My Story

Discuss anything you like about chess related matters in this forum.
Post Reply
Sabrina Chevannes
Posts: 308
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 1:53 pm

My Story

Post by Sabrina Chevannes » Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:30 pm

Dear All

I have been playing chess for nearly 20 years now, entering into several tournaments a year, supporting the British tournament circuit. In addition to this, I have encouraged many of my students to play in tournaments, sign up to the ECF etc. - all to support British chess. It made me so proud that I could represent my country playing chess, albeit I could have seriously improved on my performances, but it still was an honour. I know that I could have done better/taken it more seriously, which is why I have dedicated all my time and effort into getting my students to achieve what I couldn't.

All through growing up, through the junior circuit, I ran into difficulties, where people were making things a little difficult for me, but I had the support of my parents and usually they could deal with things, so I got through it.

I went off to university to study medicine and pursue a career as a doctor, but I couldn't resist teaching chess and set up my own academy. Since then, I have done what I can to promote junior and women's chess. I gave up my career as a doctor in order to help children achieve their dreams, whether it be academic or chess related. I love what I do, well, until others start to get involved.

It all started when I agreed to become the Manager of Women's Chess for the ECF with Jovanka Houska. We would do our best to try and promote women's chess, create more events, get them training etc but were always shot down and received no support from those who made the decisions. We started tournaments such as the National Girls' Chess Championships and English Women's Rapidplay, both of which were well received by the girls and women. However, these tournaments were not cheap to run and since we received little financial support from the ECF as the events were not seen as important enough, I had to take out personal loans or business loans to cover the expenses. Just to clarify, I do not have a lot of money, but I put what I did have into the tournament and what I thought was best for the future. These tournaments went well in the first year, but in the second year, we ran into more difficulties.

Then there was the whole British Championships training fiasco: I had been asked by several of the parents of my students to train them at the British Chess Championships in Sheffield. Since so many of them wanted this, I decided to go along and train them all as a group and make a schedule for them to be prepared individually. I also asked IM Jovanka Houska and GM Keith Arkell to do this with me as I had so many wanting training. Somehow, this was posted to the forum and then all hell broke loose. I was then refused entry to the British Chess Championships by the organisers, struck off the ECF Accredited Coach list and made to pay a bucket load of fees. When I was asked why this was, they said that only ECF accredited coaches were allowed to enter into the venue of the British Champsionships. Obviously I don't need to explain that this is a load of rubbish and was just a personal vendetta. There are several cases where the ECF employed non ECF accredited coaches to go on their trips etc. I was out of pocket by a serious 4 figure sum for this trip and to top it off, when I got there, I was reported for being in the building and escorted by security! This was not only completely humiliating, but seriously upsetting as I have supported the British Champs for so many years.

More problems occurred when I was asked to run for the role of ECF Junior Director, when Peter Purland announced he was stepping down. I was approached by several parents and officials who all thought I would be great for this role as I have been through every stage of the junior process myself as well as being through it as a coach. I had (or have) several visions of what would make a great junior squad and the things involved to make it work. However, I regret ever consider running for the position. It felt like American politics and I suppose that was because there was an American involved. The nastiness started, the sabotaging, the downright outrageousness. I was threatened to be sacked from my job, I was told that I would not be selected for England (as a chess player), I was told my students would not be selected for England, should I go for the role of Junior Director. I was horrified and deeply upset. All I had ever wanted to do was do what was best for the juniors. I had even been approached by my "rival" for the position, to state how exactly I should stand down and how to go about things to make it subtle. I was promised the position now held by Nick Pert if I should step down. I was promised that I would be in charge of creating an ECF Junior Squad and co-ordinating all of its activiteis. This was a very difficult decision for me as I really wanted to help junior chess, but thought if people (some in very high places) were willing to go to these lengths, then they must want it badly and for a valid reason. Oh, was I wrong! I stepped down, in the fact that I did not lobby or campaign for votes, unlike my competitor, and did not give a very convincing speech at the voting meeting. I made sure that I would not be voted in. However, when the votes came in, I had only lost by something like 8 votes!! It was crazy!! Apparently, it came down to just one person! However, it seemed that many had voted for me because I had a high grade (180+ at the time), whereas the other candidate had a grade of sub 100. It just shows that, again, people vote for the wrong reason.

