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Friday, March 12, 2010


The latest issue of Chess Life (March 2010) announced the lawsuits invloving the USCF, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong are over. That’s old news because, being a printed magazine, it’s not possible to publish as quickly as you can on the Internet.

Polgar and Truong (who are married) have had their memberships revoked from the United States Chess Federation. Their dismissal stemmed from accusations that Polgar’s organization had fraudulently used Internet accounts to write scurrilous messages about board members in an attempt to defame and discredit them.

Both were sued by Sam Sloan, who felt his reputation was sullied by Internet posts linking him to unsavory activities and he filed a separate $20 million lawsuit against Polgar and Truong.

An investigation was done by the USCF and the finger was pointed at Truong as being the culprit but experts couldn’t prove it. Eventually attention was directed at a fellow named named Gregory Alexander who managed Polgar’s websites. He was arrested for alleged “computer fraud and aggravated identity theft”.

The USCF Executive Board removed Polgar and Truong from the Board. In reply Polgar and Truong filed a lawsuit for $25 million (later lowered to $10 million).

The USCF revoked the memberships of both Polgar and Truong. Fortunately the whole mess, except for Sloan’s lawsuit and the Alexander case is over when a settlement favorable to the USCF was reached.

During this whole mess Polgar and Truong got blamed for much the USCF’s financial troubles; that’s unfair. The USCF has had financial problems for years prior to this case and barely survived bankruptcy. At one time the USCF could not even stage a U.S. Championship.

The USCF lost over $500,000 in the last 2 years under President Bill Goichberg and during that time the USCF was involved in six lawsuits.

I'm more than a little put off by the actions of Polgar and Truong who would like us to believe they have the best interest of chess at heart. I don't see that suing the USCF for that amount of money is in anybody's interest but theirs. It also irked me that back when they were running for election to the Executive Board they didn't bother to disclose that they were married.

We see it all the time in professional sports. Player strikes. Players demanding more money; sometimes right in the middle of a contract. Etc. etc. Nowadays, and for quite some time, this attitude has crept into chess. I’ve never understood separate sections in chess tournaments with $200 entry fees and thousands of dollars in prize money for 1200 rated players. These days chess, like everything else, is about the money…not only for the players, but the organizers as well.

I’ve been a USCF Life Member since the days it cost $100. I stopped playing in tournaments years ago because I just didn’t enjoy them all that much, preferring instead, postal and later Internet chess.

Nowadays if I had to pay USCF dues, State dues, a hefty EF, travel expenses, hotel and food playing in an OTB event just isn’t worth it. Not even in the big prize money events. I’m not going to win anything anyway.

I won’t even pay to belong to a correspondence organization any more. Why should I? There’s too many places I can play chess for free. When I left the CCLA, I commented to the secretary (or whatever he was) that I had to pay a piddling fee to enter the tournaments by mailing in a check for each event. Why not take Paypal? Also I opined that server play was so much easier than post cards.

I got a snide reply that by playing in the CCLA I actually got a “rating that means something.” Well what, exactly, did my 2060 CCLA rating mean? I was not anywhere near the top of the rating list and my play wasn’t so good that people actually wanted to see my games. He also advised that Paypal costs money so it was not feasible to offer it as a way to pay EF’s.

Guess what? Soon after I left, the CCLA partnered with the ICCF to hold server tournaments and they started accepting Paypal. Still, I’m not interested in rejoining because I just don’t see the point of paying $40 a year in dues plus paying an EF for tournaments just to have an official rating. I played at Chessworld which cost about $32 a year and had a site rating of around ~2300. It's a great site (if you join that is; less so if you play for free) and I got to play a lot of really strong players there, but then I discovered Queen Alice. I can play for free there and I’ve still played some pretty good players.

I also tried Red Hot Pawn, but they started me out at a low rating, most paying members refuse to play you and also virtually “spit” at non-subscribers…we were called leaches, or worse. I was mostly using the site to play a couple friends and after some 40 games where I had about an 80% score my rating was only about 1500 so it was still impossible to obtain strong competition. They are also obsessed with witch hunts for engine users on the site. Come on...banning 1200's for engine use!?

Then there was Plastic Bishop. It’s a nice site for beginners. I didn’t lose a game there and had several games under 10 moves; that’s how bad the competition is there.

Anyway, I salute the guys who run places like Queen Alice and Plastic Bishop, whoever they are. They are doing a service to chessplayers by offering them the opportunity to play just for the enjoyment of it. What’s more, they aren’t doing it for the money and that’s a rare thing these days.

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