Sunday, August 31, 2008

A little quiz from my game against Joel Banawa

Ok, my rook is attacked. Where should it go?? (don't look at the next diagram until you have an answer)

Now my king is attacked. Where to go?

answers and game tomorrow sometime...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Vicary - Cheng Edmonton International

(216) Vicary,Elizabeth - Cheng ,Bindi [B40]
Edmonton (1), 21.08.2008
1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 e6
3.b3 Nf6
4.e5 Nd5

An alternate way to play, more flexible since I'm not fixing the central pawn structure: 5.Bb2 Be7 6.g3 0–0 7.Bg2 f5 8.0–0 Nc6 9.c4 Nc7 10.Re1 b6 11.d4 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Bb7 13.Nc3 Rc8 14.Ndb5 Nxb5 15.Nxb5 a6 16.Nd6 Bxd6 17.Qxd6 Qc7 18.Rad1 Rf7 19.f4 Nd8 20.Qxc7 Rxc7 21.Bd4 Bxg2 22.Bxb6 Rc8 23.Kxg2 Nb7 24.Re2 Kf8 25.Red2 Ke8 26.Kf3 Rc6 27.Be3 Nc5 28.Bxc5 Rxc5 29.Rd6 Ra5 30.R1d2 g5 31.Rb6 gxf4 32.gxf4 Rg7 33.Rb8+ Ke7 34.a4 h5 35.Rxd7+ Kxd7 36.Rb7+ Kc6 37.Rxg7 Kc5 38.Rb7 Kd4 39.Rb6 Kc3 40.Ke3 1–0 Kasparov,G (2815)-Williams,A/London 1998/EXT 2000

6.Bb2 Nc6

So I had a long think here. I felt like my oppponent was going to play ...d6 or ...d5, and then if I took, he would recapture with the queen or bishop, and quickly set up his ideal Rubinstein structure: e6-e5, Be7, Be6, f6, Qd7, possibly Rb8 and b5, maybe f5, maybe Nd4.
On the other hand, if I don't take his d pawn and he gets to play d4, I might have permanent space problems.

I felt like I must stop all this. I think the idea of Bd3 was to meet ...d6 with Qe2 and try to not take the pawn, but my thinking around this point was changing a lot, plus it was a long time ago so I don't remember too well. Anyway, I was trying to castle quickly and do something disruptive... ummm.. the details are fuzzy.

My alternatives were 7.g3 and 7. Nc3, but I excpected he would just play d5 and do his thing as above.

7...d5 But of course I don't want to deal with ...d4, so Qe2 is stupid.

8.0–0 d4 9.Na3 Be7 10.Nc2 0–0 (10...g5?!) Beastie thinks I'm ok here. I guess black is just as cramped as I am.



9.Be4 for some reason I wanted to play this move, and Rybka suggests it, but I can't for the life of me remember why. It looks absurd, but I remember spending a lot of time trying to make it work. I didn't play it in the end because I thought black could win the bishop: 9...f5 10.Bc2 Nb4 wwas what I saw, but check out the Rybka line: 10.Bxc6+! Qxc6 11.0–0 Bd6 12.Ng5 (12.Bxg7 Rg8) 12...0–0 (12...e5 13.Qh5+ g6 14.Qh4) 13.Qh5 h6 14.Qg6

9...f6 10.0–0
10.Nh4! is a great move here, as the threat of 11.Qh5+ is super-annoying.

11.Nc3 e5
12.Nh4 0–0
13.Ne4 Qd8 threatens f5
14.Ng3 Ne6
15.Qe4 Ng5
16.Qe3 g6


Fun Rybka line: 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.Nxg6 Rf7 19.f4 exf4 20.Qxf4; I had looked only at 17.Nxg6? hxg6 18.h4 Ne6 19.Qh6 Qxd3
17...Bd6 17...f5! is great, sort of shielding the light squares, mostly shielding g6.
18.Ne4 Nxe4
19.Bxe4 Ne7
20.b4 We were both in quite serious time pressure at this point-- move 30 is time control.
21.b5 a6
22.Qh6 Rf7
But 22...Qc7 is better--black needs the queen on the kingside

23.f4! exf4

I should go all in: 24.Bxg6 Nxg6 (24...hxg6 25.Nxg6 Nxg6 26.Qxg6+ Rg7 27.Qxf6) 25.Nxg6 hxg6 26.Re8+ Bf8 27.Rxf8+ Rxf8 28.Qxg6+ Kh8 29.Rxf4

25.cxd5 c4+
26.Kh1 At this point I had no time left and was just using the 30 second increment to get to move 30.

26...Be5? This allows a tactic. Smug beastie would play 26...Qxb5.

27.Rxf4! Bf5

Oh no! I can simply take: 28.Bxe5 fxe5 29.Rxf5 Rxf5 30.Nxf5 and the g pawn is pinned across the 3rd rank.

analysis diagram

Still winning: 29.Bxe5 fxe5 30.Rxf7 Kxf7 31.Qxh7+ Kf8 32.Re3 and the threat is 33.Rf3+ Ke8 34.Qf7+ Kd8 35.Qf8+ Kc7 36.Rf7#

29...Bxg6 0–1

Interview With Arizona Scorpion IM Mark Ginsburg

Elizabeth Vicary says: How did you come to be on the Arizona team? Were you a founding member? A hired gun? A strange apparition in the night?

Mark Ginsburg says: I was living and working in Chicago then came back to Tucson when that work arrangement ended. So now I'm living in Tucson and hence a "local."
At some point, I was going to be transferred to San Jose so in another reality I could have been a "Mechanic." I'm not a founding member... I think Leo Martinez founded the club then invited me when he learned I was coming back to Tucson.

Elizabeth Vicary says: So you're saying you were a tack-on at the end?

Mark Ginsburg says: Not quite an afterthought, more like an early 'n solid addition. :)

Elizabeth Vicary says: In New York, we have some team props, or more accurately, Jay Bonin has a sword and shield. Do you have any Scorpion related team spirit items?

Mark Ginsburg says: I just want to say I liked living in SF in the year 1999-2000 very much so I have positive feelings towards the Mechanics. :)
Now I will answer your q :) We have Amanda Mateer as a Spirit Item. No kiddie crap like Bonin's toys … Let me rephrase: no kiddie crap *yet*. I am sure Robby will think of something

Elizabeth Vicary says: How is Amanda Mateer like a scorpion?

Amanda Mateer

Mark Ginsburg says: She giggles and if you play back the giggle at a faster speed, it sounds like an SSSS.

Elizabeth Vicary says: ok, so... related question. I have a pair, ok, 2 pair, of NY Knights underwear. I would have misgivings, however, about wearing underwear with a frightening scorpion on it. Aren't you afraid your female fans might share my hesitation?

