Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Delegates' Meeting + My Thoughts

I'm going to try to give a summary with only partial opinions*, and then give you my full take at the end.

So Saturday morning I wake up around noon, discover the delegates are at a luncheon until 2, wander around for a while, chat to Shelby, the bookstore guy, take a few photos, interview Matt Perry, who had beaten Daniel Fernandez the night before. By two I'm sitting in the back of the meeting-- maybe 50 out of a couple hundred elected delegates were there. Donna Alarie later proposes an amendment to address this issue: that many delegates don't show up, and in multiple cases, state organizations had just placed someone's name on the ballot; the winner had never even been told.

Goichburg surrendered his chairmanship to Harold Winston, appropriately I thought, since he obviously had some stake in the proceedings. (sorry, for some reason I switch to present tense here, and I'm too lazy to rewrite it) Winston reminds everyone to be respectful.
A USCF lawyer (Kronenburger) makes a Powerpoint presentation on why Paul Truong is the Fake Sam Sloan. It's quite convincing: he cites IP addresses that Paul used to post on the USCF issues forums which are identical to the ones used for the fake Sam Sloan postings, and match the places Paul was (Queens last spring; Texas by August, Mexico City during the World Championship). He doesn't have all the IP addresses, because AOL was used for a lot of them, and AOL tends to change IP addresses every couple minutes, but he has at least 25 non-AOL IPs.

Bill Hall then makes a absolutely hilarious speech-- full of rhetorical flourishes and shouting for effect. He claims to have been convinced by Polgar/Truong when he first met them ("I drank the Kool-Aid!") but to now see them for what they really are. He quotes some especially disgusting Fake Sam Sloan posts relating to Jenn. Several delegates at the front laugh out loud.

Bill pounds on the podium and continues, at full volume:

"Gone must be the days when the federation cowers under threat of lawsuit,
Gone must be the days staff members tremble when going to sponsors in fear that they've Googled the organization..."
Gone must be a third one, but I couldn't write that fast.

Then he finishes with "Even Sam Sloan had the decency to recognize that a sitting board member should not file a lawsuit against this organization."
Basically I thought his speech was silly and over the top, but extremely funny.

Paul then gave a rebuttal speech, which seemed fairly irrelevant to me. He made some reasonable claims, like he didn't trust the USCF because of the leaks (specifically citing a Jerry Hanken-Sam Sloan conduit), and that Susan had been harassed at her job via allegations of child molestation. He also managed to call Brian Mottershead "Motorhead" for the first half of his presentation. (Amusing me in your speeches gets extra credit.) However, he made some completely silly points as well, like saying he was afraid that if he gave out his IP addresses, someone could use them to log into Susan's online bank account. That's a pretty lame attempt at a plausible fear. He also orally denied being the Fake Sam Sloan, but refused to put it in writing and offered no real reason for that other than saying his lawyer told him not to. I don't care what a lawyer tells me, there is no way I would refuse to declare my own innocence if I believed in it. Mostly what he said was "Let's see how it plays out in court."

Susan then made an impassioned speech about the harassment she had been subjected to. Someone "with links to the board" had contacted her ex-husband asking for dirt on her and had made allegations of child abuse/neglect to the police and to Texas Tech. Let me say I think it's quite clear Susan Polgar does not abuse or neglect her children. I've seen her with them at many scholastic events and they seem happy, well-adjusted, and cared for. However, it was never clear to me what connection these accusations actually had with the board itself. What exactly does "strong ties" mean? Someone on the board knows this guy?? I have strong suspicions that I can guess who's behind the child abuse allegations, and consequently I feel bad for Susan, because he's a nasty, sleezy guy that nobody deserves to be bothered by, but he's not a board member (and never has been, if my guess is accurate).

The interesting thing is that Susan is actually suing the USCF, Continental Chess, the law firm the USCF retained (Kronenberger Burgoyne), and the following individuals: Bill Goichburg, Bill Hall, Randall Hough, Brian Mottershead, Hal Bogner, Randy Bower, Jerry Hanken, Brian Lafferty, Sam Sloan, and Karl Kronenberger for defamation of character and interference with contractual obligations. But mostly for defamation. They were served with papers at the beginning of the delegates meeting on Saturday.

