Latest Cheating Scandal Rocks Chess World

I would like to answer the question posed by Mike Thomas in the comment he left to the post The United Scholastic Chess Federation. He asked, “Why do Priest’s and Bauer’s incorrect answers merit criticism as attempts at misdirection by chess politicians?”
I found the answers given to the question posed humorous. Imagine, I thought, what if one member of each state got up to answer a question by informing the House of Representatives how things are done in their state. Oh, wait, they do! Fortunately it is confined to C-Span. I only watch the channel when the politicos go home and it morphs into BookTV.
I cannot understand why Mr. Thomas thought what I wrote was criticism (I have absolutely no idea where Mike got the idea I wrote anything concerning, “…attempts at misdirection by chess politicians?”), when, as a journalist, all I did was report what is on the forum of the USCF website. I noted there were only two comments made and after checking, those are still the only comments. Poor Alex still has not received an answer to his question. Mr. Bauer and Mr. Priest are, or have been, chess politicians. Some politicians provide more humor than late night comedians; think John McCain and Sarah Palin. All politicians are in the public eye. They make decisions affecting We the People. The same goes for chess politicians. They, as all other politicians, should be questioned. Why is it considered criticism when one questions the actions of elected public officials? Most politicians grant interviews and schedule question and answer sessions with journalists. Such is not the case with chess politicos. It is rare to find a question and answer session, or interview, with a chess politician. One such rarity is an informative interview of USCF Executive Board President Ruth Haring in the September 2012 issue of the California Chess Journal by Aditya Kumar. Racking my brain failed to bring recollection of the last time, if there has been one, I read an extended interview like the one with Ms. Haring. A PDF of the issue containing the interview can be found at the CalChess website: http://www.norcalchess.org/
I applaud Ruth for publishing in Chess Life magazine the graph vividly illustrating one of the major problems facing USCF, the problem of membership retention. Seeing is believing and seeing the graph has rocked many in the chess community. “Membership retention” in this case means finding a way to halt the hemorrhaging of very young preteen members. The fact is the USCF has been akin to a pyramid, or Ponzi scheme. Adult membership has dropped to a point where, if for any reason, the parents of very young children stop purchasing memberships there are not enough adult members to sustain the USCF. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the so-called “Fischer boomers” are rapidly aging, and with age comes death. The dead may vote, but they no longer become members.
From my many years in chess I have learned most people are involved for one reason, that being to play! Most do not care about the politics of chess, wanting to know only, “When is the next tournament?” Whether on a local or national level there are few people willing to attempt running an organization. There has been little scrutiny, almost to the point of a “need to know” basis. There are only a few people actually controlling the operation of chess, which would seem to be all the more reason for someone to be asking the tough questions.
One of the major problems facing the chess world is the problem of using the assistance of programs to cheat. An ongoing cheating scandal has afflicted Major League Baseball since before the beginning of this century, and it continues. Monday a “dirty dozen” MLB players were suspended for what is being called “cheating.” For example, on the show MLB NOW, one of the talking heads said, “Continued talk of cheating is bad for baseball.” Another head talked about, “How we got to this point because people sat there and did not say anything.” Every week there is news of yet another cheating scandal. This appeared on the Chessbase website August 4, “A cheating scandal rocked the Dortmund Open.” Continued talk of cheating is bad for chess. Some organization needs to step-up to the plate. I have more faith in the ET’s the President of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is said to have visited, to take appropriate measures than FIDE.

Of the two major issues facing organized chess, the latter is paramount. If measures are not taken the first problem will not exist because there will not be any members to retain. If the USCF board members held a press conference the first question asked should be, “How do you plan to address the onerous problem of the perception by the public of rampant cheating in chess tournaments?”
MLB players cheated because there were big bucks involved. The stakes in chess are just as huge, albeit on a lower monetary level. For example, in a column in the Washington Times, “At Cadets, one short chess game leads to one big payout for New Yorker,” David Sands writes, “It was one of the bigger payoffs you’re going to see riding on a single game of rapid chess: $145,624 for less than a half hour of work. That’s how the math worked out at the U.S. Cadet Championship in Rockville last week, as New York NM Justus Williams defeated fellow master Michael Brown of California in their rapid Game/25 playoff after the two tied for first at 4½-2½ in the eight-player invitational for the strongest American players under 16. The stakes: a full four-year scholarship to collegiate chess powerhouse University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which, according to the school’s website, is worth $36,406 a year for an out-of-stater like Williams.” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jul/30/sands-at-cadets-one-short-chess-game-leads-to-one-/ )
This is Big Money in chess. Players have cheated for much less. I must mention the absurdity of that much money riding on a quick-play game. It does not take a Bob Dylan to see the wind is blowing in the direction of ever faster time controls. Even the World Chess Championship is now decided by quick-play games! If it is more difficult, if not impossible, to cheat during a fast game, then all games will become quick-play in the future. Imagine what it would do to the scholastic foundation upon which the USCF is now based if the headline had been, “Cheating Scandal Rocks US Cadet Championship.”

