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2008 US Championship

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Apparently this started yesterday somewhere between here and California. Defending champ is Alexander Shabalov and the top seed is Alexander Onischuk. First prize is $8000. 19 of the 24 players will earn $2500 or less. Joel Benjamin and a few other American classics have declined to participate again, but it's still a very strong event. I don't see any rules posted but I guess it's a 9-round swiss. Time control? Also a women's championship event with my Brooklyn homegirl Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih as the favorites. Both are sponsored by Frank K. Berry. The official site is being run by the litigious elves of Montreal. So if you have anything to say about the event or site, make sure you have a lawyer present. The games link is requesting some sort of registration with no privacy statement and 867 words of terms of service, which I haven't tried yet. The USCF site is also covering it in depth, which is good news.


Does not the term "litigious elves" infringe said elves' Constitutional right to do and say what they like without fear of comment or criticism?

n.b. No comment about or criticism of said elves should be inferred from the above comment.

When I viewed monroi.com a moment ago, there was a "Privacy Statement" link at the bottom of the page. You do have to scroll all the way down there to see it, which I suppose few users do.

What's the fun when they are missing players like Nakamura?

That is a pitiful amount of prize money. It's no wonder players have boycotted the event. It is shameful, but indicative of the state of chess in the USA.

Enlarging the tournament was a pretty bad idea IMO. It's MUCH harder to get appropriate money for 24 people than it is for 10-12. Without a giant sponsor such as the AF4C, the USCF would be best served in drastically reducing the field.

If you made this tournament a 10 player tournament I suspect all the top players would be compensated reasonably well as opposed to 24 players who are being compensated not so well.

I was never one for the big fields anyway, but without a large amount of money to back them up they are really disastrous.

Chess Organizers really have no spine. What the hell is this game between Yermolinsky and Gulko? 15 moves,complex position, draw. It's such a complete disgrace and I have stopped blaming the players for this kind of thing. I just can't believe that organizers are willing to shell out so much money for a chess tournament to allow people to show up and not play. It makes me sick.

That's all!

I've watched the games in progress from the championship for the last few years faithfully. Today, I can't even get one of the boards to fit on my screen. It seems impossible to navigate this event at this site. I give up. Now what am I gonna do with all this popcorn?

Oh - there's a US Championship? I didn't know. Yawn. Don't care.

Come on guys, you're watching the wrong players. Watch the women. Tooting our own horn, Goddesschess put up $350 this year for a "Fighting Chess" award in the tradition of the Polgar sisters, and the winner will be selected by GM Susan Polgar. The Susan Polgar Foundation has put up an additional $150 to make the prize this year $500. Hey - we do what we can, darlings, not being millionaires (or even thousandaires). How about cheering on some of the chess femmes - pretty please!

Hey you should check out the Canadian Championship. Players pay an entry fee, and that is where ALL the prize money comes from. Normally only the top two or three players make back their expenses. You Yanks have it so good. ;-)

Gregory P Shahade has 330 games in BigBase 2008. 19 are draws in 15 moves or less, 35 games in 20 or less.

And then there is Maurice Ashley ...

First of all my middle initial isn't P. Second of all those short draws from my youth shouldn't have been allowed by the organizers to begin with.

Maurice Ashley had plenty of short draws in his career too, until he realized how harmful they were to chess.

Anyway this is all beside the point, my main point is why in the world would anyone think it's a wise use of their money to fund a tournament where the players don't really even have to play to get paid.

"I have stopped blaming the players for this kind of thing."
So the organizers must now
1. Finance the tournament, though it rarely pays off in terms of media coverage etc.
2. Ensure that the players might work a little for their money if they wouldn't mind, and actually play the game they profess to love.
Now can any genius tell me why chess don't sell?

Greg speaks from experience! I seem to remember Carol Jarecki and myself unhappy with his short draw against Fabian Doettling in Bermuda in 2001. He understood went on to make a GM norm - whilst Doettling missed his by half a point!