I left at 5 pm-- the board meeting went on for another hour. The motion to remove Truong was defeated, as was the motion to have a recall election.
So just in case you're confused, there are three separate lawsuits:

1. Sam Sloan vs. the USCF for (I believe) tolerating the Fake Sam Sloan postings and not doing everything they could to stop it. I think (not 100%) that this lawsuit is a large part of the reason that the EB feels compelled to do (and to show they are doing) everything in its power to deal with Paul Truong, because Sloan's lawsuit contends that Goichburg knew about the Mottershead report and didnt do anything until it was made public. I think that I read something months ago that suggested Mottershead leaked his report because he felt the Board would not act on it otherwise. Could be wrong on that, though. This lawsuit is for $20 million and has already cost the USCF $25,000 in budgeted legal fees and $25-50,000 more which is not yet budgeted for.
2. USCF vs. John Doe. This alleges that an unknown person broke into an EB member's email and stole a confidential communication between Karl Kronenberger (the USCF lawyer) and a member of the Board's legal committee. The implication of the recent NY Times article is that John Doe is either Paul Truong or Susan Polgar. The idea is that they would be the people with the most to gain from stealing the email because it's about them and how to get Paul to resign. I know nothing about the costs involved here. I'm confused about why the Secret Service handles wire fraud (which apparently is what this constitutes.) Can anyone think of any reason wire fraud would be under their sphere?

3. Susan Polgar vs. USCF et all. This is the surprise lawsuit described above-- Susan suing for defamation. The lawyer estimated legal fees of upwards of $100,000. I don't know how much she's suing for.
My Opinions
So here are my opinions:

1. Clearly Paul Truong was The or one of The Fake Sam Sloans. Anyone who follows internet chess knows this and has known this for years now. The lawyer gave air-tight proof for anyone who hadn't been following. If you still doubt me, check out the kid's reviews of Susan's books and ask yourself if you think they were all written by children under 13. (They are posted as such because if you claim to be a kid under 13 you don't have to leave your name; Amazon is legally required to protect your privacy.) I don't find it too hard to believe he's not the only Fake Sam Sloan -- it's my experience that people like to join in cruelty, kinda like Lord of the Flies.

Let me tell you a little personal story, involving Chess Bitch. When Jenn's book came out, there were many reader reviews on Amazon.com, most of which gave it either one star or five. There were dozens and dozens of kids' reviews, almost all of which were negative and some of which were extremely nasty. Most of these have since been deleted after Jenn complained to Amazon. I became involved because a few of the reviews were directed at me. For a long time, I suspected Paul Truong, in large part because Susan and he had a book that came out at the same time (Breaking Through), and it also got many many kids' reviews (but these were all positive). At one point two kids' reviews were accidentally cross-posted, i.e. a negative review of Jenn's book appeared on Amazon's Polgar page and vice versa. These reviews have since been deleted, but as of today (Aug 13-- when the first draft was written) there is still a reference to the mistake in a subsequent review of Breaking Through:

20 of 32 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars The first family of chess, November 6, 2005
A Kid's Review

What is the last reviewer talking about? There's no mentioning of Kosteniuk or Krush anywhere in the book. This book is about the lives of three Polgar sisters who made history. The author didn't use fancy words or complicated style. She's direct and candid with her views. I like this book very much. And by the way, there are plenty of nice analyzed games and combinations. Susan explained each move even from the first move. Nicely done! A high class book!

So I figured it was Paul who was behind it. Later, another person (totally unrelated to Paul) admitted to writing a few of these reviews, but said she definitely had not done more than a few and that she thought 4-5 other people had written the rest. Clearly, she can't really know it's 4-5 people, but she can know it's at least one more and she can reasonably suspect (she's an intelligent person and an experienced writer) that it's multiple people. This is part of why I have believed Paul is at least A Fake Sam Sloan.

2. I fail to see why anyone would want to imitate Sam Sloan. I mean, really, let the man hang himself. His website is more than enough to convince anyone he's a repulsive character. (more on my thoughts on SS later.)