Mark Ginsburg says: Are "they" selling scorpions underwear? If so, yes. I think Scorpions gear is most definitely a little scary. I found a real one in my boot the hard way

Elizabeth Vicary says: Scary enough to change your logo to, perhaps, a fuzzy cat?

Mark Ginsburg says: I think an Agave Plant would be nice. Agave makes mescal.... we could all be trippin' balls to be consonant with our logo.

Elizabeth Vicary says: wow. Okay, moving on…How much will you be in the AZ line up? Do you have any say in what the weekly team composition is? If so, what line up strategies can you reveal?

Mark Ginsburg says: I would like to play as much as possible. We have two possible locations and players split up between Phoenix and Tucson. Some of us can travel. Levon, Warren Harper, Robby and I are in Tucson. Aldama, Barcenilla, Rensch are in Phoenix area. It's up to us *where* to play the match; there are numerous possible lineups, very complex.

Elizabeth Vicary says: any predictions for the team you expect to see from Dallas? Where do you think they are strongest and weakest against you guys?

Mark Ginsburg says: I am not sure who they will play... they have a lot of strong players. Our best hope to do damage is board 4. Since they have so many 2500s, they have to go down to a relatively weaker board 4. As a strategist, I need Board One to hold, Boards 2 and 3 to get 0.5 at least, and a win on 4. Quite honestly, in USCL, anything can happen. In our first match, our 2350 played much worse than that. But if we have a player who buckles down and is Joe Solid without freakouts, we have good chances on 4.

Elizabeth Vicary says: yeah, what happened with Warren there?

Mark Ginsburg says: He was probably nervous. Was lost the first time I glanced at his board! Levon and I grimaced, but what can we do? He was just lost. I think he got some lines mixed up. Our prep session was dreadful.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Tell us about your prep sessions.

Mark Ginsburg says: They are not good. We try to have one solid prep per match... but we need to bring them above the level of nonsensical. I didn't help in the prep session, laying on a sofa and yelling I was tired.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Tell me what you guessed for each game

Mark Ginsburg says: I was gonna say, NY would have benefited greatly from a productive prep before the Boston match.
We guessed Warren's opp would go for a 4. e3 Nimzo. And he didn't. He went for a 4. a3 Saemisch. Warren acted as if the Saemisch was totally foreign territory for him.
Robby lent me a book so that I could repeat a recent draw I had vs Pasalic OTB, a Taimonov. And then I varied with a Kan.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Why did you do that? That’s not guessing wrong

Mark Ginsburg says: I did it because I an enamored with putting my N on d7 in Sicilians, a bias of mine. But Nc6 is more active. :) Delchev's book, which was new to me, is a nice book. (on the Taimonov).
Levon did some private prep, he was out of town for our group prep. Obviously his prep went well. Robby just played on 'general considerations' vs Burgess.... that went well except for his nerves playing tricks and driving him down to 8 secs.

Elizabeth Vicary says: But what did he expect in opening? And did he get it?

Mark Ginsburg says: Some kind of slow sicilian, yes, he got it. I just wanted to give a link to levon and robby's notes to their games; it helps answer some prep questions.

Elizabeth Vicary says: ok, on to your evaluations of other teams...Who do you think will make the playoffs?

Mark Ginsburg says: In the West, I think SF is the best. I think we have serious competition with Dallas for #2. West is tough…
We are extremely hard to predict, we have so many faces. In fact our lineup has us always contesting matches tightly, and never being crushed, but never blowing anyone away! We are compact.
Aldama is one of those strong guys who does well when he pops his head up. I believe he’s originally Cuban. Barcenilla is a very strong practical player esp. at faster time limits ... but who knows if they will be allergic to the peculiar ICC format or not. Maybe they will pull through and score heavily. Rensch is a very good attacker.
Elizabeth Vicary says: Will he only be playing as white?
Mark Ginsburg says: He is strong as white, but who knows. I wanna play white sometime :)
Elizabeth Vicary says: Okay, so any thoughts on league play in general? How is it different than OTB play? Do you believe some people are seriously affected by playing on computer screen?

Mark Ginsburg says: Yes, many players are seriously adversely affected by computer play. I tried out moving on a physical board myself, and it worked out well (Amanda relayed and so did Ben Marmont). As long as there is not frantic "Robby-esque" time pressure.

Elizabeth Vicary says: what did you guys do after the game? Any celebrations?

Mark Ginsburg says: We went nuts. We went to Applebees and we were all emotionally wrecked by the tension. We ordered a billion drinks in the 15 minute window we had before last-call. Of course, the underaged Warren and Amanda and Ben did not have alcohol because we are a law-abiding team. I was probably screaming out "Up in the Air, Junior Birdman!" I have a pic to go along with that.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Great, skype it to me. What does it mean?

Mark Ginsburg says: It's something you say while flapping your arms. You sort of make bird-eyes then flap your elbows and yell that out. It's an art-form.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Okay, now for the difficult analogy question part of this interview. Ready?
Which of the Arizona Scorpions is most like …

a kitchen appliance, and what kind?

Mark Ginsburg says: Levon is a highly efficient microwave

Elizabeth Vicary says: mode of transportation, and what kind?

Mark Ginsburg says: Warren is a dirt bike with big shocks.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Ethnic cuisine, and what kind?

Mark Ginsburg says: I am Indian buffet lunch

Elizabeth Vicary says: Grammatical mistake, and what kind?

Mark Ginsburg says: Aldama is an improper failure to space an ellipsis

Elizabeth Vicary says: Farm product, and what?

Mark Ginsburg says: Rensch is a wheat thresher

Elizabeth Vicary says: That's not a product. That's an implement.

Mark Ginsburg says: That's a farm tool. So for product I will say "cereal.":)
Toasted Oats.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Still Rensch?

Mark Ginsburg says: Toasted HONEY Oats. Yes. Heart-Healthy.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Consitutional amendment, and which one?

Mark Ginsburg says: FM Ken Larsen is the Women's Right to Vote.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Typical undergraduate essay topic, and what?

Mark Ginsburg says: Leo Martinez is the tried and true "Understanding the Beginnings of the Cold War."

Elizabeth Vicary says: And lastly…Beatles song, and which one?

Mark Ginsburg says: I would like to be "Blue Jay Way" for its much maligned "mystical" influences.

Elizabeth Vicary says: is there anything else you would like to say?

Mark Ginsburg says: I would like to thank you for letting me bla bla and most importantly, if I impugned any player or team in my stupid blog, remember "all press is good press." Teams and fans, keep the contro in controversy!