If that were true, canucklehead, then how did the Canadian organizers get Ivanchuk, Shirov, Bologan, Moiseenko and Shabalov to compete at Edmonton 2005? That's a whole lotta $50 fees, and there sure weren't a thousand players in the room when I was there. It was more like a small gay wedding banquet, lots of wood in a small space. So if you're one of them self-hating Canadians, go work for Monroi.

Shahade, Ashley and Topolav are clearly leaders in a growing movement to end short draws. It's only natural that they had short draws earlier in life, before deciding that it was counterproductive in some important way. As they say: "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." These are now experienced folks.

As to the comment by Chesshire, it appears to me that most of the legacy of a top level event consists of the great games played at the event. If patrons and/or sponsors believe this to be true, then it makes sense to provide enough rest days so the players can play every game with high energy, and to require that they do so.

Clubfoot, you and canucklehead are speaking about different tournaments. I just drew a blank when trying to verify the EF and prize structure for Canada's national championship....Still, it's pretty obvious that the sponsor money for chess in Canada, such as it is, gets directed to other, international events, rather than the national championship. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Of course, in the US too, there are chess events - MANY of them - with prize funds that dwarf the US championship's $50,000 prize fund this year. (Few if any are sponsored though - which means the lion's share of prize money is reserved for class sections, tainted by the grubby hands of me and my fellow patzers.)

There is an international tournament set for New York next month. It's open (to 2200+), but the organizers told me they are offering incentives to titled foreigners, which I take to mean they have at least some sponsorship. Still it would be a pleasant surprise if they attracted the caliber of international heavyweights who played in Edmonton 2005, or in another top-level event in Montreal last year (or was it earlier this year?)

Hey Jon, the EF for the Canadian Open today is somewhere between $120-150. And it's not true that sponsorship cash is diverted outside the nationals: Ottawa 2007 was the biggest yet, with 25 GMs in attendance, including Short and Bu. It was preceded by a 6-month sponsorship drive which included some sorta detente with the Chinese embassy that resulted in the appearances of Bu and three others.

If cash is diverted, it goes down the FIDE drain. National chess organizations are well aquainted with the process of sending cheques to FIDE, watching them get cashed and seeing either nothing done or something simple done wrong.

For example, FIDE will usually look at names instead of players' assigned numbers when they assess tournament games; this leads to wildly wrong scores and ratings, as when the Spraggett brothers' games somehow were interchanged for a while. Since K. Spraggett is the world's highest-rated GM over 50, with his brother some distance behind, this was not a good thing and not at all a proper use of diverted funds.

Anyway, regardless of recent successes in the promotion of the nationals, I'd say the best thing the CFC could do is keep the FIDE cash and hire Jamie Duif.

Korchnoi is still 7 points higher (smile).

I didn't even know there was another Spraggett.

I certainly agree FIDE is a mess, but everyone, even well-run businesses, makes operational mistakes. So I wouldn't center the case for de-funding them around some routine operation they bothced (rating a tournament).

After all, with no help whatever from FIDE, I once cost my near-namesake, Texas John Jacobs, a slew of domestic rating points because the USCF confused me with him when they rated a tournament I'd played in (and did miserably). I later heard through the grapevine that by the time he got the error corrected, the other Jacobs had missed out on an invitation to some international event, becacuse of the points I'd cost him!

Regarding Canada, I was referring to the national championship, historically a closed tournament, as distinct from the Canadian Open. (Foreigners like Bu wouldn't be allowed in Canada's national championship, anyway.)

Oh right, but that's the Canadian Closed, where the prize money could very well be made up of entry fees alone. If that's the event to which you referred, then my apologies.

Yeah, Grant Spraggett. Thanks to FIDE errors he enjoyed a ratings leap for a spell.

Of course de-funding shouldn't be a serious option, and quite right that every organization makes mistakes. But this one is run by gangsters, and when year after year it's clear that money is wasted, you can get to thinking it's not helping chess when it's not really about chess anymore, thazzall.

Without the participation of Benjamin or the guy who plays the junk openings and gets away with it, it's hard to see the winner of this event as a true US Champion in the tradition of Morphy and Fischer.

