CHESSGATE

 

Reprinted by permission of Chesstours (C)1987

The American landscape is pleas-
antly dotted with many groups of
hobbyists, largely invisible to
outsiders. One of these is the 59
thousand strong United States
Chess Federation (USCF) which
sells chess equipment at a dis-
count, issues a slick monthly
magazine Chess Life and rates
tournaments held mostly on
weekends in every nook and
cranny of the nation throughout
the year
.

The serene world of chess is
hardly the place one would ex-
pect a scandal. In 1951 The New
York Daily News noted: `Scan-
dal has already smeared baseball,
football, and basketball. The
only sports we can still trust are
chess contests and marble tour-
naments.' But since this was
written, several scandals have
rocked both the USCF and Fide,
the world body of 125 countries
that rivals the United Nations in
scope. Next to soccer, Fide is re-
puted to be the second largest
sports organization in the world -
which befits a game like chess
that can transcend languages and
borders.

Lately the USCF and Fide have
become more visible. And many
people don't like what they see.
Signs of stress in American chess
became evident during 1985
when the USCF tried to arrange
a big chess summit with a USA
vs. USSR match to be hosted by
the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic
City
. Like the earlier ping pong
diplomacy that opened the gate
to China, this chess-pong diplo-
macy coincided with the new era
of Gorbachev's glasnost and was
going to put chess on prime time.
The Soviets held out spectacular
bait by offering to send their top
chess stars to our shores. There
was just one small catch: they
didn't want any of their former
nationals to play on the Ameri-
can team. This was going to be
difficult since a Jewish defector
named Lev Alburt happened to
be the American national cham-
pion. Not to worry. American
officials promptly caved in. Al-
burt got his hands on a confiden-
tial USCF internal memo con-
firming they were prepared to
sacrifice him `if necessary' and
then `try to reach an accommo-
dation' with him. Alburt refused
to asquiesce in his own blackbal-
ling, the story broke in the na-
tional press -never to this day in
Chess Life- and the deal ultima-
tely collapsed.

Charles Krauthammer blew the
whistle in The Washington Post
of February 14, 1986, when he
wrote: `This is my annual col-
umn on political scandals in the
world of chess. It is, admittedly,
a small corner of the universe,
but, like most such corners, a mi-
crocosm. Last year I brought you
the attempt to rob Gary Kaspa-
rov of the world championship.
(Epilogue: it failed; he won.)
This year a bigger story -an at-
tempt to rob Americans of their
self- respect...

`Now, an American chess team
from which emigres are banned
is like an American basketball
team from which blacks are
banned... The point was to dem-
onstrate to current and future
Soviet emigres how long is the
reach of the system they seek to
flee...

`The scandal here is not the Sovi-
ets' demand. After all, they were
just being good Leninists, mak-
ing sure that no corner of life
goes unpoliticized. The scandal
was the American response.

'Rather than refuse to discuss the
blackmail, American chess offi-
cials entered into negotiations.
(The American disease: the irre-
sistible urge to negotiate any-
thing.)'

The American negotiator who
went to Moscow was USCF pres-
ident E. Steven Doyle, a chubby
low-level executive in his mid-
twenties with Prudential Life In-
surance Co. In a memo to the
policy board, he stated: `The
USSR wants this match to be a
friendly contest. They therefore
request that we don't play any
ex-Soviets on our team... Their
rationale is not one of boycott
but of spirit.' This prompted
Krauthammer to note: `Not even
a Russian could think that Rus-
sian.' Alburt said, `We sent a
man to Moscow whose Russian
vocabulary was limited to `sput-
nik' to negotiate for us.'

Nathan Perlmutter, national di-
rector of the anti-defamation
league of B'nai B'rith, contacted
Doyle about these troubling ru-
mors of excluding Alburt and
other Soviet Jews-from our team.
Doyle responded by saying Al-
burt was Lutheran. Then Perl-
mutter wryly asked, `So, we
should discriminate against Lu-
therans?' Now Doyle started to
reconsider his position in Decem-
ber 1985.