Gerzhoy - Vicary Edmonton International

(218) Gerzhoy,Leonid - Vicary,Elizabeth [B22]
Edmonton International (5), 21.08.2008

1.e4 c5
2.c3 Nf6
3.e5 Nd5
4.g3 d6
5.exd6 e6
6.Bg2 Bxd6
7.Ne2 0–0
8.0–0 Nc6

Hurray! I did what my file says I'm supposed to.
9.Na3 a6?
Probably a wasted tempo? Brynell -Cramling 1993 0–1 went 9...Be7 10.d3 e5 11.Nc4 Be6 12.a4 Qd7 13.Bd2 Rad8 14.b3 f5 15.Ra2 Bf6

10.Nc4 Be7
11.d4 cxd4
12.cxd4 Bf6 I figured this was a fine isolated pawn position for me. My knight is already on d5, his dark bishop doesn't have any obvious squares, and his Ne2 is placed a little strangely.
12...Nxd4 13.Qxd4
13.cxd4 It would be insane, of course, to trade a pair of minor pieces and then accept an isolated pawn.

14.Qg4 [14.Qd3? Nxc3]
15.Ne3 I don't want to take this knight at all, because I think both his knight and bishop want to be on e3, but unfortunately I don't have a good retreat.
16.Bxe3 Bd7
17.Qb4-- I was scared of this move in the game. It's like I'm almost equal, except that his bishops have unpleasant pressure against my queenside pawns. 17...Bc6 18.Bb6 Qc8 19.Rfd1 Bxg2 20.Kxg2 Qc6+ 21.Kg1 still, just slightly unpleasant.
18.Qc4 Rfd8
19.Bxc6 Qxc6
I don't want to weaken my pawns without trading queens, since they will be on light squares and consequently are much more vunerable with queens on.

20.Qxc6 bxc6
21.Kf1 Kf8
22.Ke2 Ke8
23.b3 23...Rd5
Not 23...Bxc3? I'm not winning a pawn and I'm just activating his rook. 24.Rxd8+ Rxd8 25.Rc1 Bb4 26.Rxc6]
24.Rac1 [24.c4? Rh5]
25.c4 Rxd1
26.Rxd1 Rxd1
27.Kxd1 e5

I need to push the pawns on the side where I have an extra. If I just sit around, he will make a queenside passed pawn and beat me.
28.Kc2 Be7
29.Kd3 Kd7
30.c5 f5
31.b4 g5
32.a4 h5
33.Kc4 f4


Beastie likes 34...Ke6!? 35.h3 (35.b5?! axb5+ 36.axb5 cxb5+ 37.Kxb5 Kd5 38.c6 Bd8 39.Bb4 e4 40.gxf4 gxf4 41.Bc5=) 35...g4 36.hxg4 hxg4 37.gxf4 Bh4 38.f5+ (38.fxe5 Bxf2-/+) 38...Kxf5 39.Be3=
35.fxg3 g4
36.b5 cxb5+
37.axb5 axb5+
38.Kxb5 h4 [38...Bd8]
39.c6+ Kc7 not Kc8 because I want the white bishop to have to come to a5

40.Ba5+ Kc8 41.Bb4 Bg5 42.Bd6 [42.Kc4]

42...h3 43.Bxe5 Be3 44.Kc4

I really can't quite describe what happened here. I guess I was tired. Back when I played 42...h3, I saw this great idea that I could sack the e5 pawn to play Be3-g1xh2. Then he has to put his bishop on f2, and it's a draw. If his king ever goes over to help, I can take the c pawn.

I had spent some time making sure of everything and I was proud of myself. But then I started second-guessing ... somehow I talked myself into believing that I would be zugzwanged and my king would have to move out from c8, allowing the pawn to queen. And I did something pretty uncharacteristic-- I didn't double check the "losing" variation, I just gave up and got upset. Which is a shame because the draw is pretty.

44...Bf2 [44...Bg1 45.Bd4 Bxh2 46.Bf2 Kc7 47.Kd5 Kc8 48.Kd6 Kd8

analysis diagram

49.c7+ Kc8 50.Kc6 Bg1 51.Bxg1 h2 52.Bxh2 stalemate]

45.Kd5 Kd8?? oh my god [45...Bg1]

46.Ke4 Bg1 47.Kf5 1–0

Vicary - Lagemann US Open rd 8

(215) Vicary,Elizabeth - Lagemann,Nathaniel [B52]
US Open (8), 21.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0–0 Nc6 6.c3 Nf6 7.d4 Nxe4 8.d5 Ne5 9.Re1 Nxf3+ 10.Qxf3 Nf6

The alternative is 11.c4, when the line typically goes e5 12.dxe6 fxe6 13.Bg5 Be7 14.Nc3 0–0 15.Qh3 h6 16.Qxe6+ Qxe6 17.Rxe6 Kf7 18.Rae1 Rfe8 (18...Rae8? 19.Nb5) 19.Bh4 g5! but this position looked dull to me, so I had decided to play the text move, 11. Na3.

Now my much-loved book on this opening, Palliser's The Bb5 Sicilian, gives 12. Bg5 an exclam here, although it does not consider my opponent's response at all. The alternative is 12. b4, which is played two moves later in Palliser's root game Pfretzschner - Forsberg corr. 1992, but is not mention by Palliser as a possibility on move 12, even though it's the more common move. Next time I will play it, assuming, of course, that I remember.

12.b4 Qg4 (12...cxb4 13.Nc2 bxc3 14.Nd4 I saw one game, in fact I showed it as a lesson to some kids, where white did this funny maneuver, but it was after Bg5, h6, Bxf6 gxf6 was thrown in. ) 13.Qd3 e6 14.dxe6 fxe6 15.Qb5 Bosboom - Brenninkmeijer 1991 0 –1

13.Qxg4+ Nxg4
14.Bxe7 Bxe7
15.Rxe7 Rd7
16.Re2 Nf6

He offered a draw somewhere around here.
17.c4 Re8
18.Rxe8+ Nxe8
19.Re1 Kd8
Now I couldn't decide if I wanted my knight on c2, from where it can go to e3 /f5?!, or on c3
20.Nc2 [20.Nb5 a6 21.Nc3 Re7 22.Kf1]
21.Re3 Rxe3
22.Nxe3 g6

I offered the draw here. I was worried that he could play a6 and b5, then bring the king to the queenside and attack my two weak pawns on c4 and a2. We looked at it after the game and found a lot of good lines for him, but I don't remember them anymore and the computer thinks I'm fine. Of course I can always meet a6 with a4 anyway... ½–½

PS Sorry I know that was boring.

Pautsky - Vicary US Open round 7

Pautsky,Noel (1540) - Vicary,Elizabeth (2099) [E11]
US Open (7), 19.08.2008

1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 e6
3.Nf3 Bb4+
4.Bd2 Qe7
5.a3 [5.g3 and 5.Nc3 are more common] 5...Bxd2+
6.Nbxd2 d6
7.e3 e5
8.dxe5 dxe5
I thought I was achieving something with this, because I feel like black often tries to push the e pawn in connection with a kingside attack in these types of positions. But I think I should first castle and play Nc6, so his knight can't go to d4. This way I don't have to play ...c5, which actually makes a pretty serious weakness on d5.

