Fun with Fong and Magar the Morrible

Thomas Magar, known as “tmagchesspgh” on the USCF forum, was the first to comment on the aforementioned post by Mike Murray. He begins his comment(s) with, “Somehow, I am less inclined to believe a blog which has a personal axe to grind for authoritative analysis of a topic.” Mr. Magar is a prolific poster on the USCF forum as can be seen by this being his 2802 post. This pales in comparison to Mr. Allen Priest, writing as “Allen” on the forum, who has made an astounding 4918 posts. He joins Mr Magar by writing, “Having met and interacted with the blogger at issue multiple times, a comment that the blogger might have a personal axe to grind is certainly believable.” This is known as “kill the messenger.” This is a common practice when some cannot refute the message. I will address the axe grinding momentarily, but first I must take exception to something Mr.Magar wrote, “The “Armchair Warrior” has mischaracterized some of their work.” I have done no such thing. What I have done is to simply copy what these eminently educated people have written, and I have copied it verbatim. If Mr. Magar were writing about the JFK assassination he would be known as an “apologist” for the Warren Commission. He would probably write something along the lines of, “What do you mean you do not believe in the magic bullet theory? When I took out my vintage WWII low-powered Italian made carbine, called “junk” by expert military riflemen, and shot into a watermelon from the rear, it went back, and to the left! Not only that, when I lined up two watermelons at an angle from each other, and shot from an angle high above the melons, the bullet entered the first melon, changed direction heading from down to up, zigged to the left, then zagged back to the right and entered the melon, again zigging to the left, where it exited the watermelon, after zagging, then striking Lyndon’s Boy John, who happened to be walking by just as I was demonstrating the power of a magic bullet, in the thigh.”

As far as having an axe to grind, nothing could be further from the truth. But to be as honest as possible, and in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to relate the following. The fact is that some years ago the President of the GCA insisted on holding a Senior tournament that was thought so highly of by Seniors that only EIGHT players entered. He did this against the wishes of many members of the chess community, including the Legendary Georgia Ironman, who had advocated getting a committee of Seniors, such as the esteemed Scott Parker and the highly regarded Michael Mulford, known as “Mulfish” on the USCF forum, together to discuss what kind of tournament should be held. Fun Fong, the POTGCA, nixed that idea, “nippin’ it in the bud,” as Deputy Barney Fife would say. Fun Fong is an emergency room doctor, and as such is the man in complete control. He gives the orders in the same way a General or dictator gives orders, and expects them to be obeyed. Dr. Fong was not happy to read my criticism. When I decided to write another blog, this one, I called former POTGCA Scott Parker, a member of the Emory Castle Chess Camp board, as is Dr. Fong, and asked if it would be OK for me to post some signs for my blog at the Castle tournament which concludes the camp. Scott said he saw no problem with my doing that, as long as I checked with the Chief TD, Colonel David Hater, whom I knew from the House of Pain. I did just that and David was very gracious, shaking my hand and asking how I had been, then walking me around while discussing chess and the best places for me to post my notices. He was called away and I noticed Dr. Fong heading my way so I extended my hand, which was rebuffed rather hatefully. I will admit this was rather embarrassing with all the people around to see what had transpired. I placed a few notices before Jennifer Christianson, a lovely woman familiar to me because her sons played chess at the HOP, walked up and told me Fun Fong had asked her to tell me I would have to take the notices down. After informing Jennifer that I had discussed it with Mr. Parker, and then asked Colonel Hater, she told me to forget about what Fun had said; she would tell him I had permission.

I am a Southern man. I was born and raised in the South, as they say, “by the grace of God.” In the South if a man, any man, has a woman do his bidding for him, he is considered to be not much of a man. I have not written about the incident until now, and have not gone out of my way to spread it around, but when asked, I have discussed it with a few players, who, to a man, feel exactly as I do. There is absolutely nothing Fun Fong can do to change the fact that he is, and always will be, considered “NOT MUCH OF A MAN.”