USCF officials were still treading
water as late as January 13, 1986,
when another internal memo
stated `no final decision' had
been made. Finally the USCF
firmly rejected the Soviet de-
mands. The Soviets agreed to
drop their demands. Fine. But in
a telex on March 27 the Soviets
had a change of heart and stated
that `changes in the 1986 Fide
calendar... made it practically
impossible to contest this match
as we had agreed.' The USCF de-
fended its negotiations by argu-
ing that nobody had been dam-
aged, after all, because the match
fell through anyway.

Meanwhile, on another front,
Fide president Florencio Campo-
manes of the Philippines, a Mar-
cos crony, had awarded the 27th
biennial Chess Olympiad to Du-
bai in the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), an oil-rich Persian gulf
state. Again there was one small
catch: Israel was not allowed to
participate. Despite a worldwide
outcry that this violated the
Olympic spirit -universal compe-
tition- Campomanes stuck to his
guns and failed to seek an alter-
native site in the intervening two
years. (The Chess Olympiad has
a permanent site in Greece every
four years.)

A threatened boycott failed to
materialize. Only Holland, Nor-
way
, Denmark and Sweden
stayed away in protest. Lo and
behold, a record 108 nations
showed up in Dubai when the
Olympiad was held last Novem-
ber. What happened next ex-
plains the mystery of why Camp-
omanes was willing to tear the
chess world apart in order to
keep the Olympiad in Dubai:
holding the event there guar-
anteed his re-election in a bitterly
contested international campaign
for the presidency of Fide where
each nation, regardless of chess
strength -be it the PLO or the
USA- has one vote.

As in the UN, the fulcrum of
power lies in the Third World,
where the crafty Campomanes
has secured his power base. Jon-
athan Tisdall of Reuters re-
ported: `There was yet another
major controversy when it be-
came known that the Dubai or-
ganizers had paid nearly one mil-
lion dollars on air fares for small
or distant federations to attend
the Olympiad. Although such
largesse increased the atten-
dance, the monies were not dis-
tributed evenly but with a bias
towards countries which support
Campomanes. Indeed, one of the
chief organizers stated in the
Abu Dhabi newspaper Al Itti-
had, that such spending was a
sign of commitment to the
Campomanes campaign.'

Despite dogged opposition from
world champion Gary Kasparov,
who has repeatedly called Camp-
omanes `a man who will do any-
thing for money', his Soviet dele-
gation threw the Communist
bloc votes behind Campomanes.

Besides, now Campomanes
clearly had the election wrapped
up anyway -thanks to various
Third World nations who were
prepared to display their grat-
itude for a free trip at the ballot
box. Our Fide delegate Don
Schultz wrote me: `There has
been some misinformation
spread that this past Fide election
was anything but a total slaugh-
ter. Since Lucena dropped out
before the election this is not im-
mediately apparent to those who
were not there.

In deciding whether or not to
send an Olympic team, America
was forced to search its soul. In
an open letter to Chess Life six
grandmasters stated: `It would
simply be wrong if American
players will take part in the Du-
bai Olympiad as if nothing un-
usual has occurred. In the future,
Fide Chess Olympiads should be
located only in countries which
can guarantee visas to all Fide
members. We call on the USCF
not to send an Olympiad team.'

Emotions ran high as the issue
was hotly debated at the USCF
delegates' meeting last August. A
motion was passed condemning
the illegal boycott activities of
the Soviet Chess Federation
against U.S. champion Lev Al-
burt and other emigres. Another
motion condemned the exclusion
of Israel and reiterated our oppo-
sition to the continued injection
of international politics into Fide
events. A final vote on whether
we should participate might have
gone either way until the dead-
lock was broken by a compro-
mise that allowed our players to
go under one condition: The
American delegation was in-
structed to walk out in protest
unless we struck a Fide statute
that allows such boycotts to hap-
pen again in future Olympiads.
Our politicians found this to be
impossible. The best they could
do was to make it difficult for
boycotts like this to happen
again by amending the pertinent
Fide statute to read: `The General
Assembly may make exception
for reasons of state of war or se-
vere violence against countries,
only on a 3/4 majority vote.'

