Monday, January 12, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe ...

... Another USCF election crawls out of the ooze. This year, there are eleven candidates for four slots. Things could change later, but here are my views at the starting gate.

Mostly Harmless

Mike Atkins: Class A player, very active TD in the Maryland-Virginia area. He looks like the best bet this year. There's an interview with him by Elizabeth Vicary here.

Jim Berry: Incumbent EB member. Organizer and TD from Oklahoma. Not to be confused with Frank Berry, though since they’re twin brothers this is sometimes easy to do. It’s true he’s running for re-election, but he’s only been on the Board for a year and a half, and seems to have done a satisfactory job. He probably deserves the chance at a full term.

Ruth Haring: Depending on how long you’ve been around, you may know her as Ruth Orton or Ruth Biyiasas. WIM, active player, very impressive resume. Not much experience in chess organization, but she’s a new face with no obvious ties to the mutually hostile factions which have been making so much trouble. A throw of the dice, but I’ll probably end up voting for her.

If you must vote for someone

Mike Nietman: Scholastic organizer, active in the “Scholastic Council." Not exactly a plus for me, but he’s also been a real player and tournament director in the past. Comes across well in person, and has had the good sense not to get into on-line spitting matches. Worth considering.

Bill Goichberg: I wish I could rank Bill higher, but I can’t. He’s running for re-election, always a negative in my book (the desire disqualifies one). He’s a controversial figure, and his continued presence on the Board will do nothing to reduce the internecine quarrels that have wasted so much time and money. And, by the time the election rolls around, he will have been USCF President or ED for 5 1/2 of the last six years. That’s plenty of time to accomplish what he set out to do. (I don’t buy the “indispensable man” argument.) Bill has done as good a job with the thankless position of USCF President as anyone could have under the circumstances. He has served honorably. Now it’s time for him to step aside honorably.

Mikhail Korenman did an excellent job with the “Karpov Chess School” in Lindsborg, Kansas (featured in National Geographic), but he abandoned the project when he moved to Chicago shortly afterward. His subsequent activities have been less impressive, including an abortive project to raise grant money for the USCF. He ran in 2007, and didn’t really seem to care whether he won. I’m puzzled as to why he’s doing it again.

Eric Hecht: A rich guy, who divides his time between New York and Florida. Not entirely without experience (he’s currently treasurer of the Marshall Chess Club), but his main claim to fame is being one of Blas Lugo’s sponsors for the Miami Open (see below). As such, he shares at least some of the blame. Vote for him if you like, but I suspect you’ll regret it.

Glue Factory

Brian Mottershead: Probably the best of this group, but that’s not saying much. He does have some playing experience back in the 80s, but he spent the next couple of decades working in Europe. Upon his return in 2007, he was recruited to assist with the redesign of the USCF Forums, which he did fairly well. He soon made it clear, however, that he considered himself qualified to make pronouncements on law (though he is not a lawyer), publishing (though he is not a publisher), and tournament directing (though he has never directed a tournament). He reminds me of some people I knew in college, but they generally grew out of it by their sophomore year. In my opinion, he’s a pompous, conceited twit, who would make a very bad Board member.

Blas Lugo is an IM living in Florida. A couple of years ago, he decided to jump-start big-money chess in the area with the Miami Open. So far, so good. However, his reach exceeded his grasp, and in September 2008 he reneged on the prize fund he had guaranteed. They had advertised “$100,000 based on 650, 70% guaranteed,” but then decided to pay out only 50% “because of the hurricane.” Not because there was a hurricane in progress, mind you, but because the possibility of a hurricane might have scared people away. One would assume that the organizers knew of the hurricane season before they scheduled the tournament. That the organizer did this is disgraceful. That the ED allowed it is worse, but that’s a subject for another day. If you’ve ever played in a tournament and expected to receive your prize, don’t vote for this guy.

Sam Sloan: Perpetual candidate. Serial litigant. Ratbag of note. Sloan has been a sleazy but colorful figure on the tournament scene for decades. He’s run for the Board many times. In the days before OMOV, when the voters actually knew who he was, he generally had trouble breaking two figures. In 2006, an off-year election in which several candidates split the sane-people vote, he got elected to a one-year term, and proceeded to make a fool of himself and a laughingstock of the USCF with his weekly paranoid fantasies. After being tossed out in 2007, he filed a lawsuit demanding a re-run of the election. Anyone who votes for him this time should be ashamed of himself. If you want to cast a protest vote, write in Mickey Mouse. He’d do a better job.

Brian Lafferty joined the USCF for the first time less than two years ago. He has played fewer than 20 rated games in his life (Class E with a sinker). He has never organized or directed a tournament. Nevertheless, he considers himself qualified to sit on the USCF’s Executive Board. He’s a former lawyer (oh yes he is, he misses no opportunity to boast of it), a former Administrative Law Judge (something most people would be reluctant to admit), and an all-around officious busybody. He’s violently hostile to Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, but there’s no particular reason to think this is based on conviction, since he’s violently hostile to almost everyone. It takes a lot to rank below Sam Sloan, especially since Sam has had decades to prove himself a dolt; Brian did it in mere months. If you want to cast another protest vote, try Donald Duck. He and Lafferty have much in common.


Bill Brock said...

Nice overview. Don't know anything about Atkins, but Nietman, Berry, and Haring all make sense to me.

Goichberg is acceptable as a Board member, but for all his good qualities, he's been an absolutely horrible President. I would rather see him make CCA grow and prosper.

You are correct in imputing lack of enthusiasm to my friend Mikhail Korenman. He'd do a good job if elected. I see no compelling reason to vote for him, however. (We need his services more in Illinois, anyway.)

Perhaps you are slightly unfair to Mr. Mottershead. I do believe he means well.

I am looking forward to rejoining USCF!

Brian Mottershead said...

But Hillery should be careful in pronouncing people conceited, pompous twits, lest people are reminded of the adage "it takes one to know one." Anyway, I'm not conceited, but my wife would probably agree on the pompous twit part. Aren't pompous twits entitled to representation on the Executive Board, too?

John Hillery said...

I readily admit to having a very large ego. However, I try to confine it to subjects of which I actually know something. Brian's attitude tends to be, "Explain this subject to me, since I'm completely ignorant of it, and I'll tell you how to do it better." If that's the kind of person you want representing you, by all means vote for the twit. (Hmm, might that make a good campaign slogan for him? "Vote for the Twit!" It could even rhyme.)

And, let's be fair. I did say that Brian was better than Sloan, Lugo or Lafferty. Take your compliments where you can find them. -- jh