After this incident, many voters wrote to me and said that they had wished they voted for me, but they submitted their votes weeks ago upon speaking to the other candidate. It was nice to know that many saw that I was a good candidate, but what was when all the real problems started...

The current Junior Director did not like the fact many (including his friends) were suggesting that I was a better candidate for the job (because he knew nothing about junior chess), that he then started to become extremely hostile to me. He put my tournaments out to tender and did not allow me to run things for girls anymore. I will not go into too much detail of all the nasty things he has done, because this would become a 100 page post. He is not the only one who has been making my life difficult. As everyone knows, I try to help out juniors and women as much as I can. I try to create tournaments and make coaching available to them. I have had many ventures that have been sabotaged along the way. Just to name a few:
National Girls' Chess Championships - I had venues rang up and cancelled on my behalf. A few "rival" events created on the same day as my events. Girls and parents discouraged to enter my tournaments. Threats that the girls won't get selected to play for England should they enter my tournaments
English Women's Rapidplay - no support and discouraged to run it and was informed that women's chess was pointless and unimportant.
Coaching and In tournament training - tournaments were approached and warned not to support my coaching. Started a joint venture with a GM to help him get some students - he then went and stole my whole contact list and poached all my students from me. Now this person is guaranteeing they get selected for England if they are coached by him and not me.

This is just to name a few. I would get countless emails from several nasty people (whom I believe now just sent them to upset me) everyday just making jabs at me. This went on for several months, with several emails each week which would leave me in tears. I began to lose the will to live. At this point, I had "lost" several students, lost a job, had my tournaments sabotaged and my reputation slowly ruined. Not to mention that I still had those loans to pay off.

I found it very difficult to go on with life knowing that every move I make, there would be someone there to make sure I fail. If I didn't have those very few people who have supported me through these times, I don't think I would have made it. So thank you to you guys, you know who you are.

I fell very ill in November 2012 and spent a lot of time in hospital since then. I am currently battling something serious and have ongoing health problems. Stress is a serious factor that exacerbates my illness. These situations do not help my health.

The latest fashion of Sabrina bashing is the Richmond Rapidplay. This was taken over by me in May 2011. I spent a lot of time and money investing in this tournament, to ensure that it carries on the way it had been running under Susan Lalic and co. However, the nonsense began on the very first RR ran by myself. I had tried to improve things, by adding online entry and making things electronic and easier to pay etc. However, people only focused on the negative points - the raise in entry fees. The "on the day" payment was raised significantly in order to discourage those just entering on the day and creating more admin. But obviously, people chose to complain. This was fine as you cannot please everyone, but then the hate mail came. It was nasty, personal hatred emails to me and became very demoralising. Then other organisers didn't like the fact that "someone so young" was runninng these tournaments and making money. This is what the bizarre thing is; whenever I speak to chess players in other countries, they are always saying that the chess organisers support each other and help ensure that you can make a living out of it. But not here, I have found it is the opposite. Other organisers have expressed their dislike with me because I am young and I should "know my place". This has led organisers to specifically organise events on the same day as my Richmond Rapidplays and spread lies about me so it will tarnish my reputation. Thereby causing less entries to my tournaments, leaving me in more debt.