Our Fide representdtive Don
Schultz noted: `What we ended
up with was a statute change
which was the strongest we could
have hoped for and the weakest
that we could have accepted,'

But the respected British Chess
Magazine put it more bluntly:
`Given the state of international
politics, another exclusion dis-
pute seems quite on the cards.
However, it would be more than
flesh and blood could stand for
the US side to withdraw when
they were in the lead. It was
noted, though, that the fluency
went out of their play; doubtless
they were thinking about `what
to tell the folks back home.' To
get these facts, alas, Americans
had to read a British chess jour-
nal. A USCF press release dated
December 5, 1986, proudly pro-
claimed `Political Success at Du-
bai.'

Indeed, how else could the USCF
justify spending over ten thou-
sand dollars (it took months to
pry this figure loose) to send four
politicians to the UAE while
funds were said to be lacking for
the customary team coach?
Sadly, we narrowly missed the
gold when this coach might have
made a vital difference.

When I asked president Doyle
why the USCF funds to send him
and his `adviser' past president
Gary Sperling to Dubai, in addi-
tion to our two regular Fide dele-
gates Don Schultz and Arnold
Denker, he replied: `It was no
junket, if that's what you're im-
plying. It was important to in-
sure that we met the delegates'
mandate -and I believe we did.
Besides, it's traditional for the
USCF president to attend the
Fide congress in the third and
last year of his term. The policy
board -including Alburt- voted
unanimously to send us to Du-
bai.'

In view of the fact that our main
rivals the Soviets had a massive
backup squad, I then asked
Doyle why the USCE didn't
make funds available for a team
coach. He said: `Our team mem-
bers, including Yasser Seirawan,
felt that a coach was a waste of
money.'

`Absolute cowchips!' roared Sei-
rawan, the 27-year-old US
champ now running for the of-
fice of USCF president. `I always
said a coach would be a great
help. The Soviets had several.
Doyle's presence there was an act
of buffoonery. Maybe he de-
served a payoff for all his years
as a chess volunteer. At best I
view his trip as thoughtless, a
poor use of USCF funds.'

Doyle was reimbursed eight days
per diem from the USCF despite
the fact that both of our regular
Fide delegates state that he was
only in Dubai for four days, and
attended none of the Fide work-
ing committee sessions. `I was
there six days,' said Doyle. `I ar-
rived on Thanksgiving Thursday
and left Dubai the following
Tuesday.' This is difficult to ver-
ify since the USCF has as yet re-
fused board member Alburt's re-
quest to see Doyle's ticket and to
inspect his reimbursements.

When I asked Doyle what stop-
overs he made from New York to
Dubai, he snapped: `Is that really
relevant? What difference does it
make where anyone stops?'

When pressed, he finally men-
tioned short stopovers at Paris
and Rome and Cairo on the way
to Dubai. The USCF was billed
2092 dollars for Doyle's airfare
but, under fire when it became a
campaign issue, Doyle returned
about 650 dollars for an `adjust-
ment' on his plane ticket this
April. Perhaps these various
stopovers accounted for the eight
day per diem he submitted.

Despite the uncertainty about
whether they might have to walk
out, our Olympic squad per-
formed admirably. We beat the
Soviets in our individual match
2?-1?, the same score we won
by in 1984. At board one Seira-
wan downed champ Kasparov,
23, after the Soviet wizard tried
too hard to squeeze a win out of
a drawn endgame. The USA held
a slim lead going into the four-
teenth and last round but were
tied 2-2 by Bulgaria as Russia
trounced Poland 4-0 (`to the sur-
prise of only the most naive,'
wrote Alburt in Chess Life) while
England also stomped Brazil 4-0.
In the most exciting Olympiad
finish in recent memory, the
USSR (40) aced out England (39)
as America had to be content
with the bronze (38?). `We were
all in tears,' said Seirawan.

