Protest to the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation

Protest to the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation, regarding the United States Chess Championship:

Results of the US Championship can also be found on TWIC and on and on Chess Cafe.

Samuel H. Sloan
39-75 56th Street, Apt. 5A
Woodside NY 11377
(718) 803-8119

January 1, 2002

To the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation:
Rusudan Goletiani
Chess Grandmaster Rusudan Goletiani

I am writing to express concern at the exclusion of Rusudan Goletiani from the forthcoming United States Chess Championship. What causes me the most concern is that is appears that the Executive Board is not even aware that she is being excluded. I have read the transcripts of all of the board meetings for the past several years and this subject in general has never come up or been discussed. I have spoken to one member of the current board who informs me that nothing in this area has ever been discussed at any meeting while he has been on the board. He only knows about the issue from speaking to me.

In addition, I have found out that two years ago a similar situation arose where the US Junior Champion, aged 19, was excluded from participating in the US Championship because of a three-year residency requirement. Eric Johnson, who was the USCF staff member responsible for this at the time, has admitted in an online debate that the Policy Board was not informed of this issue. Johnson has stated that it was "irrelevant" that the Policy Board was never informed of this matter. Johnson concludes: "Do we want the ED and the EB micromanaging every decision? What's next...having the board decide what brand of chess sets to carry?"

The arrogance of the staff in not informing their bosses of this issue should be a matter of great concern, especially when this matter could lead to litigation and to an inquiry from the Department of Justice concerning possible violations of federal law. It is a violation of US law to discriminate against a legal permanent resident of the United States on the grounds of citizenship. Note that Johnson admits above that not only was the Policy Board not informed, but even the Executive Director was not informed.

Several people have expressed the opinion that Rusudan Goletiani is excluded from competing in the US championship by virtue of both the FIDE Rules and the USCF Rules. However, I have studied these rules in detail and it is simply not true that Rusudan is excluded by virtue of these rules.

Furthermore, Rusudan received approval for a green card and is a legal permanent resident of the United States. I believe that this trumps any residency requirement the USCF may have. Several players will be participating in the forthcoming US Championship who do not have a green card, much less citizenship. I believe that excluding a green card holder from the US Championship on the ground of residency may be a violation of federal law and certainly opens the USCF to a possible lawsuit.

In the case of the FIDE Rules, they are easily disposed with. The FIDE Rules are on the FIDE Website at

The FIDE Rules make it clear that the FIDE Residency requirements only apply to team events such as the World Chess Olympiad and various Continental Team Events and to the World Championship. However, even then, the FIDE Rules leave a gaping loophole, because they state that certain players who have a personal right to enter a tournament for example by rating do not have to be entered as the representative of a federation. In practice, no otherwise qualified player has ever been disqualified from competing for the FIDE World Championship because of residency requirements.

The US Championship is not an Official FIDE Event. The US Championship is not even a zonal tournament, because zonal tournaments have been abolished by FIDE. Now, only Continental Championships qualify a player to the FIDE World Championship. The United States is part of the "Americas Continent" under FIDE rules, which includes both North and South America. The Continental Championships will usually be held in South America because most of the federations are there and in any case the US Championship will never be a continental championship.

The controlling FIDE rules state:

1. Entries

1.1 Entries for participation in FIDE official individual and team competitions shall be made by Federations save as provided in 1.2.

1.2 Where a player has qualified from one FIDE individual competition for another FIDE individual competition or is qualified for a FIDE individual competition by virtue of a personal right (such as ELO Rating) he or she may in the absence of an entry by a Federation enter himself or herself directly into such competition but shall then be personally responsible for the financial obligations to FIDE in respect of such entry.

2. Eligibility for participation in FIDE team competitions

2.1 For all FIDE team competitions namely the Chess Olympiad, the World Chess Team Championship, the Continental Chess Team Championship, the World Under-26 Team Championship and the World Students Team Championship (but excluding continental club competitions) the following eligibility rules shall apply to the composition of teams representing Federations

These regulations go on to provide certain exceptions. For example, Paragraph 2.3.1 provides:

2.3.1 A player who has resided for at least three years in a country of which he or she is not a citizen after the date on which FIDE shall have received notification of change of Federation pursuant to 5.2 and who proves that he or she has applied for citizenship in that country or intends to do so as soon as the legal requirements are fulfilled may become a team member of a Federation after a thorough examination and clearance of the case by the FIDE President.

