Mottershead Report Prelude

 

This is just a collection of personal observations and opinions not perfectly in sequence whose intent is to capture the feelings of the time and in no way accuses or implies that anyone did anything improper.

 

Prior to the reported events that occurred in the article on Lawsuits, Chess Politics, and Susan Polgar, the following personal perspective story unfolded:

 

In late August 2007 the USCF was in the process of updating their website. Of particular interest was their moving to a newer version of the forum software. As FOC members we had the opportunity to be early testers of the new forum software and to provide feedback. That is where I came in contact with Hal Bogner and Brian Mottershead in their capacities of developer and administrator. During this time it became apparent that Gregory Alexander was greatly interested in all the technical details of the upgrade while board members Susan Polgar and Paul Truong were advocating shutting down the USCF issues forum which provided the primary reason for FOC existence.

 

Early in September when the new website was in final testing to go live Susan Polgar announced the rollout of chessdiscussion.com which appeared to be a replacement for the USCF forums. Immediately as the new USCF forum software went live Gregory Alexander began activity on the new USCF forum disparaging the work of Brian Mottershead and Hal Bogner. Concurrently it appeared Paul Truong reinforced the disparaging effort. My first conclusion was it appeared that Alexander, Truong, and Polgar wanted the USCF forums shut down for some reason and were conducting a coordinated political campaign towards this end. But why? My first thought was so chessdiscussion.com could become the de facto forum for USCF members providing Polgar and Truong with a captive audience for their views and wares. It could also be viewed by some as a money saver for the USCF. As Gregory Alexander was the webmaster of this new venture his role so far was understood.

 

The campaign however was so vociferous and done in a take no prisoners style that the why of this all did not make sense. It was then I learned that Mottershead was on the trail of the fake Sam Sloan who had been misusing posts on the USCF forums. As a long time observer of USCF politics, the increasing intensity of the onslaught was then understandable to me. It appeared a pitched battle was engaged and now escalating. It could be argued either way but it I found out about the search for the fake Sam Sloan before I heard about the letters from Truong and Polgar arguing to remove Mottershead as well as Bogner from the project.

 

As an FOC insider I was bound to informal confidentiality regarding the inner workings of the USCF as I observed them. Having access to the FOC archives I could see previous events where FOC members appeared to have stumbled. I took the role to the extent that to avoid any appearance of COI I did not post to the USCF forum during my tenure on the FOC. By September 18, 2007 I had resigned my FOC position and was no longer formally on the USCF inside and thus not constrained by those duties.

 

On September 25 I noticed a new Usenet posting that appeared to defame both Mottershead and Bogner. I gave Bogner a call to see what he thought of the matter. Hal was not aware of the posting and asked if it was OK to do a three way call with Mottershead. I said yes. Before we had a chance to confirm the posting Mottershead said let me guess what IP address the Usenet post originated from. He got it exactly including the user agent strings, and then went to explain how the USCF ID chesspromotion had been also been logging in using that IP address from Mexico City. At the same time the complaints from Alexander, Truong, and Polgar had reached a fevered pitch and it looked as though they would prevail in their efforts to remove Mottershead and Bogner. It should be noted for those who might be curious that there was absolutely no discussion of making any of this information public.

 

Then came the forum revelation that chesspromotion possibly could be the fake Sam Sloan. The alarm escalated immediately as many of the FSS Usenet postings were deleted that very morning. In a subsequent conversation I was told that Mottershead was asked to put together a report concerning what he had found and present it to the Executive Board for possible forwarding to the Ethics Committee. I later took the opportunity to speak with Bill Hall regarding this endeavor discussing strategy on how this may best be staged as it involved an entrenched board member. He wanted to understand my previous experience with such matters. He seemed concerned that he had also come under political scrutiny for not immediately dismissing those involved with the discoveries.

 

Early in October I heard that the full report was in play not only with members of the EB as well as staff but with many other USCF officials and Polgar supporters. It appeared most on the inside had seen copies of the now named Mottershead report but the contents of which were still secret and the revelations now under increasing proactive criticism by Alexander, Truong, and Polgar through spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt. The best defense is a good offense strategy was effective and the crescendo again rose to make the report go away and remove Mottershead and Bogner before they could do further disclosure regarding the inner workings of the Federation.

 

At the same time all this was going on everything then changed first thing in the morning on October 8th.

 

Note when the Mottershead report was sent to the Executive Board on October 5 2007, it appeared Truong, and Polgar formally complained that Mottershead had violated their privacy in conflict with the USCF Privacy Policy. The reaction of the Board to that was to require Mottershead to step aside from his duties as a volunteer forum administrator. Even though opinions vary on this the immediate effect on October 8, 2007 of the Mottershead report, combined with an apparent reaction to the New York Times report on the lawsuit that had been filed, was to sanction Brian Mottershead for his behaviour.

The Executive Board passed a motion which contained “Recent events have led to charges and counter-charges about false postings on chess websites that may involve USCF members and improper activity by independent contractors working for the USCF. At this time, it must be stressed that none of these claims can be independently substantiated, and the USCF does not support them. The USCF apologizes for any unintended resulting actions. The USCF takes seriously its need to protect the privacy of its members and is actively investigating the charges of violation of its privacy policies and actions of its members.”

The saga as we know it began….