There was a recent cancellation of a Richmond Rapidplay (RR107) by myself, at the last minute. This was very unfortunate and I have completely apologised for doing this. All players who paid have either been refunded or credited to a future RR and will get another free entry on top of that. I felt I had no choice to do this as on the morning of the event, I received a call stating that someone very close to me had been stabbed and that they weren't going to make it. They said they were asking for me and that I should go to the hospital and say goodbye. I did not want to cancel the RR but there was no one to fill in for me at late notice. I couldn't not go, as I would never live with mysef and I didn't want to disappoint a dying wish. I didn't want to make this public knowledge, but since there have been several nasty articles and many people who don't know me saying things behind my back, then I thought I would announce it.

I have also found out that there have been people saying things to venues I contact also, so that no venue will host my Richmond Rapidplay. Therefore, I am still looking for a venue for RR108. However, I just want people to know, that I will still continue to run these events as soon as I have found a venue. I hear that Adam Raoof is trying to take over these events without my permission - another example of him trying to make things difficult for me.

This post was to let people know what is really going on and to publicly ask those people bringing me down to leave me alone. I have suffered some serious bouts of depression due to chess players and organisers and understand why so many chess players have quit the game. Due to the lack of support I have received from the ECF and other chess organisers in this country, I would like to announce that I will no longer be playing chess for England and I am looking to transfer to another federation - one that will support me, rather than go against me. I will also no longer be coaching the English Juniors - I don't get selected for these events anyway, as there are people that make sure of that. But, my services will go elsewhere, to other countries that appreciate my work. This will be the case indefinitely, unless there is a drastic change, which more than likely, there won't be.

So, I would like to say goodbye English chess! You have given me nothing but grief over the last few years, despite my best efforts to try and support your cause.
Last edited by Carl Hibbard on Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Some moderation required

Andrew Camp
Posts: 508
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 11:18 am
Location: Colwyn Bay

Re: My Story

Post by Andrew Camp » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:45 pm

You're always welcome in Wales, I can vouch for that.
Chairman of North Wales Junior Chess Association

Posts: 5373
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:13 am

Re: My Story

Post by LawrenceCooper » Thu Jun 27, 2013 5:50 pm

And in any event that I'm involved with. You have my full support.

User avatar
Peter D Williams
Posts: 839
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:15 pm
Location: Hampshire

Re: My Story

Post by Peter D Williams » Thu Jun 27, 2013 5:55 pm

I think Sabrina post points out exactly what is wrong with the chess world.She right about this" unless there is a drastic change, which more than likely, there won't be" I am convinced that a section of people work against Junior chess and do not really want it to thrive.

To be escorted out of the building at the British is crazy you could not make it up!

No one should be threatened with losing their job that is very wrong.

If you have to cancel an event because a close friend been stabbed/killed then i would like to think people would understand why you could not go!

I have never met Sabrina to talk to but have seen her at a few events helping younger players and from what i could see she was doing a good job with them.

I have always found Adam Raoof to be a fair individual when ever i and Peter had any contact with him so can not comment on what you say about him

The ECF board should conduct a proper inquiry into this matter as the issues you raise are very serious.

I hope you recover from your illness and suffer no more stress.We as a family are now stress free now that we do not play chess.We to got fed up with people sniping away in the background.Commenting on Peter when their no nothing about him!

I wish you good luck in what ever you chose to do.
when you are successful many losers bark at you.

John Moore
Posts: 2062
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 6:33 pm

Re: My Story

Post by John Moore » Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:04 pm

I also wish Sabrina all the best but I guess there is another side of the story. There are a number of people who are not named in her message but will be known round the circuit. They may decide to respond or not as they choose.

Anyway, the important thing, Sabrina, is to get yourself well.

Krishna Shiatis
Posts: 667
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:08 pm

Re: My Story

Post by Krishna Shiatis » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:05 pm

Hi Sabrina,

You have given your heart and soul to English Chess and I read this with great sadness. You have a good and kind heart.

Please do not go because there are people who really care about you here and do not want you to go - which includes us.

Wales, I know would be very happy (sorry Andrew C! Will fight to keep her!), we do not want to lose your talent. I hope that things can be fixed and that you are better soon. Keep your head up and remember us before making any decisions.

