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Kreiman Punishment (Not)

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I don't have the official statement from the USCF yet, but they have decided not to prohibit GM Boris Kreiman from playing in the US Championship, which starts on March 1 in San Diego. Follow the story here, here, and here. I'll have the final player groupings up today at the official site.

I doubt we've heard the last of this. The USCF is one thing; organizers can do as they like. It's not at all clear to me whether the AF4C could, if it wanted, reject Kreiman's participation. Anyway, now that this specific incident has passed, what's to be done in the future? To accusations that they sing castrato the USCF and AF4C can claim they didn't have anything in writing to give them the authority to reject a participant on these grounds, making them legally vulnerable. Language needs to be added to the participant contract that allows for rejection on grounds of bringing the game and/or the event into disrepute. (Similar to the clause that allows Nike to dump Kobe Bryant when he's accused of a crime.) A panel and an appeals system should be part of it to avoid witch hunts.


I am glad that "Coca-Cola", among others, is sponsoring the US Championship in San Diego! Way to go, San Diego!

Once again the heirarchy of chess in the US chickens out.

If you don't cheat at chess nowadays you're an idiot.

Coca-Cola is a sponsor? I guess it is. A rook sponsor, no less. A rook is a carrion bird, isn't it? Interesting, I had just been looking over the Bessel Kok thread and asking myself questions like, "Why are some people talking as if 'private money' is such a good thing and so much better than 'public money' or 'government money'?" We are all aware, I suppose, that Coca-Cola is the subject of an international boycott campaign because of its refusal to restrain its local bottlers from murdering trade unionists? See www.killercoke.org for details.

It's hard to find money that doesn't have blood on it.... Well, less convenient, anyway...


I am greatly disappointed with the leadership of the USCF. They had the chance to step up and say we'll have none of this. I don't know who I'll be voting for the next election. But I know who I'll not vote for.

Are people so certain that GM Kreiman was involved in a thrown game? Yes, I saw the game, and I`m only a fish (C-player), but having watched a FIDÉ Master play openings like that, I know that it`s done. FM Miles Ardaman plays bad openings like that; he`s very strong, but his openings are usually third-rank defenses (White or Black!), and he doesn`t care for the initiative or anything else. Some of the Ardaman games in Chessbase Megabase look more normal, but most of the time he plays offbeat "hippo" type openings with either colour in weekend Swisses along the middle-eastern coast of the US (Virginia, North Carolina, so on).

Let me add also, FM Ardaman scores a lot of wins precisely BECAUSE of his bad openings. I know more than one Master (and at least one IM) who have expressed in my presence frustration and an urge to "punish" these bad openings. I remember IM Mikhail Nepomnyashchiy being very frustrated by Ardaman escaping from a horrible position with a draw, at the Lipkin-Pfeffercorn Open in 2005. I watched this game as it was in progress and the aftermath.


It is possible that GM Kreiman`s opponent has a similar strategy. I watched GM Novikov 2 or 3 years ago absolutely demolish Ardaman in a game very similar to the Kreiman game. GMs just punish the heck out of that sort of opening play, but against lower-ranked Masters they often get the "I have to punish this" feeling, and play unsoundly.

Call me an idiot, John Fernandez, but I don't cheat at chess tournaments. I guess we are all just a bunch of idiots for not cheating? Do tell how YOU cheat, John Fernandez.

Has any proof been shown besides this lame excuse for a chess game? Certainly if there was any sandbagging going on, it would look much better than this - that is, you play at a high level, take too much time, then blunder a peice: "oh, time trouble". No, this was just a bad game, thats all.


De Guzman did not lose because of his choice of opening. Rather, he lost because he played the entire game at a 1400-1600 level, according to a sample of GM's and IM's who AF4C was said to have surveyed by showing them the game score and asking them to rate White's play (this is according to an earlier comment here, which I believe Mig made).

So, your comparison with Ardaman's openings is irrelevant.

Next step: How about everyone here (especially Mig and his contacts, plus people like Greg Shahade who I presume is intimately familiar with USCF procedures) try and think up ways we can force the USCF and/or A4FC to give some public airing of their decision-making process?

The USCF just had a board meeting this past weekend. Maybe someone here can get this question on the agenda at the next board meeting? Not to change the decision (of course it's too late for that already), but to give the chess public some insight into what evidence they heard, and why they decided as they did.

People here are already drawing the conclusion that the USCF leadership (I think Glenn means Goichberg in particular) is weak-kneed. Others will almost certainly draw the conclusion that the USCF lawyers vetoed any punishment. Given the strength of the "evidence" that's been discussed on this blog, it sounds like the lawyers have thereby rewarded future cheaters with a Kirsan-like shield of invulnerability for the foreseeable future.

