SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Mike Goodall (1946-2010)
Mike Goodall was an International Arbiter, avid tournament player and a tireless organizer in the San Francisco area. He passed away this past October 5th, at age 64, after a long illness. Mike brought the US Championship to the Bay area no less than 3 times and was a benefactor of both the USCF and the Chess Journalists of America. The USCF gave Mike the Outstanding Career Achievement Award in 1991.
I could write much more of his many achievements and contributions to California’s chess community, but it is enough to say that he was held in great reverence by those who knew him well. Mike was a modest man at heart.
Sam Sloan needs no introduction to my readers. An energetic individual with a unique style of expressing himself and fearless advocate of the underdog. (Sam once took on the US Supreme Court and won!) Both loved and hated in the USCF, Sam recently wrote on his blog of his friendship with the late Mike Goodall and of their mutual problems with the USCF power structure. I decided to copy the entire article here because it is really entertaining and transmits Sam’s heartfelt emotions. (note: the photos are not part of the original article)
Tragedy of the USCF
November 26, 2010
My very best friend in the whole wide world, Mike Goodall, died in San Rafael, California on October 5, 2010. When I learned of his death, I was over in Khanty-Mansiysk in Siberia in Russia where the World Chess Olympiad had just concluded.
I could not really mourn Mike’s death, because I knew that Mike had been sick for a long time. Mike used to like to list on his fingers all the diseases he had. He had cancer, diabetes, heart disease and that was only the beginning of the long list of his illnesses. He first found out how seriously ill he was when he was driving to the 2006 US Open Chess Championship in Chicago and it seemed that he fell asleep at the wheel. His car ran off the road and crashed. He was lucky to survive. Much later, it was found out that this car crash was caused by heart trouble, not by tiredness.
After that, Mike started chemotherapy regularly. Occasionally, Mike got so discouraged by the painful process and lack of progress that he almost wanted to give up and die. Nevertheless, Mike was determined to hang on and last as long as he possibly could.
Just before his death, I asked him what he wanted me to say in his obituary. He replied that he had not been an important person so there was no need to say anything about him.
However, Mike Goodall certainly was an important person to me and to many other chess players. I cannot tell you how many times Mike Goodall helped me over the years when I was down and out. For one thing, he paid my USCF membership dues for several years when I could not afford it. He also provided me with a mailing address starting in the 1980s when I was moving about from place to place or when I was living overseas.
It was not only me that Mike Goodall helped. Many chess players in Northern California crashed at his house from time to time. I believe that at the time of his death two or three chess masters were living in his home in San Rafael, California. He also gave chess players money when they needed it, which was often.
Mike Goodall devoted his entire life to chess and to the USCF. The very first time I met him was in November 1962 when I came to register for the Northern California Championship at Hamilton Air Force Base. I had just come to California from my home in Lynchburg, Virginia in to attend the University of California at Berkeley. Nobody in California knew me yet.
Mike Goodall, 16 years old, was sitting there at the registration desk taking the entry fees. From then until the day he died 48 years later, at virtually every chess tournament or chess event held in Northern California, Mike Goodall was there. He was a FIDE International Arbiter and by far the biggest chess organizer in California. Usually Mike Goodall was directing the tournament or helping the director but he was also sometimes a player. He was a rated expert and was most proud of his tournament win over grandmaster Nick De Firmian. Here is the tournament win for which Mike Goodall was most proud.
Mike Goodall also organized and directed three US Championships, two US Woman’s Championships and one US Junior Closed Championship. Not only did Mike Goodall not get paid for directing these events, but he put up his own money to run them. People thought that Mike Goodall must be wealthy, but this was not true. It was just that what ever money he had he gave to chess.
He often organized memorial tournaments in the memory of club regulars, such as the Capps Memorial, the Stamer Memorial, the Bagby Memorial, the Linklater Memorial and the Roy Ervin Memorial, but the latter caused embarrassment when Roy Ervin showed up to play in it. Turned out that the rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated.
Mike Goodall was assistant director to many US Opens, National Opens and other major events. He attended and played in every US Open Championship from the 1980s until his death, with the exception of the 2006 US Open when he suffered his near-fatal car accident while driving to the 2006 US Open in Chicago.
His last tournament was the 2010 US Open in Irvine, California. He was not feeling well and could not complete the tournament, but he sat on a couch on the hotel lobby watching the goings on until the tournament was over.
Mike Goodall held several important chess positions. He was several times President of the California Chess Federation. He was also Regional Vice-President of the USCF. However, he got those jobs mostly because he was willing to do the work that nobody else was willing to do.
Mike constantly contributed to chess related causes. On every list of donors to the USCF you will find the name of Mike Goodall. At the USCF delegates meeting, whenever there was a plea for funds you would always see Mike Goodall come to the front of the room, open his wallet and give a hundred dollars.
The tragedy was that in spite of all this Mike Goodall was virtually ostracized by the top levels of USCF leadership. For example, in 1996 Max Wilkerson retired as Director of the Mechanics Institute Chess Club. There was a vacancy and Mike Goodall was the logical choice to fill that vacancy, because he organized and directed most of the activity at that club.
However, for reasons unknown, Jim Eade always disliked Mike Goodall. Eade had spectacular qualifications. He was a millionaire. (He had a rich wife.) He was a publisher of chess books, owning a book publishing company. He had written the most popular chess book ever written. He was a master, rated 2300, and he was an elected member of the USCF Policy Board.
