaiparashvili's running mate, the immediate cause of his downfall.
The second third was devoted to getting rid of Andrew Paulson, in the course of which the ECF established the principle that the purpose of making an agreement was to signal that you proposed to break it. This involved several months' worth of chaos in which elementary procedures such as the writing and approving of minutes ceased to be carried out, let alone anything more useful - but still, who cares provided the right people got their way?
The final third, now we'd established that chess politics was far more important than doing anything for English chess, was almost entirely devoted to supporting Garry Kasparov's FIDE Presidential campaign.
Well to be fair there was the new Forum that scarcely anybody uses. And Phil Ehr, as well as scooting off to Tromsø for no reason that strikes me as necessary, did also sign us up to the "Voluntary Code of Good Governance for the Sport and Recreation Sector".
What does this entail?
What's your favourite, do you think? Mine would be "Accountability and transparency" or "Balanced, inclusive and skilled" but tastes will differ, as indeed would the make-up of the Board if it were actually balanced or inclusive. Anyway, the satire writes itself, just as it does when an organisation proclaims its intention to "address sexism" and then appoints a President who accuses twelve-year-olds of dressing like prostitutes.
I've got not the slightest objection to the ECF supporting Kasparov if that's what the membership want: however, whether the membership want that to be the ECF's priority, to the exclusion of all else, is another question. Not that it's a question anybody asked them.
But who does ask the membership? If you're unacquainted with the ECF, in which case you probably stopped reading some time ago (and rightly so, if you ask me) you may think that it's an organisation which, for all the faults it may possess, is representative of its members. But such is not the case. I, for instance, am a member and yet have no vote either direct or indirect. I am not able to vote for its officials, nor for the delegates that elect them.
The ECF's voting structure is an ancient affair in which the electorate is mostly comprised of chess leagues, congresses and county organisations rather than the organisation's members. This may seem absurd, because it is, but it developed that way because that was the basis on which English chess was organised: we played in league chess, county chess and congresses. By and large, we still do, but these days there is a membership scheme which makes it compulsory to be an member if one wishes to play graded chess in England. Similarly, one has to be registered with a national federation into order to play FIDE-rated chess elsewhere.
Now why am I being made to pay into an organisation which has the right to say it represents me but which does not give me the right to be represented? It's gone beyond absurd.
But it's more, and worse than that: because surely the division between people who have a voice and people who do not, between the included and the excluded, is at the root of the problem - the problem of the ECF behaving as a private club whose members are not its first priority - and at the root of the working methods which keep much of the ECF's business away from the prying eyes of the bastards who actually pay for the thing. Which might be a suitable way for NATO to operate, but not, I think, for what is basically a chess club.
It used to be a private club - now it only functions as a private club. It's a private club that you pay not to join. Functions? Malfunctions is a better word.
It has a stupid and unrepresentative voting structure. Its inner workings are frequently hidden from the people who pay for it. Its elections are a farce. Free and open discussion of its intentions and decisions is discouraged. And you want me to make a fuss about FIDE?