Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Its been a rough year for the chess community, with several deaths and other tragedies.  Today I read the annual statements of the Governors of the Marshall Chess Club.  I wouldn't consider them election statements as there is no election.

The two clubs we had used to be the centers of a vibrant community.  We used to be like one big family.  I don't know if we were always happy, but it was like a family, one that people chose to join and chose to stay in.  I don't recall anyone going homeless.

I like some of the current board members, on the other hand, some of the statements teak of dishonesty.   I suppose that we are so used to dishonesty in advertising and in politics, that we no longer bother to call anyone on it.  We used to be better than that.

As for the gentrification of the Marshall, its part of what's happening in the city and in the world.  There is no point in challenging it.  It will subside when the phenomenon subsides in the larger world.

Governor Sandra Oliver said something quite wise: "While new Board members bring new skills and energy, old-timers bring institutional memory and insight into long standing issues."

The Marshall Chess Club has lasted a long time.  We could name some universities and religious institutions that have lasted just as long, but not so many small non-profits.

We didn't put just anyone on the board because they seemed like they would do some volunteer work or donate some money.  We would put people on who had proved their love for a club over many years.  Even that we would do gradually.   There certainly was institutional memory and insight into long standing issues, and a great deal of insight was passed on from the more experienced to the less experienced.  Changing almost the whole board in a period of a few years was not a good idea.

This counts for the tournament directing too. New York City long had higher standards for tournament directing than the rest of the US thanks to Bill Goichberg, Steve Immitt and several others.  This is no reflection on the character or the intelligence of the present tournament directors.  Nor is Steve coming back.  He has no reason to.  It is better to have continuity.

How about those who pay their dues year after year even if we rarely go to the club any more?  Perhaps we have gratitude for what we already have received, and we have faith that some day the club will get back on the right track.

I have some minor suggestions for the board:  Don't borrow too much against the building.  Property values are tremendously inflated like a balloon.  Eventually the property value of the building will go down, perhaps drastically, and the debts will not.

Safety first:  Avoid overcrowding.  Don't allow people to sit on the stairs.  Consult a safety expert.   It is helpful to consult an accident lawyer.  They can tell you what you need to know to avoid accidents.

That's just my opinion.  Feel free to comment.

Let us remember those who have passed on:

Robert Ali
Ilya Figler
Will Fisher
Myron Fleisher
Nagib Gebran
Nathan Jackson
Edward Kopieki
Edward LaMarca
Mikhail Layevskiy
William Lombardy
Peter Roberts
Anyone else I left out or added inadvertently

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Upcoming Marshall Meeting

Note that this post is from 2017.

A respected friend posted something upsetting about the upcoming Marshall Meeting on their Facebook.  I am responding here.  Their Facebook is for them to say what they want to say.
Of the 60 years of my life, I have paid dues at the Marshall most years.  In my view, that's what a loyal member does.  It didn't necessarily matter to me whether I had time to play, or whether I liked what the club was doing at a particular time.  I also recommend the Marshall to chessplayers in the NYC area.  The Marshall still has, and does, some things that no one else has, or can do.  But it sickens me every time anyone says that St. Louis is the chess capital of the US.  I don't even think it's true.
That being said, I've attended maybe 15 or more annual meetings over the years.  Suffice to say the club has changed.  The club that I grew up in and enjoyed a great many times over the years is long gone.  I still play chess every day.  There are definitely a number of individuals I wish I could see more often.  But the Marshall I loved, is gone, and I don't think it's coming back.  I had originally planned to attend the annual meeting, but I have Dylan tickets, which I purchased long before the date of the meeting was announced.
I will not be at the club before or during the meeting.  I have no reason to.  I would only attend the club to play chess in the months following the meeting if some changes are made, but that's just me.
Its pointless to say the meeting was contentious unless you know why it was contentious.  There was no great "divides".  There was one divide.  Why comment on it if you don't know why it existed?
Does the person who made these comments know how many constructive talks were attempted, and what the results were?  Do you know how many times we searched for common ground and found there wasn't any?  Everyone should have a voice, but do you know the history of how only a handful of people have a voice?
Its funny how people keep invoking the name of Frank Marshall.  The club was originally constructed as a place where GM Marshall and his wife could make their living.  I think he would have been happy if he had known it would last this long.  I don't think we can infer anything else about what he would want.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What About the Adults?