Wish you well and hope that things get sorted,

Kind regards


Posts: 541
Joined: Sat Dec 01, 2007 10:03 pm
Location: Leicester

Re: My Story

Post by PeterTurland » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:28 pm

Thousands of years ago Plato taught us that, we must separate logic from emotion, from all I know about neurology, how right he was.

In my hypothesis, neuronal firing is logic and neurotransmitter ratios are emotions.

In my attempt to be a good parent, I tried to teach both my children chess and failed.

It has taken reality years, to teach me how stupid I am.

My daughter was born and five years later my son.

In my ignorance, I never realized that the women can play chess just as good as the men, it is my hypothesis that if women were not in the past, busy at other stuff, we would have had a female world champion by now. Had I have realized this well over thirty years ago, I would have made sure my daughter could play chess, because I assumed in my dismal ignorance that teaching women to play chess was a waste of time, how wrong can you get?

So much of what we assume to be truth, is just assumptions.

So Sabrina take heart, teaching the young women of the world, how to find out about another person's logic ability, is a pursuit that I commend.
Last edited by PeterTurland on Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:41 pm, edited 5 times in total.

Alex Holowczak
Posts: 9085
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 5:18 pm
Location: Oldbury, Worcestershire

Re: My Story

Post by Alex Holowczak » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:17 pm

Sabrina Chevannes wrote:Then other organisers didn't like the fact that "someone so young" was runninng these tournaments [...] Other organisers have expressed their dislike with me because I am young and I should "know my place". This has led organisers to specifically organise events on the same day as my Richmond Rapidplays and spread lies about me so it will tarnish my reputation.
I don't intend to comment on the ECF-related part of the post, for reasons I'm sure people will understand. However, I do wish to comment on the point quoted above.

I'm younger than Sabrina, and so I think I'm well-placed to comment on the specific issue of the crime of being young and a volunteer in chess.

I run quite a few tournaments and there have been several criticisms directed at me. On this forum, complaints about the grading prizes at the British Blitz (and indeed whether I have the right to organise it at all) and the penalty applied to non-members of the County Championship are two recent examples. There was one instance of an Organiser clashing an event with one of my events, but that wasn't out of malice. I accept it was an accident through not checking the calendar, and in any case, we ended up with more entries than the previous year!

The criticisms were that I should have worded the rules better in the case of the Blitz, and written a different rule in the case of the Counties. Reasonable enough criticisms. I don't recall anyone complaining about my age being the reason for the lack of judgement.

When standing as Director of Home Chess, David Sedgwick asked me about my age at Council, and effectively, whether or not I could handle it. I answered that I had grown used to the sort of criticisms I'd end up having to take as Director of Home Chess, so it probably wouldn't effect me. I specifically put my age in my election address to see how much questioning and discussion it prompted. David's question was the subtotal of the questioning I received.

I don't think I've experienced the same age-based prejudice you claim to have experienced. Often I find the opposite: people want me to do things for them because I'm young. Any criticisms tend to be accusing me of all sorts of horrible things, but this isn't linked to my age. If a 50-year old was Director of Home Chess, I don't think the complaints would be fundamentally different.

I wonder why the two of us have such differing experiences?

User avatar
Matt Mackenzie
Posts: 3581
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:51 pm
Location: Millom, Cumbria

Re: My Story

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:23 pm

Hmmm..........dare one suggest because Sabrina is both young *and* female?? One might be OK, but do some in the chess world find both hard to cope with?
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Roger de Coverly
Posts: 19264
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:51 pm

Re: My Story

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:07 am

There's an irony that whilst the ECF, or factions in the ECF insisted that regulations should be followed to the letter and apply to Sabrina's coaching initiative at Sheffield, equivalent standards weren't applied to the then President's financing of invited players. But heavy handed application of rules can be a frequent ECF characteristic, except where it isn't. Does one and half points for a single game in the Major Open in 2010 ring any bells?

