Sunday, January 31, 2016

Incomplete History of Scholastic Chess, 2014

Howard Prince (Right)
I wrote this in 2014.  I just want to add some items about Howard Prince's conference on Chess and Education at BMCC.

The conference was well run and well attended.  Two of my favorite talks were by FM Sunil Weeramantry and GM Michael Rohde.

GM Nakamura and Stepfather FM Weeramantry

Weeramantry said that he wasn't a top player himself, but he had a few scalps.  I thought that was a modest and effective way to characterize his playing strength.

GM Michael Rohde

GM Rohde talked about how when he was learning chess
he would study chess books from cover to cover.  The moderator then asked whether the secret to becoming a GM is to study chess books from cover to cover.  Of course it isn't.  Most people aren't going to become GMs, but they still can get a great deal out of the game.

An Incomplete History of Scholastic Chess, the Promoters rather than the Players, NYC Centered

Corrections, additions, and links are welcome.

Dr. Milton Hanauer
One of the early promoters of scholastic chess in NYC was Dr. Milton Hanauer.  In the olden days he would argue with Mrs. Marshall to have more scholastic tournaments at the Marshall.  I don't think he was interested in producing a champion or considered it of great educational value.  He probably just considered it a wholesome activity.  He encouraged me to do volunteer work at the Marshall.  I think he predicted correctly that while other young players would go on to greater achievements, I would help to run the Marshall for a time.

IM Ken Regan

Bill Goichberg made chess accessible to many people.   The first tournamentI registered for was a Goichberg scholastic.   My junior high school chess coach was on his mailing list.   Some of the top young players in my age group were Ken Regan, Michael Rohde, and Peter Winston.  One of the top female players was my schoolmate, Rachel Crotto.  Benjamin and Dlugy are somewhat younger and Fedorowicz started playing a couple of years later.   Goichberg was an inspiration to a number of chess tournament organizers.  In NYC there was Henry and Louis Brockman who ran tournaments in Flushing.   Many tournament organizers emerged in New Jersey who in some cases were elected to the USCF Policy Board.

NM Bruce Pandolfini
Bruce Pandolfini was involved in promoting chess long before Chess in the Schools.  His stepfather, Joe Pandolfini was the Night Manager at the Marshall.  Of course Bruce got his break by being a commentator on Shelby Lyman's television program.   He and some of the other Marshall Chess Club masters had a place on Sixth Avenue near West Fourth Street.   Later he had the Chess Institute in the downstairs front of the Marshall building with patron Arthur Carter, replacing Ed Lasker's go club.  As far as I know, these ventures were not particularly focused on children.  Bruce wrote many chess books for beginners.  He said that it makes a difference whether a beginner is first taught by a master.  He was the teacher of Josh Waitzkin and was depicted in the movie Searching for
IM Josh Waitzkin
Bobby Fischer.   He and Doug Bellizzi were involved in starting Chess in the Schools.  Originally Fan Adams had wanted to do something involving the Manhattan Chess Club and tournaments, but apparently Fan became disenchanted with adult chessplayers and decided to form Chess in the Schools instead.   Doug Bellizzi went on to form The Right Move, with patrons Norman Friedman and Fred Goldhirsch.  Bruce is responsible not only for a role in Chess in the Schools, but is also responsible for setting up some of the programs at private schools.

NTD Polly Wright
Two other NY based people who I think are worth mentioning are Alan Benjamin and Howard Prince.  Alan Benjamin was not only Joel's father,but he was also a history teacher.   He was heavily involved in USCF politics, and working with Bill Goichberg, and some of the other people who were involved in the area's chess activities in those days, such as Joe Lux, Sunil Weeramantry, and Polly Wright, he worked very consciously to popularize scholastic chess. 

Borough of Manhattan Community College
Howard Prince was a dean at Borough of
Manhattan Community College.  The college's chess team won the Pan Am Intercollegiate tournament several times.  He was one of the organizers of annual the Chess and Education conference.  A number of papers have been written on chess and education.  As someone who is trained in educational research, I can tell you that most papers on education are flawed.   When I was with Chess in the Schools for a year, I was very touched by some of the parents came forward to thank me.  They didn't thank me for teaching their kids chess, though they might have thanked me for that if I was a better chess teacher.  They were mainly concerned about their kids having nothing to do and having to play in the streets.

