HomeLearn to Play ChessImprove Your GameChess HistoryChess for FunChess Blog

Issues on the Chess Table
The 2007 USCF Executive Board Election

[Part 1 :] An Important Time for the USCF

(May 2007) Good chess players don't necessarily make good politicians. We could give numerous examples and have often wondered why it should be so. Chess is, after all, a war game, and there are certain similarities between the art of war and the art of politics.

Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, provided some insight into this subject. In 2006, Davis was criticized by none other than Garry Kasparov for his support of Russian membership in the Council of Europe, which Kasparov took for support of President Vladimir Putin. Davis replied in a letter to the Financial Times, 'Chess is a game in which there are two opponents, and everything is black and white. Politics and international affairs are different, but this important distinction is unfortunately ignored by Kasparov'.

Chess is black and white, but politics isn't. Many chess player/politicians can't understand the difference.

There are signs everywhere that chess is gaining in popularity in America. Although it may never achieve the mainstream acceptance accorded to less intellectual activities, that isn't necessary for the game to thrive. It is enough that a few of the best chess talents in the country can earn a comfortable living from their professional chess activities, and not have to pursue another profession to have the same material comforts as everyone else.

Scholastic chess is booming. Only a few short years ago, we had trouble finding scholastic success stories for our regular 'Chess for All Ages' features. Now we have trouble whittling them down to a reasonable number.

The USCF had a close encounter with financial disaster in 2003. Drastic action by then USCF President Beatriz Marinello was needed to avoid the collapse of America's top chess organization. Strong leadership was required. Now that the USCF is back on its feet -- a new look for its flagship Chess Life magazine and for its web site are proof -- strong leadership will be required to position it in the future.

Every two years the USCF has a scheduled election for its top oversight committee, the Executive Board (EB). Since 2003, almost all USCF members have been able to vote in EB elections. The 2007 election is a bit different than previous elections, both for the quality of the candidates and for the size of the issues facing the organization.

[Part 2 :] Current Status

The current Executive Board: The May 2007 issue of Chess Life lists the names, positions, and coordinates of the current Executive Board.

  • President • Bill Goichberg
  • Vice President • Don Schultz
  • VP Finance • Joel Channing
  • Members at Large • Beatriz Marinello, Randall Hough, and Sam Sloan

The candidates for this year's election (in alphabetical order):

  • Randy Bauer
  • Jim Berry
  • Mike Goodall
  • Stephen Jones
  • Mikhail Korenman
  • Joe Lux
  • Susan Polgar
  • Don Schultz
  • Sam Sloan
  • Paul Truong

The list presents an unusually well qualified set of candidates, although all have their pluses and minuses. Each candidate received space to make a statement in the USCF's Chess Life for the months of April, May, and June. The 30 statements may be found on President Goichberg's web site Checkmate.US (see the sidebar).

[Part 3] : Background

The governing structure of the USCF: From the USCF's page describing its 'Executive Board':

The USCF Executive Board (EB) manages the affairs of the Federation, including employment and other contracts, between meetings of the Board of Delegates and performs other duties as specified in the Bylaws. The Executive Board consists of seven National Officers elected for staggered terms of four years, plus the Executive Director serves as a non-voting member. The EB generally meets four times per year, and also conducts business by teleconference and by email.

Recent Elections: The last regular EB election was held in July 2005. Goichberg, Greg Shahade, Channing, and Robert Tanner were elected to four year terms. Shahade was required to resign his seat in January 2006, when his sister Jennifer was hired by the USCF as Web Editor, a position she still holds. Tanner resigned his seat in December 2006, following a controversy about his chess qualifications.

A special election was held in July 2006 to replace Shahade and Tim Hanke, who was elected in 2003, but resigned after the election in 2005. Hough was elected for a three year term, replacing Shahade. Sloan was elected for a one year term, replacing Hanke.

The 2007 election is for the seats of the three members elected to four year terms in 2003 -- Marinello, Sloan (who replaced Hanke), and Schultz -- plus the seat vacated by Tanner, which has two years left in its term. The three candidates receiving the highest number of votes will serve four year terms. The candidate placed fourth will serve for two years.

[Part 4 :] Polgar's Slate

One of the features making the 2007 election unusually interesting is the candidacy of GM Susan Polgar. Mrs. Polgar is one-third of the famous chess playing Polgar sisters, a former Women's World Champion, an active organizer for scholastic chess (particularly for girls), a mother of two children, and a blogger who posts 10-15 items per day on her personal chess blog. Not since the heyday of Bobby Fischer have Americans seen such a strong chess personality with such an intense devotion to the game.

Polgar announced her candidacy in December 2006, along with a 'slate' consisting of Truong, Bauer, and Korenman (see I WILL run for the 2007 USCF Executive Board) with the words, 'I love chess and I cannot stand what some chess politicians have done to US Chess and the USCF. We HAVE to do better!'

In May 2007, she announced her marriage to Truong. The announcement took many observers by surprise.

[Part 5 :] Goichberg's Choices

Bill Goichberg may not have Polgar's pedigree, but his devotion to chess is no less. For more than 40 years, he has been organizing chess tournaments across the United States. He claims to have organized events in 27 different states. Thousands of American chess players have depended on Goichberg's Continental Chess Association (founded 1968) for means and motivation.

Goichberg is a National Tournament Director and a FIDE Arbiter. He was a long time member of the USCF Policy Board (the precursor of the Executive Board until 1999), USCF Executive Director in 2004, President of the New York State Chess Association, and captain of the U.S. Olympiad team in 1976.

USCF President since 2005, Goichberg has taken exception to Polgar's constant, blanket criticism of today's USCF. His web site supports the candidacies of Berry, Jones, Lux, and Schultz; 'if for any reason you don't wish to vote for one of them, [Bauer] would be a good choice'.

Of Polgar he says on his web site, 'I had intended to support Susan as she is a celebrity who has worked hard to promote chess, especially among girls, and her contacts might be valuable. However, I am very disappointed in the quality of her campaign, which is mostly a nonstop attack on USCF with little explanation of why.'

[Part 6:] Where It Stands

The About Chess choices: At About Chess, we have an interest in the future of chess in general, and the future of American chess in particular. We like and appreciate what both Susan Polgar and Bill Goichberg have done for the game in the United States. It pains us that they are at loggerheads in this election.

We also realize that Truong is the marketing and promotional mastermind behind Polgar's media success. While his efforts have been concentrated on his good friend (now spouse), rather than on the broad community of professional chess players, we feel that he should be given the opportunity to work his media magic for the benefit of all USCF members.

We don't like 'slates'. It isn't healthy to have four people with different backgrounds and objectives band together to create a 4-3 voting majority on a seven member board. For this reason, we prefer to look at what the other eight candidates have done for the good of chess.

After having spent some time learning about the candidates, our choices for election to the USCF Executive Board are Polgar, Truong, Bauer, and Schultz. Bauer has a financial background and already served on the EB for one year, when he was elected to replace a member who resigned after the 2003 election. Schultz is a long time insider who knows everything and everybody connected to chess politics.

A fifth choice: Many organizations have rules against married couples working together. Although this is not an issue with the USCF, we are certain that it is an issue for some USCF members. Some of the traditional arguments against married couples are that

  • They might collude for their own interests.
  • Their personal life might spill into their public decisions.
  • They might both resign at the same time.

For this reason, we support Jim Berry as a backup choice. He and his brother Frank recently organized the 2007 U.S. Championship, saving it when the previous sponsor pulled out. This good deed is worth another.

Join the Discussion

Political Sites

USCF Governance