USCF SIGNS GAMES PARLOR CONTRACT
We have learned that on May 10, USCF Executive Director George De Feis signed an agreement for a new two year contract extension with online play provider Games Parlor, the operator of US ChessLive. The Games Parlor arrangement, which had replaced a USCF deal with the Internet Chess Club under which the federation made about $30,000 per year profit, has been under fire for costing USCF $100,000 or more per year.
A majority of the USCF Executive Board apparently believes that the Games Parlor expense is worth it for USCF because providing free online play will promote membership. However, the federation's downward adult membership trend has been virtually unchanged since the debut of US ChessLive more than nine months ago, despite extensive Chess Life publicity at USCF expense.
This was a highly controversial issue, and once again the Board majority and office have acted without consulting the Delegates, who meet at Framingham, MA in less than three months. Both the Delegates and the new Board, which takes office at the same time, are now saddled with two more years of a contract that will probably continue to result in huge financial losses, with little in the way of membership gains as compensation. According to the USCF bylaws, "The Board of Delegates is responsible for the management of the USCF," but this Board has made one critical decision after another without Delegate input. Here are three other such cases:
1) The enormous increase in Tournament Life fees was actually typeset for Chess Life in August 2000, the time the Board of Delegates met at St. Paul, yet that body was neither notified nor consulted. Worse still, the USCF President and Vice President, who were not part of the ruling clique of Redman, Pechac, Barry and Warren, were also neither notified nor consulted. Had the Delegates known of the planned hikes, a motion preventing them would surely have resulted. The increases were cut back somewhat after implementation due to the resulting outcry, but the Delegates are likely to bring them down a lot more in August.
2) The Board received a report from the "DDDE Committee" in May 2000 recommending that an activity points or "fiddle points" gimmick be added to the rating system. The Ratings Committee opposed this unanimously, and committee member Tom Doan successfully programmed a committee plan including bonus points instead, so when no one mentioned "DDDE" at St. Paul, it was assumed the idea was not under consideration. But it appears that the Board majority was only waiting until Delegate disapproval was impossible for another year, as fiddle points were approved in October. Subsequently after much controversy they were rescinded without implementation, but only after the members were told they were in effect.
3) The Board majority enacted a fundamental change in a critical area in January when it voted to reduce USCF's book and equipment inventory to "basic items," a bewildering decision because book and equipment sales have always been profitable, even during the recent years of large overall financial losses. The federation had 300 book titles in its inventory not long ago, but now is in the process of reducing this number to about 45, and cutting back equipment sales as well. At the last EB meeting, VP of Finance Jim Pechac supported this change, saying that the plan was to vigorously promote the remaining titles, but how many customers will USCF lose because they wish to deal with a supplier that offers a greater variety? Players are not going to bother buying "basic items" from USCF and other items elsewhere, they will buy everything elsewhere, and vigorous promotion may not be cost effective. Discounts on a wide variety of books and equipment have long been an important membership benefit, and it is incredible that the Board majority would severely cut back this profitable program without Delegate approval.
On August 12, the alliance of Redman, Pechac, Barry and Warren will be history. Redman is not running, and the electors are not likely to show such poor judgment as to give Pechac another chance. But how much more damage will this group do to the federation in its final three months?