Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index

Black Atlanta Kings Member Denied Ga Open Entry

Thinking the match between the Kings and Ospreys began at seven I was early in arriving at Emory University, where the Kings play. The first player to arrive was Expert Lawrence White, who was to play his first game as a King. Mr. White is a tall, large man with a huge smile, which was on display when he noticed me. He is an intelligent, educated, likable person whose comportment while at the House of Pain was always that of a gentleman.After purchasing a snack, which would substitute for dinner, as he had come directly from work, Lawrence walked over to say hello.
I have known Lawrence since he first appeared at the Atlanta Chess Center in 1997. He is a friendly gentleman and a talented chess player, who is obviously serious about his game. During our conversation I was taken aback when he said he was refused entry to the recent Georgia Open. “What?” I exclaimed, and asked Lawrence to elaborate. He explained, “The registration was from eight AM until eight-thirty and I arrived just before the closing time. I saw Fun Fong standing on something giving a speech, so I found his assistant and told him I would like to enter. He looked at his watch and said it was eight-thirty two. My watch showed eight-thirty.”
It took me a few moments to wrap my head around what I had just heard. Gathering myself, I asked the name of the person he had encountered. Lawrence did not know his name, but after describing the man I said, “That was not an assistant, but the Chief TD, Ben Johnson.” Rather than making waves, Lawrence decided he would not play in the event.
Realizing something like this would never have occurred when the GCA held their events at the House of Pain, I apologized. “Why are you apologizing?” he asked, “I know you would not have done it.” He was correct because just a few years ago every accommodation was made to allow a player, any player, to participate in a GCA event held at the House of Pain. What I did not tell Lawrence, who happens to be an American of African descent, was that I immediately thought of something my friend Mr. William A. Scott, an Expert player back when there were only a few players rated over 2000, publisher of the Atlanta Daily World, a well-respected Black newspaper, and a member of the first incarnation of the Atlanta Kings, told me many decades ago when he said, “Mike, the difference between us is that to Negroes, everything is considered racial, while to White people nothing is race related.” I have heard this many times during my life and have always tried to keep it in mind in my relations with my fellow humans who happen to have been born with a darker skin pigmentation, for I know that when that skin is removed there is no difference in the human body.
I have no idea what was in the mind of Ben Johnson when he denied entry to Mr. Lawrence White. As far as I know it could have been GM Michael Rohde, who has played in Atlanta previously, asking to enter the tournament and Ben, a member of what has become known as the “Know Nothing” party who has taken control of chess in Georgia, would not have known him from Adam. I have no idea how much race played in the Chief TD’s decision. What I do know is that Ben Johnson saw a rather large Black man standing there and the pairings had already been made, so he refused to go to the trouble of making new pairings, something made quick and simple with the advent of the computer pairing programs.
Appalled at the whole situation, I asked Lawrence if I could quote him on the blog and he said, “Sure.”
There were only a few higher rated adults entered and Mr. White would have added stature to the Georgia Open, something completely lost on Ben Johnson. Who is Ben Johnson? I have come to think of him as the “Weird Hockey Guy” of chess. The Legendary Georgia Ironman shuddered at the mention of this, and this is why. Tim and I were doing sports memorabilia shows in the 90’s before the collapse of the card market. During one show a goofy fellow appeared at our table, asking if we would like to purchase a large box of unopened Hockey cards. I had no interest, but the Ironman engaged the rather strange fellow in conversation. Weird Hockey Guy told Tim he had absolutely no interest in the pieces of cardboard of any type. “I am in it only for the money.” In the best capitalist tradition the Weird Hockey Guy would “buy low and sell high.” With the possibility of the MLB strike looming and the encounter with the WHG in mind, I decided to sell everything and get out of the business because it was obvious the card market bubble had burst.
When first meeting Ben Johnson he said, “I don’t know anything about real chess; I come from the scholastic side.” Not only did he try to argue with me about what constituted stalemate, but he also said, “I’m in chess only for the money.” It was obvious I had met the Weird Chess Guy.
Ben Johnson is the Vice President of the Georgia Chess Association. The Ironman mentioned recently that Ben Johnson had organized a one day camp for children in which he would collect $90 for each child from the parents of 30 children. Ben is rated 647. Please note that as Chief TD of the Ga Open Ben Johnson played a rated game during the final round, which he won. Once this game is rated Ben will reach the stratospheric heights of, for Ben, 697.
In his forward to the wonderful book, “The Stress of Chess…and its Infinite Finesse,” by GM Walter Browne, IM Danny Kopec writes, “There is simply no reasonable living to be made in chess in this country…”
“Instead we encourage mediocrity and top players are often left in the cold. By mediocrity, I mean situations like players who have barely reached expert level (or below) making a reasonable regular salary teaching in schools, while the great players, analysts and writers must struggle to make ends meet.”

Bob Dylan Only a Pawn in Their Game March on Washington 1963

http://www.eyeneer.com/video/rock/bob-dylan/only-a-pawn-in-their-game