Chess in America is just a fly
speck compared to Russia where
their chess stars are pampered,
subsidized, and lionized. The
USSR was the first modern state
to organize sport and Lenin him-
self described chess as `the gym-
nasium of the mind.' Being
beaten at their own game is a bit-
ter pill for them to swallow.
After Bobby Fischer wrested the
world title from Boris Spassky at
Reykjavik in 1972, a Soviet
grandmaster told me sadly: `At
home they do not understand.
Now they think there is some-
thing wrong with our culture.'
But even in America, where chess
plays a minor role, the bu-
reaucrats maintain tight rein over
our players. Chess Life, our na-
tional magazine, is carefully san-
itized to avoid any references to
the antics of our chess poli-
ticians. Embattled editor Larry
Parr is constantly being muzzled
by that most ancient of devices -
censorship.

This tradition goes back at least
twenty-five years when a compe-
tent editor named Frank Brady,
who later wrote fairly successful
biographies of various celeb-
rities, was fired. His crime was
printing letters from readers who
were outraged when a brash
young Bobby Fischer forfeited
an unfinished match against vet-
eran Sammy Reshevsky. Not
wishing to offend the wealthy
match sponsor, the small clique
of chess politicians who con-
trolled Chess Life tried to hide
the fact that Bobby got a raw
deal.

In 1975 a `Fischer moratorium'
forbade writers from mentioning
Bobby's name in print -even
though he was world champion!
This is reminiscent of the Soviet
practice of deleting the names of
`non-persons.' During the
Kortchnoi vs. Karpov title match
in 1978, defector Kortchnoi's
name was alluded to in the Soviet
press as `Karpov's opponent.'
A question was censored in my
Chess Life column about
whether Nixon invited Bobby to
the White House. (Yes. Bobby
didn't go.) Globe-trotting offi-
cials didn't dare offend Bobby as
they nearly bankrupted the
USCF trying to win votes abroad
for all of his unpopular condi-
tions. The effort failed. Fide
stripped Fischer of the title, and
the USCF treasury was depleted
by nearly half a million dollars.
Allowing more criticism in the
pages of our magazine, and de-
bating the wisdom of blindly pla-
cating Fischer's stringent de-
mands, might have averted a real
tragedy.

Still worse was to come. Fide
then gave the new Soviet ti-
tleholder everything that he de-
manded -including a return
match clause- more than any-
thing Bobby ever sought.
Clearly, there was rot at the top.
Grandmaster Reuben Fine,
America's top contender forty
years ago, who dropped out of
chess in disgust when it became
obvious the Soviets dominated
Fide, recently urged: `In view of
the politicization of chess by the
Soviets, it seems time to consider
more seriously my proposal that
the world chess federation be
broken up into two groups: one
for the free world and the other
for the Communist world. Each
group should promote a compe-
tition to determine its own cham-
pion, and the two champions
would then play a match for the
world title.'

During the years of strife in the
Karpov era some editors waged
lonely struggles on behalf of
readers kept in the dark as va-
rious USCF regimes buried mis-
takes and misdeeds by deleting
certain sensitive topics from the
pages of `their' magazine. Too
often editors were caught in the
middle, lacking support or inde-
pendence, serving at the pleasure
of petty politicians with personal
agendas of their own.

It is no secret that Fide president
Campomanes has exerted intense
pressure on American officials to
fire editor Larry Parr, a former
Reuters correspondent in South-
east Asia
who has a disturbing
tendency to tell it like it is. Parr
said he put his job on the line by
defying a verbal order from pres-
ident Doyle to remove Seira-
wan's photo from the February
1987 cover of Chess Life. The
new U.S. champion rates a cover
each year, but the issue was
touchy since Seirawan now was
also an announced candidate for
USCF president.

`I told Doyle to put the order in
writing,' said Parr. `He never
did. I ran the Seirawan cover. I
think it's shameful that these
politicians have the power to in-
jure a player's career. Just imag-
ine if it had been someone less
famous than Seirawan -would I
have dared stand up to Doyle?'
`Absolutely not true,' Doyle told
me. `All I ever told Parr was to
make sure that the Hotel Stanley,
where the tournament was held,
should also be featured on that
cover.'

