SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
”NOBODY LOVES ME NO MORE…”
Market Street Chess Games Shut Down
Among the tamest symptoms of San Francisco’s homeless problem were the dozen or so chess boards set up on the north side of Market Street near the Powell BART/Muni station. Anyone was free to sit down to a game, be it a 10-move checkmate by an SRO-living grandmaster or an hours-long battle royale with a player in business attire.
That problem’s solved, whatever the problem was, as a police action has chased away the chess games, according to homeless advocates
SFPD had received several complaints from citizens about players’ conduct — fighting, drinking, and some outstanding warrants, according to Lt. Lyn Tomioka, a police department spokeswoman.
The warrants and also the stay-away orders — apparently some chess players had been warned to keep away from area businesses and area merchants, including the artists who peddle their wares on Market Street near the chess games — were the biggest problems. The organizers of the chess matches were asked to move their act a block down the way to the 1000 block of Market Street, Tomioka said, but sometime between then and now the games fell apart and are today gone.
It appears the police action was a step in a confluence of factors leading to the games’ demise. Soon after the chess players were told to move, organizer Hector Torres landed in the hospital, according to Bob Offer-Westort, the Coalition on Homelessness’s Civil Rights Organizer. Without Torres, nobody bothered to set up the tables from their storage home at 66 Turk Street, and the games died out.
Torres, who has no fixed address or phone number, could not be contacted by SF Weekly. But if The Snitch were to interject our opinion, we would say we’re sad to see the chess games go. They were entertaining to watch, if nothing else, and breathed a spark of culture into a strip of the city devoid of little else aside from commercial ventures.
The story does not end here, however. Chessmusings (http://www.chessmusings.com/
) has written an open letter to the Mayor of San Francisco , Gavin Newsom, asking for just a little bit of compassion.
An Open Letter to Gavin Newsom
San Francisco has lost one of its more charming attractions. It used to be that pedestrians strolling down Market Street near the Powell BART station would be treated to lively blitz games played by eclectic groups of chess enthusiasts. When in the area, I would frequently find myself battling wits with investment bankers, street merchants, tourists, and homeless persons. Unfortunately, this exposition of culture has been shut down by the city.
I launched an informal investigation as to why chess players were being targeted unfairly while street performers, panhandlers, and artists are still allowed to continue their practices in the area. Apparently an order was given by a high-ranking city official to the SFPD to shut down the games on the basis of poor behavior on the part of the chess players. Indeed, I would witness some money changing hands and the occasional intoxicated chess player. But are these behaviors being caused by the chess games or the urban environment?
I believe in positive impact the game of chess can have on individuals who are struggling do the fact that their decision-making skills are sub par. With funding for various organizations that help the homeless population being hit hard by the financial meltdown, I feel it is irresponsible if not mean-spirited for the city of San Francisco to take away one of the few possibilities left for free and legal entertainment. Furthermore, for a city that entices tourists to come on the basis of its many cultural opportunities, it does not seem fitting for San Francisco to be shutting down harmless attractions such as chess.
Sincerely, Chris Torres
I will let you know how things develop over the next week… but I have a pretty good idea of the kind of compassion we can expect from Mayor Newsom.In the meantime, take a look at the following article that appeared in the New York Times. Journalist turned know-it-all-chess guru Dylan Loeb McClain–who has recently entertained us with a fistful of mis-informed articles about the FIDE elections between Karpov and Ilyumzhinov–has decided to write an article about what is ailing scholastic chess : too many rating systems!
In Children’s Chess, Debate on Ratings
By DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN
When Michael Koufakis sat down to play Timmy Wang, another third grader, in the fifth round of the Elementary National Championship in Atlanta in early May, Timmy startled Michael by asking, “What’s your real rating?”
Michael was confused. They were in a section of the event reserved for unrated novices, those who had never played in tournaments run by the United States Chess Federation, the game’s governing body.
“I don’t know,” Michael said. Timmy volunteered, “Mine’s one thousand four hundred” — the level of an adult club player.
Michael said he was shocked. “I tried to play real hard,” he said, “but I think he knew my opening.” Michael lost — his only loss of the tournament.
Parents whose children play in national championships are calling this an unfair practice: unranked novices in federation events facing players like Timmy, who have been rated by state organizations.