3. I think Susan Polgar has done a lot for chess. I like her on a personal level. I think she's intelligent in both a practical way and a chess way. I think she works hard and is a good ambassador for chess.

4. I think suing people is ridiculous. You cannot argue you are trying to help American chess if you sue the USCF. It also lowers the level of discussion because you can blackmail anyone just by threatening to sue them. Even if the suit is completely unfounded, the legal expenses and time involved are such an incredible burden that you can easily ruin someone's life. This makes it hard for intelligent people/ observers to be straightforward.

5. I think the delegates should have removed Truong from the board because of his refusal to cooperate with the insurance lawyers in the Sam Sloan lawsuit. Regardless of how guilty/innocent he may be of the fake postings, his refusal to admit or deny culpability in writing seems indefensible to me.
Many delegates seemed to agree with Paul that the conflict should be settled in court, but this course of action seems very likely to bankrupt the USCF. I heard estimates of legal expenses around $200,000, and this is if we win both suits (numbers 1 and 3) and if they take a year or less to settle.

Finally, I want to add that I was impressed by a couple delegates' comments. Donna Alarie seemed rational and on-target to me, and a guy named Holliman made some very intelligent points. Also, Sam Sloan-- for as much as I think the guy defines creepy-- I do agree with a surprisingly large number of his arguments.

So that's my two cents.
Feel free to leave a comment.
Please do not sue me.

* I don't believe any account is ever told without authorial bias, so I'm not going to try too hard.


likesforests said...

Thanks, that was excellent. After reading a few news articles it was still very murky what was going on. Now everything is clearer.

"Please do not sue me."


Anonymous said...

what is sam sloan\'s website? thanks

Anonymous said...

A very insightful, and pithy recap. Personally, I had low expectations going in, and they were met.

HubDiggs said...

Thanks for helpful commentary on the USCF Delegates Meeting.

I have to wonder about the USCFs long run viability. Too many lawsuits, too much destructive behavior.

A nonprofit like the USCF should be able to provide reasonable service to its members for $40-$50 per person a year.

Anonymous said...

Commentary is appreciated, Elizabeth.

I have no problem believing that Paul Truong is the Fake Sam Sloan, and his conduct since the accusation has been nothing short of bizarre.

But the manner in which this was disclosed was unprofessional at best and spiteful at worst. And when you come down to it, who was harmed by the Fake Sam Sloan postings? Sam's reputation can't get any worse, and his other targets seem to be taking the postings--correctly--as childish rants devoid of meaningful content.

The fake Sam Sloan postings were disgusting but generally harmless. The manner in which Paul Truong was accused of being the Fake Sam Sloan was ill conceived, unwise and harmful. Paul truong's conduct since the accusation has been unhelpful, unwise, and harmful. Sad situation.

How do we elect these people?

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice recap. Had I not seen your blog I would have had no insight in this mess.

They all have to go.

Jesse Kraai

Anonymous said...

"I heard that someone stood up and said they were prepared to testify under oath that the Fake Sam Sloan was Hal Bogner."

Please note that this did not happen. At one point, someone asked who had access that would have allowed modification of the MySQL database in which IP addresses had been saved. Mr. Nolan replied with a list of individuals, including Mr. Bogner. Mr. Fred Gruenberg then said that he now had significant doubt that Mr. Truong is the Fake Sam Sloan based on the list of names. However, Mr. Gruenberg did not explicitly name any individual.

-- Ken Ballou (delegate from Massachusetts)

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Thanks for the correction -- I'll remove the reference!

Anonymous said...

FYI, in the spirit of Brangelina, it is convenient to refer to Truong/Polgar as:


es_trick said...

Thanks for the update.

But what a sad, sordid tale it is all around. So much for the idea that playing chess helps to train the brain, or otherwise increase intelligence. If this idiotic episode were widely known outside of chess circles, I'd be embarrassed to admit that I'm a chess player.

The seeds of USCF's destruction have evidently spouted from within its own EB. How very, very sad.

Can bankruptcy be staved off?



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary, Elizabeth.