That said, I do not have a bone to pick, or an axe to grind, with Fun Fong on a personal level. As GM Hikaru Nakamura is so fond of saying, “It is what it is.” Fun Fong is what he is. I do, though, have a problem with what Fun Fong, whom I will admit I think of as “Fun E. Fong,” has done as POTGCA. Rather than instituting changes to the format so that many more Senior players would consider playing, Fun Fong held the same tournament and only thirteen players entered the next year. In order to improve a chess player must acknowledge, and correct, his mistakes. Fun Fong let the chess community know in no uncertain terms that things were going to be his way, or the highway. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This is, unfortunately, not the only example of Fun Fong making a mistake again and again. What lit Richard De Credico’s fuse is the GCA made the exact same mistake made at the previous tournament. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/the-decredico-incident/). As Mike Mulford has written, the buck has got to stop somewhere, and Fun Fong is the POTGCA, and as such, must be held accountable. I have been around chess in Georgia since 1970 and have never seen any GCA board member engender the enmity of so many.

In the most recent scholastic chess tournament the GCA, under the leadership of Fun Fong, lost a round. How is that possible you ask?

From: Georgia Chess Association
Date: Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Teams Invited to the K-8 Team State Championship

“Dear Parents, Coaches & Players,

Thank you so much for attending the 2015 State Qualifier tournament. Teams invited to the State Championship can be found on our website using this link: http://www.georgiachess.org/event-1773262. Details and registration will be up this week.

We’d like to apologize for the delay we had following round 3. Much time and energy was put into preparing for this event in hopes of running a smooth, on-time tournament. Few are more distressed than we are as volunteers for the technical issues we had with the K-3 section. (See below for details.)

One issue we are trying to address for the future is communication. Our pre-tournament communication with you allowed for a very smooth start. This year chess control was split into 4 sections staffed with more volunteers to help answer questions. It went very well. After the technical issues at round 3 began we had difficulty communicating with the parents. Without carpet in the exhibit halls (which is currently not an option due to the expense) the PA system is ineffective. We are working on finding alternate ways of communicating with you on tournament day in the future if we use this venue.

We would like to thank all the parents and coaches who volunteered for this event and who were supportive through out the day. We can not hold chess tournaments without you.

Sincerely,
GCA Scholastic Team

Details of the technical issue: Files for rounds 1 & 2 & 3 were lost on the K-3 laptop with the pairing software. All results for round 1 had to be re-entered. With so many unrated players, when we paired for round 2 to enter those results, the pairings didn’t match the actual round that was played. We had to pair those boards by hand in order to input those results. The same had to be done for round 3. Once we realized how long this would take we decided to go with a 4 round tournament for K-3 and have the other sections play ASAP. Not being able to communicate this to parents was a huge problem.”

There is no explanation for how the files were lost. I have heard they were deleted. This may, or may not, be true, but it sounds like something par for the course for the GCA gang who have trouble shooting straight. I will admit to having a difficult time fathoming how this is possible because when I hit the “delete” key, a small window always appears asking me, “Are you sure you want to do this, dude?”

Upon moving back to my home state the father of a young boy told me an incredible story of how his son had been “shafted” during a scholastic tournament that was so outlandish it was difficult to believe even though I knew this man to be a fine, honest father and strong family man. Since I was newly returned and did not know the people now in charge of chess in Georgia I told the father the BaconLOG was discontinued, and was not certain I wanted to write another blog, and certainly did not wish to write about scholastic chess. There was no one else for him to turn and I do not believe he has ever forgiven me. If I had known then what I now know, I would have started another blog right then and there and published what I had been told.

I have come to think of those in charge of chess in my home state as the Roseanne Roseannadanna’s of the chess world. “Roseanne Roseannadanna” was one of several recurring characters created by Gilda Radner, who appeared on “Weekend Update” in the early seasons of Saturday Night Live airing on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).”

