Friday, July 3, 2009

The Other Side of the Story

GM Susan Polgar, former Women's World Chess Champion

As the US Chess Federation annual election approaches, petty politics dominate the scene once again. There have been mailings and Internet posts galore advocating one stance or another. I purposely distanced myself from USCF politics long ago and am content to be "an ordinary chess player" again. It's what's best for my stress level.

I don't have an opinion on any of the candidates running for election. But I DO have an opinion about one of the existing board members who has been subject to relentless political attacks in recent months: Susan Polgar. I have come to know her as a person of integrity that has always put the best interests of the game of chess and its advancement in society at the top of her agenda. As a result, I feel compelled to do my part in telling the other side of the story.

The following is reprinted from a June article on courtesy of Susan Polar's chess blog entitled "The Dirty Hidden Truth":

"How could a national organization, an organization which claims that it has no money to do many things for the benefit of chess and its members, afford to spend $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 or perhaps even more than $1,000,000 in legal fees for political purposes? How could a national organization, an organization which at one time had annual revenues over $6 million, sink this low? Finally, how can we fix the problems, to make things better, when the problems are being hidden and kept secret from the membership at large?

One of the key problems is the structure of the organization itself. It is very difficult to implement sound changes when the leadership is so far behind understanding the rapidly changing business world. If we do not understand our customers and do not offer what they want, we are doomed to fail. So many chess politicians have hung around for decades doing everything imaginable to grab and hold on to their power. Some have done this for three, four or even five decades.

Why? For some, it is very lucrative. For others, they are addicted to power. Many care more about their personal, financial and political agenda than the welfare of chess, the USCF and its members.

Many of my friends, including 3-time U.S. Champion Grandmaster Lev Alburt, have warned me about the dirty and vicious chess politics. I know that it is not easy to make positive changes. However, if no one is willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for the members, how can things get better?

... My experience on the USCF Executive Board in the past two years is like a mirror image of what GM Alburt said, except a lot worse. I am not a chess politician and I have no desire to get involved in the filthy disgusting world of chess politics. I did not want the failed status quo to continue. My sole intention was and is to help chess and the USCF.

In the past two years, instead of working with me and helping me promote chess to benefit our entire sport, some of these chess politicians have spread the most outrageous and vicious rumors and lies, trying to destroy my reputation, my employment at Texas Tech University, and my family. They even stooped so low as to use my children (who are only 8 and 10) as one of their targets.

Knowing that I am a one of the biggest advocates for scholastic chess in this country, especially for girls, some of these people spewed out the disgustingly offensive rumor that my husband and I were child abusers. They claimed that we abused my children and we even forced them to consume hot sauce. This sort of despicable thing made its way to the internet and even made its way to my employer Texas Tech University as well as to sponsors and potential sponsors. This outrageous lie was even tossed around within the USCF leadership as a way to pressure my husband and me to resign from the board even though they knew that it was false.

There were countless remarks and postings telling my husband and me to go “back to where we came from.” Some said this is the United States Chess Federation and not the United Nations Chess Federation, and a foreigner had no business running the USCF, while others were openly discussed ways to deport me back to my native Hungary although I have been an American citizen for a number of years and both my children were born in the U.S.

Ironically, the USCF and some board members have continued to deny that they have had anything to do with this despicable conduct, but their own attorney made sure to demand that I show proof that I am in the U.S. legally and if I “hot-sauced” my children in the past!? Outrageous, but true! Coincidence? You decide.

Some called me a “whore,” “bitch” and worse, with words that are not appropriate to print. They even created a public website about this. I informed the USCF and its board members, but they chose to ignore this and do nothing. Instead of investigating such vile and despicable conduct, the USCF and the board majority spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating us!

To support their agenda, misleading and one-sided information was published in Chess Life, the USCF website, in mailings and to the email list so I would have no opportunity to respond or correct the record...

It is a tough battle fighting "the system". But it is a fight that all USCF members must take on to save what's left of this federation. Some of the same people have chased away so many good sponsors, volunteers and even members for years by attacking and destroying them so they can keep control of this federation.

If they can do this to me and my family, they will not spare anyone standing in their way. The USCF will not survive financially much longer if this trend of destruction continues. They have damaged the USCF enough. It is time to bring in professionals to fix and rebuild this federation. Please help me get the word out. Thank you!

Susan Polgar"

In the 38 years that I have been a life member of the USCF, I have never been more appalled as to the lack of knowledge of the USCF leadership concerning the meaning of "fiduciary responsibility." I echo Susan's sentiments as expressed on and reprinted above. I have personally felt the effects of the USCF negative politics, but this is not about me. I recommend that you look to Susan's blog and web site for her recommendations on the coming USCF Executive Board elections.