Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with EB Candidate Ruth Haring

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that there are certain topics I stay away from. Religion and politics (chess or US) are topics that I tend to shy away from, and will continue to do so. However I'm bending the ban on USCF politics to post this interview that I did with Ruth Haring at the National Open. I saw Ruth last year at the US Open in Dallas, but I think the last time I had seen her before that was when I gave her a ride to Burlington, Vermont back in 1977.

Ruth was one of the top US women players back then. She stopped playing chess for about 30 years, and just started up again last summer. So I was very intrigued when I heard she was running for a seat on the US Chess Federation's Executive Board. These elections tend to be contentious affairs, and I often why anyone in their right mind would want to run. I got to spend time with her between rounds five and six, and had the following interview with her. This is my first attempt at doing an interview on my blog. I apologize if I don't have pithy questions and comments to add flavor to this post.

Ruth Haring in action

Polly: I saw you last year in Dallas, and I can’t remember when I saw you before that. When did you start playing again?

Ruth: One year ago at the National Open. That was my first tournament after a little over 30 years of not playing tournament chess. I now have three grown children and decided to start playing again. Then at the US Open last year I actually got my son to start playing. So we’re sort of going around as a team now.

P: How old is your son who is playing?

R: He’s 19. He’s my youngest. I have two daughters, 22 and 21.

P: And they’re not following mom’s footsteps, trying to be an outstanding woman chess player?

R: They both can play chess. And they’re probably decent because they sometimes can beat my dad who used to be a C player. But they’re not interested in playing tournament chess.

P: How is your son doing so far?

R: He’s disappointed with his result. (National Open) He just got a 1700 rating and he’s improved a lot. He started in class D. He was sort of hoping to win, and win the class prize. (Under 1800 section) But you know you have to go through the school of knocks a little bit before you do that. But it’s good for him to be optimistic at this age.

P: I started out the tournament 0-3 in the same section. It’s been pretty brutal competition. So what have you been doing all this time that you haven’t been playing chess? Obviously raising three kids, but what else?

R: I’ve been working for the majority of the time. I started out as a programmer, and then went into project management. Consultant in the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley. The last 15 years I’ve been in program management for companies like IBM and eBay. A pretty intense and hard working field.

P: When did you decide that you wanted to run for the Executive Board?

R: Shortly after started playing again. In my career in Silicon Valley I met a lot of the movers and shakers type of people, and some of them are very good chess players, or chess enthusiasts. My initial idea was I wanted to volunteer my time and do some fundraising.

I went and talked to a bunch of people I knew from the old days and said “Hey I’d like to help out the USCF and I think I can do some fundraising because I have all these contacts.” Everybody I talked to told me “Don’t do that. The money would be wasted. The USCF is embroiled in lawsuits.”

Then we got talking about what I’ve been doing and catching up. When they saw my resume, and learned what I had been doing, they said, “The thing you should do is run for the executive board.” After about 5 or 6 people told me that I started seriously considering that, and here I am.

P: If you’re elected what do feel that you have to offer the board? What are some of your goals?

R: My initial goal was fundraising, but that will have to wait until some of the legal problems are solved. I do have a management background, and I have great interpersonal skills. I feel I would be a calming and maybe mediating influence on the board.

As a program manager it was always my objective to make things happen and get things done. There are probably a lot of little projects in different areas of the USCF that have been around a long time, and haven’t gotten done. I would really like to help mentor people and get some of these projects done so we can move on to other things. Make sure there are plans and place and help move the organization forward, and that’s how I think I can help.

P: Are there any sort of pet projects that you’re interested in doing in terms of helping the USCF move forward?

R: I was interested in the fund raising as a pet project. I’ve always thought there should be better media coverage and better programs to promote players. I would really like to figure out how that could happen because all the various formats that have been tried over the years don’t really seem to do what they’re intended to do.

(We spent some time talking about how expensive it is to play in the big tournaments and we kicked around a few ideas about that. That I will discuss in another post.)