10.Nd4 c5?!
11.Nb5 a6? And really, why am I spending a tempo to push the knight to c3 where it is better placed? Of course at the time I thought I was gaining a tempo, but that's very silly stereotypic thinking on my part.

12.Nc3 0–0
13.Qc2 Re8 [On 13...Bf5 I was worried about 14.g4]
14.Rd1 Bf5


I couldn't decide if I wanted the knight here on or c6. The advantages to d7 are that I can maybe go via f8 to the kingside, and that the knight will not be attacked by a white pawn if one gets to d5.

15...Nc6 16.Nd5 Qe5 17.Qb3 This variation is why I rejected 15...Nc6. I thought I would have to play 17...Rb8 here and that didn't fit in with my narrative of playing a smooth, controlled win against a 1500.

16.Rfe1 Rad8? Probably a strategic mistake in the sense that bringing a rook to d8 is eventually going to lead to an exchange of all rooks (and then queens?) on the d file. Since I have more space and a potential kingside attack, I want to avoid exchanges. Perhaps 16...h5?


While he was thinking about this, I was looking at 17.f3 (or 17. f4, because I guess I have to take it?) 17... exf3 18.Qxf5 Qxe3+ (18...fxe2 19.Rxe2) 19.Kh1 fxe2 20.Rxe2 Qh6. I was a little nervous about this because while I knew I should be better, being up a pawn, I felt temporarily uncoordinated and like something bad might happen. Of course I can also not take the pawn immediately. (18...fxe2)

17...Bg6 stopping f3/f4... for good, but maybe a big waste of time, especially because my bishop might become quite bad there.

18.Rd2 Ne5


19...Nf3+ 20.gxf3 exf3 21.Bd3 Qe6! Alex found this immediately after the game. There's no good defense. 22.Ne2 then best is 22...Nh5 (But also good is: 22...fxe2 23.Rxe2 Qg4+ 24.Ng3 h5) when the threat is simply 23... Qh3 24.Nf4 Nxf4 25.exf4 Qg2#]

I was expecting 20.Ng3 and had planned 20...h4 21.Ngxe4 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 Rxd2 23.Rxd2 h3 (23...Nxc4) 24.g3 (24.gxh3 Qh4)
20... h4 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22.Rxd8+ Qxd8 23.Ngxe4 Nxe4 24.Nxe4 h3 25.g3 (25.gxh3 Qh4) 25...Bxe4 26.Qxe4 Qd2 27.Qxe5 Qxe2 28.Qe8+ Kh7 29.Qe4+ somehow in my head here I thought I could play g6-- I didn't see Qh4 won the h3 pawn-- and I thought I had good chances, but the truth is he has perpetual... 29...Kg8 30.Qe8+ etc.

20...Rxd8 21.Rxd8+ Qxd8 22.Qd2 So now I made a bad practical decision, although I'm not sure I would do differently next time. I saw that the endgame after trading queens is very hard to win. My bishop is not any better than his, in reality. So I tried to find something to avoid this, but nothing is great.

22...Nfd7 I knew this was a bad move, and I understood when I played it that Qd5 was a great response and not so hard to see. I just figured I would take my chances and try to trick the guy somehow. Alternatives are dismal: 22...Qb6 23.Na4 Qc7 or 22...Qe7 23.Nd5 Qe6 24.Nxf6+ Qxf6 25.Qd5]

23.Qd5 Qh4 24.Qxb7
I was hoping for 24.g3 Qh3. Unfortunately, even with this I have no threats.
24...Nf6?? 25. Qb8. I'm an idiot. 1–0

Friday, August 29, 2008

First the Feet

The museum said the 3-foot-tall sculpture has nothing to do with religion, but is an ironic self-portrait of the artist and an expression of his angst.
"With humor and a tragicomic sense, which belongs to art since the times of Greek tragedy, Kippenberger ... faces his condition of suffering, which he expresses in many works, also, for example, in a video in which he crucifies himself," the museum said in a statement.

Also don't miss the exploits of other US Chess celebrities....

(nonsensical? Judas!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photos from USCL Night One: New York vs. Boston

Evan facing Klassic Krasik
Jay playing Denys Shmelov
Greg Braylovsky playing Dave Vigorito

I brought a candy bar to the match: Poprocks chocolate bar. It melts on your tongue and then it starts popping.
Jay enjoys poprocks chocolate.
John Fernandez is team capain for the match.
Evan and Jay playing.
Greg Bravlovsky and Alex Shabalov playing. Jfern relays moves.

Alex Shabalov


Monday, August 25, 2008

Interview with New York Knight GM Alex Shabalov

Interview with Debut New York Knight Alex Shabalov

EV: Hey, can I interview you about the Knights?

AS: I’d say it’s too early for the interview, and I don’t mean in the day...

I decide to ignore his refusal.
EV: How do you expect your performance to compare to that of your predecessor, Nakamura?

AS: I compare myself to no other. My performances are unique… in the best sense of this word.

EV: What’s your record against Wednesday’s opponent, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun?

AS: Maybe there were some draws, but ... I don’t remember them.

EV: And the wins and losses?

AS: I don’t know, 20-0? Something like that.

EV: Really?

AS: (shrugs) I don’t know. He’s not playing for a long time.

EV: How do you rate your teammates' chances?

AS: It’s hard for me to estimate that, as obviously I could give a simul to the entire Boston team. I expect total Knights domination on boards 1-4. We have so much depth. Our bench is uncomparable to the other teams in the league.

EV: Of everyone in the league, who are you most looking forward to playing?

AS: I want to play cornfield boy Jaan Ehlvest from Tennessee. Jaan found his roots, literally, and ... yeah, literally. He’s an Estonian peasant, and he likes his pork salty.

I want to play… it’s unfortunate I cannot play Jay Bonin, we’re on the same team, but that would be my dream come true.

EV: As Game of the Year Judge, you were known for your irreverent nicknames. What do you hope to be called?

AS: LeBron James was called “Little Emperor” during the Beijing Games. But how dominating was he, really? So just call me “Emperor.”

EV: What do you think of the current USCF-lawsuit-Sloan-Truong disaster?

AS: I wouldn’t call it a disaster. In my opinion, the atmosphere where everybody sues everybody is the perfect working climate for the USCF. When everyone knows every footstep is being watched, that might lead to new heights for American Chess.
(sings) Rock me, rock me … Amadeus, Amadeus…
I would compare the Fake Sam Sloan to Robin Hood...

EV: In what way? They both wear a mask?

AS: They both wear tights! Or maybe there’s some other heroical figure, like Rip Van Winkle…

Is Van der Morsel on the Chicago team? That’s who I want to play. I want to play a morsel… (sings) … morsel…morsel….