“Eventually, Weekend Update co-anchor Jane Curtin would interrupt, stating, “Roseanne, you’re making me sick.” Curtin would then ask her what her comments had to do with the question. Roseannadanna’s response was, “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roseanne_Roseannadanna)

Mr. Magar writes, “I also know Bob Ferguson and have talked with him about his studies.”

I met Bob Dylan once, but was unable to talk with him about his song writing because, after being introduced as the Atlanta Chess Champion, our conversation consisted of him asking me about chess. What did Mr.Magar learn about the Ferguson study? Why did he mention this?

Mr. Magar drops another name, writing, “Ferdinand Gobet was at CMU in Pittsburgh for a time doing some research. I met and discussed some issues with him way back when.”

What “issues” were discussed and did it have anything at all to do with anything about which I wrote?

Mr. Magar writes, “The research by Gobet and Campitelli is not compelling. The examination and experimental framework they use is over a very short time frame. Other studies that are over the application of chess study over an extensive time are much more positive with regards to the effects of chess and scholastic achievement. I am well aware of potential structural flaws of some of the studies. However, the general trend is positive, not negative, toward the effects of chess study.”

What “other studies?” Please explain what you mean by your vague statement, “…the general trend is positive, not negative, toward the effects of chess study.” SHOW US THE EVIDENCE! “The research by Gobet and Campitelli is not compelling.” Maybe not to Thomas Magar, but it is to Dr. Zach Hambrick, and that is good enough for me.

Mr. Magar writes, “I could point to anecdotal evidence in my own practice in dealing with special education students in a school and what some of my students have achieved.”

So could I, and many other chess teachers and coaches, but still it would only be “anecdotal evidence.” The reason studies such as this are done is to obtain the big picture.

In Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli, one finds, “…compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems.” I could give you an anecdotal tale of a boy to whom I tried to teach chess, not because the boy was interested in the Royal game, but because his mother, who was originally from the home town of Garry Kasparov, Baku, Armenia, wanted him to learn. He was being home schooled after having had “problems” in public school. The time I spent trying to teach the boy, in the home city of Alan Priest, I might add, was like pulling eye teeth, and as far as I am concerned, proof positive that Gobet and Campitelli hit the nail on the head with this one. But, just for the sake of argument, let us suppose Magar and Priest decided to so a study and questioned four hundred ninety nine other chess teachers, and they all reported that “Compulsory instruction was to be recommended because it did not seem to lead to motivational problems.” My “anecdotal evidence would be an outlier, and worthless. Mr. Magar seems to acknowledge this when he goes on to write, “But since I am too busy working to teach chess and do not intend to publish an academic article, you can dismiss what I am about to say.”

And that is exactly what I did, Mr. Magar.

https://screen.yahoo.com/roseanne-rosannadanna-smoking-000000279.html

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The Award Winning Georgia Chess Magazine