P: Thanks for your time. I think you have some very good ideas and positive energy.

R: I’m trying to keep it all positive though I know there are a lot negative things going on. I really don’t see the value in name-calling and infighting. So I’ve been trying to keep my campaign totally positive. Hopefully it will be effective.

P: Good luck, and we have just over a month left before the ballots need to be in.

R: I would just like to encourage everyone reading this to read all the candidates’ statements. (The link is the USCF website. You must be logged in to read.) It’s very important to vote this year.

I will echo Ruth's sentiments and encourage everybody to vote. There is a lot of stuff on the internet about the issues and the candidates. Read what you can, and try not to get sucked in by all the hyperbole.

Edit: Chess Tiger asked some good questions in the comments section. Maybe I should have had him do the interview! Ruth took the time to answer them. Feel free to contact her via Facebook or leave more questions here.


Anonymous said...

I think the interview was very good, especially since you said you dont dabble in politics.

Good job because it was fair and balanced.


chesstiger said...

So far so good but what i kinda missed is what she is doing for chess now beside playing in tournaments. Is she member of a club? If so, does she do something special in/for that club? As project manager is she already involved in chess in schools in her region?

That are the tidbits i want to know if i would make a choice to vote for somebody or give a person support.

But then again, i am not an americain so i cannot vote for her so i guess those are just nosy questions. :-)

Blue Devil Knight said...

What is it about chess federations that seems to corrupt? I hope that she wins, and I hope she doesn't fall into the same trap. I said the same about Polgar, so I won't hold my breath.

Ruth Haring said...


Thanks for the questions !

Yes, I am involved in Chess in the region. I play chess in Chico California. I have lived in Chico for almost a year. Chico is a town of about 90,000 north of Sacramento in the North end of the Central Valley. Rice and fruit and vegetables grow here. Besides the University, Sierra Nevada brewery is one of Chico's largest employers. When Chico State University is in session there are around 20,000 students in town.

Chess in Chico is a coffee house affair, and there are gatherings every day of the week. Most players will play 5 or 10 minute games at Club. About half of the players here have, at one time or another, played in tournaments.

I have volunteered to teach chess in the Chico schools - and hope to get this volunteer effort kicked off in the coming school year. In the past, I have taught chess in the schools, when I lived in San Francisco in the 1980's.

I also take an active interest in training techniques and my son, whose rating just went into the 1700's, and i are going to do two weeks of training before the US Open.

If you want more information about me, my campaign website is

I have no conflicts of interests (e.g. do not support myself from chess related activities) and as a board member will be a thoughtful advocate for chess. Since I have corporate experience over many years, I will bring professional management and negotiation skills to the Executive Board team.

If you have more questions I can be reached at or on Facebook

BlunderProne said...

Ruth ( and Polly),

I like the fact that you are both role models for my daughter in a game notoriously dominated by men.

I come from a family of chess enthusiasts and promote the art at home as well. I think it would be great to get someone with your background in an executive role.

I sure hope the legal issues wind up soon.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Best of luck, Ruth. If I vote, it will be for you.

Polly said...

BDK: Please vote. It's important.

Matt Hayes said...

This is the first time I have ever voted in a USCF election. I was never particularly bothered in previous years but I felt it more important this time around. I do not think a convicted felon or those involved in litigation with the USCF should be on the Executive Board and have cast my vote accordingly.

Anonymous said...

The interview was a great read. You need not worry about the alleged "lack of flavor" :D

It certainly would be advantageous to have a female presence on the board be more able to benefit US chess than the last one.

Religion and politics (chess or US) are topics that I tend to shy away from

It's hard not to notice you left the door open to discuss Estonian politics.

The Mascot said...

Is she single?

Polly said...

LEP: I don't know diddly squat about Estonian politics.

Mascot: I don't think so.

LinuxguyonFICS said...

Polly, just have to say that I played a little kid at my last tournament, and couldn't help but think of your stories. I don't think you were over-embellishing anything as it really can be a bit of a bizarre experience. Also makes for a good story.