October 10th, 2003

abstract butterfly

Paying dues, being there.

"There's a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own from which no man can keep Candy safe"
--Springsteen song

Lately I think of how hard it is to help anyone with anything. No defeat succeeds as well as self-defeat. My new Chess Life Magazine came in yesterday, a much thinner issue than usual, telling stories of stark financial trouble for the US Chess Federation, which has been around since 1939. For years, now, dissident groups have filled the internet with attacks on this volunteer-driven non-profit. The attacks always seem to resemble debates of alternative cosmology within something like the Flat Earth Society--they start with reasonable issues, and soon degenerate into conspiracy theories more complex than the JFK/UFO Trilateral League by way of Havana theory. The real story, of course, is a matter of economics and "business model"--it's usually a good idea to take in more money than one pays out, and to encourage people to actually enjoy hosting and playing in tournaments, instead of foregoing paying dues, and just going to an internet chess server and playing 5 minute chess from one to two thirty in the morning. Also, it's probably a good idea to focus on people who really love chess, play chess, and pay dues, instead of worrying about how to cater to people who feel that chess owes them a living merely because they are talented (so many times in life, I find I owe people things merely,they tell me, because they are more talented than I am). But it's so much easier to "help" with nostrums from the outside, than it is to run a chess tournament, or help a worthy thing stay worthy.

But my topic tonight is not "should the USCF sell more chess books?" but rather the sheer difficulty of helping anyone change about anything.

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