The Major League baseball pitcher Jim Kaat won the Gold Glove award for fielding excellence sixteen consecutive times from 1962-1977, which was a record at the time. Former Atlanta Brave pitcher Greg Maddux now holds the record, having won the award 18 times, though not consecutively. The gold glove was awarded to fellow Brave pitcher Mike Hampton in 2003 for some reason. Jim Kaat is man enough to have said he could not understand why they kept giving him the award because, “There were years I threw the ball away too many times.” Such was the case in 1969 when “Kitty” Kaat committed eight errors, the most of his career. “I figure the voters just got used to giving me the award,” he admitted. A baseball sabermetrician, or “stat-head,” wrote an article one year contrasting the fielding of Tom Glavine, another Maddux teammate on the Braves, concluding Tommy was more deserving of the award. Greg Maddux laughed upon hearing about it, saying, “It was not one of my better years.” He made seven errors that year, the most of any season he played.
Denzel Washington is a fine actor, with many superlative performances to his credit. He won the Academy award for best actor in 2001 for the film “Training Day.” It was not a good movie and this was not his best performance, yet he was given the coveted award. Few actors have won the best actor award two consecutive years. Russell Crowe won the award the previous year for his outstanding performance in the film “Gladiator.” He was also nominated the next year for his performance in the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” which won the award for the best movie. He did not win his second best actor award, though he should have, because it was given to Mr. Washington.
Something similar has occurred in chess. The Chess Journalists of America released the names of the winners last week and the Georgia Chess magazine once again won the award for best state magazine. This is a travesty of epic proportions. The magazine, edited by Mark Taylor, has won numerous awards recently, continuing a tradition begun by Daniel Lucas, now the editor of Chess Life magazine. Unfortunately, the award winning Georgia Chess magazine has fallen upon hard times in the past year or so, deteriorating to the point of irrelevance. For example, the most recent issue, May/June 2013, arrived last week via USPS, has been called a “pamphlet.” It, like other recent issues contains, as I have heard it said by many members, “No games!” In actuality there are a few games, but nothing like past issues, which were replete with many games. The magazine used to be timely, but the past year saw it fall behind to the point that along with the most recent issue, May/June, 2013, the November/December 2012 arrived in the mail the same day. Earlier this year one issue appeared with another just a few days later. It was the size of a pamphlet.
The magazine hit what is considered by many to be a new low with the publication of the March/April 2013 issue. The picture on the cover is of IM Ronald Burnett. To be kind, it is not a very appealing picture of the IM. My first thought upon seeing the cover was shock. Later someone called it “hideous.” Many were embarrassed by the picture, which covers the front with a blown up picture that has been called “frightening” by children. My friend in chess deserves much better than this travesty. Many words have been used in trying to describe the picture. The comment I best recall came from Richard Staples, who asked about the person responsible, the editor, Mark Taylor, “What could he possibly have been thinking?” Richard sent a game to the editor, which was published in the September/October issue. Richard was extremely displeased because the game could not be replayed since the notation was unreadable. When asked about it, Richard said many things I cannot publish, along with, “I do not understand why Mark did not proofread it, or get someone to do it. Why did he not send it to me before publishing it?” He also said he would never, ever, submit another game to the magazine. Another reader mentioned one of the games included in WIM Carolina Blanco’s article, “14th Dubai Chess Open, part 2.” The game ends on move 25 in an even position, yet it is a win for Black.
It took me quite some time to get around to reading the magazine after reading the article I submitted, “Ten Days of Summer Heat.” Mark was pressing me due to the fact the magazine was behind schedule, so I rushed to get it to him. After reading it the next day, I found mistakes needing correction, so I sent Mark an email with emendations. He replied, assuring me he would make the necessary changes. My article was the first thing I read upon receiving the magazine. I do not have words with which to convey my disappointment. The corrections had not been made and I could not understand why, since the magazine was way late in being published. Why had I been rushed if the magazine was published so late? I could have had many more weeks to proofread it myself.
Then I read this paragraph: “The tournament was marred when the Chief TD, watching the game between Sanjay Ghatti and Richard Lin, saw Sanjay’s time expire and yelled, “You’re down!” This was an egregious mistake by the greenhorn TD, violating, as it does, what must be the TD’s “Prime Directive.” LM Brian McCarthy pointed this out to a member of the CC (Championship Chess) staff, who asked why the chief TD done such a thing. “I knew it was wrong when I did it, and I cannot tell you why I did it,” he explained.”
