Thursday, October 21, 2021

In Memorium

 I have written and display pictures of Larry Tamarkin on Facebook, but here I would like to list all of the NYC Chess Players who met an untimely death.  Say their names.  May their memories be a blessing. I suggest that we are a community, with a past and a future.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is beneath contempt.

I may be criticized for adding someone you don't like or someone you consider too peripheral.  They are all part of our common history.

Bill Adam

Bruce Albertson

Bob Ali

Alan Benjamin

Bruce Bowyer

Steve Brandwein

Leslie Braun

GM Walter Browne

Scott Chiaet

Billy Colias

Nick Conticello

Robert Feldstein

IM Ilya Figler

WC GM Robert Fischer

Will Fisher

Victor Frias

Nagib Gebran

Curtis Gibson

Robert Gruchacz

Wesley Hellner

Peter Henner

Martin Jacowitz

IA Carol Jareki

Susan Kantor

Erez Klein

Danny Kopek

Ed Kopieki

Edward LaMarca

Mikhail Layevsky

Vincent Livermore

GM William Lombardy

Brian McCarthy

GM.Edmar Mednis

Kalev Pehme

Robert Peretz

Paul Pressman

Boris Privman

Peter Roberts

Charu Robinson

Ronald Salzer

Eric Schiller

Jerry Simon

Ronald Simpson

Larry Tamarkin

Peter Winston

Jerry Yellen

Israel Zilber

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Marshall 2021

People laugh at me when I say that the Marshall Chess Club is basically a social organization.   Maybe they're right.  That is its legal status, and that is what the founders intended.  There wasn't any other purpose that was conceived at the time.  Yes, the patrons wanted to support GM Marshall, but there was something in it for them too.  I've been a member for about half of the club's lifespan, but I still don't know for certain.

As far as I know, the club's Board of Governors always informally consisted of an inner board and an outer board.  But in the past the inner board had people with different backgrounds from each other.  There were lines of communication from the ordinary member to the leaders.  There were no purges on the board.  There were one or two bad apples who were sent on their way, but there was no attempt to make the board or the membership culturally consistent.  Our leaders were strong men and women who didn't become hysterical at a little constructive criticism.  The politburo of today would be considered ridiculous.

They were people who understood the true benefit of chess, which is to bring different people together.  Not just men and women, black and white, straight and gay, but people who are intellectually, economically, or temperamentally different.

The idea that anyone could come off the street and become a chess club official or a tournament director seemed ridiculous.  We elected people who we had known for years as officers, people who loved the organization for what it was.  The USCF rules that allow anyone to easily become a tournament director were intended for remote places where rigorous internships weren't possible, not one of most prestigious chess clubs in the world.

The club's tax status is 501c7, as a social club, is a very valuable and wonderful tax exemption.  I understand something about it growing up and growing old in one, and having been taught by my elders.  Most organizations wish they were 501c7.  A 501c7 needs a group of somewhat friendly members with a somewhat common purpose.  A 501c7 does not have to own property, but it cannot be desperate for money either.  That last part is what the problem usually is.

Anyhow I am definitely not running for office in the club, and I don't know the people who are.  I will refrain from attacking anyone by name.  It isn't necessary.  In fact forget everything I have said.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Walter Goldwater

Mr. Walter Goldwater

I first joined the Marshall Chess Club at the height of the Fischer boom.  The president of the club was  Walter_Goldwater.    I wouldn't attempt a biography, but to give you an idea of his scholarly achievements, he was the founder of the Walter Goldwater Radical Pamphlet Collection  at UC Davis.

He was said to be a millionaire.  He maintained power as club president mainly because some of the board members thought he would leave the club money.  That did not happen when he died of leukemia in 1985.   He had a long administration.   Not only did he maintain the presidency, but his employee Bill French had an apartment in the building.  If it was free or below market, I don't know for certain.

Future IA William Goichberg observing as
GM Robert Fischer plays in Havana tournament at
rear center window of the Marshall Chess Club.  
Towards the end of his administration, many of the younger players had left for Bill Goichberg's establishment, The Bar Point, which later became Steve Immitt's Chess Center of New York.  Most of the earlier patrons had left the Marshall, had died or had been driven out by the rambunctious Fischer Era players.  But it could not be said that no one wanted the to be president.  Two who served on the Board with Mr. Goldwater -- Dr Milton Finkelstein and Mr. Gary Sperling went on to become club president.

Mr. Goldwater was an anarchist.  I had no knowledge of his scholarly achievements at the time.  This assessment is based on conversations with him while on his Board and while working as an assistant manager.  One time I resigned from the Board, and months later I changed my mind and just started going to meetings again.  He defended me saying I showed initiative by putting myself back on the Board. 
GM William Lombardy

It was during Mr. Goldwater's presidency that board members were first nominated from the floor rather than the Nominating Committee. First there Alex Sheldon and then myself, being the youngest board member up to that time.  Anyone who thought the club was ever a democracy is mistaken.  The election are generally controlled by those already on the board. Also there has always been an inner board, generally the officers, who make most decisions.  And then there is outer board which mainly deals with decisions the inner board doesn't want to be blamed for.  I got to be treasurer and then vice president under presidents Prince, Grogan and MacArthur.  Believe me, I walked without a sound.

Mr. Johnny Marks:  Marshall
Governor, and author of
Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer

Being an anarchist didn't mean that anything goes. Once Goldwater told me that I could be president after he died.  I thought he meant that I could be president.  He actually meant that there was no fucking way I would be president while he was alive.  Some of the young people (now middle aged people) used to hang out, drink, smoke pot, and play Diplomacy in the basement.  It is said that there were cases where people actually lived at the club  (for example Israel Zilber, the first opponent in Tal's game collection).  These are different times, and whoever the president is, the basement will stay locked.    I now have to thank Mr. Goldwater for what I took fore granted, how he protected us for so long against overly authoritarian presidents.

GM Samuel Reshevsky

Dr. Chasin is not our first architect president.  Leon Haft was an architect.  He designed the nocturnal animal house at the Bronx Zoo.  He did some good things and some bad things like most people who do things.   He was one of several presidents who kicked me out of the office, but he made up with me the last time I saw him.   GM Sammy Reshevsky also kicked me out of the office, and it was my office at the time!   Anyhow the many international tournaments that Leon organized with GM Lombardy were great.  Their two "arm" tournament format was so successful at getting titles, that FIDE eventually banned it.  He also modified the apartments in the building to end rent stabilization.   Believe it or not, there was a time when the club had to lend the building money.   Leon's effort is largely responsible for putting the club on sustainable footing.

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!