Tuesday, March 13, 2007

From Bill Goichberg

Bill Goichberg, President of the USCF

A couple of months ago, I wrote some comments in the USCF Forum criticizing the management of the United States Chess Federation (USCF) website. In it I stated that I feared that an attitude of “Peace at all costs” was hindering management from objectively evaluating and acting on this area just as it hindered leaders in previous administrations from addressing huge monetary losses. Bill Goichberg responded with this little essay. Thank you, Bill!


“Peace at all costs" isn't what cost us money. During the period 1999-2003 when most money was lost and the prior period 1996-1998 when there were also significant losses, Federation politics was probably at its most vicious ever. The political climate has greatly improved since the near bankruptcy of 2003, as have our finances.

What really cost us money was not peace at all costs, and not evil doers, but simply poor management.

Our computer system grew ever more obsolete each year from the early 90s until 2003, and attempts to update it failed costing us perhaps $200,000, until we found Mike Nolan, who unlike the outside people hired really cared about USCF and was determined to succeed.

Our once profitable book and equipment sales operation saw inventory slashed under office leaders who didn't understand chess ("Why do we need more than one book on the Sicilian Defense?"), but personnel costs for sales were not reduced, with predictably disastrous results. At the end of that ED's term, a huge National K-12 was held shortly before Christmas, and the USCF concession had very little available to sell to the disappointed parents. A new ED rebuilt the sales operation, but then it collapsed again in 2003, as USCF over spent on many things and about 50,000 catalogs that were printed were never mailed due to lack of money for postage.

In 2000 we replaced a productive alliance with ICC with a disastrous one with an untested online play provider, Games Parlor. The plan to provide free online play to members via the USCF branded server ChessLive cost us over $100,000 in one year with no noticeable membership benefit, and that's not counting about $30,000 in KCF sponsorship we rejected because we saw them as competitors to ChessLive. I was one of many who screamed, but incredibly, in May 2001 the lame duck Board renewed the Games Parlor contract, providing that company with commissions if membership increased even if GP had nothing to do with the increase! The new Board that took office in August was opposed to Games Parlor and did its best to negotiate away the worst features of that contract, but then in 2003, its ED gave Games Parlor ANOTHER renewal without Board approval!

In 2000-2001, the ED and Board decided to do "fund raising" by taxing affiliates. TLA fees skyrocketed in Oct 2000 (a 3-line TLA went from $6 to $50!), and even though a new Board rescinded the foolish increases a year later, the TLA section and USCF's relations with its affiliates have never fully recovered.

High personnel costs were also a major reason for our losses, as we discovered when the Board felt obliged to lay off a third of our employees in August 2003 and the Federation continued to function acceptably. (In November a few of the employees were rehired for the holiday season.)

If you think we have dirty, nasty politics today, you probably didn't experience 1996-2001. The atmosphere is vastly more constructive now than it was then.


By Bill Goichberg, President of the USCF. Used by permission.


Anonymous said...

that place always sucked, and still does, RIP, will never play there unless they pay me. Cool article, about time.

Jack Le Moine said...

I presume you mean Game Parlor.