Please note, though, that whenever I post anywhere, I do so openly under (or over) my own name.

If you have some reason to believe otherwise, perhaps you could contact me privately and let me know what it is.


Anonymous said...

PS - I was not present in Dallas, and was not served with Susan Polgar's lawsuit there. I believe that some of the others named were not, either.

But what her lawsuit basically contends is that "Because she is a woman and of foreign descent, USCF has long harbored ill will and jealousy towards Polgar and more recently, the SPICE program. The USCF has apparently become alarmed and irrationally concerned with Polgar's success and her championing of chess among all people, especially young women." The lawsuit then contends that all those named "have become embittered and have conspired unlawfully to use the internet and international media outlets to slander, defame, and disparage Polgar personally, to damage her business relationships and to inflict emotional distress upon this very popular and gifted person".

It must be very difficult to live for decades as a role model.

Unknown said...

what a surprise the USCF is a complete joke... it was also a complete joke 6 years ago when i joined this is earth shattering

Anonymous said...

And people make fun of organized religion??

Anonymous said...

As a background comment - you asked about how the Secret Service ended up being involved. OK here goes...deep breath...Like many governmental bodies, the Secret Service and its area of responsibilities are the product of historical accident and legacy. Consider there are actually MANY national police forces - (1) The FBI, (2) The DEA, (3) Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms, and (4) US Marshal service to just to name a few. Each were created at different times in response to different perceived needs but share a common root: a perception there was a threat or need which existing police entities were unable to deal with because of a lack of training, resources or a limitation on their jurisdiction. The FBI rose to prominence during the 1920-1930 gangster era. The DEA became important because the FBI pointedly were NOT active in the 'war on drugs'. ATF filled in with those pesky tasks which Customs and local police didn't or couldn't deal with. The Secret Service in turn were originally officers of the Treasury Dept. and were created at the end of the US Civil War in 1865 to deal with counterfeiting. They were the "secret service division" of the Treasury. Because they were under the control of a Federal agency, the Secret Service ended up inheriting the investigation of crimes under federal jurisdiction which the Marshal service did not or could not pursue. After Pres. McKinley was assasinated in 1901 Congress authorized the Secret Service to take over protecting the president even though the Marshal service continued to provide protection on and off....another deep breath...
Investigation of counterfeiting led in turn to working on cases involving forgery of government checks and so called currency equivalents (traveler's checks and cashier checks) and wire fraud/credit card fraud. This last area of interest involves a lot of computer investigations - so the current jurisdiction of the Secret Service includes violations of Federal computer crime laws and in fact there are about 2 dozen some Electronic Crime Taskforces (ECTFs) based across of the country to help coordinate with local police agencies with this growing area of crime....so that is why the freaking Secret Service is involved with the United States Chess Federation...

Anonymous said...

The Hal Bogner / Fred Gruenberg thing was covered at chess usa

On the USCF Forums, Fred Gruenberg (through Seven Muradian) clarified about whom he was speaking:
"From: Fred Gruenberg. This is my first time reading or posting on this forum.
First of all I NEVER lie!! I really don't have to. I DID have a conversation with Hal Bogner at the National Open in front of the TD's room. Actually there is even a witness to the conversation. Hal did admit to harrassing Paul and Susan and admitted even calling Texas Tech Universitry and making adverse remarks about them. I asked him to stop and he said he would think about it. And that's what happened and that's what was said!!!!"

ChessUSA requested comment from Hal Bogner. Bogner asked that his responses on the Issues Forum be his answer.
"What Sevan has posted on behalf of Fred Grunberg (...) is a fiction. It is certainly possible for someone to hold an opinion that I have harrassed Susan Polgar and/or Paul Truong by addressing issues or expressing opinions, though harrassment is not my purpose. And under some circumstances, it would be amusing to have a hallway conversation with Professor Hal Karlsson somehow twisted into having "called Texas Tech".

Sevan - Thank you for helping clear up that Fred Gruenberg's allusion was to me. But yes, somehow, he has become confused about something - with or without any help from anyone else."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, in your list of "national police forces" you omitted 2 of the most important: The Impossible Missions Force or IMF(led by Jim Phelps) and The Counter Terrorism Unit, or CTU, led by Jack Bauer.