But, without knowing what "evidence" was actually looked at, and what reasons underlie the actual decision, such conclusions would be premature -- in my opinion at least. I have been saying all along that a game score alone may not be sufficient grounds to punish someone for cheating (throwing a game).

The other comments that appeared here, having to do with players not being at the board during the game, communicating repeatedly through a third party, asking the TD to divide the winner's prize check between them, etc., sound like very convincing evidence.

But we don't know if those allegations are true; if the panel that decided on Kreiman made any effort to obtain such testimony; or if the people who may have witnessed those things were willing to go on the record with it and tell their stories to the panel (as opposed to simply telling it to a friend who ended up posting it here). It could well be that the people who made the decision had nothing to go on but the game score and some strong players' critique of it, plus (I presume) statements submitted by Kreiman and De Guzman.

Joshua, throughout this debate about Kreiman, I have tried to play the devil's advocate and tried to give the players the benefit of the doubt, at least in the legal sense. The reason for this is personal--- I don't like sore losers, like the Topalov cheating claim and so on. In this case, however, after the wide range of arguments from many different people who saw the event or know the players well and have been posted on this forum, and the absence of a credible defense from anyone trying to take Kreiman's side There is no doubt in my mind that he is guilty, even if one takes the position of a 95% burden of proof. The fact that Kreiman managed to bully himself into the championship is a mockery.

Please note this had nothing to do with the AF4C. Although it was reported to us, and we collected top players views on the quality of the game etc., by the terms of our contract only the USCF as the governing can decide on decisions such as prohibiting players from the Championship.

We believed there was enough evidence to question Boris Kreiman's participation and passed on to the USCF with a recommendation to prohibit. The USCF thought otherwise. We have to live by their decision whether we like it or not.

John Henderson

I am conflicted about my feelings on this matter. What I predicted would happen has in fact happened – that Kreiman would be allowed to play, but that changes in the participation agreement might be the silver lining. Sometimes it takes a ‘tragedy’ to implement the needed safeguards. It took an awful event like 9/11 to finally get serious about airport security. Though nowhere near as tragic as 9/11, I see this Kreiman case as perhaps the igniting event to wake people up to do more to protect the innocent, so a similar correction for the future might be the result.

I don’t think it is right to slam the USCF just yet. Their hands were probably legally bound in this instance, and they could not do much under the current players’ agreements and rules for qualifying for the US Championship. People who slam the USCF for not having ‘balls’ are premature. It is what they learn from this and what they do for future events that will determine if they deserve praise or shame.

Though I find the DeGuzman / Kreiman situation highly suspect and distasteful, I still prefer that the governing bodies follow their own rules, instead of making up new ones and trying to apply them retroactively. In this DeG/ K case, it is easy for the public to scream for action. But presumption of innocence should still be given, and the players’ agreements and rules established while the event was being played out should be the only standard applied, even if there was a ‘loophole’ discovered later (and in this case, a bad omission). Allowing the USCF or any other governing body to go outside their own agreements gives them too much power for abuse and can result in arbitrary rulings that are just as distasteful as the current situation, if not more so.

I know there is one poster on these boards who favors giving extreme power to arbiters and governing bodies at the expense of players’ rights, even advocating that arbiters reshuffle last round games if they just FEEL like some players are cheaters. He seems to think that personal rights should be non-existent and not worth protecting, that personal dignity or due process is unimportant compared to what he “knows” is the right thing to do. This to me is sicker than the current situation, where the rights of players would be severely compromised at the whim of another who might as easily be as corrupt. There are still many gray areas that need established rules and processes to insure protection of an innocent player caught under circumstances (or even ‘reverse blackmail’, where a player threatens to dump his game obviously if he is not paid off). I am not saying that DeG/K is such a circumstance, but a medium can and should be found that both acknowledges and protects players’ rights and also allows the USCF to establish the means to maintain the integrity of the games. Hopefully this case will lead to the first step in that direction.

I went to the web site for the Boris Kreiman Chess Academy and under the "Who We Are" secion is says:

"A Grandmaster is equivalent to an NBA All-Star basketball player like Shaquille O'Neil. Grandmaster Boris is the Shaquille O'Neil of chess."

This statment is funny to me and I wonder if Shaq has ever considered attempting what Kreiman is accused of to get to the NBA Finals.