EV: As a board member of the Association of Chess Professionals, what advice would you give the USCF management?

I think the USCF has too many things going on at once. I think they should just concentrate on one thing at a time, for example, blind chess. Just focus on that for two years. This way, no resources are wasted on ungrateful Olympiad teams or the US Championship. And then, in a few more years, the USCF can have a convention in Hawaii again.

EV: And what advice would you give to Greg Shahade and the USCL?

AS: I think he should add an all-girls team and a second gay team. These must be the two expansion teams for 2009. LA will have to wait.

EV: Do you have any goals for your USCL debut season?

AS: I want to be seeded into the finals.

EV: Seeded? You or the Knights?

AS: Just the New York team, unopposed.

EV: Wait, do you have to play the final?

AS: No, we seeded and we unopposed.

Interview with Donna Alarie

I was impressed with Donna's comments at the Delegates Meeting in Dallas, and asked if she'd do an interview with me. It's long but meaty. Enjoy!

Thanks for doing the interview! First of all, please feel free to skip or reword questions if they are too tactless/ignorant/ridiculous.

No need to do so. If they were important enough for you to ask, they’re important enough for me to take the time to answer.

I heard your name in connection with the Mottershead Report from the very beginning. Regretfully, I’ve fallen a little behind in my reading on and chessdiscussion. Can you describe your past and present involvement and or thoughts on the whole Sam Sloan / Paul Truong umm… affair?

In the past, my concern was to try to persuade USCF to obtain an independent expert’s opinion regarding the Mottershead allegations and to take the allegations by Mr. Sloan seriously. When it became obvious that USCF wasn’t going to try to address the situation as soon as possible and that it was going to take weeks and hopefully not months to resolve (according to one EB member), it seemed obvious that an independent expert report would be necessary so myself and others investigated how to best obtain same as soon as feasible which is what we did.
By present, I would take that to mean the Delegates Meeting where I had put up motions to ask for Mr. Truong’s resignation and to have him recalled. My main regret there was expecting that the USCF office would have provided copies of the Mottershead Report in advance to delegates so that they could familiarize themselves with the issues before the meeting and not just making copies in advance myself. Also, I was unaware until that day that the USCF would have an attorney there making a presentation nor did I know anything about what he would cover until he did so.
The presentation by the USCF attorney was not the tactic I would have preferred. Quite honestly, my preferred focus was exactly what was stated in the Delegates Call and that was on Mr. Truong’s decision not to deny in writing whether he was involved in the Fake Sam Sloan postings, that he would not provide consent for the Board to obtain IP addresses from the Internet Service Providers, and basically his refusal to co-operate with the USCF attorney in defending USCF from a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Many delegates have voiced their opinion that we should wait to see how the courts handle the actions. I expect we shall; I expect there will be more suits and counter-suits, and at the same time, I’m not so confident that USCF can withstand the financial hits to the pocketbook.
My personal opinion is that much will come out in legal actions and filings and depositions in the next 90 days and as more delegates become more aware of the issues and the cost to USCF in legal fees, time, and energy, many will begin to regret the votes they made. Time will tell.

If you had to guess how many Fake Sam Sloans there are, and you had to lay odds on the potential candidates, what numbers and lines would you give?

There was at least one. I’d have no way to know whether there was more than one or not, but the USCF attorney stated that there was only one account which had IP matches between the USCF forum data records and the usenet posts and that belonged to the Chess Promotion account which is Mr. Truong’s handle.

I got the sense that the organization of the USCF is not optimally functional, and the problem was largely related to the way it tries to be a democracy. Agree or disagree, and what would you suggest should be done about reorganization?

USCF doesn’t really function as a democracy. There are 125 elected delegates and 125 alternate elected delegates. I did an analysis for 2007 which shows that only 40 delegates and 8 alternates were at the meeting to vote. That’s 48 out of 100 attending or less than 50% of the votes. I haven’t had time yet to analyze this year’s numbers. However, what the analysis clearly shows is that those elected to represent the membership aren’t doing the jobs they were elected to do.
(Just as a footnote, there are also 23 delegates at large. 20 of them voted in 2007. However, those are delegates who were elected by other delegates or who were EB members, etc.)
In order for USCF to become more of a democracy, it would need to become more connected to its membership and focus on ways to educate delegates on their responsibilities as directors of the organization. It would also need to engage more delegates into serving onto its committees. However, USCF’s current management does not seem to encourage transparency, volunteer involvement or encourage new members to learn about governance or to become involved in it. My personal opinion is that USCF is much more concerned about which faction will control its governance than it is about how to engage its membership into taking active ownership of its organization.
I had proposed an EB of 14 members instead of 7 and making them the directors of the corporation. The concept was that USCF started out with a 14 member EB and probably should return to its roots. However, there was little support for this concept. Several delegates were not ready to hand “over the keys to the organization” to an EB where it was perceived that it was too easy to get a majority control of the board and then run wild with no oversight.
Much of USCF’s problems are systemic which evolves from having EB members who have inherent personal conflicts of interest. Most non-profit organizations with which I work actively seek out Board members who will not have a vested interest in decisions made by EB members. However, trying to effect that change in USCF is probably much along the lines of asking a physician to heal thyself.

Do you think the USCF will go bankrupt? If yes, how long will it take, and what will happen afterwards? If maybe, what exactly does it depend on? And if no, why not?

My personal opinion is that it will. About a year ago, I predicted red ink this year, major cash flow problems this summer, and bankruptcy reorganization the following year. I think we’re still on target for that scenario although it was announced at the delegates meeting that there is a substantial cash gift coming to USCF in the next 3-6 months. That might buy USCF another 12-18 months.
This year had better financial reporting than the prior year; however, it still has issues. The problem is that USCF has spent two years trying to not talk about the problems in the accounting department. I honestly don’t believe that the EB members fully understand how the financials work and don’t have enough of a background or perhaps it’s a lack of concern to ask the “right questions”.
I cannot imagine another organization where the year end financials are drastically different from the unaudited financials, the red ink still flows, and instead of holding management accountable for the red ink, it’s just another shrug of the shoulders with comments of it was a bad year because… (fill in the blank)…
If USCF was a private corporation with members holding stock options, those in management would have been asked to leave years ago. However, the membership and many delegates have developed a sense of the inevitable because they don’t realize that they really do have the power to effect change. My hope is that there are enough good people out there who will still do their best to stand up for the right things and to help USCF survive this mess and get back in the black. However, it’s a hope that is quickly fading.