This tournament is a joke...Ben Finegold is in it for Crist's sake...what kind of Championship is this...its like the BlueAir toilet bowl..who cares?????????????

When AF4C dropped their sponsorship, I thought I picked-up hints that it was due to Sam Sloan being on the USCF board (perhaps my memory fails me yet again). IF that is true, why have they not returned? Was there another reason that they dropped the event?


That was a Canadian Open, not Canadian Championship. Just like the US Open is not the US Championship. In most years the players' entry fees are the entire prize fund in the Canadian Championship.

The US championship is a meaningless run-of-the-mill event with meaningless run-of-the-mill players playing meaningless run-of-the-mill chess while earning meaningless run-of-the-mill money.

It makes sense.

Evan: Eventually AF4C's Erik Anderson was quoted basically confirming that Sloan's public trashing of him was the last straw.

"IF that is true, why have they not returned?" I'm not trying to be mean, really I'm not, but that's a dumb question. If say you caught your girlfriend having an affair and you kissed her off, would you run back if she broke off with the other guy?

Still, my feeling is Sloan wasn't the sole reason or even necessarily the main one - only the final straw. I believe AF4C dropped the event for a long list of reasons.

One is simply the sponsorship completed its natural life span after several years. That's a common phenomenon with big donors, especially individuals (and AF4C is basically synonymous with Erik Anderson), but even corporations too - they get bored with the cause, and/or always had the idea their support would give the charity the strength to stand on its own feet and find other sources of support, and then they'd move on.

But there was also a series of things the USCF and the Championship participants did that pissed Anderson off. An epidemic of final-round quick draws one year, a blunder in a simple spreadsheet calculation of the prize fund another year (which made it look like AF4C was shortchanging players when the miscalculation wasn't theirs but USCF's), and then all the mudslinging over the Championship format during a series of USCF election campaigns, including the ones Sloan ran in. It's also worth mentioning that the USCF Executive Board's main liaison with AF4C in those years was (Hal Bogner told me this) EB member Robert Tanner - who wound up getting bounced out of organized chess for ethics violations (Tanner was found guilty of filing numerous fake tournament reports to inflate his own rating, over a series of many years). Not the sort of person you want to be associated with if you're a donor, with a reasonable expectation that naught but good publicity and good vibes will result from your largesse.

Jon wrote:

"Still, my feeling is Sloan wasn't the sole reason or even necessarily the main one - only the final straw. I believe AF4C dropped the event for a long list of reasons."

Absolutely true.

A small correction, Jon: USCF had no involvement in the miscalculations of the US Championship prize funds in AF4C's final two events; although USCF personnel were involved, they were working directly for AF4C in their roles in support of the Championship, and in any case, no statements were ever made attributing responsibility to any particular individuals (and none should be made). Ultimately, it is a responsibility of the organizations involved.

The Kreiman - De Guzman matter must have been frustrating for AF4C, as they had asked USCF to disqualify Kreiman, and ultimately - even though USCF's attorney advised that they were on safe ground - USCF chose not to do so.

The holding of an "in between" US Women's Championship in 2004 in NYC, despite AF4C's funding of both the mens and womens championships as a combined event year in, year out throughout that period, might have been frustrating for them, too. Mig, who handled the web site for that year's US Championship, wasn't kind to USCF when he had to explain why the US Champiomship in late 2004 had been renamed the "2005 US Championship". (Note: one result of the renumbering is that the men had no event in calendar 2005 at all, and therefor, one fewer US Championship took place during this decade than one would expect to be held.)

And if Sam Sloan was the "last straw", it must have been quite awful for AF4C - as well as for the rest of us - to learn that not everything attributed to Mr. Sloan was really written by him. USCF still wrestles with this problem today, and the Mottershead Report shows just how serious a problem this continues to be.

