The title of this post was found at the website of the “Millionaire Chess Open” (http://millionairechess.com/about-us/).
What, exactly, is meant by an event being friendly toward children? This could, obviously, be interpreted in many different ways. I would ask GM Maurice Ashely to clarify exactly what is meant by “This event is child friendly.”
I must make an assumption because I am unsure of the meaning. Rob Jones, has wrote this on the USCF forum, “Today, 2014, kids make up about 70 % of the regular tournament participants.” (by DENTONCHESS on Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:05 am #282711; http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20350&sid=81c0e47d4f09f31850f80b8d5eb5d0c7)
It is obvious from the above that the Millionaire Open will fail unless it attracts a large percentage of children. The possibility of failing could be the reason for informing the world the event is friendly toward children. It is also apparent the people behind the Millionaire Open need children for the tournament to be successful. It would be honest to say the organizers need the money of the parents of those children in order to be successful. Such is the state of chess these days, for without children there are no longer enough adults to support big money chess tournaments. My question is, “Should children be allowed to play for large cash prizes?”
What amount of cash is considered “large?” Definitions will vary, but for the sake of argument I am going to consider the Millionaire Open to fall into the category of “large.” If your young Spud wants to play and you have faith in Spud going up against the adult wiley ol’ veterans, should you “ante up?”
If your little Spud played poker extremely well and wanted to enter the World Series of Poker he would not be allowed to play unless he was twenty-one years of age. Period. At the WSOP (http://www.wsop.com/) a player pays his money and takes his chances. He will sit down with the big dogs and play a game of skill until there is only one player, the winner, left standing.
If one enters his precocious Spud into the Millionaire Open, he will sit down to play a game of skill, hoping to win a large cash prize. Why is a child allowed to enter one, but not the other?
I am no lawyer, although I have previously done investigations for a one. I have no idea what the law is in the matter of children playing in big money chess events. I also know the law is subject to change at the whim of lawmakers, as happened when the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006 was passed, wreaking havoc and sending shock waves into the poker world from it has yet to recover.
“…the UIGEA was really the brainchild of two conservative senators-Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, and Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona- who’d come up with the ingenious plan of attaching it as a last-minute amendment to the Safe Port Act-no matter that Internet gambling had nothing to do with protecting U.S. ports from terrorists. The two antigambling senators, who had run for their positions on morality platforms, knew that trying to take down a pastime that millions of Americans were already enjoying was too difficult, so they’d concocted what was essentially a sneak attack.” Taken from the book, “Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a BILLION-DOLLAR ONLINE POKER EMPIRE-and How It All Came Crashing Down,” by Ben Mezrich.
Children have been allowed to play, and win, what is considered “big money” in the world of chess. What the chess world considers “big money” is considered “chump change” in the real world. It has not been enough to interest any self-serving politico, but that could change with the Millionaire Open. And if you do not believe even a politician would stoop to such a level as to use a child winning “big money” to his advantage, from what other alternate universe do you come?
I must leave the legal aspect alone because I do not have enough information on the subject. I do know there are fifty states, all with their own laws pertaining to this matter, and in addition, Federal laws, which constantly change. For example, during the Viet Nam conflict the eighteen year old boys (men?) rebelled against the law which prevented them from drinking alcoholic beverages until they reached twenty-one years of age, and because they did, the law was changed in many states, including the Great State of Georgia, allowing one to drink an “adult beverage” upon reaching the age of eighteen. After the conflict moral Republicans took control and changed it back to twenty-one, which is where things now stand.
The question I am posing is more of a “moral” question. Scientific studies, too numerous to site, have proven that a child’s brain is not yet fully developed. Should that child be allowed to battle grizzled ol’ veterans with fully developed brains? What effect does doing so have on the child? I am unaware of any studies on this subject. Young players, like World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, and Hikaru Nakamura, are exemplars of the efficacy of having precocious young boys participate with adults in the chess arena. What about all of those who do not make it? How are the ones who have left the arena affected? No one knows because nothing is heard of them once they have left the arena.
Bill Goichberg, owner of the Continental Chess Association, deems a player a “professional” as a player who has attained a rating of 2209 (or is it 2210?). What is a “professional?” I decided to check the dictionary and found this:
a. Of, relating to, engaged in, or suitable for a profession: lawyers, doctors, and other professional people.
b. Conforming to the standards of a profession: professional behavior.
2. Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career: a professional writer.
3. Performed by persons receiving pay: professional football.
4. Having or showing great skill; expert: a professional repair job.
1. A person following a profession, especially a learned profession.
2. One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation: hired a professional to decorate the house.
3. A skilled practitioner; an expert.
As I read the definition it seemed as though things were clear until the very last part. How does one define a “skilled practitioner” in the world of chess? Compared to the average Joe playing chess, a tournament player, such as the VP of the GCA, triple-digit rated Ben Johnson, may be considered by some to be a “beast” because he plays, or thinks he does, tournament chess. Then again, maybe not…How about the Prez, Fun Fong? He is about a 1400 player who has been known to pay his money and take his chances. Some would consider Mr. Fong to be “a skilled practitioner.” I am not one of them. How about yours truly? I somehow managed to crawl over the threshold into the “Expert” category. Should I be considered a “professional?” I think I can answer the question. I have known, and played, professional chess players. Some have been friends of mine, and I am here to tell you I am no professional. Yet, according to the definition I, or any other player who has crossed the 2000 threshold, could conceivably be considered a “professional.”
Regardless of his rating, is a ten year old “Spud” who has his entry fee paid by his parent(s) considered a “professional?” What about a fifteen year old? Years ago there was a young fellow, nicknamed “Hayseed” by the man from High Plains (not the Ironman as previously, and mistakenly, written) who won money in every section until he met his match in the class “A” section. Was he a “professional” chess player?
I do not have answers to these questions. I have often wondered why the question is never asked, much less discussed. As I sit here punching & poking at the keyboard the people who will have to decide these questions are gathered in Orlando at the US Open where the business of USCF is discussed. I cannot help but wonder how many of them have even entertained the question.