Grandmaster William Lombardy,
who was Fischer's trusted
aide in 1972, is also running for
the policy board and he told me
of a similar experience. In a can-
didate's statement scheduled for
the July Chess Life, Lombardy
made reference to `junkets' and
`raids on the treasury.' Since
these statements are supposed to
remain secret until publication,
Lombardy was startled to receive
a phone call from Doyle, who
suggested it might be wiser to re-
move offensive words and per-
sonal attacks. `I'm not attacking
anybody personally,' said Lom-
bardy. `I'm attacking an attitude
that has been all too prevalent in
the USCF.' When asked about
this, Doyle said: `Lombardy mis-
understood me.'

Upset, Lombardy called the edi-
tor to find out how Doyle
learned about the content of his
statement inasmuch as staff is ex-
pressly ordered to stay out of
politics. `I showed your
statement to no one,' said Parr.
`As required, I turned the page
proofs over to my immediate su-
perior, executive director Gerald
Dullea. Maybe you should ask
him how Doyle found out about
your statement.' In a phone in-
terview with Dullea, he said he
read it to Doyle and found noth-
ing improper in this action.
Recently Frank Elley, USCF as-
sistant director, summed up his
watch as editor from 1982 to
1985 in a remarkable ten-page
letter. His testament was solic-
ited but not unsurprisingly de-
leted from a comprehensive
Chess Life report compiled by
USCF secretary Woodrow Har-
ris, another unpaid volunteer
elected to the seven-member pol-
icy board. In the course of a long
phone interview with Harris, he
told me Elley's letter did not ar-
rive on time to be included in his
report. He said he was handed a
copy by Dullea prior to the board
meeting in Phoenix. While there,
Harris introduced a portion of
Elley's letter to justify a motion
that transferred hiring and firing
over the editor (passed 6-1 with
Alburt, as usual, opposed) to
Dullea, the business manager
who is widely viewed as the
board's hatchetman. Yet Doyle
and Alburt told me they never
saw the letter, until I called it to
their attention recently.

It appears that Harris didn't
think it was important enough to
warrant putting Elley's letter into
the Binfo, the stream of internal
information Harris distributes to
the board by mail when they are
not in session. Elley clearly
stated on page one that Harris
had `permission to show it to
anyone you choose,' but Harris
apparently chose to show it to no
one. This is hardly surprising in
an organization that routinely
classifies vast numbers of inter-
nal documents, following the
lead of the Pentagon. If this were
a private company, nobody
would care. But publicly elected
USCF officials are publicly ac-
countable for their actions.

At the board meeting in Phoenix
the board tried to fire the editor
in closed session. The vote was 3-
3 with one abstention. When I
asked Doyle why there was senti-
ment to fire an editor who has
increased circulation while Chess
Life is setting records in news-
stand sales, he replied: `I'm not
at liberty to discuss personnel
matters. It's none of your busi-
ness -it's not a matter for public
discussion.'

Many USCE members feel dif-
ferently. A letter from three con-
cerned chess players who formed
a group called `For a Chess Re-
naissance' noted on April 12,
1987: `Ostensibly, Doyle's ad-
ministration wanted to sack Parr
for his `anti-Sovietism', but the
deeper reason was their jealousy
of Parr's success... and resent-
ment of Parr's superior intellec-
tual qualities and his insistence
on excellence in doing his job.
Moral: The Chess Life editor
must have more and not less in-
dependence and must be insu-
lated from the petty chess poli-
ticians.'

Perhaps the ten-page letter from
former editor Elley sheds further
light on Parr's problems. Elley, a
loyal USCF servant, wrote:
`When I was Editor, one Policy
Board member criticized me
harshly when, in the midst of a
political campaign, an issue of
the magazine contained the name
of a candidate twice -once in a
byline, another in a tournament
report. He said that I must be
sensitive to the political atmo-
sphere, implying but not saying
outright that I should have ex-
punged the candidate's name.'

