Dear CCI Members, Friends and Associates,
As the economy, and indeed, civilization itself, slowly begin to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic of the past few months, I am pleased to announce that we will now go ahead with our postponement date, and hold CCI's 19th Biennial Congress in St. Louis from September 2 - 6, 2020, as planned.
This has not been an easy decision. Far from it. Nor is it a final decision. New cases of COVID-19 are beginning to spike in some of the states that are reopening too quickly. There is still no vaccine in sight, though treatments have improved somewhat. And problems with things like PPE and testing have become much less acute since we were forced to postpone back in March.
The recent civil unrest across the country in response to the tragic killing of George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality seems to be calming down. And who knows what other disasters may await us in the near future?
Our meeting could still be canceled due to circumstances beyond our control. Rest assured that we will not attempt to hold the meeting in contravention of any duly authorized public health directives. If widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home orders return, particularly to the state of Missouri and the city of St. Louis, we would surely be forced to cancel the meeting completely, probably for the duration of this year.
Short of that, however, we will be going forward with the meeting. There is no real "certainty" to be found, but we simply believe it is time for someone to strike a note of optimism, and reclaim the right to make plans about our futures.
St. Louis is reopening in phases. By July 20th, businesses and restaurants there will not have any capacity limitations, as long as physical distancing can be maintained. Mask-wearing is strongly encouraged in the city (and required for most employees in public areas).
We have already been in contact with many of you about our meeting. And we've heard every opinion under the sun, ranging from, we MUST cancel the meeting altogether, to we MUST hold the meeting, if at all possible. And every opinion in between. It has been interesting: Some of our older members have said they will not travel at all this year, period. But just as many of our OLDEST members have said that if the meeting is delayed until 2021 or 2022 (as many have urged), they fear they just may not live long enough to see it happen. They say they want to attend a meeting THIS year, and the virus be damned.
It is for these members that we feel we must proceed with the meeting. However, you will note many important changes: It will probably be a much smaller gathering than we had originally planned. Quite a few of you have said you would not chose to travel so soon after the pandemic. And many European members may still have travel bans in place preventing them from attending, even if they wanted to. At this point, we think a meeting of even 15 - 20 people would be a great success. (Of course, if the meeting turns out to be larger, we will welcome you all!)
We are getting a lot of help and encouragement from the hotel, the auction house, and the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF), among others, that this small, yet historic meeting should take place. But the pandemic is not exactly over, and it will not simply be business as usual. There will be, as they say, a "new normal" with which we must all cooperate.
There will be masks and hand sanitizer provided for all our conference attendees. We are hoping to create a chess-themed mask, in honor of this unprecedented meeting, guaranteed to become the most unique chess collectible to appear in many a year. The wearing of masks will be encouraged to the extent it is practical, but not required. There may even be disposable gloves available at certain times. We will be practicing physical distancing to the extent possible and practical for the various events.
We will have temperature guns available, which we may use to take attendees temperatures at registration and various other times. Feel free to grab one and take OUR temperatures as well, if the spirit moves you. Temperature-taking will not be required, nor forced on anyone who objects.
We will NOT ask attendees to sign any sort of liability waiver. However, we do emphasize that this meeting is being held for the benefit of persons who voluntarily CHOOSE to attend, and we therefore do ask that you take some personal responsibility for your own attendance. CCI is not a deep-pockets organization anyway, and as a practical matter it would be extremely difficult to recover damages for an allegation that you contracted COVID-19 by attending our meeting, given the standard of proof that courts require. (I am not an attorney, however, and this may not be construed as legal advice.)
Our common goal is to hold this meeting without ANYONE becoming sick as a result, and we therefore plan to take any and all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of our attendees.
Here's what's still ON about the meeting:
HOTEL: The Chase Park Plaza has said they will work with us, and not hold us to the room minimums we had previously negotiated. They understand our meeting is likely to be much smaller than originally planned. We should still be able to have some sort of gala dinner there, though it may be a reduced and somewhat muted affair, with physical distancing measures in place. NOTE: If you previously made a hotel reservation for the May meeting, it has NOT been cancelled, unless YOU cancelled it. All such reservations have simply been moved to the September dates. The hotel is expecting you. If you have NOT yet made your reservation, please contact Kelly Toal at ChiChi Travel, at telephone 314-678-0500, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. ChiChi Travel is our exclusive booking agent for the Chase Park Plaza, our official conference hotel. Only they can ensure that you receive our special Chess rate of $159 per night, which applies whether you wish to sleep 1, 2, 3 or even 4 people to a room.
AUCTION: Link Auction Galleries is continuing to hold auctions this summer as scheduled. They are still planning to hold ours on Saturday, September 5th. Previews are in-person, but all bidding is online only. They will make an exception to this for our group, so if you attend the meeting, you will be able to bid in person at Link, if desired. They are planning to add a second online bidding platform for maximum internet exposure. CCI members who don't attend the meeting will still be able to participate in the auction, at least, from the comfort of their own homes. Link is currently holding roughly 300 lots of chess sets and other chess items, primarily from the Sarisohn collection, with additions from the Raphaelli and Gallegos collections. They are still able to take more items, if any of you wish to consign.
WORLD CHESS HALL OF FAME: The WCHOF is currently closed to the public until further notice, but our latest information is that they are considering a reopening date sometime in July. Our museum exhibition, "Dare to Know: Chess in the Age of Reason" is almost completely set up, but still awaiting several world-class sets from the Dean collection which were held up due to the pandemic. They should arrive and be installed in plenty of time for our meeting. In the unlikely event that the WCHOF does not reopen to the public by the time of our meeting, they have said they would give our group a private tour of this historic exhibition.
GATEWAY ARCH MUSEUM: This should be fully reopened, and our excursion there should not be impacted in any way.
Here is what we DON'T KNOW about the meeting:
WHITHERWARD CONCERT: This was not held on May 27th, as all events at the WCHOF were cancelled. We doubt this will be rescheduled for our Labor Day weekend meeting, but we will let you know if it is.
RIVERBOAT CRUISE: The Gateway Arch riverboat cruises are slowly beginning to reopen. We have a signed contract with them, and had already made a deposit when the pandemic hit. However, we have not yet been able to make contact with them to confirm our reservation.
CHESS MARKET AND SIMUL: We will hold these events if at all possible, but at the moment we are still working out the details, and cannot guarantee that they will occur. Both events would have to be held in a new, physically distanced format.
SPEAKERS: Several of our scheduled speakers have had to drop out, and we are currently in the process of scheduling replacements. There should still be a full slate of talks (probably to be given from behind a sheet of plexiglass), but they will be on a somewhat different group of topics. If you agreed to give a talk and still plan to attend, we still want you on the schedule.
One of the talks we are now planning will be entitled, "How to Checkmate a Virus: Lessons from the Enlightenment."
Hope to see you all in St. Louis, or as many of you as possible!
Tom Gallegos &
Luann Woneis, Organizers
P.S.: Please fill out and return the attached (revised) registration form by July 31st. And have a great summer!