So, I hear you got kicked off the USCF Finance Committee. How did you manage that?
According to others, I’m not a “team” player. Starting in August, 2007, I wanted to know why USCF could not collect its accounts receivable from Chess Café. I questioned how the deferred memberships were calculated without a supporting schedule in the accounting system. I couldn’t understand how the multi-year dollars were increasing in numbers when the memberships sold numbers were decreasing. Answers weren’t coming from management. I was told on many occasions that the Finance Committee serves at the pleasure of the Executive Board and we were only supposed to basically get involved if EB members had questions which they would like us to look into. As a delegate/director, I did not accept this answer. In fact, I discussed some of the issues with my constituents and two of them asked for the financial documents. I provided same to my constituents and as of January, 2008, the Finance Chair of USCF stopped providing financial documents to me. Nobody on the Executive Board made a motion to remove me from the Finance Committee at that time or to instruct Mr. Unruh to provide the documents to me so in effect I went into Limbo. However, the documents were leaked to me by others. Also, notable in January, 2008 was a comment by the CFO that he had made a $92,000 “goof” as he called it in the deferred membership recognition.
At the annual meeting, it was stated that Chess Café now owes USCF in the vicinity of $70-$80,000 for mailings that date back to 2007 and prior. That amount may now be going to arbitration.
The fact that I found the above issues to be a real problem and that it was my opinion that the membership deserved to know about them has been a continuous source of disagreement between myself, EB members, and USCF management. It doesn’t make management look good. Well, USCF ended last year with a $71,000 loss and I personally believe it was avoidable. The problem is that if an organization does not have reliable financials and is provided financial information with $100k swings in them, then it is impossible to focus on the reasons for it and stop the red ink from flowing.
There was a huge amount of irony in the fact that the Finance Chair and I spent four hours together on the Thursday night in Dallas at the bar analyzing the audited financials which he was receiving for the first time and trying to determine where the huge difference was between them and the unauditeds provided previously. We both worked in good faith to figure out what the issues were and at the Finance Workshop many solid answers were provided to many of my questions.
I knew the chances of me being put back on the Finance Committee was probably one in a billion and the Finance Chair said that the answer was more like one in two billion. We both understand the politics. I want to know where the membership money is going and I have no tolerance for sacred cows. That’s not conducive to the political life of some politicians.
In fact, another one of the ironies is that the delegates passed a $10k deficit budget in Dallas. I was at the podium trying to make a proposal on where to cut that deficit out of the budget (it would have been from the amount of money spent to send Youth and Coaches to the World Youth with the expectation that in order for funding to be restored, management would have to work with Scholastics to find a fund-raising mechanism or else send less youth or less coaches...). I didn’t get the chance to point out the negative budget because the question was called. So much for responsible management from USCF leadership…one would have hoped that someone on the Executive Board might have thought a negative budget to be an important point of information before allowing the question to be called.
In the end, it matters little to me personally that I am no longer on the Finance Committee. All delegates are now able to get monthly financial reports upon request per a delegate motion that was passed. As I said to Mr. Unruh and USCF management, I’ll put just as much effort into getting my questions answered. However, I think the fact that I am no longer on that committee speaks volumes as to the character of USCF as an organization. It wasn’t that I was wrong in the issues I raised; it’s the fact that I called them out in public after months of no response from management.
USCF has a long ways to go in getting into the mindset that the USCF members – and not EB members – are the true owners of USCF and they have an absolute right to know at any time where their money is being spent. If it was being spent well, there would be less questions. If the financial reports were accurate, there would be less questions. And if USCF ran in the black, there would probably be virtually no questions.

Tell us exactly what you think of Sam Sloan.

I think he loves chess, attention, and the USCF, not necessarily in that order. I think that there is a modicum of truth in almost everything he says but that sometimes one has to look quite hard for that modicum. He’s an interesting character. At the same time, having said all of that, as I said to him in person and to his face, as long as he had a website which contained an article on how to rape a woman, I will never have any respect for him. He didn’t write the article and contended that free speech allowed him to post it…an article which he found interesting although he might not agree with it. To my knowledge, he never removed the article and although I talk to Mr. Sloan on occasion, my level of respect hasn’t changed.

I read Susan thanked you on her site for objecting to a plan to accuse her of child molestation. Can you tell us anything about this: where it came from, who was behind it, anything like that?

I think my best answer would be the same one I gave when different individuals contacted me to ask if I heard of same…what the hell does that have to do with chess? When exactly did running for the Executive Board or being on the Executive Board mean that someone’s personal life became a source of scrutiny?
There is a huge world of difference between asking if two individuals running for the EB are married (because of issues such as those currently facing USCF whereupon one says she will resign if her husband is recalled) and an issue like the one stated above.
I told others that I didn’t think the above issue was USCF’s business, their business, or my business. Others disagreed. There are now legal issues regarding this and my position on the matter hasn’t changed. Others can explain their actions and what was their source of information. I wanted no part of it then and want no part of it now.

If you had to lay odds on the chances each of the three lawsuits has of succeeding, what would you give them?

There are four lawsuits not three…
1. Sam Sloan – It hasn’t been dismissed yet. Legal opinions seem to indicate that the lack of a quick dismissal probably indicates that at least part of the lawsuit will go to depositions. Mr. Sloan put in way too many parties, extraneous issues, etc. A lot will ride on how pared down the lawsuit gets. I honestly don’t think USCF will be dismissed out of the suit and if it is, I fully expect that Mr. Sloan will refile suit in state court.From what I understand, Mr. Sloan’s objective here is not really money although the amount of money suing for does get the attention he desires. His main focus is the removal of Mr. Truong from the Executive Board and that Mr. Sloan be given another chance to run for the seat which he feels was denied him by deceptive means – whether one agrees with that premise or not is up to a jury to decide.If Mr. Truong resigned or was recalled or removed from the Board, it would trigger a new election and I honestly believe a quick settlement for minimal financial damages could probably be made with Mr. Sloan. I personally haven’t tried to negotiate same but am aware that others have.

2. Ray Gordon Parker – This is another pro se lawsuit. Reading the suit, I can see some merits in it, but also there are way too many parties, extraneous issues, etc. Again, this will probably come to a 50/50 chance of being able to settle out at some time. From what I understand, Mr. Parker’s lawsuit is not really monetarily based either, but his objective is much more focused on USCF’s hiring practices which quite honestly could use an open review IMO.

3. USCF vs. John Does. I don’t think this one will see settlement. This is the one which is most likely to be a real solid issue for several people and which will take a life of its own since the Secret Service is involved. It’s my personal opinion that someone is likely to see criminal charges come out of it and it’s only a question of who the John Doe will be. I have no guess as to who that will be or how long it will take for John Doe or Does to be named, but expect that something will materialize there probably before the other lawsuits have real effect.