A memo from Dullea to Parr
dated November 11, 1986, is
equally revealing: `The Board
asked me to express their frustra-
tion that you have been unable to
conform to repeated requests
and demands regarding content
and tone. Among the complaints
were violations of the 1985
guidelines, which were, of
course, established to help you
understand just what it is that we
want from our magazine.'

In another memo from Dullea to
Parr dated February 25, 1987, he
took Parr to task for using the
phrase `terrorist PLO.' Although
it was clearly labeled as an edito-
rial, Parr nonetheless was con-
demned. In this memo Dullea
also criticizes Parr sharply for an
article about a protest tourna-
ment in Jerusalem held at the
same time as the Olympiad. The
piece was written by grandmaster
Joel Benjamin, who turned down
a berth on our olympic team be-
cause `the exclusion of the Israeli
team was an immoral act.'Dul-
lea can barely contain his ire:
`Pretty editorial for a news story.
Israeli internal affairs... should
not be a major concern of our
magazine.' Clearly, Parr was ex-
pected to censor Benjamin's arti-
cle.

After the board gave Dullea
leave to censor Chess Life line-
by-line, he had no qualms about
removing a portion of an inter-
view (over Parr's objections)
with Soviet defector Viktor
Kortchnoi. The brilliant 56-year-
old challenger lost two title
matches in 1978 and 1981 against
Karpov, the darling of the Krem-
lin. Kortchnoi's wife and son
were held hostage in the USSR
and, on the eve of their second
match, the boy was beaten in a
Soviet labor camp -to make sure
his father got the message.
Kortchnoi's family was finally
released, to be sure, only after he
lost both title shots.

Again, turning to Elley's ten-
page letter, he blasts the
guidelines used to leash the edi-
tor: `I have many times stated
that Chess Life is not the Time
magazine of the chess world. I
was wrong. Whether we in posi-
tions of influence like to admit it
or not, 1 believe the membership
at large has the expectation that
what it reads in its national mag-
azine is the truth and whole
truth,.. We do not have the right
to take someone's 25 dollars and
then feed him only what we think
he needs to know...

`You may think I'm barking at
shadows, but we've already cast
our fear of information into
stone for all to see. I call it the
`happy talk commandment' -
thou shalt not speak unkindly of
chess. This is so alien to Ameri-
can culture that I find it impossi-
ble to understand how intelligent
people could have thought of the
idea... A true embarrassment...
`I'm certainly glad not to have
been editor for the past two
years. Our world champion
called a press conference and la-
beled the Fide president a ma-
fiosa. We sent a team to an
Olympiad that did not include Is-
rael. And so it goes.'

In an atmosphere of intrigue and
secrecy, the suppression of infor-
mation becomes almost routine.
Even material in the Binfo is
screened by secretary Harris. For
example, on April 28, 1987, a na-
tional master named Daniel Sam-
uels sent a letter to the policy
board c/o Harris) which stated:
`Dear Board: In my opinion
Larry Parr is the best editor
Chess Life and Review has ever
had. Thanks to him our national
magazine has achieved a truly
high quality of excellence. The
blend of technical content, news
and feature stories offers the
range of material that chess play-
ers want to read, all presented
with top-notch professionalism.
The current effort by certain in-
dividuals to oust Mr. Parr via be-
hind-the-scenes political ma-
noeuvering is deplorable. Force
him out and the USCF will suffer
a loss of not only quality but also
integrity.'

I thought it was the secretary's
job to forward all items intended
for the board, but he told me he
didn't put this letter into the
Binfo. `I thought it was a per-
sonal letter addressed to me,' he
said. When I pointed out it was
clearly intended to be circulated
to the rest of the board. Harris
replied: `The member didn't spe-
cifically request me to do so.'
One is tempted to wonder how
many other items were screened
at the source, and how many
other documents were sup-
pressed that might be critical to
the board's decision-making
process.

When apprised of this news,
grandmaster Lombardy said;
`Shocking. Clearly a breach of
duty. What a damning admis-
sion!'