USCF is quite fortunate that Frank Berry has stepped up to provide what support he has for last year and for this year - regardless of whether it rises to the level provided by AF4C. Long term, I believe that all of us in chess need to honor those who provide this support to a much greater extent than we do. For example, both Frank Berry and Erik Anderson are part of a tradition that stretches back to some of the great chess patrons of earlier eras, and whoever might choose to help in the future will join them in that tradition. But how many articles have we seen honoring, say, Lessing J. Rosenwald, or - to name other great US events besides the Championship - Ted Field, Bill Church, Lewis Statham, or Jacqueline Piatigorsky, of late? And we wonder where the next donors are lining up?

Oops - It's Louis Statham, not Lewis. Mea culpa.

Useful observations, Hal.

I'd also note Duif's comment on a recent thread (concerning sponsorship for individual players), that potential sponsors always want to be treated professionally. Which means the recipient organization providing a designated contact who can be counted upon to respond quickly to all inquiries, plus readily available information (such as player bios), and a few other signposts of professionalism. I think she was referring to corporations that sponsor other activities, but many of the same things sound applicable to individual large donors too.

For instance, a business owner I know mentioned at one point that he'd consider donating to chess (albeit he had a very specific purpose in mind - this was when I was gung-ho on pushing for an anti-cheating infrastructure). If there was a central mechanism for that - in other words, if the USCF or anyone else I trusted let it be known they're in the business of accepting donations and are willing to put in a little WORK in that direction (as opposed to just publishing house ads that say, "Donate here and we'll inscribe your name on a bench" that happens to be located in a parking lot in Hairy Armpit, Tennessee) - I would have referred him to them. But there isn't, so I didn't.

I'll suggest the whole thing was killed way back in 2003. I remember how well-run the event was, and on the last day all these sponsors showed up expecting an exciting day like Christiansen-DeFirmian from 2002 and then everyone except Shabba and Akobian made a quick draw.

Also, having been at the last AF4C event, the players' behavior at the closing ceremony, especially about the math error, was some of the most appalling I've ever seen.

Otherwise Hal's points are more or less correct.

Most people who are in a position to give donations, whether they represent themselves as individuals or corporate giving programs, have given money to other organizations in the past.
So in a sense any sponsorship program is competing with all the other sponsorship programs out there.

Sponsors know how they expect to be treated because they literally have people lining up to treat them that way. It's to everyone's benefit when the sponsors' expectations of professionalism are met.

I know I've previously recommended THE SPONSORSHIP SEEKER'S TOOLKIT for individuals. For a very good look at what sponsors expect of nonprofit organizations, I'd suggest MADE POSSIBLE BY: SUCCEEDING WITH SPONSORSHIP.


Jon Jacobs wrote:
the Championship participants did that pissed Anderson off. An epidemic of final-round quick draws one year,

John Fernandez wrote:
I'll suggest the whole thing was killed way back in 2003. I remember how well-run the event was, and on the last day all these sponsors showed up expecting an exciting day like Christiansen-DeFirmian from 2002 and then everyone except Shabba and Akobian made a quick draw.

It seems wrong to blame the players for quick draws.
Most Tournament Organizers purposely decide against adopting rules that forbid short unfought unresolved draws.

Ask the T.O.'s why they reject rules that forbid short unfought unresolved draws.

Once again: it is the PLAYERS who decide to make short draws. It is not up to organizers to force people to play, and it is preposterous to somehow "blame" them. To hell with it, why don't the organizers carry them to their chairs and move the pieces for them while they're at it. Players are completely responsible for their own attitude and actions, let's not pass the buck on this one, it ain't logical. If people expect to be paid for not doing any work they can expect crap sponsors, crap image and crap prizes, and they deserve them, too. Get real.

Thats all very vell and moral highground of you chesshire cat, but when dealing with the real world it is naive to believe that any single player will unilaterally take responsibility for a group behavior problem.

So while it will hit the single player directly in the purse to "do his share"; it is exeptionally simple for a tournament organizer to impose move minimums or similar measures.

To sum up:
Players: Risk, extra work, intangible gains
Organizers: No risk, infinitesimal extra work, clear and mesurable gains.

To learn more about how the real world you could start by reading up on games theory.


About the worst advice I have ever seen:

"To learn more about how the real world (works)you could start by reading up on games theory."

