Saturday, November 24, 2007

November Carnival of Chess Blogs

The November edition of the Chess Blog Carnival is now up and done on Susan Polgar's Chess Discussion Forum. We had lots of good submittals this month.

Steve Owens of ChessUSA will host the December edition.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Last Call for Chess Blog Carnival

The November Carnival of Chess Blogs will be published on Susan Polgar’s Chess Discussion Forums. Bloggers can submit a sample from their work here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

USCF and the International Chess Scene

Last April, I put a thread up on the USCF Forum. Here is what initially wrote.

One thing that has not been discussed in this election so far has been USCF policy towards FIDE and international chess. I see in the yearbook that there is a committee on this topic.

I have been a life member since the 1970's. I have been reading Chess Life since that time. From what I've read over the years, the USCF's record towards protecting the human rights of chessplayers has been pretty bad.

The Ludek Pachman case comes to mind. He was one of the prominent Czech intellectuals who had opposed the Soviet invasion of his country in 1968. He was imprisoned and tortured for many years. When he was finally let go, the Soviet Chess Federation told the world that no player from the Communist bloc would participate in any chess event Pachman played in.
I remember being very discouraged and angry at the reaction of the USCF and the other chess federations in the west towards this. I was particularly unhappy with the anti-Pachman comments that appeared in Chess Life in those years. As if he was to blame by trying to renew his career in chess instead of retiring as the Soviets wished.

Then Korchnoi defected and had the effontery to be the challenger to the World Champion for 2 cycles. He was blacklisted, too. I was particularly mad when the blacklist was kinda, sorta complied with by the USCF, too. I recall the politicians of the period did a lot of covering, but the end result of their policy was that Korchnoi did not get any invitationals in the US. My memory get hazy due to the distance in years, but I recall he was discouraged from playing in the US, not outright blacklisted. I remember people making a big deal that it was still okay for him to play in Opens though not Invitationals. These were the years when he was the #2 rated player in the world.

Then there was the Arab boycott of the Israeli Olympiads. Israel had had a long history of sponsoring Olympiads until the boycott and the Anti-Israel Olympiad. The USCF commendably played in the official Olympiad in Israel but Chess Life made a lot of noises about Israel not causing any more problems by bidding on future FIDE events.

Then there was the Larry Parr firing. Now I gather Parr has gotten kind of crazy since he was fired as Editor of Chess Life. I don't know about any of that. I just know what I read of in the magazine while he was editor. He insisted on reporting on these events that affected Chess Players. For example, on his article on Boris Gulko, on his immigration to the US, he covered his time in the Soviet prisons and the kind of things the Soviets had done to him as well as the rest of his chess career. That upset a lot of people. But this was important to Gulko's bio; it was important to understand what kind of player he was. When Parr was fired, prominent among the reasons that were cited was that he covered too much politics. I remember the new editor saying that he would drop such coverage.

The Soviets are gone, but the challenges facing chess players in the new century are even more severe, if anything. The Arab boycott of Israeli chess players is one issue that the USCF will have to deal with.

Then there is the growing role of internet chess. Already clouds loom on our horizon. Google has altered its search engines and dropped its company motto in the face of Chinese demands. Yahoo has turned over client's private e-mails and people are now in jail as a result.

To take one challenge that the USCF may very well face in the next few years, say a foreign country contacts the USCF office and demands we turn over the private mails of people who participate on this Chess Bulletin Board, citing the Yahoo precident? What about USCF members who live abroad? What will our policy be? Will it be like the policies the USCF has had in the past?

What if a foreign country contacts a USCF partner like the ICC and demands that certain players be banned? Will the USCF treat the demand any different than it has the OTB scene in the past?

I could go on but I know this post is already too long. How do the candidates stand philosphically on these issues? Do they support the approach the USCF has taken in the past or would they advocate a new one?


Paul Truong replied,

As Mr. Schultz has stated, the emergence of Mr. Bessel Kok will help FIDE straighten a few things out. We have a very good new zonal president in IM John Donaldson. This is a credit to Mr. Schultz as we all know he has done a lot for the USCF and he knows the FIDE system real well. I think Mr. Schultz knows just about EVERYBODY!

