Last Sunday, I walked into the NSW annual general meeting (AGM) with the expectations of a new a day in our chess leadership. The ancien regime has, for a long time now, been a dying geriatric, barely able to stand. Starved of new ideas and beset with controversy and crisis, the NSWCA, under the leadership of one Bill Gletsos, was a marked body.
More than a month before the AGM, the first whispers of revolt began. I was in the Philippines in '86 and, I tell you, I know a revolution when I see one. Led by two ex-Olympiad captains, Jason Lyons and Peter Parr, we can now reveal the main players of that rebel faction. They are: Andrew Bird, Laura Moylan, Nicholas Kordahi, Brett Tindall and the gentleman player, Max Fuller.
But seeing the need for long-term harmony, Jason sought no blood - figuratively speaking, that is. Instead, he approached the incumbent president, Bill Gletsos, to see if a more amicable plan could be adopted to ensure a smoother transition. Says Jason, "My motivation for being upfront with Bill was to create harmony and continuity in what is a very fractured and political landscape".
On 13 October this year, Jason made the following public announcement:
For the record, there's no ambush. I had a coffee with Bill last week to discuss my nomination at the November AGM. I outlined my intentions and we had a good chat. Bill said that he would support my nomination.
I updated him on others who are joining me in seeking election to Council, at least one of which (sic) he was already aware of, and I expressed the wish that he remain on Council. Bill said he'd like to take up the Ratings portfolio again (the current holder of this position has recently moved to far north NSW).
This was the first sign that the AGM will see a bloodless coup. With that, we allowed ourselves a big sigh of relief. After all, at the end of the day, we are all friends.
Yet what transpired last Sunday is something that will either kill you with laughter or make you weep. It all depends on your politics.
As we now know, Mr Gletsos delivered a surprising bombshell by declaring, last Sunday, that he was standing for the presidency. For Mr Lyons, a FIDE international arbiter and organiser of the prestigious QVB Chess Festival in 1999 - it was a shot well below the belt. By all accounts, it appears that there was some kind of agreement between Mr Lyons and Mr Gletsos and which the latter had reneged on.
It is absolutely unequivocal that Bill agreed to not run for President. I did not ask him for this - I simply stated my intentions, to which he explained he was only in the position in a de facto sense, having acquired a vacant Presidency when he was VP. He welcomed my candidacy, in conjuction with the other team members I had assembled, and offered his full support.
Of course, this is bluntly disputed by Bill. The well-informed Canberra chess personality, and himself an Olympiad player as well as publisher of the highly regarded (but now defunct) Australian Chess Forum, Mr Shaun Press had this to say on an Australian chess bulletin board: "[W]hat I heard was promised was that BG (Bill Gletsos) would be happy to continue as Ratings Officer if Jason became President. This was 'interperated' (sic) as Bill was not standing [for the presidential post], when it seems that no such statement was actually made."
Mr Press' statement is consistent with what Mr Gletsos informed me last Sunday when I queried, "Where is Jason's mob?" It is also corroborated by Jason himself.
Some 10-15 minutes before the scheduled commencement, word filters outside the meeting room that Bill is running. No-one is certain. Suddenly everyone's talking. Parr approaches Bill, some sort of argument ensues, I enter the conversation, and Bill offers this gem: "I never said I wouldn't run for President, I only said that if you were President, I would be the Ratings Officer."
It's all a bit confusing. While I am not familiar with Mr Gletsos on a closer personal basis, he has always struck me as honourable and trustworthy. Thus, it's important that he make a public statement sooner than later. It is rather odd that several days have passed and despite all the shots fired his way from various angles - so far, there has been no formal communication from our president. He seems content to leave us all guessing. This cannot be a good start to his 2006 tenure.
Mr Gletsos must make a statement now to tell his side of the story. Or else, we the chess public can feel no confidence whatsoever in his leadership.
I will leave the last word to Jason Lyons: "I'll continue to support ACF initiatives, the GP if I can help in some way, Olympiad Appeals and the like, and Junior Chess. But these blokes have lost me."