In the late 1990’s, someone using the name Mansour Bighamian posted more than 1,000 messages on Web bulletin boards about political and religious topics. Many of the postings were screeds attacking Jews and Israel, as well as gays. Among the most vitriolic suggested that the “time is ripe to build more ovens in EVERY country in the world for the D-DAY.”
Though the posts were years ago, some people in the chess community have been digging them up in recent days because of an e-mail that was sent to an Israeli grandmaster earlier this month in the name of Mick Bighamian, the founder and director of the Los Angeles Chess Club. That e-mail said, “We don’t allow players from terrorist countries in our tournaments!”
Mr. Bighamian has denied sending the e-mail, saying that someone used his account at the club to do it.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bighamian said that Mansour was his real name, but that the Web postings in the late 1990’s were also not his.
He said that he was running the Houston Chess Club at the time and had barred some people from the club and believes that they wanted to get back at him, so they posted the messages in his name. “Some people evidently don’t want me in business,” he said.
He said that he was active on the Usenet groups posting messages about chess, but that the e-mail addresses used in the anti-Semitic postings were not his. He said that his e-mail address at the time was firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two e-mail addresses used in the late 1990’s postings. In the ones from 1998, which are only about religion and politics, the e-mail is email@example.com. In a group of postings from 1999, which contain more anti-Semitic comments but also include announcements of chess tournaments and recommendations on what chess books to read, the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, Mr. Bighamian wrote a letter to Bill Hall, the executive director of the United States Chess Federation, about the e-mail sent to the Israeli grandmaster. Mr. Bighamian wrote:
When we spoke on Friday, I was under the impression that the purported e-mail must have been a hoax — trying to smear LACC’s increasingly-improving image in the past few years. However, over this past weekend, I found out the e-mail was indeed sent out from the LACC’s computer at the club.
As the club computer has been always accessible by all the club players, members, and directors at all times, I found out that someone had responded to the israeli gm saying: “We don’t allow players from terrorist countries in our tournaments”. Most players would normally use the club computer to check their e-mails, play online, etc. I am still investigating to find out who could have possibly sent that response on behalf of the LACC.
To that end, and effective this past weekend, I made LACC e-mails accessible to the club directors only –- in order to avoid any such incidents in the future.
As for the LACC policy with regards to interested tournament chess players, my 25+ years as a tournament director is an evidence of nondiscrimination. As a tournament director, I have always advocated, and indeed welcomed, having players of all backgrounds, genders, national origins, and strengths in my tournaments. There is not a single example to the contrary.
As slow as chess club are these days (due to online chess, etc.), it would make no sense to bar interested players from tournaments — as clubs’ livelihood depends on players’ participation.
The club e-mail signature — below — automatically appears upon responding to any e-mails (thereby explaining how LACC signature showed on that e-mail).
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