Marshall Chess Divan
Today, I was reading a Facebook post about a study on the educational benefits of music  After "liking" the post, I saw that it was from USCF Past President, Ruth Haring.  She added that there should more studies like that on chess.  Somehow that got my dander up, and I want to explain why.  No disrespect to Past President Haring or anyone else is intended.

I've heard talk in some adult chess circles about how the Internet is killing OTB (in person) chess.  I don't believe it!    If anything, the Internet should be helping us get together more!

Fabiano Caruana vs Yury Lapshun
What is really happening is that some of the top organizations that used to be leaders in chess for all ages have made adults second-class citizens.

Its not hard to see why.  The general assumption is that there are more kids, and you can extract more cash from a chess parent than you can extract from a chessplaying adult.

Some of you who have read my other posts have heard about the shenanigans at the Marshall election.  Hopefully the new president will sort it out.  What happened was that some chess teachers and some chess parents conspired with certain board members to control the election.

Pres. Rachlin vs WC Carlsen

Before you jump to any conclusions about me, three of my best friends are fulltime chess teachers.   I would also point out that some of the most that historically some of the most knowledgeable people in chess organizing, such as Carol Jarecki and and Alan Benjamin, are and were chess parents.  The difference is that they took the trouble to master the chess organizing environment instead of coming in, without any knowledge, and trying to tell people what to do.

WC Carlsen vs IM Sturt
I hope the Marshall and the other organizations get things sorted out, but right now, I want to ask a different question:  What were these people who were trying to take over the Marshall thinking?  What does chess mean to them? What justifies their trying to take away something that others need very much and that they don't need at all??  What does chess mean to them?  What does it mean to them?  Is there a logical motive for their actions, or are too many people getting carried away with the hype?

Song of the day:  Teach the Gifted Children (Lou Reed)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Election Speech

For what it is worth, this is my election speech based on the notes I had prepared beforehand.  After a long and difficult meeting, the speech I actually gave was somewhat shorter and less pointed:

My name is Jerry Graham.  If you're new here, and you love to play chess, you've definitely come to the right place.  But I am going to say some things about people who are relatively new running for the board.

We should have a very active board, and we are not a generic organization.  What someone learned in some other field generally will not help you on the board.  What we do is not unimportant.  What we do here is important to many people.

Past President Chagrin

Running the club correctly is not simple.  If you're running it and it seems simple, its either because you're not doing it correctly, or because its actually someone else who is doing it.

The Marshall Chess Club is a community, a local club and an international club.  These functions are interrelated.  Let me give you an example:  When GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Hikaru Nakamura first walked these floors that you walked today, they walked them not as grandmasters, but as children.

GM Hikaru Nakamura vs NM Nagib Gebran

Today our club is at a crossroads.  If I was in charge we would discuss this before voting.  But I am not in charge, so I suggest all interested members meet to discuss this at a later date.

There are always bad results when leaders try to hammer the Marshall Chess Club into something it is not:

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves
  • The Marshall Chess Club is not a business.
  • It is not a community service organization.
  • It is not an educational organization.
  • We are not poor.
  • We are not looking for a sugar daddy.
  • We are not standing on the corner selling ourselves.
  • The members are owners, not customers.
  • The board members are our trustees, our fiduciaries, our representatives.
  • They are not our bosses.
  • The board is not a supposed to be a secret society.
  • The board is not supposed to be a gossip club.

My name is Jerry Graham. Thank you and have a great evening!