Unknown said...

Nice commentary. Really enjoyed your version of how the events transpired.

However, after having been subjected to Sloan's postings in RGCP for almost a decade, I have a hard time imagining why this frivolous lawsuit of Sloan's is even being entertained. The FSS' posts were no more crass, off-topic, or illiterate than the real Sam Sloan's are, and were actually more entertaining half the time. It's not like the guy has a reputation that could be damaged and is worth protecting.

Again, great commentary. Keep it up.

Bill Brock said...

Disclosure: I'm one of the defendants in Sloan vs. Truong et al.

As I've said ad nauseam (literally!) in other venues, the problems is not Sloan. I can now add that the problem is not Truong, either.

The real problem is that supposedly responsible people within USCF take such losers seriously...and that many in USCF enjoy destroying the reputation of good people for sport.

Anonymous said...

@ Bill Brock:

Absolutely spot on.

The zeal with which and the manner in which the producers of the Fake Sam Sloan evidence have pursued this could easily cause someone to dismiss their efforts.

And I acknowledge this despite believing that the underlying report was correct.

I'm confident you'll get a quick dismissal as soon as Judge Chin gets around to looking at the case.

Anonymous said...

Polgar is guilty of at least 2 things:

1. hooking up with the worm Truong

2. maintaining a cut and paste blog (well at least she is now acknowledging where she is cutting and pasting from)

Anonymous said...

"Can anyone think of any reason wire fraud would be under their sphere?"

Look up what they do and it should be clear (not trying to sound condescending, but its spot on).


Anonymous said...

Doug is right about the CTU and IMF although those are more special mission forces rather than a national police agency - like the US Park Police. Sort of like GI Joe was to the US military in the first war on terror - which is worth noting ended up with the failure to capture and prosecute Cobra Commander, Destro and the rest of the Cobral Cabal - a portend to the current war on terror? Admittedly it was the only war fought over 2 years without any loss of life despite battling from the Arctic to the Antarctic and every continent and ocean and using deadly blue and red laser beams.

Anonymous said...


I'm sick of all the bickering... Enough already, grow up.

likesforests said...

"Admittedly it was the only war fought over 2 years without any loss of life despite battling from the Arctic to the Antarctic and every continent and ocean and using deadly blue and red laser beams."

lol. Although I remember a few fatalities. There was Kwinn & Dr. Venom, General Flagg, and quite a few nameless ninjas. And who could forget "Bongo the Balloon Bear".

Anonymous said...

It really is obvious that US chess has become an incredibly small and closed group. This is really amounting to an equivalence to drama in a high school gym class.

In the long run, it's chess and the promotion of chess as a valuable educational tool that needs to be kept in sight. I fully realize that this is someone's own blog and they are well within their rights (and personal satisfaction) to write about whatever their heart content, but hopefully in the future blogs will talk about all the great things that the USCF is doing to

1) Increase participation in tournaments
2) Addressing the problems of making chess a valuable educational tool to help not only the young and the old
3) Perhaps focus on methods to fuel chess forward consistent with the end goal (if you want chess to be a business, then appeal to businesses; if you want chess to be a valuable educational enabler then seek out government grants etc.)

In any case, vent away ... Paul and Susan probably deserve it to some extent (although it's shocking to think that Paul would do such a think .. however it might be easier to believe that he posed as someone else than think it).

So end of my own little rant ...

Oh ... about the Kid's Reviews .. thanks! ... I've often wondered who these "kids" were with some fairly sophisticated reviews on Amazon. Perhaps now that the truth is out on that, some of my own chess reviews will get something more than a handful of helpful votes! Okay, I don't really care but it would be nice to make it in the top 100,000 votes!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

There's a 53 page legal document hosted on RapidShare. It is an action to remove the Polgar vs USCF et al suit from
State to Federal jurisdiction.

Gurdonark said...

Thank you for a well-written and
thoughtful post.

I have followed the various stories on the "fake Sam Sloan" from a distance. I think it would have been very interesting to hear the presentation made about the evidence addressing the alleged link. Nobody, of course, should pose as someone else. If Mr. Truong did so, that is unfortunate indeed.