Just out of curiosity, does Kreiman have a legal right to use Shaquille's name in his advertising? I am assuming he is not paying Shaq a fee for it. Any lawyers out there?

John (or Mig),

Do you know if a schedule has been made for players' participation in classroom visits, simuls, etc.? I am just wondering if and when I have to do it.

Admittedly the game seems suspicious, and Kreiman is an unsavery character. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the game was fixed. Kreiman is rated about 100 points higher than De Guzman. Why should he pay a weaker player to lose a game? Also, De Guzman was in contention for the same prize as Kreiman, except that De Guzman was not eligible to play in the US Championship. In addition, the game was in the style of De Guzman. The players who judged this game and deemed it fixed have never played De Guzman. Those who have played him agree that this was a typical De Guzman game. This is the way he normally plays.

Sam Sloan

I have played DeGuzman about 25 times. I think I know DeGuzman's personality and style better than most if not all people in this forum. I have reviewed the game in question. I read testimonies about the players' behavior during and after the game.

There is little doubt in my mind that this game was thrown. The opening was suspicious. Hanging a pawn was suspicious. Perhaps it was the timing of the resignation (from a player who routinely plays on in simple endgames down a piece against masters) that was the most suspicious for me.

I guess the difference between the USCF and me is that my name is not on some contract and I will not be sued if Kreiman can't play in the U.S. Championship. It is sad to see common sense has been trumped by lawyers once again.

Michael Aigner

No, Mr. Sloan, first off, how can one be objective about how strong Kreiman actually is now that he is known to cheat? Secondly, it makes sense to add in a little insurance since the advantage his one hundred points gives him is significant but not a lock. Considering it was worth a shot at the US Championship, which is a guaranteed several thousand dollars, I think that the fact that De Guzman is not eligible is precisely the sort of asymmetry he would need to strike a deal favorable to both. In addition, this is not the way DeGuzman normally plays. He has never played fianchetto systems according to John Fernandez's research in Megabase 2006 (I have not checked myself). Finally, what seals the coffin is that someone who has played De Guzman 25 times reports that De Guzman never resigns early as in this game. He is known to fight on and save absurdly lost positions against GMs and is known to play down full pieces against strong masters. Resigning just a pawn down is not in character at all. Finall, to say that "this is the way he normally plays" would place his skill level at around 1700. All in all, I feel like David Pruess was just robbed of some serious cash as well as great experience for someone on the rise as he is.

Thousands of chess players consider Kreiman an idiot now. And rightly so. For doing what hundreds of professional chess players have done.

The lesson here is to cover your tracks.

This got me thinking. Next time I play a person I don't like in an important game like this, I will play a very pathetic game on purpose to make the world of chess suspect him of cheating (and other crimes too!)! How cunning and evil!

Jeff I am not entirely certain, but I dont think you need to have his permission to establish an analogy of the kind Kreiman made, since it is for merely illustrative purposes and no use of his image or other intellectual properties has been used. However O Neal can (though I dont think he could be bothered) could in theory file a defamation suit claiming the comparison to Kreiman tarnishes his reputation. Seems a little far-fetched but there is an English case where a golfer won damages for an ad because it implied that he had given up his amateur status to endorse the ad. Besides America is the country where a lady won 9 million in damages from a subway company after jumping into the path of a speeding train.....

Ivan, for the record, I will bet you a dollar that there is no case in which a woman was awarded nine million dollars in damages after jumping in front of a subway train.

There was a case many years ago - Lucas v. New York City Transit - in which a man did sue for damages for his injuries after he jumped in front of a train, and the Transit Authority apparently *settled* the case out of court and gave him some money, much less than nine million dollars though.

There are enough true crazy stories about the US... no need to use the non-true ones :-)


The womans name is Seong Sil Kim and the incident I reffered to occured in 2000. See articles by Deroy Murdock calling for Tort reforms in this regard. A google search wil turn up enough evidence to convince u that this did occur. U owe me a dollar. And btw I am sure more ppl are aware of the Mcdonald coffee spill case. The main problem of american law system in this regard is trial by totally stupid juries. The jury reason for Mcdonald case decision was "they werent taking care of their customers".....