United Scholastic Chess Federation

This past Saturday, July 20, Alex Relyea started a thread on the USCF forum when he published the following:
“As some have pointed out, it is a long time since I have attended an Oklahoma state championship, so I was curious as to how the state champion was determined. In New Hampshire it is all of the New Hampshire residents that have the highest score in the Championship section, so it is possible to have more than one state champion. I believe that it is the same way in Maine, except that the Maine state championship tournament is closed to Maine residents.
The reason I ask is because I notice that Big Chuck Unruh and Little Chuck Unruh, that is CD and CM Unruh, were tied for first this year, and I was wondering if they were co-champions or if one of them won on tiebreaks?
Thank you.”
Alex Relyea

A few hours later, Alan Priest, responded with:
“Ky holds a closed round robin to determine its state champion. The players qualify for the closed based on the top state residents placing in the Ky Open, as well as winners of other events in the year.”
Allen Priest
Delegate from Kentucky
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=18884&sid=e3c3b054441aa27bf19656cf9c43774e

His response has absolutely nothing to do with the question posed by Mr. Relyea. Mr. Priest is a chess politician who was on the board of the USCF (and still may be). Like most politicians who do not answer questions, he provided an answer which was a non-sequitur. Two days later another chess politician, Randy Bauer, decided to get in on the act by throwing in his two cents worth with:
“Iowa has a series of qualifier events where high-finishing players earn qualifying points for the next state championship. Five players plus the defending champion then play a round robin. In the case of a tied state championship there is no automatic qualifier the following championship and the top 6 players qualify.”
Randy Bauer

Mr. Bauer has been on the USCF policy board. Although he has played tournament chess, he is now a chess politician. Either of these two chess politicians could have attempted to find an answer to the question posed by Mr. Relyea, but chose to answer a question that was not asked, just like a politician.
I have no idea who is the champion from Oklahoma. But I do know the results for the USCF policy board have been tabulated. From the USCF website: “Pending certification of the election results by the delegates at the annual meeting, Ruth Haring and Mike Atkins have been elected to three-year terms, and Randy Bauer and Charles D. Unruh have been elected to two-year terms.”
We also learn that, “A total of 2,049 ballots were received for the USCF Executive Board election, of which 2,046 were qualified.” http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12293/319/

I do not know the number of USCF members, but from the graph provided by Ruth Haring in the May 2013 issue of Chess Life magazine it is obvious the vast majority of members are not old enough to vote. It is therefore impossible to know what percentage of eligible members took the time and made the effort to vote. I urge you to go to Mark Weeks blog, CHESS FOR ALL AGES to see the graph and read what Mark has to say in response to what Ms. Haring wrote in Chess Life:
“As we look forward to the future it is important that we address membership retention. Existing scholastic programs see constant turnover and we see in our membership data, a membership decline beginning around the age of 11.
Scholastic retention is one of the most urgent and least understood puzzles facing the organization (see chart). USCF needs to focus in on this phenomenon to better understand the dynamics in play and develop strategies to convert scholastic members to lifelong members.”I cannot help but wonder how the two chess politicians who did not answer Mr. Relyea’s question would answer how they intend to “…develop strategies to convert scholastic members to lifelong members.” Since both Mr. Priest and Mr. Bauer have been on the USCF board, and were unable to answer the most important question facing organized chess during that time, maybe the new man on the board, who may or may not be the chess champion form Oklahoma, Mr. Unruh, will be able to answer a question that has had chess politicians scratching their heads for decades, ever since the pooh-bahs here in the US decided to turn the United States Chess Federation into the United Scholastic Chess Federation.