As you can plainly see, even for team competitions such as the World Chess Olympiad, the three year residency requirement is not firm, and Rusudan Goletiani would clearly fall under this exception because she now has legal permanent residence in the USA and intends to apply for US Citizenship as soon as the five year waiting period is up.

For example, Alexander Shabalov represented Latvia in the 1992 World Chess Olympiad and then represented the USA in the 1994 World Chess Olympiad.

The most important point is that the US Championship is purely a local event and the FIDE rules are not applicable at all.

Turning now to the US Championship, in fact there are no rules specifically for the US Closed Championship. There are general rules which are taken to apply to a wide variety of events and circumstances, such as which players are eligible for listing on the Top Under-10 Years Old list or playing in the National Elementary Championship. The same rules for being listed on the Top Under-10 List are taken as also applying to the US Championship.

However, the current US Championship is a new ball of wax because the format is original and has never been done before. Among other things, both men and women's competitions are combined together. In addition, there are qualifying tournaments. In the past the USCF could invite anybody it wanted. Now, however players have earned a right to compete and Rusudan Goletiani is clearly is one of the players who has that right.

Rusudan Goletiani has been a Woman's International Grandmaster of Chess since she was 18 years old. She is not only an International Woman's Grandmaster of chess with a FIDE rating of 2324, but she has won the world chess championship three times in various age categories. She has won the world chess championship for girls under-14, for girls under-16 and for girls under-18. She probably would have won the World Chess Championship for girls under-10 which was played in 1990 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, but her Soviet trainers had her play in the world championship for girls under-12 instead, even though she was only nine years old. She finished fourth in the world under-12 but would have been easily the strongest in the world under-10.

Born on 8 September 1980, in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, Georgia and rated 2324, she was the number 12 player in the world on the official FIDE top-20 girls list. She arrived in the USA in May, 2000 when she was 19 years old. Only one week after arriving in the US, she attended the USCF Executive Board meeting on May 26, 2000, where I introduced her as "America's newest grandmaster".

The transcript as a whole makes it clear that Rusudan Goletiani intends to remain permanently in the United States and to represent the USA in International Chess Competitions. This transcript clearly establishes that Rusudan Goletiani has fulfilled all requirements to play in the US Championship which will be held from January 4 to January 14, 2002.

Please read carefully the USCF regulations regarding the US Championship. It is apparent that the declaration made by Rusudan Goletiani at the Executive Board meeting with all of the Executive Board members plus the Executive Director present fully fulfills the USCF residence requirements for participation in the US Championship.

The full transcript is online at . Here are my opening remarks and a portion of the transcript of the meeting on the USCF Executive Board held on Sunday, May 26, 2000.

23 PRESIDENT SMITH: Before we do that, I
24 would like, as a matter of courtesy, Sam, would you
25 like to introduce the young lady to the board?
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3 MR. SLOAN: Thank you very much. This is
4 America's newest Grand Master. Her name is Rusudan
5 Goletiani
6 (General applause.)
7 MR. SLOAN: She arrived on a flight from
8 the Republic of Georgia seven days ago. Her
9 English is fairly good because she's played in a
10 lot of international chess tournaments. She won
11 the world championship for under 14 then under 16
12 and world champion shipped under 18. Every two
13 years she has won the world championship for women,
14 for girls. FIDE on the current list. Her previous
15 rating was 2325. I think she finished ahead of
16 Erana Krusch (ph) in the last tournament, so she's
17 hoping to take over at the top.
18 Her personal situation -- I might as well tell
19 you -- is this: She is from a place called Batoume
20 (ph) which is in the northern part of Georgia which
21 is in a state of civil war right now. The war's
22 been going on for eight years. Her mother was
23 killed at the beginning of the war. She has really
24 no family except her relatives here who are trying
25 to help her.
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3 She was given a ticket on a refugee flight out
4 of Georgia and that's how she got to America. Also
5 with -- provided by Bill Goichberg, she had an
6 invitation from Bill Goichberg -- to America. Not
7 even one penny in her pocket.
8 And I got two e-mails about her yesterday, one
9 from Bob Ferguson and the another from Alexi Root,
10 both of them essentially offering her -- saying,
11 Please come to our college. We'd like you to be on
12 the chess team. We'd like you to be on the -- get
13 you a scholarship. I had to write back and say,
14 Well, we thank you for your offer, and in the
15 future when she has some money she'll consider it.
16 Oh, they said, all she has to do is get a good
17 score on the SAT test.
18 She's not ready to take the SAT test because
19 her English isn't at that level where she can. She
20 was -- spent all day yesterday applying for
21 babysitter jobs in the Russian community because
22 she speaks Russian. She's from Georgia, they're
23 their own language, in case you didn't know that.
24 But anyway, I decided to bring her up here
25 because I felt that, you know, the America chess
1 (USCF - Volume II)
3 officials are here. She'd like to meet you; you
4 might like to meet her.
5 One other issue, which I might as well raise
6 now, is she said that she wanted to change her
7 federation. She's never going back to Georgia,
8 forget about that. But I mean, and basically she'd
9 have to return to a war situation. She's got, you
10 know, very beautiful now because she didn't have
11 enough to eat in Georgia because of the starvation
12 that is there.
13 So she said she wanted to change her
14 federation to the USCF. My advice to her was she
15 should not change her federation, stay with Georgia
16 for the reason that if she changes her federation,
17 I think it takes three years to shift federation.
18 During those three years she cannot be on the top
19 U.S. women's lists. She wouldn't gain any benefits
20 from America. She couldn't represent America on
21 any teams or anything like that.
22 Meanwhile, she is already seated and qualified
23 to play in the FIDE woman's world chess
24 championship, which the latest report is going to
25 take place in India. I personally think it will
1 (USCF - Volume II)
3 never happen, but supposedly to take place in India
4 and she's supposed to go there, so I figure that
5 she should stick with Georgia as her country as a
6 federation so she can complete internationally and
7 also she might get invited to local tournaments in
8 here in America as a foreigner where she wouldn't
9 be invited as a player. Her ranking is 2325 on the
10 current list.
11 I thought I'd bring her up here.
12 PRESIDENT SMITH: Thank you very much,
13 Sam. Welcome to you.
14 MR. IPPOLITO: Should I get back to our
15 Chessathon? Everyone that's either seen or heard
16 of the Chessathon in the past know of its
17 importance and what it does for U.S. chess, and
18 with that, I'd like to introduce Beatriz Marinello,
19 former scholastic director and Victor Frias, grand
20 master, and they want to make a presentation.
21 MR. SLOAN: I forgot to mention: She's
22 19 years old. I know somebody's going to ask that
23 question.
24 MS. MARINELLO: I disagree with you. She
25 should switch federation. It would be worth the
1 (USCF - Volume II)
3 effort.
4 MR. SLOAN: Okay.
5 PRESIDENT SMITH: We can talk about
6 that.

Now, compare this statement with the USCF regulations as posted on the website at and in the April, 2000 Chess Life. Please note the difference between the national invitations and FIDE invitations. An invitation to the US Championship is clearly a national invitation.

The rules state:

While a player must be a USCF member and their rating is no restriction for eligibility, the US Championships are a national competition restricted to U. S. citizens and certain foreign players who have declared residency in the U. S.

The following are the residency requirements for participation as published by the USCF in the April 2000 Chess Life page 56.

Before becoming eligible for USCF invitations, non-United States citizens must fulfill the following residency requirements:

For national invitations: Complete three continuous years (36 months) of United States residency, with a U. S. address, immediately prior to the event in question.

Players under age 20 are considered eligible upon proof of full-time enrollment in a U. S. school.

For FIDE invitations: Complete three continuous years (36 months) of United States residency, with a U. S. address, immediately prior to the event in question. In addition, for FIDE team competition (Olympiad, World Team, etc.) candidates must provide a written promise that they will apply for U. S. citizenship as soon as legally possible.

Players under age 20 are considered eligible upon proof of full-time enrollment in a U. S. school. However, FIDE may still, at its discretion, require that such individuals fulfill a waiting period of up to three years.

Zonal events: In years in which the U. S. Championship and U. S. Women's Championship are also Zonal tournaments, any qualification spots allotted by FIDE from these events for the respective Interzonals or other world championship competition will be offered only to the highest-scoring players who also fulfill all FIDE requirements. If a question arises as to USCF versus FIDE requirements, FIDE's criteria shall be used.

Players must provide a written declaration of their intention to remain a U. S. resident for the foreseeable future. The USCF shall then contact FIDE to arrange for the player's national affiliation code to be changed to reflect the player's status as a U. S. player.

Players must refuse to represent other countries within the waiting period as specified above. Playing for another country at any time requires a candidate for invitations to begin the waiting period anew (i.e. three years from the time of the infraction for adults; at least one year for players under age 20).

Representing another country is defined as playing in the national championship of another country, and/or playing as a member of another country's national team in international competition.

Players without previous international experience and/or FIDE ratings shall usually be given U. S. status immediately by FIDE. Players seeking to change their national affiliation code generally must satisfy the full waiting period. If a question arises as to USCF versus FIDE requirements, FIDE's criteria will be used.

Players shall, in general, suffer no penalty for simply participating in a FIDE rated event under their current national affiliation code (such as in futurities or other norm granting events not listed above), until such time as their code is changed to reflect their status as a U. S. player.

Actually, as can be seen, these rules do not correctly state the FIDE Rules in this subject. The FIDE rules are not hard and fast and are often waived by the FIDE President.

The remarks above constitute a clear declaration that it was the intention of Rusudan Goletiani to remain permanently in the United States. She promptly thereafter applied for a green card and requested board members to write letters to the INS in her behalf. Several such letters were written and on the strength of these letters by USCF officials as well as by other prominent members of the chess playing community including Yasser Seirawan, Robert Ferguson and Don Schultz, Rusudan Goletiani received approval for a green card as a person who is of "Extraordinary, Outstanding, or Exceptional" in the field of chess.

The contention is made that several other strong players have expressed an interest in playing in the US Championship and they have either been excluded or required to wait three years before they could play. For example, it is said that GM Alexander Onischuk, who has a FIDE Rating of 2660, which is higher than that of any US Player, wants to play in the US Championship.

However, Grandmaster Alexander Onischuk is the perfect example of a player who should not readily be admitted into the US Championship. Before arriving in America, he competed internationally for three different countries: Germany, where he was born, the Soviet Union and Ukraine. He is a Globetrotting International Grandmaster who has already changed federations at least twice and who has the option of going to go back to play for any one of his other countries any time he wants.

His case is similar to the case of Tony Miles who was known for getting into disputes with various individuals and organizations and who in 1988 was having some petty dispute with officials of the British Chess Federation, so he decided to become an American. Miles never actually resided in the US or applied for a green card, but nevertheless was allowed to play in two US Championships. Then, he settled whatever dispute it was he had with the British officials and went back to play in the British Championship. It was the Miles incident which caused the USCF to make rules to exclude players like Miles.

However, the USCF Rules specifically make an exception for players under 20. Rusudan Goletiani came here when she was 19 and since then has never left the United States. By staying in the US, she was forced to forfeit her match for the Woman's World Chess Championship. She was scheduled to play a match with World Champion Candidate Nana Ioseliani in New Delhi, India in December 2000. However, she had to forfeit that match because she could not leave the US while her green card application was pending.

There are several other players who it is said were required to wait or are being required to wait three years before they can play in the US Championship. It is being said that it would be unfair to let Rusudan in while those others are excluded. However, with one exception, all of them came to America in their late 20s or early 30s and it is certainly reasonable that underaged minors should be subject to different rules that mature adults for several reasons which are obvious. In every sporting activity, the rules which apply to children are different from the rules which apply to adults.

For example, GM Serper was born on 14.09.69. He came to America in about 1995. Therefore, he was 26 when he came to America. GM Goldin was born on 27.02.65. He has been coming to tournaments in the USA for many years but it is just recently that he decided to become a US player. He is 36 years old. WGM Baginskaite was born on 24.04.67. She is now 34. I do not know when she came to America but I believe that it was three or four years ago. All three of these players were required or are being required to wait three years before being allowed to play in the US Championship. However, they are all mature adults and they all have a country that they could go back to if they wish.

The one player who came to America while still a minor and qualified to the US Championship was Marcel Martinez, a refugee from Cuba who swam ashore and who won the 1999 US Junior Championship at age 19 and thereby qualified to the US Championship. Tragically, the USCF rules were not followed and he was excluded from the championship when he should have been admitted. Now, he is sitting and doing nothing but killing time while the supposed three year waiting period expires. It is ironic that a Cuban baseball pitcher can pitch in the World Series only a few months after arriving in America, but a Cuban chess player must wait three years before playing in the US Chess Championship.

In order to resolve this matter, we have proposed that Rusudan Goleriani be accepted as first alternate into the US Championship. Since 56 players have qualified or been invited to the US Championship, the proposal is that if one of them cancels or fails to show up, Rusudan Goletiani will take his or her place. With 56 invited players, there is a high probability that one will cancel and that would solve this problem.

We exchanged correspondence with Yasser Seirawan, organizer of the US Championship and he agreed with this proposal. Here is one of Seirawan's letters in this regard:

Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001 00:04:48 -0500
From: "Yasser Seirawan"
Subject: RE: FW: Legal Questions about the US Chess Championship

Dear Sam,

Thank you for your message.

If memory serves I was 20 when I played in my first US Championship.

Your explanation as to why my proposed settlement would be unacceptable is understood.

At the moment the USCF must first rule that Ms. Goletiani is eligible before she could be first reserve player for the next US Championships. In the interests of expediency, let us work from the following:

1) The USCF determines that Ms. Goletiani is eligible.
2) The SCF organizers accept Ms. Goletiani as the first reserve player in case ANY of the 56 players cancel their participation.

If this solution is acceptable to Ms. Goletiani, I will speak on her behalf with the SCF organizers and secure point two above.

In this case, Ms. Goletiani should prepare herself for possible last minute travel arrangements to Seattle. The SCF should have Ms. Goletiani's coordinates, address, phone number and especially e-mail (if available) to keep her appraised of the situation.

Please note the financial conditions for the US Championships: The players are responsible for their travel, hotel and meal expenses (the prize fund should fully compensate the players for these costs). The SCF has secured lower room rates at the Westin Hotel, where many of the players will stay. Some players are sharing a double room.

Please confirm that the above is acceptable to Ms. Goletiani, I will then coordinate with Tom at the USCF to confirm that the USCF is prepared to rule positively on her eligibility. The SCF will then prepare its program/brochure for the US Championships which would list Ms. Goletiani as the first reserve player.

Finally, if you have some biographical information on Ms. Goletiani for the brochure, which might be used, this would be appreciated.

Thank you for all of your efforts in this matter.



Upon receiving this letter, I felt that with the organizer of the US Championship favoring allowing her to play, that the battle had been won. I was proven wrong, because Tom Brownscombe, the USCF Scholastic Director, came out strongly against it, as did Carol Jarecki, who often directs the US Championship.

I received the following letter from John McCrary, USCF President:

Sam may have a valid point here. I recall that we did write to INS on her behalf, and that I was one of the Board members concurring in this recommendation. Thus, I think that she does qualify as having issued a written declaration of intent through that method. But did she give evidence of attendance at a US school, and does that carry over after her birthday? I think we should look at this quickly before firming everything up. Opinions?

Regards, John McCrary

So, the issue became whether she attended a US School. She did in fact attend Borough of Manhattan Community College. However, her birthdate was September 8 and she did not gain admission to that college until after her birthdate, when she turned 20 years old. Now, it is being said that because she did not enroll until after her birthdate, she is ineligible. Of course, everyone familiar with college admissions procedures knows that it would have been impossible for Rusudan to gain admission to a college any sooner than she did. In the case of Borough of Manhattan Community College, I happen to have detailed familiarity with the situation because my Japanese girlfriend who is the mother of my newborn baby attends a different branch of the same college and it took her more than one year of constant effort to gain admission.

Finally, I got a letter from Frank Niro, the new Executive Director of the United States Chess Federation, who said:

Honestly, Sam, I wish I could see a fair way to resolve the matter along the lines you suggest.

As I mentioned in an earlier e-mail, I will gladly work with Rusudan to change the requirements in the future and to help her qualify for the next cycle. I admire her success as a chessplayer and am looking forward to the opportunity to meet her in the near future.

Frank Niro
Interim Executive Director, USCF

However, changing the requirements for the future is not the point. These rules are not written in stone. Rules can be changed or clarified now and as far as I am aware no member of the USCF Executive Board is even aware of this issue except for John McCrary the President and no player other than Rusudan Goletiani is affected by this.

Also, Grandmaster Alexander Shabalov, one of the players in the US Championship, wrote the following:

"I believe that if, at the time, when Joel Benjamin initiated the company for switching from 1 yr to 3 yrs residency requirement, he'd bear in mind the beautiful image of underaged georgian girl, rather than the one of Gata's and his father - juniors might have been exempted from the ban. ... Nobody doubts that she is a very nice girl and extremely strong chessplayer."

For this reason, I am writing individual letters to Executive Board members in the hope that this situation can be corrected now, before the US Championship is played.

Very Truly Yours,

Sam Sloan

UPDATE: Rusudan Goletiani makes the US Chess Federation news

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