[tangent]Interesting how the McDonald's case has become an ignorant shorthand for runaway juries. What drove the jury outcome in that lawsuit was not only the facts of the case (that nobody expects coffee so hot that you have to get skin grafts over a large area), but McDonald's repeated indifference during testimony to past burns and past complaints. Frankly, McDonald's bungled that case by being so dismissive during the trial. Also, the judge set aside most of the award, so things did still work out.[/tangent]

The McDonald's personal-injury case is often cited by pro-business interests as a symbol of excess in jury awards. But describing it that way is a sign of ignorance; the people who fall for the bait (thereby becoming unwitting tools of pro-Bush, anti-personal-rights business lobbyists who constantly push for legislation to eliminate punitive damage awards altogether) simply are too lazy to read any original-source information about that suit itself.

a) Evidence in the trial that led to the 8- or 9-figure award against McDonald's for a coffee spill that injured a customer showed that the plaintiff had third-degree burns over her entire lower abdomen. By some miracle, the judge actually overruled McDonald's lawyers' objections, and allowed the jury to see this critical evidence (photos of her injuries taken in the hospital). Although I don't recall the length of her hospitalization or the nature of her treatments or the extent of permanent (cosmetic and other) damage she sustained, I'm guessing she needed extensive skin grafts, at a minimum.

b) Some people flippantly say, well it was her fault, she spilt coffee on herself. I guess those people NEVER drink coffee while in transit. Either that, or they're not like anyone I know personally.

Most people I know, spill coffee on themselves -- often directly on skin, i.e., their hands -- some significant fraction of the time they're carrying it somewhere. Sometimes spills happen even when they don't even open or drink from the coffee cup. Do take-out coffee cups, even when closed, never leak spontaneously? Do they never rupture and release their contents if the carrier stumbles or is jostled by a passerby?

c) It seems obvious to me that, rather than treating a coffee spill as somehow abnormal, as proof that the customer MISUSED the product (which could absolve the maker of liability for damages), we should accept the reality that occasional spills are a natural and inevitable result of the NORMAL use of a liquid product that is most often purchased for take-out (i.e. for travel on buses, trains, cars and/or on foot) in unsealed/insecure paper containers (as opposed to canned goods, or liquids carried in a capped plastic bottle, thermos, etc.)

Perhaps in whatever country IvantheTerrible claims to have studied law in, the citizenry and/or the ruler finds it acceptable that a widely used (indeed, universally used) product be designed in such a way that frequent, foreseeable accidents can injure its users severely enough to require a lengthy hospital stay and procedures (skin grafts) -- with no responsibility assigned to the manufacturer/seller who knowingly sold the product in that form. THOSE OF US WHO DO LIVE HERE, ARE GRATEFUL THAT COUNTRY (where Ivan's version of law is in force) ISN'T THE UNITED STATES!

d) Testimony in the case also showed that McDonald's top executives had been aware of numerous complaints over the years -- involving lesser but in some cases still significant injuries -- by other customers who accidentally spilled coffee on themselves.

e) Testimony proved that McDonald's coffee was substantially hotter than take-out coffee from any other store chain. Evidence-collectors actually bought coffee from several chains, presumably from multiple locations of each chain, measured the temperature of each sample immediately after purchase, and compiled the results in data tables that were submitted into evidence.

f) Just as in the infamous Ford Pinto case a couple of decades earlier (the Pinto was manufactured with a defective gas tank that would rupture too easily when the car was rear-ended -- thereby releasing gasoline and routinely causing multiple-fatality explosions), McDonald's management coolly toted up the company's expected costs and benefits from changing the temperature setting of their coffee machines. They decided that it would be cheaper for them to settle a certain number of personal-injury lawsuits by customers each year, than to change the temperature setting (and possibly lose some fraction of take-out business from customers whose coffee would be lukewarm by the time they got home with it).

Jon...I've always hated McDonalds and especially their coffee. I hate super-hot coffee and always plunk ice cubes in mine when I can. Still, where do we draw the line? Do we need to reward morons and even thieves from tipping coke machines over on themselves too though? I once was almost sued by a drunk who staggered out of a bar in Philly right in front of my rather slow moving car. On the lighter side, perhaps I could seek damages from the authors who encouraged me to play the modern defense with their deceptive books? Or the manufacturers of the lighting tubes overhead at the last weekend swiss I almost won a prize at. Ho ho..


WTH, it killed my whole reply!! I've got to rewrite it now. Ivan, I looked up the Seong Sil Kim case in Wikipedia, and, yes, she did win $9 million, but she did not "jump in front of the train". The evidence was that the NYC transit authority knew she was lying on the tracks 10 minutes before the train hit her. If you jump in front of a train there's no real chance to avoid you, but if you know someone is lying on the tracks 10 minutes in advance maybe there's a duty to stop. I think there's a material difference.

