Chess bits

Margaret Murphy about Electoral Commission: “I had a stack of emails almost one foot high”

Margaret Murphy 1Margaret Murphy is the President of the US Virgin Islands Chess Federation and served as member of the Appeals Committee for the FIDE Women’s World Championship in Sochi.

In the first part of the interview she shared her impressions about the championship, the venue, the visit of Russian Prime Minister, and involvement of women in FIDE.

In the second part she talks about chess on the US Virgin Islands and provides insight about the work in various FIDE Commissions.

Q: Margaret, what is your background in chess, how did you get involved with the game?

A: I am a teacher. I started teaching in 1979, I’ve always loved chess, I started playing as a child, my father taught me. And I’ve always shared the love for the game with my students.

I teach little children, up to 10 years old, and after that I pass them to the other teachers. I have the patience, I think, as a school teacher, because as you know not all great players are great teachers.

I also developed a program to teach teachers how to teach chess. When I go to the schools, I also have the teachers sitting there with the children. So when I move on to the next school, those teachers can take over.

Q: Where are you actually based?

A: I am from US Virgin Islands, I live there for about seven months of a year. The rest of the time I spend in New Hampshire. My work is more structured on the US Virgin Islands, because this is where I was a school teacher. many of my students went on to play in the Chess Olympiads, and this was a wonderful feeling.

Q: How is chess developing on the US Virgin Islands?

A: Up and down. It depends on the money and the funding. We would do more things if we had a little bit more money, like in other places around the world. It’s difficult, because we need the funds to put the tournaments on, to rent the halls.

Q: How do you actually finance your activities?

A: Various ways, anything that I can come up with. I am also the fundraiser. I have to be charming, go to all the different people and businesses. I have to go to the government or to the Olympic Committee.

We go to the various places, but I also use the past connections. For example, the school where I taught chess allowed us to run all of our tournaments there.

In this school we had everything, the principal even gave me an office. But this school was closed last year. So this year I have to go and search a new place. Being resourceful as I am, somehow through my hairdresser I was introduced to a pastor who allowed us to use his church on Saturdays.

So I was able to have my Saturday class again, which I couldn’t hold for months because we didn’t have the place.

This is one great thing about us – chess people always find the way! We are very resourceful and we always figure out the way to get what we want.

Margaret Murphy and chief arbiter Zsuzsa Verőci

Margaret Murphy and WWCC chief arbiter Zsuzsa Verőci

Q: How long have you been involved in FIDE Commissions and related work?

A: The FIDE work I started in 1994 during the Chess Olympiad in Moscow. And then I got more involved with Mr.Nicola Palladino from Italy, who helped me start with ‘Chess in Schools’ project in 1998. Because of my position as a teacher I though I could offer a lot to the ‘Chess in Schools’.

But then I wanted to do other things too. I was in the Executive Board and later I was in the Ethics Committee. This was a very difficult job! But somebody has to do that.

Then I wanted a change, I like to do different things. Now I am with the FIDE Commission for the Disabled, where Thomas Luther is the Chairman. I am also with the Verification Commission. Maybe this year I learn something new.

I said I would never be a politician, but after so many years you simply get involved.

Q: Can you elaborate a little bit about your work in the Ethics Committee? People from the outside don’t know much about the process that is going on in there.

A: It’s really run like you would run a justice system. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. There really isn’t many grey areas, it’s black and white.

You have to read the rules carefully. We were fortunate to have three respected judges. I was one of the lay people (Ion Dobronauteau was the other). The judges still needed a little bit of an input from the outside. I think this was good for them.

They were really the brains behind this work, the machine. These guys knew the international law, the judges from Jamaica, Germany, Italy… I think their tremendous expertise helps carry it through.

It was a difficult job sometimes, but we all know that each sport have to have a system where people are made to follow the rules.

Q: And from Tallinn 2013 you got this nice duty of being the Chairman of the Electoral Commission. How was the work there?

A: Now I can definitely say that this work was very difficult. But again, morally, it was about doing the right thing. No matter how you felt emotionally, you really had to keep yourself focused: this is right and this is wrong.

And most important – you had to know the regulations!

But some people chose to interpret the regulations incorrectly. And there were simple rules, everything was clearly written.

Q: How did you fight with the pressure coming from various sides?

A: That part didn’t really bother me because after a while I got into the ‘school-teacher mode’. As a Chairperson I started to deal with the problems like I was solving issues with my students.

If I would think that someone is going in the wrong direction, I would ask them to think about everything a little more.

Q: You were dealing with the federations’ representatives, with the delegates, proxies. Which was the toughest case to bring to conclusion?

A: There isn’t really one. Maybe Gabon, there were few. But in the essence, you had to read as carefully as you could. Other people didn’t see this on the outside. We had to collect all the information that was available, and sometimes it was stronger in one direction, another time it was stronger in another direction.

Each case was unique. And it literally took hours to sit down and read all the information.

I printed out every single email, I had a stack of emails almost one foot high. From one of the attorneys. And when she came in and complained that nobody is reading emails I pointed to this pile of paper. I should have charged for the ink! :)

But I think when it came down, people understood what was right and wrong. Some people were fighting emotionally, and I don’t fight emotionally, this I learned long time ago as a teacher. You can’t favour one student over another, no matter who you like better.

You have to look at the situation and think: how does this look like, what are we supposed to do. And, okay, some people don’t like the way you decide, it’s similar to the Ethics Committee. But in the end, it is a group decision, and not of one person. Everybody has an opportunity to convince you that they are correct.

I know that some people were not happy with this, but I say well maybe they should have more convincing argument.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at FIDE Women’s World Championship

Q: Now you are with the the Commission for the Disabled and with the Verification Commission. What are the expectations.

A: I am looking forward to work on the both Commissions. They are very different. I had experience working with disabled students. One of my science students had a cerebral palsy. I taught this girl how to play and she actually won the Millennium tournament. And now she is working with the Committee for the Disabled on the US Virgin Islands.

I will contact her and ask if she can assist with the work in the Commission. And she know the situation on the US Virgin Islands, we have to do this locally. Thomas Luther is perfect for the job, as far as the leadership goes. But I think we all have to do a little bit in our local communities. I am looking forward to the work.

Verification Commission is totally new for me. I’ve never been really connected to something like this. I find it very interesting because it requires utmost transparency. And this is really good for FIDE.

I believe that people are comfortable with me in this position, because they know that if I saw something that I thought was not right I would speak up.

You’ll have to ask me again after the FIDE Congress and then I will tell you more about the work.

Q: The earlier Verification Commission was holding regular meeting in Athens, going over the FIDE accounts. But despite the repeated accusations in public that FIDE is corrupted, the Verification didn’t have any major remarks.

A: And I think this proves that there is no corruption. The members of the Verification were from Jersey, Norway and the US.

And I know Ruth Haring from the US, she is a friend of mine, politically we are different but we have a lot in common, and I trust Ruth indefinitely. I think if there was something that it was hidden, that she would be the one to find it. Especially with the elections coming up.

So again, it is a question of finding a convincing argument. You can make all the accusations you want, but if you can’t prove these accusations, what good does it do. It’s just idle talk.

I think the report that Graham Boxall gave last time speaks for itself. He is an honest man, and Ruth and JJ are also people of integrity.

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