I will be having a prominent role with the organizer of the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City and most likely with the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden as well. I will be bringing something unique to these events and I am confident that they will be spectacular on a global scale. GM Polgar will also have prominent roles in both of these events.

GM Polgar was also recently asked by some officials of FIDE to meet and discuss a few very important issues. They are seeking help in improving a few areas. She agreed. Unfortunately, her current schedule is very hectic and as soon as they clear up, she will meet with them.

It is very important for FIDE to know where the USCF stands on a number of issues. But we must do it firmly and diplomatically. We want positive changes, not war. If you think the USCF politics is bad, it is much worse with FIDE. However, I strongly believe that there will be many changes in the near future for the better.

Best regards,


Another person objected to my inclusion of the Korchnoi boycott because the Soviet government blacklisted him, not FIDE. I responded:

As for the issue of banned players, they may not be officially banned but they can sure be effectively banned. They can just not be invited to tournaments. Isn't that what happenned to Korchnoi? He wasn't invited to US invitationals because the Soviets would not have sent anybody?

But even more important is what USCF policy towards international boycotts should be going forwards? Is it going to be the same kind of policy as it was in the past?


Duncan Oxley, an moderator for Internet Chess Club asked this:

I don't understand this question.

How could the USCF ever consider ordering ICC (a private club with its own rules and policies firmly established) to ban someone?

Could you elaborate please Jack?


I replied,

Duncan, my question posits the reverse.

1) A foreign government demands the ICC ban a player from its tournaments.

2) The ICC complies and bans said player.

3) Should the USCF still sanction and rate tournaments that discriminate against players for political reasons? How about for religious reasons? Or race, or something like this?

4) Should the USCF still partner with an organization like the ICC that were to do this?

5) Should the fact that the discrimination is at the behest of a foreign government, and even possibly approved by FIDE, a valid excuse that a partner organization like ICC could use?

The reason I am going into this now, is that I believe that we should be ahead of the curve on this. The challenges facing the USCF in the 21st century are going to be ever so much greater than what faced us in the last one. And let's face it Duncan. The USCF did not handle those very well.

So let's do better now.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

USCF EB Meeting

Just a quick note about my impressions before I leave. First, I've had a cold with persistent coughing all month. It had died down the last week and I had thought I was getting better but last night I started coughing again. I left the meeting this morning because it was getting to be a distraction to the other people in it.

I met Susan and Paul yesterday for the first time. We had breakfast together. In my mind I was anxious to not come across as some kind of groupie and so I kept a reserved manner. Here I was with someone who is famous because she had legitimately accomplished something - first woman grandmaster in history (you know what I mean) - former woman's world champion, and so on. I've met famous politicians. Being tops in chess is special.

Paul arrived late. Susan and I had already started eating. Paul was by far the more animated of the two. He'll talk a mile a minute and about every subject. Other chess people came in and gravitated to our table. Susan introduced me to them. It was kind of interesting basking in her reflected celebrity.

As for the meeting itself the one theme that ran throughout was the hostility for the USCF Forum. I must admit that I sympathize and share some of that hostility myself. This came up in several different discussions.

In the finances, I couldn't help myself from raising my hand and asking to respond to statements that there was nothing of value in the financial disussions that we have engaged in here from time from time. I tried to give just one example of a valid point. So, I went to the issue that cash did not match up in the reports. Bill H and Joe Nanna strongly challenged my statement. Bill G asked me what time frame the statements did not match. Put on the spot, I couldn't remember exactly, so I just lamely said last spring. Joe said that would never have put out such financial statements. He said that these must have been before his time.

While, this is all water under the bridge now, I believe my statements to be accurate. I think that if folks go to the March, April, and May Financials, they will be able to see for themselves. Moreover, I was not comparing historical with prospective information. The larger point is that while I now think (see my latest exchange with Donna earlier on the finance - shhh! thread at the USCF Forum) that there is a whole lot of stuff that is just noise, there are valid points raised in that forum, too. Her point (she originally raised it long ago) that the the cash amounts do not match was one of them.

The rest of the fireworks was at the end just before the end of the open session. They were talking about the retirement fund issue and I was struck with the large difference between was had been posted at the USCF Forum and what they were saying. Also, I was thinking of my criticism of Donna - her being a tiger on the internet and a wuss when in an official meeting. With that in mind, I decided to let them have it.