The format encouraged draws in the final round, and so the scenario that occurred ought to have been anticipated. However, the players did not even bother to create the appearance of a real fight. Even with the "Sofia rules", it is clear that if two players desire to make a draw, then a draw will be achieved. The fact is that if the players had put on a good show, and all of the games **seemed** to be hard fought draws (lasting some 40 or 50 moves, before reaching some position that is an obvious dead draw), then the players could have achieved their (modest) aim at no risk and little effort, AND the tournament sponsors would have been mollified.

So, pre-arranged games are the answer. I've got an even more logical idea. Have no last round!

and quely, my world understanding may not approach your lofty heights, but i believe a basic tenet of our western society is that upon being paid to perform a service one is expected to perform and not shirk that service. the boss may be required to supply proper working conditions but the employee is expected to contribute actively, not find an opportunity to take the money and skip the work.

Great points Irv, American players are cowards and deserve no sponsorship. I would not donate a nickel to those corrupt cheaters who make the last round 100* more boring than the first..dear chess sponsors in the US ..save your money and donate it to children and junior events..at least you will get honest effort and not grifters. It has gone way beyond embarrasment, take a look at our players like Ben Finegold to name one who plays not to win but not to lose even against players 400 points below him as he has no real skill but just wants to pick up checks and cheat uscf with his abdominable wife in the womens championship when she could not win the lunch title at Ruby Tuesdays but get her entered through grifting and cheating...US CHESS IS DEAD...FORGET ABOUT IT...WATCH THE SUPER gmS THEIR GAMES ARE BRILLIANT AND EXCITING...DONATE MONEY TO HOMELESS AND TRULY NEEDY FAMILIES THE CHESS CULTURE HERE IS MADE UP OF VULTURES...SINCE 1972 THE ONLY POSSIBLE WORLD CLASS PLAYER DEVELOPED IS NAKAMURA AND HE IS FORGOING CHESS AS ALL SMART SPONSORS SHOULD, THE MONEY COULD BE MUCH MUCH BETTER SPENT THAN ON THESE LAZY MORAL-LESS SELF CENTERED CRETANS.

Well chessire cat, I did not say you were wrong, just that your opinion were naive and impractical. Your moral instincts are good, but does not solve anything, while very simple measures from tournament organizers have actually proven their effect. (not perfectly of course, but improvements).

And by the way, the real world of our western society is that when I am paid to do a service, I will be given specifications (e.g. a contract) that states the acceptance criteria for my performance. Those ctiterea defines my work, and strangely enough chessplayers also have contracts for tournament participation, where tournament organizers may, OR MAY NOT, define mesures to increase fighting chess.

And abc:
What was discussed was making singular persons take responsibility for group behavior, when it would hurt them financially unless everybody else does the same. Game theory will teach you quite a lot about how this will work in real life. So if this is bad advice, maybe you could explain rather than just spew?

Chess-themed graphic novel serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine: read "Low Moon" here: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/magazine/funnypages.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

You can't blame players for making short draws, when the rules allow such agreements. And yes, their actions are driven by game theory,as quely points out.

However, it would benefit both players and organizers to come up with tournament structures that do not allow so many "non-contests". As we have seen, there aren't too many sponsors who want to fund events where the players may or may not play the games scheduled for that day.

Right, Fred Walters. If you want to donate money to chess, donate to kids...who did not spend their life studying and playing chess...who have parents to support them...who have not yet sacrificed their other options in life for chess...who do not create games that entertain and instruct you...and will probably not continue with chess later in life. The "vultures" you are talking about put a lot of work into chess and as a result get a very poor quality of life and little appreciation. I don't know if you realize, but it is very hard for people who are poor to play a game and risk thousands of dollars--extremely bad on the nervous system, not to mention that if you lose you might kill yourself.

And Cheshire cat, yes, it is accepted that if you are paid to perform a service you should do so; but it gets more complicated when, by performing the service (i.e. playing in the last round rather than making a draw) you are risking the very pay. You all seem to miss the point that last round draws are typically not because the players are "lazy", but rather because they do not want to risk money. I know this might be hard to understand for the more wealthy people here or the people who draw a salary.