Back at the Marshall: Its all about Membership!

GM Hikaru Nakamura
I returned to the Marshall because I lived across the street from it, and my friend Ron Young was hired as one of the managers.  Soon after Steve Immitt was also brought in to run tournaments.  I served as treasurer and vice president.  I will cut to the chase and tell you what I think I learned:

Record Keeping:  Record keeping is incredibly important for two reasons:  1) The IRS requires it and 2) Its not the money of the officers or the managers or the board.  The assets belong to the members, so the members are entitled to know and control what it is being used for.  This is the responsibility of not just the managers or the treasurer, but all of the officers and all of the board.

There is a strong sense that all of the bookkeeping should be done by a professional bookkeeper.  This is wrong.  The administrators of the club will gain a great deal of insight by posting and reviewing the transactions themselves.

The main insight I gained is this:  Resident membership is the way to get the most money with the fewest strings attached.
Chess Instruction (the money issue):  A membership club is legally allowed to pursue any common purpose *except* making money or running a business.  While it may be possible to get around IRS regulations is to cheat the members, focusing on an activity because it is profitable for someone or other.  So I'm not saying an end to all chess instruction.  It just shouldn't be the force that guides the club.  In fact,
its a conflict of interest.

Public Service: If you've read my other posts, you know what I have to say about public services purposes.  In case you haven't, I will say it again:   In a chess club, we are always welcoming people of different backgrounds, ages, and socioeconomic status. We are always helping each other, and we are a community. Charity is different, much like hero-worship. Charity is more like we're great and you're small. We'll do something for you, but at the end of the day, we're still great and you're still small. We have community and you don't because we control you. We have you standing there with your hand out and your nose you-know-where.

Children:  Children pose special liability issues, and as I understand it, a child has already been injured.  Courts may not, by law, assign any responsibility for an accident to a child.  Juries award huge settlements when a child is injured.  Insurance companies are quite competent at ducking out on claims.  Other organizations in the chess field simply don't have assets such as ours to protect.  An accident to a child could happen to anyone, but it is the board's responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen at the club.

Property: This is something I actually learned from having my own apartment as a teenager.  People will try to take advantage: other landlords, tenants, homeless people, professionals, every imaginable type of freeloader.  It is the duty of the board to protect against this.

Now that I have said what I am against, this is what I am in favor of:   analysis, casual chess,  eating, grandmaster lectures, masters tournaments, music, private instruction, internationals, slow chess, socializing, speed chess, talking.

Stuart outright lied when he said that there was no money in the bank when Frank took over.  The bank has records to prove it.

As for the people at the club when I was around, and I am not pretending to take credit for the achievements of others:   Evan Rabin became a master.  Leif Pressman and Adam Maltese become FMs, Ilya Figler became an IM.  Marc Arnold became a GM.  Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura became world class players.

Do I wish we could have done more for them and for others?  Definitely so!  But we did the best with what we had.  Now chess is more popular, the building is fully at market rates, there is no competition in Manhattan, so we really should be able to do better.

There is a narrative that the club needs to be in the chess class business and be involved in all sorts of convoluted schemes in order to have things like grandmaster lectures and internationals.  Actually grandmaster lectures and internationals are not that expensive in terms of what things in the world cost.   I am happy that the club is having some grandmaster lectures and I think it could run more internationals quite easily.  Once you have a centrally located site, a basic norm tournament or many basic norm tournaments shouldn't be a big deal.


After things had gone bad at the Manhattan, I decided to see whether bughouse could be promoted the same as chess.  The short answer is that it can't be.  Many of the criticisms of bughouse are provably untrue.   But bughouse isn't played by as many people, and doesn't have the same roots in international culture.  The way it is played now is as a game of speed, which makes it unsuitable for older people.

There are a number of photos of top grandmasters playing bughouse.  I don't know how representative they are.   I do know that GM Lev Aronian is one of the top bughouse players.  All of the strong bughouse players I have met (not counting a very long time ago) are at least masters in chess.  For example:  Richard Francisco, Kazim Gulamali,  Peter Minear, Will Stewart, Dan Yeager.

As far as the use of bughouse educationally: it  teaches defense as well as attack.  Because there is so little literature about bughouse, it encourages creativity.  There is so much about it that isn't known or hasn't been written about.   It can be used to teach teamwork.