Reading, “…who asked why the chief TD done such a thing,” made me nauseous. Stunned beyond belief, I had to read it again, and again, and again…I showed it to the Legendary Georgia Ironman, immediately going to my computer in order to retrieve the original copy. The line reads, “…who asked why the chief TD had done such a thing.” I do not talk that way, and I try not to write like that, if at all possible. After reading the article, former Georgia champion and Georgia Senior champion LM David Vest said, “He did it because you made them look bad in your article and this was their way of getting back at you.” I told Mr. Vest I had not, “made them look bad,” since they had done a good job of looking bad without my help. All I had done was write about it. He agreed.
I have not discussed this with Mark, a person I have admired and enjoyed sharing emails and thoughts over the years. I have seen him only one time since publication, but was unable to talk with him because he wandered off with the married mother of one of the players, something he was fond of doing during chess tournaments at the House of Pain. As David Spinks put it, “He follows her around like a puppy.”
By the time the issue was published I had several other articles ready for the magazine, including an article about the time I traveled to San Antonio for the Church’s Fried Chicken tournaments in 1972, which would have been published around the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest events in American chess history. It was not sent to the editor, and will never be published in the Georgia Chess magazine. This was not the first time I have had trouble with an editor of the magazine, but it will be the last.
To be fair, the September/October issue does contain one of the best, if not the best, essays I have read in my 40+ years involved with chess. That would be, “A Retrospective: A Few Things I’ve Learned From My Kids During a Decade in Chess,” by Jennifer Christianson. I told her personally during the recent Emory Castle chess tournament. She told me she, too, had been asked by Mark Taylor to write something, anything, to fill the magazine. And what does she do but sit down and write something beautiful. Fortunately, Mark did not mar her article. I wish I could direct you to her amazingly heartfelt essay, but the “award winning Georgia Chess magazine” is published in print form only, unlike other forward thinking organizations, continuing to drain the budget of the GCA. That is only one reason one well known chess personality from Georgia has been heard to call our state organization, “Backward.”
Many years ago during a discussion with a NM in another state, he mentioned one Southern state, calling it, “The armpit of Southern chess.” The state was having, shall we say, “problems.” That state has turned things around completely in the last few years. Winning the award for best state publication may have been the worst possible thing that could have happened to chess in my native state because those holding the reins of power now have something upon which to hang their hat, so to speak. The fact is that Atlanta is known as the capital of the South. It is the largest metropolitan area with one of the busiest airports in the world, yet the chess tournaments are pitiful, with the exception of the Emory Castle, and even that venerable tournament is not held in a hotel, as one will find in most other large metro areas. The only tournaments held in a hotel are scholastic tournaments for the children. The Georgia State Championship was held in an old, rundown mall. For instance, this is one of the most recent reviews found on the internet: “This place is a dump. Half of the stores are empty, and the others seem to be struggling along. Even the theater is getting dilapidated.” This was written by Walt S. and can be found here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/north-dekalb-mall-decatur
There are teams from both North Carolina and Tennessee in the UNITED States Chess League, but not from the “Capital of the South.” After reading an article, Savannah’s Scholastic Chess Fest, online I sent an email to Katie Hartley, the Administrator, suggesting she post a link on the moribund GCA website, which she did. In her reply to me in May of this year, she agreed the website was “moribund.” I would like to report that has been changed, but the fact is otherwise.
On the CJA website (http://chessjournalism.org/2013entries/entries2.htm) I learned there were two other magazines nominated for the award of best state magazine, Louisiana and Northwest Chess. I have not seen the Louisiana magazine, but the Northwest Chess magazine is published on the website (http://www.nwchess.com/) and can be downloaded in PDF format. I urge you to check out the 48-page special memorial January 2013 issue with “Elena Donaldson Akhmylovskaia (1957-2012) by Frank Niro.” The issue is fantastic and indicative of the great work they have been doing for some time now. This one issue alone is better than all issues of Georgia Chess published in the past year combined. I sincerely regret the good people of Northwest Chess did not win the award they so deserved. The fact that they did not win is shameful.
I do not know who, or how many, votes for these awards, but recall reading a few years ago the number is small. I do not know how anyone in their right mind could possible consider the Georgia Chess magazine of the past year superior to the one published by the people of Northwest Chess. In all honesty, the Georgia Chess magazine should not have even been nominated, as it, like chess in my native state, has become an embarrassment.