I took it for granted that these guys were getting appearance fees? Maybe that's naive, I'm not so familiar with US conditions. If they are not, then, of course, they will try to maximise their meager income. And the tragedy is that they have to do so. It still damages the image for sponsors and the public, however necessary it may be. The idea that I as a sponsor/organizer would have to ensure special measures to ensure that play is not over after 45 minutes seems crazy to me; in what other sport can you imagine this? I've seen some local torneys where in the Masters section a couple of GMs would come, receive a fee, beat the locals, and draw each other after 15 moves. Made me cynical! I still think that Evans' idea about the chess fund is a good one, if only a decent way of putting it into practise can be devised.

Hey, wow! Loony personal attacks with capital letters. That's what this site needs. We don't get enough glimpses into the private worlds of the disturbed here; it doesn't seem like the internet without that.


From the Heraklion tourist office: "We denounce and reject Fred Walters' unjustified and uninformed scattershot attacks on the morals and productivity of Cretans. Perhaps he is unaware of the accomplishments of the Minoan civilization! If it were not for the eruption of Thera and the consequent Tsunami, Knossos might have been the center of Mediterranean civilization for much longer than it was."

No Chesshire cat, nobody is getting any appearance fee in the US unless it is a round-robin norm tournament which needs IMs or GMs for norms to be possible. Occasionally a GM might do a simul at a tournament or something, but appearance fees are extremely rare.

In the local tournament you saw most likely no one got an appearance fee, and yes the GMs drew in the last round, and that is completely reasonable. Imagine the typical prize structure--$500-300-150, lets say. So in the last round you can draw and get 400 each or you can try to bash your colleague in for an extra 100, all the while risking everything. Doesn't make sense, and when you are traveling around all the time trying to make a living, doing so would be stupid. You aren't getting paid to play, you get paid only if you win the tournament, and also most likely no one is watching the game anyway. Don't talk about glory or honor or anything, people like IMs and GMs spent a lot of time in chess and are reduced to coming to your local tournament, beating the 2100s for chump change. Don't forget everything doesn't always go perfectly either, and sometimes you leave with no prize, only expenses, even if you are a GM.

And yes they beat the local players, well that is because they actually are better and worked harder. Chess is not an exclusive club or anything, the local players too can pick up a book or get chessbase and study and play and try to get better. Then they can travel around and beat up other local players and draw with each other to pick up a few bucks. If that is what they want with their life, that is...if that doesn't sound so great, then maybe patzers should stop envying and hating GMs and IMs.

anonymous, in that event the GMs drew in the third round, and they got expenses etc. They were invited to the event to raise interest; everyone wanted to see them play against each other. Yes and naturally they will beat the locals; hence they are GMs.
Nobody "hates" GMs.
I just think that short draws are no different from fixing the game, whatever the reason. Look at this GM norm fiasco in the US championship.
In the old Soviet Union something like this would have been called fixing? If you have to resort to such measures what is the title worth? Incidentally I don't really see the point in having a title you are capable of achieving on one solitary occasion, and with bending the rules at that. If you cannot fulfil the norm requirements on multiple occasions then what's the point?

chesshire, your final line sounds like you're confessing extreme ignorance about the norm qualification process.

Unless I'm somehow misreading your meaning, it sounds like you don't know that it takes 3 norms (plus a minimum cumulative FIDE rating) to become either a GM or an IM (with certain exceptions involving "youth" events).

If you didn't know that, then such extreme degree of ignorance makes you ineligible to participate in this conversation, and all your remarks shall be stricken from the record (notwithstanding the fact you made some decent points).

"anyone who argues with an idiot is by default even more of an idiot" - look it up you pathetic wastes of lives


I certainly wouldn't argue with you.

Haha! Well said Greg, I commend you for saying something that's long overdue.

Duif et al,

Why do we disallow financial hedges between players?

- Yet another heretic

Please no one respond to the above troll who posted as "another_heretic."

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