The only problem was that Eade did not want the job. He was too busy with other things. However, he disliked Mike Goodall, so Eade applied for the job just to block Mike Goodall from getting the job, as Eade himself admitted.
With such spectacular qualifications, Eade got the job which otherwise Mike Goodall would have had. However, since Eade did not really want the job, he immediately hired a young girl from Turkey who had no experience running a chess club or any other kind of club, to run the place on a day to day basis. Eade would come into the club once a week to check things out but otherwise the Turkish girl was in charge. Although she had no experience directing chess tournaments, she was put in charge of directing them anyway. Soon, arguments broke out and she starting expelling long standing dues-paying members from the club. Board meetings had to be held to re-instate the members she had thrown out. The Turkish girl started sleeping with the chess masters too and there were fights between them about this and once the police had to be called. One grandmaster was banned from the club.
Meanwhile, Mike Goodall was not allowed to hold his tournaments at the club, so he had to hold his events in far flung places like Santa Rosa and Berkeley. Finally, Eade agreed to resign subject to the condition that somebody other than Mike Goodall replace him.
Had Mike Goodall gotten that job as Director of the Mechanics Institute when it first became available, he probably would have held that job until he died last month.
When Mike Goodall tried to run in contested USCF elections, he ran into the brick wall formed by the big man at the top. Mike Goodall was by far the best and most qualified person ever to run for the USCF board. His whole life was chess. He had attended every USCF delegate’s meeting since the 1970s. He was also a member of the Tournament Directors Qualification Committee. He was regularly a Northern California delegate to the United States Chess Federation.
However, Goodall’s fatal flaw was that he was unwilling to be the puppet of the big man at the top. We have the problem in the United States Chess Federation of One Man Rule. Everybody knows who that one man is, so I do not have to say his name. He knew that Mike Goodall would not make a good puppet. Since Goodall was not suitable puppet material, the Big Man at the Top started a vicious campaign against him, mailing out tens of thousands of postcards attacking Mike Goodall.
Here was Mike Goodall who had never said an unkind word about any chess player, who had organized thousands of chess events over a period of 48 years without any controversy ever arising, and who had consistently donated money to the USCF and to chess related causes and had given a helping hand to many chess players in need, but now found himself the subject of vicious personal attacks simply because he would not make a good puppet.
The offense for which Mike Goodall was attacked was that he was a friend of Sam Sloan !!!!!!
Here is what the Continental Chess Association website has to say about Mike Goodall to this day, even though Goodall is dead:
“Editor’s note: Mike Goodall has done some fine work as a chess organizer and director. But he has also stated that Sam Sloan is a good board member, which leads me to believe that Mike lacks the good judgment we need on the Executive Board. Mike admits that Sam “fires shots at random” attacking people often without justification, but he sees these attacks as desirable because on occasion they are correct. I strongly believe that reckless random attackers are not what USCF needs on its governing board.”
Notice the massive understatement, saying that “Goodall has done some fine work as a chess organizer” whereas in reality Goodall was regularly organizing chess events since the early 1960s, years before the person who wrote those words started doing it.
The above also takes a quote out of context nor can you ever find an instance where I have attacked anybody, but you can find thousands of instances where I have been attacked by the author of the above quote or where I have been impersonated. The person who actually does attack people all the time is the person who wrote the above words.
Mike Goodall would have been elected easily, all he had to do was attack me and get with the program by agreeing to become a faithful puppet. Had Mike Goodall done those things, thousands of postcards would have been sent praising Goodall rather than the thousands that were sent attacking him.
Instead what happened was that Goodall ran two times. The first time he finished third in a five man race, beating out two insider endorsed candidates but only the top two were elected. The second time, the media blitz was stepped up saying that Goodall should not be elected because he was a “friend of Sam Sloan”. His fifty years of dedicated service to chess and to the USCF was negated by being a friend of somebody. Mike Goodall finished near the bottom and gave up trying to run.
Mike Goodall knew that he was going to die. Chemotherapy could only keep him going for so long. Towards the end of his life, Mike Goodall had become wealthy because he had inherited money from his father, a retired Admiral in the Navy, who had made money in the stock market. So, Mike moved into his late parents house in San Rafael and let several indigent chess masters stay there too.
I had several discussions with Mike about what he was going to do with his money. The natural place would have been for Mike Goodall to leave his money to the USCF. Mike had no family left, because his natural family had pre-deceased him and the down-and-out chess masters he was supporting may have been unworthy, so a bequest to the USCF was the logical result.
However, the reality was that in 2008 two chess players had died, leaving a total of over $500,000 to the USCF. That money had been eaten up immediately by the corrupt and incompetent executive board and especially by the man who wrote the words above attacking Mike Goodall. Mike realized that as long as the United States Chess Federation was the subject of one-man rule and as long as that one man was both attacking Mike Goodall and destroying the USCF with huge financial losses every year, it would be foolish to leave any money with the USCF.
I do not know what Mike Goodall finally decided to do with his money but I do know that shortly before he died Mike Goodall told me that the USCF was not going to get it.
And therein lies the Tragedy of the USCF.
–Sam Sloan, November 26,2010
PS: The reader might be interested in visiting Sam Sloan’s homepage at this link below:
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS