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USCF Executive Board Candidate Statement

Dear Chess Friend,

Let me introduce myself, present my vision and explain why I am running for the USCF Executive Board.

If you have been around U.S. chess for any period of time, there’s a good chance you have heard my name, seen some of my games or played against me in some tournaments.

I came to the United States in 1991, to play in the World Open in Philadelphia. At the time I was already an established chess player – World Champion among Students (USSR Team), Woman International Master, Ukraine Women Chess Champion and USSR Champion among Young Masters.

Even though I spoke no English and had only $100 (or rather -$115, since the Entry Fee to the tournament was $215), I decided to stay in the United States. Over the years, I learned the language, opened a Chess Academy (first in Russian and later in English), won the U.S. Women’s Championships in 1995 (shared with Sharon Burtman), 1996 & 1999. I also shared 3rd place in 1993, shared 2nd place in 1994 and took clear 2nd in 1997. I represented United States in the three Chess Olympiads – in 1994, 1996 & 1998, leading the U.S. Women’s Chess Team. In 1993 I was awarded the title of Women International Grandmaster by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). My highest placement by rating was #33 in the World among Women.

However, all my chess achievements didn’t provide the necessary financial support to become a professional chess player.

In addition to playing, I became actively involved in teaching and promoting chess. In 1994, I embarked on expanding my chess teaching from the tight boundaries of a Sunday school into the depths of the New York City Public School system. 2 classes at P.S. 217 in Brooklyn grew into 14 classes the year after, and then to 23 classes the following year. Between 1994 and 1999, I taught chess to about 1,000 children in a number of Public Schools in Brooklyn, NY.

In 1997 one of my students qualified for the FIDE World Championship under 10 y.o. and I was invited together with GM Ron Henley to coach the American Chess delegation at the FIDE World Youth Championships in Cannes, France. My responsibilities included preparing young American players to compete in the categories: Girls under 10, 12 and 14 years old and Boys under 10, 12 and 14.

During the years I lived in NY, I also supported the NCA/Putnam ChessChild Substance Abuse Prevention Program through annual lectures and simultaneous exhibitions (1996 – 1999). I helped to open a chess club and organize the All-Girls Chess tournaments in Parker, AZ (1996-1999). I also took part in the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” by Paramount Pictures (1992) and provided professional live and Internet online commentaries for the Chess Match between World Champion Garry Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue II computer, as a Chess Consultant for IBM and Electric Minds Companies (1997). Between 1998 and 2000, I served as a Chairperson of Women’s Committee of the USCF, supporting women’s chess activities and promoting women’s chess around the country.

For my contributions and achievements, I was Honored by Howard Golden – President of Brooklyn, City of New York in 2000.

To prove that analytical abilities, logic and critical thinking skills developed through chess are applicable to the real world, I entered New York University’s M.S. in Mathematics in Finance program in 1999, simultaneously learning about derivatives and preparing for the FIDE Women’s World Championship, as the 1999 US Women’s Chess Champion.

Unfortunately, in 2000 my right to participate in the World Championship cycle was given away by the USCF and thus, I chose to concentrate full time on my financial career.

A few months after graduation from NYU in January of 2001, I moved from New York to Tulsa, Oklahoma to trade Weather Derivatives at Williams EM&T (Energy, Marketing and Trading), where I developed a strong admiration for exotic financial products that utilize grandmaster skills to design, value and understand cross-commodities structures. Soon thereafter, I became the head of the Weather Derivatives desk and was recognized as “Best Female Employee” for my contribution to the company’s success. As a current member of American Meteorological Society Financial Weather / Climate Risk Management Committee, I educate public, private, academia and government sectors about weather associated risks and various ways to protect earnings and financial bottom line through the use of available derivatives and custom structured hedging instruments.

In February of 2003, Lawrence Bernstein (former Treasurer of Marshall Chess Club in NY) and I got married on board the Coral Princess, where I was invited as a guest lecturer to give talks on chess and finance related subjects.

Now, we have three children – Brian, Connor and Ariela – and live in Tucson, Arizona, where I run my Chess Academy for children since 2010, while I teach Finance classes at the University of Arizona to both Graduate and Undergraduate students. I also teach “Chess, Leadership & Business Strategy” class for Honors students.

All 3 of our children play chess, with both Brian (1551, 11 y.o.) and Connor (1057, 8 y.o.) being very close to making it to the Top 100 in the US by age. In addition, both my husband and my father love to play chess, and at some tournaments you can see 3 generations of our family playing side by side.

In addition to running Belakovskaia Chess Academy, I organize and TD numerous chess tournaments. In total, I served as a Chief Tournament Director in 21 chess tournaments; while being an Assistant TD in 2013 Super Nationals V and 2012 National Elementary Championship.

Since 2010, I resumed playing in chess tournaments. Due to the ever changing Qualification rules, I finally qualified to play in the US Women’s Championship in 2013.

This is where I was approached with the suggestion of running for the USCF Executive Board.

At first, I didn’t know what to think of it, but then realized that there is a need for someone new to come and represent the interests of professional chess players, chess parents, chess coaches and chess kids, as every member of the existing USCF Executive Board has served more than one term. While they obviously got accustomed to working together, such an environment is prone to develop inertia and stagnation, with some of the goals becoming harder to realize or taking inordinate time to become a reality. Thus, the time came for new people to step in and volunteer on committing their time and effort.

This became even more apparent to me during 2014. Why so? Because in May of 2013, at the US Championships, the USCF Executive Board invited both men and women participating in the event to a meeting, so we, as the top players in the country could provide our feedback and suggestions. Many ideas were discussed and the Executive Board promised to pursue them.

For example, there was a proposal by Top players to change residence and bonus requirements for Olympiads, World and US Championships. At first we were told that the USCF needs more time and thus the requirements couldn’t be changed for 2014, but would apply in 2015. There were a ton of discussions and emails back and forth. Yet, nothing has been changed so far.

Another example – to give young girls an extra incentive to stick with chess, I suggested revamping the “Women and Girls” list in the “Top Players Lists” section, matching the categories to the “By age” list (thus, including Age 7 and under, Age 8, etc). The feedback was – “that’s a great idea, we will definitely do it.” If you look at the ratings lists on the USCF website, you will see that nothing has been done either.

Also, looking at the Scholastic Scholarships list on the USCF website, one will notice that the list has not been expanded over the years.

For the US Championships, the USCF relies solely on one generous sponsor. This creates situations where the USCF has to bend its rules, to accommodate the event on the sponsor’s terms. For example, this year, the first announcement of the dates for the 2015 US Chess Championship was published on Susan Polgar’s blog on January 5th. It took the USCF almost a month, to publish the official information on February 3rd. The rules once again have been tweaked, invitational deadlines changed, peak performance bonuses applied, even though they had to be removed (passed by the USCF Executive Board in 2014), and even the dates of the event: March 31st – April 14th conflict with the 2015 Women’s World Championship that will be held from March 16th to April 7th, as well as the 2015 College Chess Final Four on April 4-5.

Locally, I have seen many coaches coming up with their own rating systems or simply preferring unrated tournaments, while telling their students there’s no reason to join the USCF. I feel strongly opposed to such a notion and believe it’s important for the USCF to be a strong, efficient, successful organization that is active in building a vibrant chess community. I envision the USCF with leading and providing critical support to: Professional Chess players and Chess Seniors (many of whom have spent their lives in chess), chess youth, who are just learning the moves and discovering the wonderful world of the chess game, chess playing teenagers who are eager to get into good colleges and are looking for scholarships, and chess playing girls who need to build confidence for learning science, math and other STEM disciplines.

As a professional chess player myself, a business person, a Mom of 3 chess playing kids and a coach, I know I can bring a lot to the table — from improving the image of professional chess, to attracting more girls into the game, to raising the number and size of chess scholarships in colleges around the country – these are some areas I can see contributing my efforts into.

There are a lot of things that need to be done and a lot of work ahead. I know that it is not going to be easy, yet I expect a lot of support in addition to some opposition. I am willing to communicate, to work together, to find common ground. Moreover, I am eager to get things done, moving away from just talking and into actions.

In 2013, I came up with an idea to combine chess & science and organize an all-girls tournament. For the last 2 years it has been a reality – the Chess and Science Festival at Flandrau Science Center in Tucson, Arizona has been featured on TV by Arizona Public Media, and was sponsored by many organizations. Girls and parents alike think it is the best chess event they’ve ever participated in.

I envision putting similar effort into improving the USCF image, getting more scholarships at colleges and universities around the country, finding additional sponsors in the business and corporate world, increasing USCF membership through promoting chess at various events and through the media, listening to the suggestions of Top Players regarding their needs and qualification rules, and much much more…

Thus, I am asking for your votes, support and suggestions to make the USCF a better place for everyone…
Anjelina Belakovskaia
Candidate for USCF Executive Board
3-Time US Women’s Chess Champion
Woman International Grandmaster

If you would like to know more, you might find it useful to review some links:
http://en.calameo.com/read/0039822742e15e808c3e3 – NYU Alumni Magazine, Winter 2014-2015, pages 56-57.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhKDLXb6TT8 – 2013 Chess & Science Festival video.
http://chessandsciencefestival.com/ – The website I created for the Chess & Science festival.
https://ondemand.azpm.org/videoshorts/watch/2014/5/27/36232-us-chess-champion-game-can-expand-kids-skills/ – Arizona Public Media, 2014.
http://uaatwork.arizona.edu/lqp/national-champion-teaches-students-how-business-chess – The University of Arizona publication, 2014.
http://www.uschesschamps.com/bio/anjelina-belakovskaia – Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, 2013.
http://tucson.com/news/local/education/precollegiate/chess-champ-starts-program-to-help-kids-develop-life-skills/article_c6f0b8b5-be0c-5bc4-b5b2-0e236a2ddd89.html – Arizona Daily Star, 2010.
http://www.anjelinabelakovskaia.com/press/USAToday.html – USA Today, Front page of Money section, 2001.
http://www.anjelinabelakovskaia.com/press/derivativesstrategy.jpg – Derivatives Strategy, 2001.
http://www.anjelinabelakovskaia.com/press/DiscoverE1.jpg – DiscoverE, Williams Energy Publication, 2001.
http://www.anjelinabelakovskaia.com/press/NYTArticle1.html – The New York Times, 1999.
http://www.anjelinabelakovskaia.com/press/SIArticle.html – Sports Illustrated, Women Sport, Fall 1997.
http://chessforparents.com/ – Belakovskaia Chess Academy website.
https://www.facebook.com/BelakovskaiaChessAcademy – Facebook page of Belakovskaia Chess Academy.

Anjelina Belakovskaia
Candidate for USCF Executive Board
USCFId: 12559824

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