I share your view that it is hard to imagine anyone "needing" to pretend to be Sam Sloan, as he says enough outrageous things on his own without the need for editorial "assistance".

On the whole, though, I am pleased I was participating in the only US Open event I was able to do, the blitz tournament, on that Saturday. On the whole, I think that the USCF needs fewer accusations and scandals and more blitz chess tournaments.

I've always enjoyed Susan Polgar's weblog, and admire the things she has done for youth chess and chess promotion generally. I do not have a real position on the "fake Sam Sloan" question as to Mr. Truong, as I have not reviewed the evidence.

Regardless of who is in the right,
if she and Mr. Truong intended to sue the USCF and its officers, they should have resigned any official positions prior to doing so. It's really not hard to understand why.

The attacks by different folks against other folks in USCF is off-putting to people who just want to enjoy chess. I have been bored for years with the level of needless vituperation
shown in USCF matters.

Scandals--real and manufactured, accusations, counter-accusations, and massive clashes of would-be titans over what is in essence a non-profit which is a fraction of the size and impact it could have with a more constructive approach.

The lawsuits by Mr. Sloan and by
Ms. Polgar and Mr. Truong should be dropped. They're just a distraction for everyone. They do not serve to advance chess, and they do not serve to advance the credibility of those who maintain them.

I think that chess can empower children, create bonds of friendship among adults, and provide a 64 square map to the pathless land of truth.

I think it's time for everyone, literally and metaphorically speaking, to return to playing chess.

Anonymous said...

I posted a comment on Ms Polgar's blog to the effect that she should resign but got deleted. Reason - commentary on chess politics "not allowed" on her personal blog.

My point was that she could not claim to be helping uscf as a board member and at the same time file a lawsuit that has the potential to bankrupt the organiation. In my opinion, it is unprofessional and against her fudiciary duty to serve the organization. The timing of the lawsuit, right after the annual delegates meeting, is also suspect. Ms Polgar is free to persue her lawsuit but she cannot have her cake and eat it too.

I am not a uscf member but am totally disgusted by the behavior of many in the organization, especially the officials. I am very interested in scholastic chess but the current headlines in mainstream media such as New York Times is detrimental to the promotion of chess in the country.

Anonymous said...

Liz, Thanks for your excellent correspondence. The whole situation was confusing, and you summarized it well. --Howard Goldowsky

Anonymous said...

Painful as this may be to many to hear, and even contrary to what may seem like common sense, the fundamental problem with chess in the US is that the USCF is run by chess players and chess people (whatever that means). I am a life long lover of Chess. I love the game for the sport, the art, the science and just plain the fun of it. In Europe and other parts of the World Chess has emerged as a legitimate, almost mainstream, form of entertainment, of interest to the public at large as well as to the chess playing base. And yet in the US, outside of the amazing (truly) work being done with scholastic chess, chess in America is a joke and a backwater. Imagine Michael Vick running the NFL. Imagine Barry Bonds or even Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriquez running Major League Baseball. The silly and petty back and forth of these lawsuits is merely symptomatic of a greater malaise, indeed a cancer. The fact is the US public sadly could not care less about chess. Really. So who on earth is Susan P worried she is being defamed to? And Sam Sloan--he sounds like a reprobate. One needs only review the editorials of Chess Life to see that whoever runs this show is living in a bubble insulated from the reality that Chess in America is in decline, not on the rise. The only thing that infuriates me more than thinking my membership dollars are going to fund this nonesense, is the lack of quality of the monthly Chess Life magazine (aside from some very good columns written by long-time columnists who must writhe in pain at the thought of having to work for such a shoddy organization). I say: a curse on the whole USCF house. Throw everyone out, bankrupt the orgnazation and start over. Thanks to people like Elizabeth and others, scholastic chess in this country is a real bright spot. But that is the ONLY bright spot. Let's bring professional chess to America, educate a public that would embrace the game if promoted correctly and leave behind this self-perpetuating backwater of an organization that has done NOTHING I can discern to promote chess in this country.