Now a little history:

Crazyhouse was invented before bughouse, a long time ago, before the invention of the chess clock.  It wasn't practical.  It was only devoted gaming geeks.   Originally it was called... bughouse.  Bughouse was originally called double bughouse, and it became popular among young chessplayers with the invention of the inexpensive analog chess clock.

Bughouse changed with availability of the cheap digital chess clocks.  Prior to that, you couldn't tell who was up on time unless the difference was large.  It seems to me that Bob Dodge and Wesley Ward were the ones who first worked up basic sitting strategies, though these days bughouse champions (and I don't mean this disrespectfully)  are better at chess
than they were.

The Manhattan Chess Club and Fan Adams

Dr Ginsburg at 55th Street Location
I enjoyed being a member of the Manhattan Chess Club.   It was like repeating my youth without the drugs.  I met many people who I would be friends with for many years.   My rating would go up to the mid 2100s.  I didn't know at the time that the club was already doomed, and like several other people, I would be used. 

It was at the Manhattan Chess Club that I played in the rapids against player such as GM Joel Benjamin, GM Max Dlugy, GM William Lombardy.  I've played one-on-one bughouse against GM Michael Rohde.  I have lived!

In the election where Fan Adams took over, proxies were allowed.  Strangely enough, I controlled the largest number of proxies, and I voted for him.  I was told that he would be good for the club because he was rich and generous.  I was fooled once. Some people are fooled over and over.

First let me say that Adams did a good thing founding Chess in the Schools.  Of course kids need to learn to read and do math more than anything, and that isn't going to happen as long as those activities are portrayed as punishments.  Kids need instruction that is fresh and lively as opposed to cold, dead, hated, over managed, and over centralized.  They need constructive afterschool activities for the time after school when their parents are still at work.

Manager Jeff Kastner, Future GM Joel Benjamin, President Moses Mitchell
That being said, Fan was never going to be good for the Manhattan Chess Club.  Its not the money.  Its the narcissism.  What such people hate about chess is how egalitarian it is.  Chess doesn't care about your background, age, sex, or economic circumstances.  Everyone starts out with the same pieces, and everyone alternates between Black and White.

Such people think that every organization should be a hierarchy, where there is a boss on top, his minions, and then everyone else.  There are other kinds of organizations that can work like this, but not a chess club.  People go to a chess club to relax, not to be bossed around or patronized.
NM Eric Cooke, 2002 Club Champion

I was on the board there briefly.  We did have financials, and it seems to me that the club was close to a state where it could have survived at Carnegie Hall or a similar location.  Instead of trying to figure out how to make ends meet, the board's main activity seemed to be banning people, to show everyone who the bosses were.  By moving to 46th Street, the club became subject to mortgage payments above its means, which ensured that Fan and his ilk would remain in control.

Mike Hehir vs OLM Larry Tarmakin

The Marshall also did better than the
Manhattan not because we had better employees.  It was because the board respected the expertise of people like Steve Immitt, Sophia Rohde, and Ron Young. The people who knew about chess were not second guessed and degraded.

The Manhattan eventually because a 501(c)(3).  This seems to be quite illegal, as a membership club is owned by its members and the 501(c)(3) is owned by the public, so there was a conversion of equity involved.

People like Adams don't understand a membership club, unless perhaps the other members are all like him.

Lewis Cullman
In a chess club, we are always welcoming people of different backgrounds, ages, and socioecon
omic status. We are always helping each other, and we are a community. Charity is different, much like hero-worship. Charity is more like we're great and you're small. We'll do something for you, but at the end of the day, we're still great and you're still small. We have community and you don't because we control you. We have you standing there with your hand out and your nose you-know-where.

At 46th Street there was the Cullman Room, which was supposed to be used by major donors and grandmasters, but it was seldom if ever used.  Donors of this type don't go to a chess club to play each other.  They go to a chess club to feel better than someone.  Of course grandmasters have patrons, but they are not going to be seen hawking their services like a hooker on the street.