Nevertheless I am willing to settle my bet by paying you 40 cents. Please send me a stamped self-addressed envelope to collect your winnings.
There, nobody can say I'm not being fair :-)



I presented the McDonald's case in detail because I wanted to show how that jury award proves EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what it's usually cited as proving (i.e. rather than typifying a runaway jury award to an undeserving plaintiff, it actually shows a deserving, injured plaintiff doing a good job of proving their case and winning just compensation for the actions of an uncaring, greedy management that was, at root, criminally negligent about their own customers' physical safety).

The other (mostly hypothetical) situations you mention differ in that you are talking about someone with a weak case SUING -- not necessarily winning an award (although the drunk might have a decent case against you if you weren't able to stop your car before hitting him).

Not only is there a difference; even in states were punitive damages are still un-capped (and, as indicated in my earlier comment, the Bush crowd has succeeded in getting most states to legislate ceilings on punitive damage awards), an attorney won't take a plaintiff's case on contingency if he doesn't think there's a good chance of winning. And if an attorney won't take the case on contingency (which means agreeing up front that the lawyer gets paid NOTHING for his work if he doesn't win the case), that means a suit won't be filed. And even more -- even when the fee is contingency, the client STILL has to pay for various paperwork, filing fees, expert-witness fees, etc. -- so the plaintiff is still out-of-pocket if they lose the case, even if they pay no attorney's fee. (By the way in a suit brought -- and LOST -- by a relative of mine a few years ago, those "incidental" fees, even with no lawyer's fee, cost her $20,000.)

What client (other than IvantheTerrible) would be stupid enough to shell out their own money to pay a lawyer's retainer, in the hopes of winning a big damage award, after MULTIPLE EXPERIENCED LAWYERS they consulted, already had told them they didn't see much chance of that happening?

This is another reason the talk of excessive litigation risk, is itself a little excessive. For all intents and purposes, if you don't have a good or at least a reasonable case, you won't find a lawyer to take it unless you pay his fees out of your own pocket (and are out of luck if you then lose).

I've seen the news stories about people who sued candy manufacturers, or restaurants, for making them fat, or giving them diabetes, and the like. Those seem to be the oddball instance where someone with no chance of winning an award, DID find a lawyer to take the case. Either those plaintiffs paid their lawyers up-front, or the lawyers had their own reasons to take on contingency a case they would know was a huge long-shot. Or, perhaps those lawyers were simply hungry for publicity (which can translate into increased business for them) -- or were just plain stupid or incompetent.

My point is, it's important to distinguish between ridiculous legal CLAIMS, and ridiculous AWARDS. When discussing the faults of the tort system, people seem to 1) confuse the two, and 2) overstate the extent of ridiulous awards.

I think this attitude has become so commonplace, because the anti-consumer-rights lobby has been so active and so successful at putting their message across, repeating it incessantly in advertising and news coverage, that much of the public has just stopped thinking, and simply parrots the "tort reform" lobby's line without even realizing they're doing it.

Coming a little back closer to the topic, anyway, in any case where you ask a lawyer's advice on what to do, there are four separate levels of caution, from lowest to highest:

- what are you "really" legally obliged to do?

- what MIGHT some judge and jury conclude that you are legally obliged to do?

- what might cause someone to sue you and force you to incur legal bills and tie up your assets in litigation for a few years, even if they ultimately don't win?

- what will your lawyer TELL you to do to make it as close as possible to ABSOLUTELY SURE that nobody will sue you?

Of course as soon as you talk to your lawyer he or she will tell you that if someone punches you in the face and demands your wallet, you should give it to him with your apologies that there's not more money in it. Then if you withhold the wallet you have done it against legal advice! Unless of course you are a big corporation or wealthy person with enough money to withstand or initiate lawsuits at will.

And in the case of the USCF, you have a fifth level of caution:

- what will you do in order to make absolutely sure that nobody will sue you given the fact that you have no money to spare in the budget for litigation, and given that if you incur any expenses for litigation some section of aggrieved members will rise up against you in the next election?

See, everyone writing here is perfectly free to say that the USCF has no cojones and ought to throw Kreiman out on his ear no matter what, but how many USCF members would favor a dues increase to finance the litigation that might result? And how many members would this dues increase cost us? The USCF leaders can only be as courageous as the pocketbooks of the members will allow them to be :-)


Jon...your argument is strong..thanks. I'm wondering to what extent I've been "programmed" by the tort reform forces. Now that I think about it radio talk show hosts for instance love to rant and stir people up about new litigation that seems silly at first glance perhaps but rarely bother to discuss the evidence presented or the end results. HHmmm...

Just to re-rail the thread, I had understood that the way the deal made sense was that Kreiman would get the US Champs spot (which De Guzman wasn't fighting for), and De Guzman would get the whole of Kreiman's prize, which ended up being $800.

From De Guzman's side, he had no reason to decline the offer to throw the game, as he would make the same in such a deal as if he won the game, and certainly the chances of him winning are not 100% as they would have been had he accepted the deal.

Also, the $800 means nothing to Kreiman who will get much more than that for the US Champs spot.

The deal seems to make perfect sense for both parties, actually.


Your remarks are both well-reasoned and witty. Still, I would reply with the seemingly paradoxical observation that it may be the MOST powerful and well-heeled (big corporations and certain individuals I'll discuss below), rather than cash-starved organizations like the USCF, who are most prone to letting their legal departments dictate their every move. And as you so wittily pointed out, blindly following lawyers' advice when making business decisions that are mission-critical for your business (such as maintaining at least a semblance of integrity in a competitive sport that is open to public partipation and scrutiny), but that have only the remotest chance of landing you in court, can be self-defeating at best (your analogy with "handing your wallet to the guy who punched you in the face").

Big corporations have to answer to shareholders. Unfavorable legal judgments have to be reported as liabilities on their balance sheets initially, EVEN IF THEY NEVER END UP PAYING THEM (i.e. if the judgment is later reversed on appeal).

Certain powerful individuals -- ex-President Clinton being the best example -- also have been known to blindly follow the advice of lawyers, when they would have come out much better if they had listened to either their conscience, or their political/spin-doctor staff (yes, I am aware of the gut-busting irony in that pairing I just made). I'm referring to Clinton's decision -- dictated by his lawyers, from what I heard -- to lie to the public about Monica on TV, instead of coming clean and appealing to the public for forgiveness at an early point, when he could have avoided impeachment.

On the other hand, most ordinary people, and most chess organizers too -- who don't have the same constraints as a President or a public corporation -- probably are sophisticated enough and skeptical enough about the wisdom and authority of lawyers in general, that they can decide for themselves whether to follow or reject their lawyer's advice.

Again, we're talking about actions that have only the remotest chance of being challenged in court.

In Kreiman's case, for instance, I think it's pretty clear (and others on this board have said as much) that if he were to be ejected from the Championship and wish to sue, he wouldn't be able to get a lawyer to represent him on contingency. So he'd have to pay his own legal fees up-front, plus court costs. So it comes down to, are Boris Kreiman's own pockets any deeper than those of the USCF? I think not.

All this talk about the (so far only theoretical) possibility of cheaters suing oganizers or the USCF has set me to thinking: Isn't there just as much chance that a player who was cheated OUT OF a cash prize they rightfully won, might bring a suit against an organizer who was presented with concrete evidence of cheating, yet who failed to take any action at all, even in his own tournament? So, doesn't an organizer take just as much (indeed, perhaps MORE) legal risk by NOT penalizing a cheater, than by at least making an attempt to follow up a reasonable accusation?

If we're going to discuss organizers' response to cheating at all, then readers ought to know that the question of holding TDs to account for FAILING to act against known instances of cheating or sandbagging, is already being discussed on USCF's own on-line Forums, by USCF staffers and committee heads like Mike Nolan and Tim Just.

Jon: I don't know if Kreiman could get a lawyer to represent him on contingency or not. The *average* lawyer might not do it, but mightn't there be *some* lawyer who was sufficiently reckless or self-confident to do so? Mightn't *some* lawyer have enough confidence in his/her own skills in argument that he/she would take the case, possibly figuring that the actual costs of bringing the suit might not be very high (Kreiman and Guzman are the two witnesses of importance, and they can pay their own air fare and hotel bills) and that the possible payoff might be comparatively high, depending on how high a jury would be willing to value Kreiman's professional reputation, so that it's a good bet even if the likelihood of success is less than 50%?

Actually there are two questions: (a) would a lawyer take it to trial on contingency? (b) would a lawyer write threatening letters and/or actually file the lawsuit on contingency and/or a reasonable retainer? (b) is more probable than (a). The likelihood of getting a profitable settlement from the USCF on the basis of bluffing is not low, given the fact that we know that they want to avoid like a plague the expenses of a trial. So it all gets into bluffing and odds and game-theory, and even if Kreiman would probably not win a verdict at the trial, or "river", that doesn't settle the issue because the USCF might fold on seeing the flop. (This is where we really suffer from not having Greg Shahade on the board!!!)