Monday, June 27, 2016

As Matters Stand at the Marshall

Past President Chagrin
At the end of a very hectic annual meeting, I played some games of chess with Past President Stuart Chagrin.  I also shook hands with Gus, another person I've had disagreements with.  During my match with Stuart, Gus joked that the winner of the match could impose their ideology on the club for the next three years.  Though I won the match, I don't expect to impose my ideology on the club.  No one should.  The club should be run democratically as mandated by law.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what me and my friends have been trying to do.  What we are demanding is that the club be run in a lawful manner.  I think new president, Mr. Paul Rachlin, understands many of our concerns, and he understands that words are not enough.  He needs to take some action.

President Paul Rachlin vs WCGM Magnus Carlsen
Shortly before the annual meeting we sent a list of allegations to the board and the past president.   As we see it, we have made many previous efforts, of the informal and political kind to get the club back into compliance.  We have never made this list of allegations public, because it is unfortunately not part of an informal or political process, and unfortunately a step in a legal process.

Hopefully Mr. Rachlin will solve many of the problems in the upcoming weeks.  Hopefully my role is winding down, and I will be able to return to the club just to play chess.  There are an infinite number of ways of running the club legally.  While I may throw out suggestions from time to time, I fully understand that the club is run by the board, not by me.

If the problems at the club become a matter for the authorities, they presumably will not be interested in the personalities or philosophies, but in whether the club is doing everything in a legal manner.

The motto of FIDE is Gens una sumus "We are one people".  So the ideas of having a chess community, and of chess bringing different people together are not new.  But to have a community there must be trust.  Only leaders who are fair, honest, and law abiding can maintain an environment of trust.  So let's hope for the best, and let's play chess.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Who should the Ideal Marshall Board Member Be and Why?

Former President Leon Haft



I just wrote this up quickly.  I hope its good.


Necessary qualities:

Debt:  There is no reward for joining or serving on the board.  Anyone who seeks anything other than to service the club is self-dealing.  Therefore board service is most appropriate for long-standing members who already owe a debt to the club.  Never put someone on the board because they want to be on the board.  That's always a bad sign.  Put people there who are willing and do not have inappropriate motivations.


Archie Waters
Loyalty:  A person demonstrates loyalty by joining the club, paying their dues, playing at the club, and waiting for several years before running for the board.  A loyal person does not disobey or ask for or make exceptions to the dues policies, bylaws, or compliance with government laws.  Loyalty may be demonstrated by serving on committees and other volunteer work before joining the board.  While times change and the most long-standing members are not always correct, it would reasonable to consider the input of longstanding members before making a decision.
Dr. Milton Hanauer

 Enthusiasm:  The person show be enthusiastic not just about chess in general, but about the specific organization.  They should be people who have a reason for being enthusiastic about the organization.  They should see the club as more than a symbol.  They should see it as a working organization which must operate within certain parameters. 

 Respect:  The person should respect the organization not just because of our outward successes, but because we have an operational model that has worked well for over 100 years.  This includes our structure as a membership club for chess and social purposes, our committee structure, and our tradition of mentoring new volunteers until they are experience board members.

Available:  The person does not just need to be available for board meetings.  The must be well informed with respect to all happenings at the club.  They need to have time to research the legal and social environments that the club operates in.

NM John Collins

 Experience:  Experience with the particular organization is important.  That is why long-standing members are better.  Experience in other fields or with other organizations is not as important.

Contact:  Contact with the club is important is as discussed above.  That is the reason for the rules regarding residence (living in the area) prior years members are required for board service.  A board member should really exceed these requirements.

GM William Lombardy

 Representative:  It is incredibly important that board members represent all of the voting members as opposed to unduly representing themselves, each other, and outside organizations.  Ideally each voting member should be represented by exactly one board member.

 Fiduciary:  While other board activities are optional, it is essential for each board member to function as a good fiduciary.  This means being inquisitive:  Finding facts and laws for themselves rather than trusting other board members.

Not Necessary:


Howard Stern
Donations:  Donations are generally good things unless there are too many strings are attached.  A good donor will not require a seat on the board.  A good donor loves the organization the way it is, and doesn't see the need to change it.  Of course a good board attracts more donors than a bad one.