Baruch College Chess Team

Baruch: Former Student Activities Building
While in the graduate program at Baruch, I joined the chess team.  The only one who I knew previous from the Marshall was Tony Lee.  If you're ever in a rut and its possible to do so, you might find a college, especially a large college can give you some opportunities.  I was amazed that the college was willing to send multiple teams to Pan Ams in Kitchener Ontario and Columbus, Ohio.

Howard Prince (Right)

This was before Howard Prince's killer BMCC teams, but CUNY had some quite good teams.  I think it shows that attending an Ivy League school may correlate with intelligence to some degree, but by no means absolutely.

GM Maurice Ashley

I think Brooklyn had Mark Kurtzman and maybe John Herbst.  City College had an extemely strong team with Maurice Ashley, Ron Simpson, Steve Colding, and Jones Murphy.

Baruch had four masters, though possibly not at the same time:  Ron Young, Bruce Bowyer, Murray Schechter and Gideon Goetz.  We also had Tony Lee, Pete DiTuri, Andrew Longo, Jeff Delgado, and David Hee.

Pete DiTuri
Pete DiTuri, who was an officer of the Baruch College Chess Club for four years and president for two years recalls:

"...John Herbst was an alternate or Board 4 on Brooklyn College's team. I also recall Joel Benjamin as Board 1 for Yale in the early '80s. The Baruch College A team that finished 8th overall in the '80 PanAm in Atlanta: Gideon Goetz, Murray Schechter, Mark Tolliver and Fyodor Tsiporin, with Anthony Lee as alternate. The B team finished second in the 1600-1800 bracket in '80: David Hee, Andrew Longo, Martin McDowell and me. I think you first played for Baruch in the '82 PanAm in Columbus..."

ACM World Computer Chess Championship, 1983

Computer Chess Championship, 1983
I don't remember how I got involved with the ACM World Computer Chess Championship.  I remember I was in a graduate program in Computer Methodology.

I volunteered for the local arrangements committee.  I was in charge of transmitting the names of the participants to the people in ACM who were doing the brochure.  One of the participants was Belle, the program Ken Thompson and Joe Condon created at Bell Labs.  I actually got a call from ACM asking whether his name was really Joe Condom.  It wasn't.

I was in charge of the setup for the room, including where the platform, the computers and the programmers would be positioned, and what outlets and phone lines would be needed.  Most of the participants were run on mainframe computers at remote locations.

FWCGM Botvinnik
FWCGM Mikhail Botvinnik was to attend the tournament.  Shortly before, the Soviets had downed an airliner, and the committee (who had no idea who he was) was seriously considering disinviting him.  I told them that he was a human rights activist, and that he might be planning to defect.  People in chess told me that this was ridiculous, but I didn't want him to be disinvited.   When he came, he sat most of the time, he sat with a very large man, presumable a bodyguard, and they discussed the games in Russian.

I was in charge of getting volunteers to do the demonstration boards.  Bruce Pandolfini helped me by getting my some volunteer
NM Bruce Bowyer
s from the Manhattan Chess Club.  One of these volunteers was Bruce Bowyer.  One time I called him "Brucie" inadvertently.  He told me that if anyone called him "Brucie" twice, he would kick their ass.  I tried it to see whether it was true, and he literally kicked my ass.   That was how he was.  Despite that, we were friends for many years.  He was a Libertarian, and he was a most intelligent spokesman for that school of thought.

I met many people from the Manhattan Chess Club.  I don't remember clearly, who I first met there or at some other occasion.  I would say:   Peter Arden, Bruce Bowyer, John Herbst, Mark Kalvin, Chris Negado, John Papazian, Michael Pustilnik, and Ted Vialet.

This led to my joining the Manhattan Chess Club.  More on that shortly.

The Aftermath

WCGM Fischer, IA Bill Goichberg
In the aftermath of throwing Goichberg's tournaments out, the club was almost dead.  Most of the old people had already left, and Goichberg took the tournament players with him.  Another problem was the board.  It seemed that Goldwater was unwilling to approve any dynamic scheme that might backfire, and the board was unwilling to overrule him because they expected him to leave the club money.

Though I wasn't around at the time, I heard that during Finkelstein's administration, the club almost exchanged the building for that of a nearby synagogue.  The latter had only one floor, no tenants, and hardly any place to put tenants.   I think this would have been a serious mistake because tenants subsidize the upkeep of the premises.

