Rd 8: A Professional Job

I’m home after a long drive yesterday, and after some much needed sleep.  (Who knew chess tournaments took so much out of you?)  Now it’s time to catch up on Rounds 8 and 9, and then I’ll cap things off with a recap, review and reconsideration of my game.  I’ll return to book reviewing shortly thereafter with a review of Christian Hesse’s book.

Saturday was Delegate Meeting day.  Oy.  I’ve been told it was Kissinger who once said that academics argue so much because there’s so very little at stake.  I’m sure, however, that if he’d attended the Delegates Meeting, he’d want to modify that statement.  Chess players just love to hear themselves argue over the smallest things, and while I’m sure it’s part of my training in informal logic that makes me say this, I heard some of the dumbest arguments imaginable on certain barely consequential votes.

That said, I did rather enjoy being a Delegate, if only because I could tune out and look at things on Chessbase if the discussion went sour.  I learned quite a bit about the state of the USCF and its finances, which, all things considered, are decent and perhaps even on the upswing.  Michael Khodarkovsky gave a report about FIDE and Americans in international play.  We learned that Franc Guadalupe is actively working to get some kind of online play for USCF members and, perhaps more importantly, is bargaining with Random House to publish the long-awaited 6th edition of the Rulebook.  Guadalupe seems incredibly competent, which naturally means we can’t induce him to stay on as full-time director.  Oh well.  A boy can dream.

Two motions were actively debated.  The first dealt with the introduction of an age-limit for Delegates.  This makes sense, and legal opinion apparently was on the side of age-limiters.  But youth prevailed, if only because (1) there was a 14yr old Delegate already seated with whom the majority of the grandparently delegates were smitten, and (2) people were convinced by some of the least well-thought speeches I’ve ever heard.  So we can seat toddlers as delegates… because states rights.  (Seriously.)

Second, Jim Berry tried to introduce a plan to allow scholastic players up to the age of 12 to buy life memberships for $500.  Sounds great, right?  Most scholastic players drop out, so that has got to be a cash grab for the Federation.  But it would seem that no one actually did any cost-benefit analysis to determine how many players drop out and come back, what percentage of players would have to disappear as adults to make such a cheap price point feasible, etc.  I was moved to make my one and only comment from the floor here, telling the delegates that most of them were far older than me and that I (and my coming governing cohorts) might have to deal with the consequences of a plan that apparently wasn’t worth their doing basic math or anything.  Luckily reason – or non-insanity – prevailed here and the motion failed.

It turns out my evening game was against another delegate, this time a woman from Wisconsin.  After some dodgy opening play, I was able to tie her defenses down to a backward c-pawn and then open up a second attack on her kingside.  I probably could have won faster, but in the end I’m basically pleased with my play here.  The resistance could have been stronger, but it wasn’t a blowout and I had to actually, you know, do something to win.  This left me at 4.0/8 heading into the last round.


5 thoughts on “Rd 8: A Professional Job

  1. Ed R.

    “Second, Jim Berry tried to introduce a plan to allow scholastic players up to the age of 12 to buy life memberships for $500. Sounds great, right? ”

    Yeah, excellent idea: bet the financial future of the Federation on it continuing to utterly fail to turn youth players into adult players. Lose-lose!

    1. fullcityplus Post author

      To be fair, there is a bit of logic to the idea. Since most scholastic players drop out, chances are that few people would stick around to continue to make use of their lifetime membership. (Another board member pointed out that Berry described the idea at first as grabbing parental cash before the kids walk away. Awkward!) But as you say, if the program is designed is to keep those kids playing chess for the rest of their lives, it’s a horrific money burner. That no one did any hard analysis to determine the kinds of numbers required to break even was unbelievable.

  2. Ed R.

    “Since most scholastic players drop out” — that’s my point. Most scholastic players drop out because USCF is an abject failure at promoting chess. So Berry wants to bet that USCF continues to fail at its core mission. And if USCF happens to succeed, it would go bankrupt!

    Berry’s not usually such an idiot, but he didn’t think this one through at all.

  3. GeneM

    The USCF is a small almost volunteer organization, and it does not begin to have the sophistication and resources to intelligently manage the implications of Lifetime Memberships. The USCF forums have been proving and re-proving that for years.
    The USCF forums list several basic problems caused by predictable mismanagement over the years. One is that they keep sending the monthly magazine after the member has died. Another is that the USCF accepts such membership applications even when the submitted paperwork lacks some essential information. The total problems are too much to list here.
    It takes a lot of time and money to manage such long term obligations competently. Most of the costs are not easy to foresee, and so the costs are badly under-estimated. They also run the risk of legal expenses when things go wrong. Lifetime Memberships are a way of giving the current USCF regime money that it can spend, and that it will not properly portion out for the decades to come of future regimes.
    The USCF should completely stop offering Lifetime Memberships.

    1. fullcityplus Post author

      Your logic is, shall we say, lacking here. The USCF is not a volunteer organization. The forums have nothing to do with professional governance. Lifetime memberships, assuming they are sold with due diligence, are not a huge problem. It would seem that the entire point of recent changes that are so ‘hotly’ debated on the USCF forums is to fix the accounting infelicities of the past and properly account for future liabilities, including those of lifetime memberships.


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