Expertise in Other Fields:   Of course we need expertise in other fields, but we can always find expertise among the members.  A good expert doesn't need to be on the board and in general doesn't want to be on the board.

Cooperativeness:  If you have two people who always say the same thing, you only need one of them.  Boards that are too friendly among themselves are often colluding against the members.   Its better to have people who don't like each other and keep each other honest.


Martin Shkreli
You might ask how you can get 15 people who meet all of these qualities.  I've always said that you can't, and that a 15 person board is far too large.   In the olden days some would say that a large board helps prevent unfriendly takeovers.  This assumes that all board members are loyal, astute, and upright.  I think its better to have a small number of solid people than a large number of uninterested or corrupt people.  Whether people are nice or not has nothing to do with it.

Justin Beiber and Christian Beadles

I should also add that all members should
participate in governance.   If the club turns into a business, it will no longer be an affordable place for adults to play chess.  Non-profits also have a tendency to drift to where the money is.  That's whats going to happen if long-standing members don't participate in governance.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Campaign Letter

I have decided to post my Marshall campaign letter publicly. There has been too much secrecy already, and also there are a number of Marshall members I was not able to reach by email.

I've heard that the Inner board wants to make "Marshall Chess Club" a trademark so that I can't use it in the name of my Facebook groups.  This is kind of fuzzy thinking as usual for 3 reasons:

Trademarks are intended for companies that engage in trade.  Due to the Marshall's particular tax-exempt status, it is not permitted to engage in trade.  Technically speaking, "selling" memberships is not trade.  The Marshall is supposed to be a pass-through entity, not a merchant.

Secondly, making a trademark does not prevent others from using the name, as long as they don't misrepresent their goods or services as coming from the trademark owner.   Think store brand over-the-counter medicines.

Once you get away from the dubious ethics of Madison Avenue public relations, there is always some criticism and some praise.  The way to decrease the criticism and increase the praise is to act fairly and ethically.

Here is my letter:

May 11, 2016

Dear fellow Marshall Chess Club member,

I have been a member of the Marshall for the greater part of 45 years.  I first joined as a teenager.   Generally, I paid my dues even when too busy to attend.  I first joined the Board of Governors at the age of 21, being the youngest person to ever be elected.  I have served as treasurer and vice-president. Somewhat more recently, I co-sponsored a round-robin
international and a lecture series at the Marshall.

Until recent years, I enjoyed the club’s family-like atmosphere.  By family-like, I do not mean small. What  I mean is the matter of trust.  Just in the last few years, some feel that our trust is being violated. For example:  

1. Steve’s tournaments were thrown out after many years of his generous and masterful service;  2.  Sophia, who is one of the most experienced tournament directors and arbiters in the US was almost not allowed to join.  3. The prizes in the Thursday Night tournament were raised in order to compete with Steve’s tournaments at the New Yorker, to put him out of business. Now that he is out of business, the prizes have been lowered to an all-time low.

The Marshall is a membership club.  That is not just an opinion.  It is the legal status under which every donation and every instance of volunteer work has occurred, including the original donation of the building by GM Marshall’s patrons. Membership club status is also the tax-exempt status the club’s leaders agree to every time they file the club’s annual IRS return.


By law, a tax-exempt membership club is not a business or a public service organization.  It is not owned by the public.  It is owned by the members. That would good for most of us, if it was respected.  The club is NOT the property of the Board. to the exclusion of other members.


I have filed a petition to run for the Board of Governors in the upcoming election on June 14th.  I have been endorsed by three past presidents: Marianna and Douglas Bellizzi, and Howard Prince.   If you disagree with me, or see things differently, I will not ask for your vote.

If you are willing to vote for me, that is unfortunately not enough. Members must play an ongoing role in the club’s governance.   If you support my candidacy, please let me know right away.  If I do not have sufficient support in advance, I will withdraw and bow out.

Sincerely yours, Jeremy Graham, MS, MSEd

Website: www.jchess.nyc