Conservative Synagogue of Fifth Avenue
There was a right-wing nut at the club named Robert Cohen.  He threatened me and assaulted Nick Fitzgerald.  Fortunately, Jordan Auerbach got on the Board and led the fight to throw him out.

Doug Bellizzi became the Night Manager, and there was at least some activity with the rapids.
  It was during this time that Zilber was playing in the rapids.  He was a bit smelly, but a terrific speed player.  Even though both of the games in Tal's book were his losses, he beat Tal twice.

NM Peter Winston
One of the rapids was the last time I saw Peter Winston.  Winston, Regan, and Rohde were considered the top players in our age group (Fedorowicz starting playing a couple of years later than them).  Anyhow, at this occassion, Winston seemed drugged, as if on psychiatric medication.  He allowed me chances in the game that he normally would not have, and he actually dropped a piece on the floor.

Around that time, I decided to stay away from chess and concentrate on my education.  But in a few years I would get involved in the World Computer Chess Championship, the Baruch College Chess Team, and the Manhattan Chess Club.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Directing for Goichberg

WCGM Fischer; IA Goichberg (Right)
I had been helping Goichberg for awhile, in a sort of minimal way, posting results in exchange for free entries.  So when Goichberg decided to run tournaments at the Marshall, he decided to hire me as one of his directors.  The other director was Martin Jacowitz.  More on that later.

We would always get a full house at these tournaments.  There were quads, Swisses, and Bill even ran a Swiss International!  People don't like to admit it, but tournaments mean something to many of them.  They take them for granted when they are plentiful and are unhappy when they are unavailable.

Sidney Bernstein
The tournaments went smoothly.  Only one incident sticks in my mind.  During one of the tournaments, Sidney Bernstein's wife had a seizure.  Karl Burger refused to examine her, but fortunately another doctor who was in the tournament helped her.  Dr. Burger was eventually convicted on drug charges and sentence to prison.  How could a doctor be so stupid?  Another chessplayer from that era who went to prison was lawyer Ron Salzer, who was convicted of stealing from his client's estates.

Goichberg also hired me to direct a section at the World Open.  Another director that year was Hal Bogner.  Recently, Harold Stenzel said that I made a ruling on one of his games.  Actually I made an incorrect ruling at first, but then corrected it.   In those days pairings were done with cards instead of computers.  During the tournam
Hal Bogner
ent someone stole my cards and I had to reconstruct them from the wallchart.

At the Marshall, Marty and myself played a few times in each others tournaments.  One day Marty took me down to the Gills, and after the usual procedure demanded that next time, I give him White the first round.  I was kind of put off by that.  Marty wanted my job at the Marshall and he wanted to direct all the tournaments.  I just wanted to get away from him.
Roosevelt Hotel

Because of that I backed out of a large scholastic tournament where I had agreed to work for Goichberg.  Goichberg never hired me again, but I met with him and Marty at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Goichberg told Marty to shake hands and make up with me.  Marty refused and told Goichberg it was none of his business.  Goichberg said it was his business, because he was the one who decided who to hire to direct tournaments, so Marty had to shake hands with me.

He made a lot of enemies by allegedly absconding with people's USCF dues and stealing the NYS Championship Cup.   He came back to the Marshall years later and said he was a different man.  When people asked him to pay them the money he owed them, he said he didn't have to, because he was a different man.

Jerry Bibuld (Right)
The Delegate's Meeting of 1979 which was the only one I attended as a Delegate was uneventful, so I think I can tag it on here.  The first day was mostly taken up by a filibuster.  The second day was a little better, but the only real  event was when Jerry Bibuld stormed out of the meeting saying that there was only one person there (FM
Sunil Weeramantry) whose skin was darker than his.

My First Stint on the Marshall Board

Marshall Chess Club
I have been on the Marshall Board at least three times.  Long ago I was in a triple role.  I was on the board, a club employee, and running tournaments for Goichberg at the club.

The first time I ran for the board, I lost.  But as far as I know there was no animosity.   They needed volunteers.  The only person I think really didn't like me was Dr. Finkelstein.  During the voting I was standing near John Collins, and one of his sisters reminded him to hide his ballot.  We all vote for people we know, or probably should.