Louise Sinclair
Posts: 258
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:29 am
Location: London

Re: My Story

Post by Louise Sinclair » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:18 am

You and I crossed swords a couple of years ago because I disapprove of "wimmins chess" however reading your account fills me with disgust and a sense of de ja vu. Clearly nothing has changed within the great English chess circuit. I dropped out of active chess because I could no longer trust myself not to respond with a serious assault on some of my tormenters. Poker has a far friendlier attitude.
In England there IS NO PLACE FOR FEMALE PLAYERS WHO DO NOT KNOW THEIR PLACE and stick to a lowly status - success and endeavour is kicked in the teeth when women and young people attempt something new and fresh - the old boy network doesn't care for it.
To show you my sympathy I wish to offer you a free entry to the next Sam Black Blitz in 2014 - pm me if you are interested - very friendly and no bullying allowed. Don't get depressed - get mad and get even.
Tournament Director
North Circular Chess
Last edited by Louise Sinclair on Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
You might very well think that ; I couldn't possibly comment.
' you turn if you want. The lady's not for turning'

Andrew Zigmond
Posts: 1831
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:23 pm
Location: Harrogate

Re: My Story

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:03 am

I haven't had a chance to digest Sabrina's post in detail yet, however I would say that the ECF related issues could be raised under the ECF Code Of Conduct. Granted, the complaint would be historic and predate the code itself, however it would show the ECF does have teeth to bring about reform where it is needed.

It's ironic that the Sheffield Championship will always be remembered in the eyes of many for an incident that saw an individual who was trying to break the mould of English chess claim he was being driven out by a conservative establishment. Up to a point, I actually agreed with what he was saying but he and his supporters fail to realise that it was his atrocious behaviour after that led to his downfall.

The power in English chess does not lie with the ECF in many ways; compared to the London Chess Classic and the 4NCL their events are the poor relatives. Challenging the ECF is not difficult.

Finally it's worth noting the current ECF junior director has (unlike every other director) has risen above controversy and delivered his job; despite getting caught up in an unpleasant incident in Mureck last year.
Controller - Yorkshire League
Chairman - Harrogate Chess Club
All views expressed entirely my own

User avatar
Ben Purton
Posts: 1622
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:53 am
Location: Berks

Re: My Story

Post by Ben Purton » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:10 am

Sabrina we are a bit rollercoaster friends since around 10 years old. Our mothers were close friends.

It will be a shame to not see you around chess?. You have been very pro-active with your promotion of junior chess.

All I would say is if its something that makes you sad and ill stop doing it if you can. Sadly, in most walks of life there will be people who are not nice and that is just an unfortunate part of the world.

You have quite a heritage and therefore have quite a few teams youd make the Olympiad teams of and are elligble given parents.

Hope things get better.
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

John Hodgson
Posts: 62
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:13 am

Re: My Story

Post by John Hodgson » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:43 am

Louise Sinclair wrote: In Britain there IS NO PLACE FOR FEMALE PLAYERS WHO DO NOT KNOW THEIR PLACE and stick to a lowly status - success and endeavour is kicked in the teeth when women and young people attempt something new and fresh - the old boy network doesn't care for it.
Nor in Australian politics.

I'm still fuming over the way Julia Gillard was treated. I won't bore everyone with my thoughts on Kevin Rudd.

Louise Sinclair
Posts: 258
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:29 am
Location: London

Re: My Story

Post by Louise Sinclair » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:46 am

Why should age be a barrier to ambition and ability? my father ran a highly successful businness aged 19. Pitt the younger became Prime Minister at 24 and at the other end of the scale Winston Churchill was accounted "ancient" by modern standards when he saved Britain from defeat at the hands of Germany.
We are too keen to pigeonhole people on the grounds of age and gender in modern Britain and this clearly applies to the chess establishment.
You might very well think that ; I couldn't possibly comment.
' you turn if you want. The lady's not for turning'

Post Reply