Some readers are also baffled by
the doubletalk in Chess Life.
Cliff Anderson, who heads a
group that opposes computers in
chess tournaments, wrote me: `I
noticed in your column (April
1987) a reader's comment on `a
number of disturbing allegations
regarding the supposed impar-
tiality of Chess Life regarding
the promotion of chess comput-
ers. Frank Elley responded by
saying `Then USCF does not en-
dorse any chess product.' The I
turned to the inside front cover
of that issue and saw a full-page
ad by USCF endorsing a Fidelity
chess computer.

Other readers have noted that the
grandmaster-on-staff is routinely
ordered to endorse Fidelity com-
puters while Larry Kaufman ap-
parently was removed from his
post as chairman of a rating
committee when he endorsed,
without pay, a rival brand in a
full-page ad of Chess Life. In
Computer Chess Reports, Kauf-
man wrote: `I have been a USCE
member for nearly twenty-five
years, and until recently have al-
ways considered it a fair, respon-
sible, and worthwhile organiza-
tion. But in the last few weeks I
have realized that the current
leadership has turned it into a
commercial enterprise, more in-
terested in making money (for
whom?) than in serving its mem-
bership with accurate, unbiased
information... Let us hope that
the board members keep on top
of the worsening conditions and
take some affirmative actions to
resolve the obvious conflict of in-
terest between rating chess com-
puters, recommending chess
computers, and selling chess
computers.'

The USCF business office gener-
ates a gross income in excess of
three million dollars annually,
1.9 million dollars estimated
from the sales of chess books and
related equipment. Yet the finan-
cial report gives no breakdown
of the exact amount derived
from the sale of chess computers.
The Renaissance letter says:
`Let's face it, the USCF manages
to survive (i.e. avoid financial
collapse) under its present lead-
ership only through sales of chess
computers to a chess-starved
public. And, according to ex-
perts, this market is rapidly be-
coming saturated and can't last
forever.' Executive director Dul-
lea told me chess computers ac-
count for about 35 percent of
gross sales.

The letter reminds us that over
one hundred million Americans
watched the Fischer-Spassky
match on television. And,
according to a Harris poll, over
twenty-five million Americans
play chess. The letter endorses a
reform slate headed by grand-
masters Seirawan and Lombardy
in addition to former Mobil
Southern Division CEO Fanueil
Adams for treasurer. Chess is on
the verge of a major break-
through in America, in the posi-
tion that golf and tennis occu-
pied about thirty years ago. The
letter also points out:
`The Old Guard in the Feder-
ation -primarily concerned with
their self-perpetuation in power
-is already mounting tremendous
resistance. Lacking vision, this
Old Boys Network of chess poli-
ticians clings to a small-minded
Ma and Pa store approach... act-
ing as if the USCF were their
own personal property while ac-
cepting the current lowly status
of chess in society.'

Probably the most visible evi-
dence of mismanagement is a
thirty thousand dollars damage
suit recently settled out of court
with Ed Labate, a major Los An-
geles chess promoter whose busi-
ness was nearly destroyed when
the USCF abruptly cancelled his
USCF affiliation. In an open let-
ter to the USCF membership,
Labate's lawyer, David W. Af-
feld, observed: `Viewing events
most favorably for USCF offi-
cials, they turned a minor squab-
ble over 480 dollars paid two
days late into major litigation
that cost one party thirty thou-
sand dollars and nearly ruined
another. To put it mildly, this
was not the wisdom of kings.'

A second self-inflicted wound
that presents another economic
threat is the Steve Pettman
fiasco, with litigation pending.
USCF executive director Gerald
Dullea with president Doyle's
obvious approval, fired associate
director Pettman a week after he
charged Dullea with telling racist
jokes and with bad management.

