David Mehler answers charges of racism in DC Scholastic Chess

Rocked by charges of negligence and abuse of privilege,
Mr. David Mehler, Executive Director of the U.S. Chess Center has categorically denied the charges of racist tactics used to select the DC Denker representative. Mr. Mehler contends that the DC Chess League (the USCF State affiliate) determines which tournament will be the Denker qualifying tournament and argues that Mr. Vaughn Bennett has no connection to the League.  Mr. Mehler states,

"The USCF, which administers the Denker tournament, vests responsibility for choosing the DC representative in the DC Chess League. The DC Chess League has given us the responsibility to run the tournament that selects the representative and we have done so."

Mr. Mehler said that Mr. Bennett had filed an earlier protest and the DC schools (which included the assistant superintendent and the Director of Business) reached the conclusion that the charges of discrimination were unwarranted.  This ruling allegedly prompted legal threats from Mr. Bennett after which Bennett traversed a number of channels including the DC mayor's office and the
United States Chess Federation (USCF).  Mehler mentioned previous problems that Mr. Bennett has had in resolving issues with the DC chess community causing a disrepair of his credibility in hosting scholastic tournaments and stated,

"This lack of credibility is reinforced when he distributes press releases that are largely inaccurate. The shreds of truth in his missives are horribly outweighed by the outright falsehoods and misleading innuendo. Because of his history, no respectable organization is willing to have anything to do with him."

While Mr. Mehler admits that Mr. Bennett ran a tournament adjacent to the "qualifying" tournament, it was never considered as the legitimate body for determining the Denker representative. Mehler stated, "This year, Mr. Bennett ran a free tournament on the same weekend as the official Denker qualifier and no DC Public School student attended the official tournament. That had never happened before."
Johnny Sadoff, the player currently selected as the Denker champ, is currently rated 1619 and was said to have won the qualifying tournament for the last three years. When Mr. Bennett was questioned on these matters, he replied,

"What championship did Sadoff ever win? Mehler says, the 'topscoring' DC High School student (NOT champion), gets to go to the Denker. This year, Sadoff was the ONLY DC High School student that played in the DC Junior Open, Mehler's 'qualifying' tournament. There is no equity or fairness in that. Especially since this was his fourth year in a row. . . . How is it that Mehler claims on his website to have helped more than forty D.C. Public Schools, taught thousands of inner-city children and youth over nine years time, and yet only private school student, Johnny Sadoff gets to go to the Denker four years in a row."

At press time, Johnny Sadoff is competing in the Denker Tournament of Champions in Framingham, Massachusetts.  It remains to be seen if there will be any resolution to apparent conflicts within the DC scholastic chess community. Certainly, the existing conflict between Mr. Mehler and Mr. Bennett will rob DC of any benefits that their combined efforts can bring.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 7 August 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.