Racism in U.S. Scholastic Chess?

Vaughn Bennett, executive director of the Olympic Chess House in Washington, DC reports that the district has engaged in under-handed tactics to select the representative for the Denker Tournament of Champions, a tournament featuring the scholastic champion of each state. This allegation stems from the selection of an individual who did not compete in the DC high school championship, yet was selected to represent the district by David Mehler, the executive director of U.S. Chess Center.

The player in question,
Johnny Sadoff has appeared in the Denker tournament three previous times from a school with 275 students despite the fact that he has never competed in the high school championships. These honors are said to have been won by Black and Asian students. This tournament featuring 60 players (20 high school students), and attended by Mayor Anthony Williams, was somehow considered secondary to the "qualifying" tournament held across town.

The letter goes on to give some evidence that may lead to Mr. Mehler's motives for hand-selecting a candidate for the Denker tournament. (Mr. Sadoff's mother allegedly works at the U.S. Chess Center). However, an agreement was made to arrange a match between the D.C. high school champion,
Vu Tran of Banneker H.S., and Mr. Sadoff.  That agreement was eventually broken because Mehler reasoned, "We aren't prepared or willing to tell Johnny that he has to jump through another hurdle."

Mr. Bennett is attempting to have "Vu Tran's rights upheld" and sent as the district's representative. In 1997,
Oliver Kayende was passed over as the DC represent in favor of Peter Schadler despite winning the DC high school championship, and also possessing a 100+ point rating advantage. To contact Mr. Bennett, call him at (202) 421-6419; fax at (202) 397-4439; e-mail at vleebennett@starpower.net.


"David Mehler answers charges of racism in DC Scholastic Chess," The Chess Drum, 7 August 2001.

"Chess Organizer Vaughn Bennett jailed!" The Chess Drum,  14 April 2002.

"Vaughn Bennett files $150 million chess lawsuit!" The Chess Drum, 18 December 2005.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 27 July 2001

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Update: Vaughn Bennett filed a 49-page lawsuit against the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and 24 other defendants in December 2005 charging that racism plagued a number of USCF-sponsored events. The defendants include current and past USCF officials, chess organizations, tournament directors, a university and a number of private businesses. The above case of Vaughn Bennett vs. the United States Chess Federation was dismissed after Judge Richard Leon stated his conclusion:

"Plaintiff, in his complaint, has outlined in detail what appears to be a long and tempestuous history between himself and defendant Mehler and the other defendants concerning the promotion of the game of chess in the District of Columbia. Notwithstanding, his frustration with the disagreements between the parties, plaintiff  either lacks standing to bring the current action against the defendants, is barred from bringing the action against the defendants, or fails to state a claim upon which  relief can be granted.* Therefore, for all the above stated reasons, defendants'  Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED. An appropriate order will issue with this memorandum opinion."

*This Memorandum Opinion does not reach the merits of defendants' claims that this action should be dismissed on statute of limitation grounds, lack of personal jurisdiction, or because the action is barred by Illinois statute. The plaintiff will be ordered to show cause as to why the current action should not be dismissed as to those defendants claiming lack of service of process through various defendants' motions.

This judgment was filed on July 7, 2006. Read judgment here.