[tangent]Good summary by Jon of the McDonald's case. I also want to point out that while tort reform would have some benefits, its proponents seem to be using an almighty big hammer to fix a medium problem. Most tort issues are geographic, and the infamously runaway jurisdictions arise not from bad juries, but mostly from bad judges.[/tangent]


Good questions. Although the tentative answers you gave sound intelligent, I think these are empirical questions, which we cannot count on a priori reasoning (basically, UN-educated, albeit intelligent, guesswork) to resolve.

In a very specific instance like this one, I wouldn't trust anyone's attempts to quantify the legal risk any further than I could throw them, unless those assessments came from: 1) a practicing lawyer or a person with strong legal expertise (such as a law professor or other academic who had researched the economics of tort cases), 2) who was getting PAID for his advice -- that is, was speaking in a professional capacity, so that his own professional reputation was on the line in what he said.

Even on an a priori reasoning basis, I question the basis for saying "the likelihood of getting a profitable settlement from the USCF on the basis of bluffing is not low...." How many times has this actually happened? It's not like they have a track record of being threatened with lawsuits and just opening their checkbook without a fight (the way New York City used to do after bus accidents -- a practice that, by the way, the current Bloomberg administration is trying to reverse). So I don't think it's fair to assume they could be so easily bullied -- especially since they would not have punished someone in the first place without having a lawyer's opinion that they could justify their actions.

Finally, I point out that none of us knows just what evidence the USCF board considered when deciding not to exclude Kreiman, or what the USCF lawyer told them about possible liability. I'd like to see some of that information become public.

I saw Frank Brady earlier this week and asked him if the board's decision stemmed mainly from the fear they'd be sued if they banned Kreiman. He said no, they just weren't sure they could justify it. (I'm not sure how that differs from the fear of being sued.) Brady also told me he was present for part of the board meeting, but was not present when they decided the Kreiman matter; so I did not press him for any further details.

Jon Jacobs anaology to the Ford Pinto is not relevant. The Pinto memo didn't even mention the Pinto. It didn't even address rearend collisions, but rollovers. Specically, the Ford memo was part of a petition Ford sent in September 1973 to the NHTSA urging them to reconsider the rolloover portion of its recently promulgated standards. In fact 60 minutes did an even more infamous story of the pinto where they conjured up 1000 people died or were horribly disfigured resulting from Ford Pinto rearend collision. In fact from 1971-1977 27 people died from injuries involving burn injuries from Ford Pinto rearend collisions.
There was no such memo in the Mcdonalds case. The car that the woman was riding in was driven by her grandson not herself. The car was stopped so she could add cream and sugar to her coffee. She placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the top. in the process she spilled the entire cup of coffee on herself. She was also wearing a cotton sweat suit that absorbed the liquid and held it against her body for over ninety seconds as she sat in the hot puddle. Mcdonalds was found to be 80% at fault and the woman 20%. Due to the fact the warning on the coffee cup was not large enough

Glenn brings in some interesting details about both the Ford and McDonald's cases. Readers interested in more about the Ford Pinto story should check this: http://www.fordpinto.com/blowup2.htm . It's the original Mother Jones article from 1977, which I believe won a Pulitzer Prize for its author, investigative reporter Mark Dowie. (I was amazed to see a magazine article from that far back is available online!) In the same context, this is also worth a look: http://www.fordpinto.com/blowup.htm
The Pinto was removed from the roads by a government-ordered recall in 1978.

John Fernandez wrote, "Just to re-rail the thread, I had understood that the way the deal made sense was that Kreiman would get the US Champs spot (which De Guzman wasn't fighting for), and De Guzman would get the whole of Kreiman's prize, which ended up being $800."

How do you know DeGuzman got $800? I mean, if you were there when they might have agreed to terms of throwing the game, then I'd think that despite the lack of some witness to corroborate your story, it would weigh heavily with the circumstantial evidence already obtained.

In response to Jon Jacobs' comment, IMO the last person you want evaluating risks and the potential value of this kind of case for you is a law professor or academic. What you want is a practicing litigator in the likeliest jurisdiction who handles this kind of case. Frankly, this is small ticket case in any event, and your best bet for an accurate prediction is a bottom feeder PI lawyer whose livelihood depends on predicting which way juries will jump on marginal cases such as this.

Its interesting to speculate on why the USCF made the decision not to disqualify Kreiman and take there chances. I would estimate that a high percentage of competent attorneys would call this particular decision a "no-brainer." There are at least two very good reasons why the USCF's attorneys might have advised the USCF to give this one a pass:

First, the economics always favor the plaintiff in this kind of low ticket case. While Kreiman mind find some attorney to take his case on a contingency basis or, failing that, might even file a lawsuit himself in propria persona, the USCF would probably be paying a defense lawyer by the hour to defend the case. Even if the USCF wins the case in a walkover, they will lose money, probably thousands of dollars, that they would rather not lose.

Second, from what I have been able to gather from the posts I have read, the rules/conditions regarding qualification drafted by the USCF don't clearly address this situation. When a contract (and there is some sort of contractual arrangement at play here, although the exact form is unclear to me) is ambiguous, ambiguities are usually resolved against the drafter. Here that is the USCF. I suspect that the USCF's attorneys suggested that the USCF first should make the rules regarding suspected cheating and the USCF's authority to disqualify suspected cheaters very clear, and then fight this particular fight at some point in the future when they are sure they have a winning hand.

Commenting on one of Jon Jacobs' comments: IMO the last person you want evaluating risks and the potential value of this kind of case for you is a law professor or academic. What you want is a practicing litigator in the likeliest jurisdiction who handles this kind of case. Frankly, this is small ticket case in any event, and your best bet for an accurate prediction probably is a bottom feeder PI lawyer whose livelihood depends on predicting which way juries will jump on marginal cases such as this.

Its interesting to speculate on why the USCF made the decision not to disqualify Kreiman and take their chances. However, I'm guessing that a high percentage of competent attorneys would call this particular decision a "no-brainer." There are at least two very good reasons why the USCF's attorneys might have advised the USCF to give this one a pass:

First, the economics always favor the plaintiff in this kind of low-ticket case. While Kreiman mind find some attorney to take his case on a contingency basis or, failing that, might even file a lawsuit himself in propria persona, the USCF would probably be paying a defense lawyer by the hour to defend the case. Even if the USCF wins the case in a walkover, they will lose money, probably thousands of dollars, that they would rather not lose.

Second, from what I have been able to gather from the posts I have read, the rules/conditions regarding qualification were drafted by the USCF and don't clearly address this situation. When a contract (and there is some sort of contractual arrangement at play here, although the exact form is unclear to me) is ambiguous, ambiguities are usually resolved against the drafter. Here the USCF.

I suspect that the USCF's attorneys suggested that the USCF should first make the rules regarding suspected cheating and the USCF's authority to disqualify suspected cheaters very clear, and then fight this particular fight at some point in the future when they are more certain they hold a winning hand.

My first post was posted by mistake and I totally disavow it. However, I stand by my second post 100%

Now to correct some ppl abt the facts:

1)In Liebeck v. Mcdonalds, contrary to what someone here mentioned the spills were not in transit. In fact the car had been stopped in order for her to pour the sugar and cream or something like that.

2)Yes there were 700 other reports abt such complaints abt Mcdonalds but statistically this 1 complaint in 24 million consumers.

3)The Wikipedias statement of facts mentioned that she was wearing cotton sweatpants that reatined the coffee against her skin, while she sat in the puddle for 90 seconds. I cant understand why anyone would sit in a puddle of hot coffee for 90 seconds.

4) The evidence also demonstrated that the Mcdonalds coffee temperature was within that prescribed by the National Coffee Association and also manufactured at similar outlets.

5) In my opinion if you know coffee is hot, you nevertheless buy it, and then spill it on yourself and then wind up with sixhundred and forty thousand dollars you are lucky. I find it very difficult to believe that somebody who was 79 years old cannot realize that there is a high probabilty that when you spill something very hot on your lap it will hurt.

Petrel yes it is undoubtedly a material difference I apologize for giving a colloquial rather than legal (or even factual) description of the events. I still dont think USCF has strong grounds to ban Krieman-they need to change their rules first.

Ivan, regarding the facts in the McDonald's-case.
1) True, so no negligence in regard of trying to drive and drink at the same time.

2) Yes, but this wasn't 700 complaints that the coffee tasted awful, but 700 complaints about getting burns from the coffee. Meaning McDonald's was fully aware that the temperature might be a hazard.

3) I'm not sure what Wikipedia says either. Maybe they mean her coffee-soaked pants stuck to her skin for 90 seconds before they got it off or the coffee cooled down to body temperature?

4) The temperature recommendation from the National Coffee Association is for preserving the taste. When handing people flimsy cups through car windows at a drive-through, I'd imagine safety should be a concern as well. In addition, I don't see how coffee is drinkable at 180 degrees. "McDonald's asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. However, the company's own research showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving."

5) Huge difference between hot coffee that merely hurts and extremely hot coffee that gives you third degree burns. "Other testimony showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus, if Liebeck's spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn." Coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 20, 2006 11:22 PM.

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