To summarize their response ("they" seemed to be practically everyone else in the room) Donna has not been telling the whole story of what happened. Before people should judge, they need to know the rest of the facts. Facts which cannot be disclosed right now. It is difficult for me to challenge this because for all I know, this may be true.

The solid information that is being disclosed is that the service is working on the matter and it is taking them 3 weeks per year. At this rate, the ED expects them to not be done before early 2008.

This was new information to me. Bill G said that all this had been disclosed before. I must have missed it.

Then they went into closed session.

Bill Hall took me aside and spoke earnestly to me that they were really making a sincere effort to do the best that can be done. I didn't want to hold him from the closed meeting so if it appeared that I was short with him, it was for that reason, only.

That night we all had dinner together. Susan sat to my right. Jim Berry sat across from me. Everybody was there except for Randy Bauer who had to work in his room. I found out that Jim loves to argue. he got into a spirited argument with Mike Nolan about the meaning of the words "and" and "or". The two Bills and Joel were drawn into the argument. I turned to Susan and whispered that this dinner was starting to resemble the USCF Forum and she giggled.

It was all in good fun and we were all in a relaxed mood. Other items we discussed was the three wisemen - between us we could only come up with two names. Then I asked for the names of the twelve apostles. Joel said we could recreate the last supper. That led to counting the people present at the dinner. One person counted 12. Another person said that was wrong; he counted 14. So we did a slow count and discovered that there was 13 - which was just right for the last supper. (The painting by Da Vinci.) I remarked that this was the folks in charge of running the USCF and that brought a laugh all around.

This gives a flavor of the dinner. We were all relaxed and a little tired and having dinner and having a good time. I liked seeing these people not as celebrities and pols but as human beings.

At breakfast, Jim Berry and his wife sat at the table next to mine. As we were close together, we struck up a conversation. I raised the issue of the Oklahoma split. He pointed out that there were two sides to every story and proceeded to give his own. I replied that this put his actions in a new light as far as I was concerned. As for the USCF Forums, not everyone is unreasonable. He should have told his story direct here. I think he understood what I was trying to tell him. As for the election, it is a moot point now, anyway.

As for this morning's meeting, I was reluctant to speak as I had caused so much commotion the day before. They discussed the web site and the forum.

Paul pressed for improving content of the website, while Bill G and Mike N spoke of overworking J Shahade. For those who know my past views on this subject, you know I have strong and very negative views of how web content is handled. Bill G did agree that for US events, no one ought to beat out the USCF in reporting on them. They left the issue unresolved.

On to the discussion on the USCF Forum. The two sides on the Board seems to be "End it" versus "Mend it". Andy Applebaum has resigned and they spoke of the difficulty of finding people to be moderators and FOC members. Bill G said that there was a new regime of some kind with new AUG and new mandates but that has not started as of yet. It sounded to me that he was speaking more of change of policy than of personnel. The Board decided to wait and see what this new change would do. I can't explain this, as I don't know what he was talking about.

I spoke up to say that I had written extensively on forum management and I would just refer them to that. Bill H said that he would put be down for the moderation team but I had to decline as I am already committed this Forum. Paul laughed and said that him and Susan have had no problems with moderators quitting.

Other matters discussed was certifying coaches for kids. They were concerned with legal liabilities for this. The fear is you just know that someone in the country is going to abuse a kid and when it is found that he is a USCF certified coach, then they would sue the USCF. I spoke up and said that the USCF ought to have criminal background checks but they said that this would expose the USCF to even more criminal liability.

Bill G wants to change the election of EB members to the Australian ballot. Sounded like a good idea to me but everybody was against it.

Another Bill G proposal was to allow wealthy donors onto the Board. If someone were to kick in say $50,000 they could buy themselves a seat on the board for say two years, bypassing the election process. His proposal was in the concept stage only. There was much opposition to this, too. They did decide to look at having an Advisory Board as many non-profits do.

I'm afraid my coughing was getting worse and worse. Terry V gave me something to suck on and when Joel Channing asked me with real concern if I was alright, I knew it was time to leave. I was becoming too great a distraction.

In short, I was struck how nice everybody was. The whole experience was positive for me.