4. Susan Polgar vs. USCF et al. It’s my understanding that the suit is now going to be in Federal Court. I expect that either it will be dismissed or if not, it will result in a flurry of counter-lawsuits.Just like some of the other lawsuits, this one has way too many parties involved and too much extraneous issues. I don’t expect there to be a basis which will stick against USCF in them, but perhaps my opinion will change if it reaches discovery.
The USCF attorney stated that the legal fees for USCF pertaining to all the lawsuits could hit $100,000 or more. I can easily see that to be a low estimate. IMO, the only chance USCF had to avoid this was for the delegates to remove Mr. Truong from the Executive Board and then try like heck to negotiate out of the mess with several of the parties. Obviously, I didn’t hold the majority view in Texas. As the pocketbook empties, I’m rather confident the delegate mindset will change.

Who do you think would win in a game of chess, Paul Truong, Sam Sloan, or Bill Goichberg?

If I recall correctly, Mr. Truong has the highest rating and hence, I would put some faith into that and say Mr. Truong. (This was actually something of a "trick" question-- sorry Donna-- but it's a little known fact that Bill is the highest rated at 2340 and used to be one of the top players in the US. -- EV)

Aside from the Sam Sloan imbroglio, what do you think the biggest issues facing the organization are and what would you do about them?

Finances, finances, finances. USCF needs accurate financial reporting…boring, but true. It then needs to analyze line item by line item which are necessary expenses and which are luxury items. A prioritization needs to occur particularly in light of the lawsuit expenses which are not going to be controllable to a large extent.
A business plan. What is USCF’s mission? I know…to promote chess. Well, what does that mean exactly? Is it a tournament promotion organization? Is it an adult membership organization? Is it a scholastics organization? Is it a rating service? Is it worth providing for the US Championship if the top U.S. players don’t participate? Is it USCF’s goal to have FIDE events and be a FIDE representative? Is it a magazine publishing company? Is it a charitable organization out to promote chess in schools or libraries or prisons? How should it be structured? Should it be looking to increase membership in all factions or only be concerned with the adult membership numbers? USCF doesn’t have a plan. It just exists from day to day trying to survive. It has no goal and no objective. It takes in membership money and spits it back out. Until someone takes the time to prioritize what it believes are the objectives of USCF one cannot determine where to expend its resources and what it will take to make it “successful”.
Lack of transparency which breeds a lack of membership confidence in management and a lack of pride in being a member of USCF. One affects the other. In the “olden days”, people would pay to be a USCF member even if they didn’t have the time to play a single game of chess or read the magazine because they wanted to support the national chess organization which was out there doing good stuff and they wanted to be a part of it. Now USCF is looked upon as a “dinosaur” of sorts. There are many other organizations out there eating USCF’s lunch because over the years, IMO, it has become obvious that USCF has become more concerned with power struggles than membership feedback or input.
Quite honestly, myself and others don’t even bother going to USCF management with new ideas for the most part. We already anticipate the answer – either USCF has no money, no time, no resources, no personnel or no ability to do (fill in the blank). In short, the answer from USCF management is that it can’t do anything. Therefore, what many of us now see is a focus on local, state and regional chess. Expect to see declining USCF scholastics numbers in several states next year as well as declining attendance in the national events. One of the many discussions in Texas was about states pooling resources to form regional competitions to take up where USCF has left off.
In order to change the above, USCF needs to change starting on the Executive Board. Where are the healthy debates? They don’t exist. There is nothing in BINFO to indicate that anything of substance has been discussed for quite some time. In fact, quite often it seems obvious that a debate must have taken place outside of BINFO and then folks just come to it to place their votes.
How many EB members participate in the USCF Forums? Very few. There are a relatively small number of posters there, but there is a relatively large number of observers. USCF could do much more to engage its membership just by making members aware that the forum exists.
Connect to the members. Actually try to get fresh blood on the committees. Encourage committees to submit motions to the Executive Board on a regular basis so that fresh ideas are put up for debate. Instead of once a year trying to get delegate input, try to encourage active participation throughout the year through a delegates forum. This means outreach – actively reaching out to members and delegates and asking for their participation and not just waiting for them to discover a way into “knowing somebody somewhere” in order to get into the “insider” group.

What three changes would you make to the organization? (This can be personnel, organizational structure, goals, priorities, etc.)

1. New CFO. The retirement plan issue has taken way too long to resolve. The monthly financial reports have had inaccuracies for way too long. The places where things don’t balance and which lead to $92,000 goofs should not happen at this level. The $70,000 due from Chess Café should have been resolved months ago – for good or bad.
A CFO needs to be able to not only provide accurate reports but recommendations to change red ink into black with recommendations other than hoping that memberships improve. More analysis should be provided without asking as to why expenses are higher year over year in certain categories, etc. A professional CFO will ask these questions before he is asked because he will have wanted to know the answers for himself.
2. Committees created by delegates – literally – any delegate (not alternate delegate) who wanted to be on any committee would have the ability to do so. If too many delegates signed up for a committee, then a subcommittee could be formed representing pools of delegates – say 1 rep for every 10. Chairs of the committees elected from within. This would break the lock on one having to go along with EB members in order to get along and by encouraging committees to put motions up to the EB, it provides a way for the members to contact their directors/delegates/representatives to try to have a real voice in governance.
3. Business Plan. It can be created over the internet. Many people will not agree with it, but actually it would give a direction to the organization and those who didn’t agree with it would have the opportunity to run for the EB and change it….or get onto a committee to make motions to change it.

I see from MSA that you are a 1750 who plays chess all the time and has since at least 1993. I was embarrassed to be surprised--of course I make the assumption that women don’t play chess, but more than that, I make assumption that chess politicians don’t play chess. (So well done!) In that vein, how much do you think the current USCF situation is going to affect the average tournament player?

I’ve actually been playing chess since my Dad taught me when I was eight years old. I’ll admit that’s many, many, many moons ago. I stopped playing for about 7 years after high school. At one point within a few years ago, my rating was in the mid 1800’s and I had visions of shooting for a 2000 goal. Priorities change and I’ve never put in the serious study to make that happen.
What you would also need to look at is ICC where my handle is dacp. I play internet chess there daily – okay, there’s a hole in the past week since I was away on vacation and took a computer break as well. Quite seriously, I periodically think about not playing OTB chess and just playing internet. I’m sure I’m not the only chessplayer out there to have those thoughts.
Then again, you missed the part about me being a Local TD. I also run a chess club – Greater Worcester Chess Club and have a website – I haven’t yet figured out how one gets off the slippery slope of running a club once one starts down it although I’m working on it and have other club members starting down the slope.
Sigh. I wish I could look back to the day when I became a chess politician and stopped becoming a USCF member who just wanted what was best for its members who happened to be players at my club. I think my life was a lot less stressful then.
Okay, so affect the average adult USCF chess member. It will affect them the day the rumors increase that USCF is in financial trouble again. These articles in the NY Times are not without effect. People see them and think maybe yes, maybe no about renewing their memberships and then seeing their money go down the drain or think about whether this is the kind of organization which they want to financially support.
Maybe it affects the chess member without knowing it. While USCF is busy defending itself against lawsuits, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of time to talk about co-op advertising with new chess clubs or running new chess events or publicizing new chess programs in areas or providing websites to chess clubs or state associations or even talking to members to find out what USCF could be doing in any area in the U.S.