Instead of investigating the
charges, either to refute or af-
firm their validity, the board
rushed to judgement -ignoring
the advice of their own lawyer.
On May 4, 1987, the board re-
leased a letter to delegates reaf-
firming the board found `no sub-
stantiation' to Pettman's
charges. `We express confidence
in the ability and moral character
of USCF's Executive Director',
they concluded, again by a 6-1
vote, again with Alburt opposed.
In a letter to Alburt on May 4,
Dullea wrote: `Maybe Mr. Pet-
tman will be dumb enough to
take his claims to court. I person-
ally hope so, despite the financial
expense to the Federation.
On May 15, Alburt replied: `As
an officer of the Federation I can
not be indulgent over possible
major USCF financial losses.
The thirty thousand dollars
down the drain to Mr. Labate
should not be followed by several
more tens of thousands of dol-
lars to accommodate your emo-
tional requirements. I still main-
tain that the best (and cheapest)
way to resolve the Pettman case
and to find the truth is to have an
independent inquiry conducted
by professional labor negotia-
tors.'

Alburt's career blossomed after
he defected to America in 1979.
He was denied invitations to
strong events overseas, due to an
illegal Soviet boycott, yet he cap-
tured the powerful US national
title twice running and has
proved equally adept at domestic
chess politics.

Alburt, 41, is the first grandmas-
ter in the fifty-year history of the
USCF to sit on the staid policy
board. He often takes unpopular
stands and has helped restore
some balance to a governing
body traditionally controlled by
amateurs and organizers.

At the policy board meeting in
Phoenix last February, Alburt
spearheaded a resolution (which
passed) reaffirming that no
USCF document should be
marked confidential without
strong and compelling reasons.
He also managed to push
through a motion which says:
`The Policy Board reaffirms that
Policy Board members have ac-
cess to all information and in or-
der to secure information, need
only request in writing (for other
than routine information) to the
Executive Director with copies to
the Board. If the Executive Di-
rector deems it to be a conflict of
interest he will so state to the
Policy Board.'

When Alburt tried to implement
this notion on April 28 by for-
mally requested documents per-
taining to credit card accounts,
reimbursements to individual
board members for phone bills
and other expenses incurred on
behalf of the USCF, he immedi-
ately met with strong resistance
from Dullea. On May 4 Dullea
supplied some superficial infor-
mation but noted: `I am required
to do so whenever I find a Board
member's requests to be nonrou-
tine and/or unreasonable. I find
your requests qualifying in both
categories. Moreover, I recom-
mend that if the Board does in-
struct me to release this informa-
tion, it should be on an eyes-only
basis.'

Alburt delivered a stinging re-
buke on May 15: `Unfortunately,
you've decided to withhold all in-
formation regarding any kind of
reimbursements paid by USCF to
individual Policy Board mem-
bers... As you can see, I have a
right as a PB member, to receive
this information (without any
approval by a majority of the
Board being required) as long as
you don't remember there is a
conflict of interest.' Indeed, it's
hard for many people to under-
stand why an officer of a public
organization is not permitted to
have this data by simply asking
for it -unless there is something
to hide.

Alburt proceeded to release his
phone bills for his seven-month
period on the board, averaging
around 28 dollars monthly.
When I asked secretary Harris
for his average monthly bill on
behalf of the USCF over the last
three years, he replied: `About
thirty dollars.' A similar ques-
tion put to president Doyle elic-
ited the response: `Between two
hundred and three hundred dol-
lars.'

Clearly, Alburt's constant prob-
ing is getting under the skin of
other USCF public officials.
When asked about the basis of
their hostility, Alburt said: `My
loyalty is to the USCF mem-
bership at large. The board's loy-
alty is mainly to Executive Direc-
tor Dullea and the other board
members. They have been used
to running things their own way
for a long time. They regard me
as a troublemaker and maver-
ick.'

Many people are of the opinion
that the USCF has betrayed good
proper behavior in a pluralistic
society. The USCF has a long
history of labor strife, large turn-
over of office personnel, and
censorship. Now the organiza-
tion is under fire from all sides,
which is a tragedy for the game it
promotes. Lawsuits and allega-
tions of fraud are running ram-
pant.

Seattle recently bid 2.8 million
dollars to bring the next Karpov
vs. Kasparov title match to
America. Alongside the deeply
cherished dream of chess growth
in this nation, we may also be
witnessing the demise or ruin of a
non-profit, tax-exempt sports in-
stitution on our cultural land-
scape.

Grandmaster Larry Evans is -5-
time USA chess champion and
syndicated chess columnist