I volunteered for the tournament committee.  The head of the committee was Gary Sperling.  We didn't have any meetings, but I volunteered to run the Prelims and the Club Championship, which in those days would go on for many weeks.  Eventually Bill Slater came to trust me and he would hire me to substitute for himself or other managers.

It was around then that I met Ginny Hoffmann (then Ginny D'Amico) who is one of my very best friends.
Peter Sepulveda and Ginny Hoffmann

Before I got elected to the Board, Kathryn Slater told me, "Don't repeat anything you hear at the board meetings.  The people on the board are very experienced."

They didn't seem as fanatic about it as they are now.  There were a few scams going on at the time, but I was too naive to figure them out.  Also there is always an inner board and an outer board.  If you don't know which board you're on, you're on the outer board.

NM John Collins

Before I went into the board meeting for the first time, Gary Sperling told me, "Welcome to the den of thieves!"  Actually, despite what some current board members say about me, I don't think that highly of myself.  And I don't think the situation was that bad at the time.

As members we were happy.  We had friends.  We had speed chess. We had tournaments.  We had the Gills.  Who could ask for anything more?

But there was a sense of desperation on the board.  As a member of the outer board I didn't know the specifics, but they had many competitors at that time, and the building was rent stabilized with very low rents.  One major decision they made was to invite Goichberg's tournaments in.  It was probably the right decision, but they did it very reluctantly.

IA Bill Goichberg
I will talk about my roles as manager and Goichberg employee elsewhere.  The club has had a number of incarnations, and it was divided then as it is now.

Old people like to have the same routine every day.  They didn't want to come on the days when there were big tournaments and not come on the days when there were no big tournaments.  Some members of the old guard were against having a "commercial" activity at the club altogether.  At the same time there were robberies.  We still don't know who committed them.

Eventually the board voted to throw Goichberg's tournaments out.  I voted to do so because I was no longer working for Goichberg, and I thought it was what my employers at the club wanted.  That was a bit of conflict of interest.

The result was devastating to the club.  Many of the old people had left and never came back.  Goichberg opened up his own club on 14th Street and took all of the tournament players with him.  I will get into the devastation more later.

Bob Dylan
While I had gained some experience in directing tournaments and other chessclub duties, I got sick of all my roles.  I resigned from them and went to visit my friend Rafael in Minnesota.  When I got back, I resumed my role on the board.  Some people asked how I was able to get back on the board without an election, but the president, Goldwater, said I had shown initiative by going back on the board and no one wanted to contradict him because they thought he was going to leave the club a lot of money.  Happens all the time!


Rochester Chess Center
So I was trying to get recognition in the various organizations that existed: CCA, Marshall, NYSCA and USCF.  FIDE was not so important locally in those days.

An editor of the NYSCA magazine, Howard Simms said that I was just trying to get my name on everything.  There was some truth to that, but I was always willing to do work in exchange.

NYSCA Chess Congress 1926
I went to a few NYSCA meetings.  I liked traveling to Albany where they used to be held, but my allergies were always terrible around that time of year.

I met a couple of people who I would hear from again: Ed Frumkin and Ron Lohrman who later operated the Rochester Chess Center.  I would correspond with him years later when I was promoting bughouse.

Ron Lohrman
I volunteered to be the clearinghouse director.  That meant I would do a calendar of upcoming events with the idea of avoiding conflicts, mainly for upstate New York.  I corresponded with a number of people who I never met.  I think I did a good job for awhile, but eventually I lost interest in it and someone else took it over.

In those days the president of NYSCA appointed the USCF Delegates.

This is very hard to admit, but I was unhappy the first time Alan Benjamin was appointed instead of me.  He did infinitely more for chess, but at the time, to my knowledge, he hadn't done it yet, and I didn't know why he was being appointed.  I didn't become from friendly with him until the Manhattan Chess Club had been destroyed.  We both wanted very much to prevent that.  I feel bad he didn't live a much longer life.

One time the president of NYSCA was Robert Nassiff.  I got him to appoint me as a Delegate even though I don't think the downstate (NYC area) people wanted me appointed.

In retrospect I think the appointment of USCF Delegates was an is fairly democratic.  My impression is that so few people vote that one person can make a difference.   I think I'm going to vote in the USCF election for the first time this year.  The registration process seems a little more complicated than it should be.  There are organizations where I would worry about voter fraud, but not USCF or NYSCA.