How good do you think Chess Life, Chess Life Online, and Chess Life for Kids are, and what would you propose to do about them?

I don’t read Chess Life. I don’t have the time. I prefer to play chess rather than read about it.
Chess Life Online has some good articles on it…the flipping articles grab my attention and I admit that I’ve read several of them on my way to the Issues Forum or when others have called them to my attention. I don’t honestly understand why there are separate articles for Chess Life and Chess Life Online…no other publication that I am aware of does that. Okay, well, I do understand why it’s like that but then we’re talking politics and is that mooing I hear?
Chess Life for Kids isn’t written for kids. Sorry, but IMO it’s not. I’ve tried to find articles in there to use for kids I teach in the spring and fall. Quite seriously, I’ve found Ms. Polgar’s Training Program For Teachers much more helpful.
I’ve watched kids get the Chess Life for Kids magazine and toss it aside in less than 3 minutes. I’ve asked kids what they think about it and it just is not written by kids for kids and it’s obvious. I understand that scholastics coaches think it’s great. I just don’t see how it hits the mark. I’d be really curious to do a test market response on it to see what the response was rather than just rely upon anecdotal evidence. Then again, I think I hear more mooing out there.
Now what would I do about it? I think that a weekly lesson on the web in kid language would go a long way towards attacting younger members. I would encourage kids to write about their chess experiences for the magazine. And I would have it filled with lots of pictures of kids getting trophies and their thoughts during games. And I don’t mean all the experts. One of the best stories I read was published locally around here from a kid who won his first trophy ever. That story did more to promote chess and interest kids than Chess Life for Kids does IMO. And in all fairness, I’ll also say that I stopped looking at the magazine months ago so if it’s improved, I haven’t noticed and would be willing to take a second look and eat my words.

I get the sense that the only real reporting that is being done on the USCF conflicts is in the New York Times. Everything else is just internet posts from people involved, who clearly have their own agendas. Do you agree with that statement, and if so, do you think CL or CLO should get involved in reporting on it. Or do you think it’s impossible or unfavorable to do so given the complexity of issues/ height of emotions/ stupidity of the situation?

LOL, you asked me originally if you could do this article for CLO and I figured there would be a snowball in hell before that ever happened. The reality of USCF politics is that much is controlled via the EB whether directly or indirectly. IMO, USCF management has not been transparent for years and I don’t see that changing in the near future.
Internet posts often involve several individuals having part of a story. What amazes me is that USCF virtually never has a statement of position on anything. The press releases may be about who won what event, but a statement as to what USCF intends to do to address any issue seems to be virtually non-existent (no pun intended). Other organizations have places where one can go to ask questions of management. Here, management gives off the impression that it’s too busy to answer questions. In fact, that is one of the main reasons given for quarterly vs. monthly reporting of the financials to the membership…no time for questions.
I think Chess Life or Chess Life Online should have political issues in it, but then again, I believe that the members have a vested interest in the organization and that it’s their organization and the best way to get more members involved is to educate them on the issues.
Issues don’t have to be emotional. Oftentimes, it’s the personal attacks that create the emotions. Change is hard on people and some will resist change at any cost. However, it will happen. There are several blogs now out there which discuss USCF issues so once again, USCF has the opportunity to take a leadership position but chooses to do nothing. Others will fill the void over time.

Who is your favorite board member and why?

I’ll answer your question and then rephrase into what I think you really mean to ask me. My favorite board member is Jim Berry because I honestly believe that he loves the essence of the game of chess, loves players who play chess, isn’t expecting to make money back from chess, doesn’t want anything from chess, and my personal opinion is that if he knew what he was getting into when he signed on to the board and had a chance to redo his action, he probably wouldn’t have done it.
If an election was held today, would I vote for any of the current EB members?
No. Whether I personally appreciate individuals or not has little to do with it. I see an organization which needs vision, leadership, and accountability for actions. While many of the EB members have personal strengths, I don’t see them applied into the management of USCF. I don’t see lots of EB motions or discussion showing that they are discussing how to stop the red ink, how to create a vision for USCF, or even basic communication with the membership showing that they are interested in the general membership’s opinions. My hope is that next year somehow, somewhere, there will be a crop of independent thinkers who will want to talk to the members and garner their ideas and support and then be willing to share proposals and status reports openly and honestly with the membership on an ongoing basis instead of just once a year when the annual meeting occurs.

Which other person in the US chess political world do you find yourself in agreement with most?

Leroy Dubeck. Oh, that explains everything. Why do I envision people out there saying that? I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone talking to Leroy in the past few years. Let’s just say that there’s an awful lot of USCF history that’s not public knowledge and it would be absolutely fascinating reading if someone did an article on his life while he was still around to tell it. If someone has, then I’d appreciate the link to it or tell me when and where and I’ll hunt down a copy.
Leroy and I both look at financial numbers first and foremost. We both want a stable USCF and see a strong need for an organization to end the year in the black. We don’t agree on everything but Leroy doesn’t seem to hesitate to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong and he doesn’t typically utilize other people to deliver the message to me. I like people who can stay issues focused and can agree to disagree. It saves a lot of time in the long run.
USCF has always had political issues and the history gets lost over the years. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Who do you think the most competent person at the USCF office is?

Pat Knight. She also is one of the friendliest and goes out of her way to try to find the right answers if she doesn’t have them.

Judy Misner has also been a very strong go to person willing to help resolve any issue she can.If the USCF office had to go down to just two people before the lights went out, they would be the one’s I’d have leave last.

Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions. They were thought provoking and really forced me to analyze my own perceptions so it was well worth my while to take the time to do so.


Donna Alarie

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We try to go to Mike's wedding and the Atlantic Open, but fail.

The original plan was to drive down from New York in time for round 1 Friday night, return that night to Baltimore for the wedding at 11 am Saturday, taking a half point bye for round two, then return to play round 3 Saturday night.

But we get stuck in vicious traffic Friday afternoon and miss round one. I try to cancel my hotel reservation for Saturday but have missed the deadline. So Alex decides to play with two half pont byes, maybe he goes 3-0 and gets the hotel back at least, but I'm too stingy to pay the entire entry fee to play 3 games, so here I am in Washington, entering game scores for Jenn and posting wedding pictures.

Mike and Gretchen get married.

Greg is a groomsman.

Alex and Jenn
Greg and gf Susan

Greg and pork sandwich
Alex, my sister Rachel, Greg
Rachel and me

Susan and Greg

Alex (notice bumpersticker)
Rachel (sister)
postscript: Alex draws in round 4 and withdraws. It takes 8 hours to drive back to New York. Unbelievable torture.