To the thousands of young players, their parents and the groups that govern chess, such players could be called ringers, the equivalent of the over-age pitcher in a Little League game. But unlike baseball, where the tip-off to an older player is his size or athletic prowess, it is impossible to tell the best chess players simply by looking at them.
Ratings, a measure of performance and skill (the higher the rating, the better the player), are the only clue.
In the unrated section in Atlanta, Timmy, a student at Stevenson Elementary, a public school and scholastic chess powerhouse in Bellevue, Wash., was not the only one from his school who was rated by Washington. So were his three teammates.
Stevenson tied for first place with Public School 166 in Manhattan, Michael’s school, but Stevenson finished first on tie-breaks. Carlos Mercado, a parent at P.S. 166, said that some of the school’s children were very upset after losing to the children from Stevenson.
“They came away feeling that this tournament wasn’t really fair for them,” Mr. Mercado said. “It is not the kind of lesson that I would expect them to learn about life from a game that is supposed to be fair.”
Parents were also upset because Stevenson had children with very high state ratings playing in federation sections with rating caps. They won those sections, too.
Did the Stevenson players cheat? Not by the federation’s current standards.
The dual ratings have led to discussions in the federation about how to change the rating requirements for the championships. Among the proposals are to eliminate unrated sections and to require that children play a minimum number of federation-rated tournaments before the nationals so that uniform ratings can be established.
The problem has festered for years because the federation does not want to recognize systems like Washington State’s that compete with its own. People can get federation ratings only by joining it and playing in its tournaments, as Stevenson has done. But in the end, the problem that the federation faces is that it risks alienating children from other states, costing it memberships.
Scholastic chess is the lifeblood of the federation. Bill Hall, the federation’s executive director, said that more than half of its revenue was from memberships and that last year, for the first time, more than half of those fees came from younger members.
Up to now, the state ratings systems have allowed children in those states to play in local tournaments, gaining practical experience, and then compete in national championships with far-lower federation ratings.
Having a high rating is a source of bragging rights, but keeping ratings low has benefits.
Beatriz Marinello, a member of the Scholastic Council, the United States Chess Federation’s rule-making body for scholastic chess, compared the practice to one in which adult players lose ratings points before big tournaments to compete in easier sections with large cash prizes.
“It is a version of sandbagging,” Ms. Marinello said. “In this case, they underrepresent their ratings to win trophies.”
Stevenson has become particularly adept at winning the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade under 900 section, taking the title in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and always by wide margins. Its students are also successful in sections with no rating caps. This year, its team finished second in the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade uncapped championship section.
Two years ago, Michael Neitman, a co-chairman of the Scholastic Council, said that he was aware of the problem but that no one had complained about the dual ratings issue. “We are not about to open up cans of worms,” he said.
Problems arose, however, in early May at the elementary school championships in Atlanta.
Elliott Neff, Stevenson’s coach, said his team was not trying to manipulate the system. He said that the Washington rating system was free and that many parents did not want to pay the federation’s annual membership fee of about $15 when they were unsure whether their children would continue to compete.
For many Stevenson children, Mr. Neff said, the tournament in Atlanta was their first national event, which is why they chose to play in the lower-rated sections if they qualified. “They are young kids,” he said. “They want to play in the best section they can and score well.”
The question of whether it would be fair for them to play in the lower sections “never came up,” he said.
Mr. Neff said he was puzzled about what had happened between Timmy and Michael.
“We coach our team not to ask about ratings and not to think or talk about ratings,” he said. “That obviously was not a good situation.”
It seems to me that this is all just a question of economics: ratings are a big source of revenue no matter how you slice it, and everyone wants a piece of the pie! FIDE makes millions every year from its rating system, and the USCF and the CFC make a large chunk of change from their own systems. Even the FQE and CMA have put their own dip-sticks into the ratings waterhole!
Find a way to SHARE the wealth…create ONE RATING SYSTEM and–presto– the problem Mr. McClain describes so eloquently is solved!
A good alternative to on-line dating!________________________________________________________TODAY’S LESSON ON MORALITY
“Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong and that 99% of them are wrong.”
H. L. Mencken ____________________________________________________________TODAY’S INSPIRATIONAL WORD”Bicycle”__________________________________________________________TODAY’S INSIGHT INTO LIFE“People’s whole lives do pass in front of their eyes before they die. The process is called ‘living’”_________________________________________________________TODAY’S ECO-FRIENDLY HUMOUR_______________________________TECHNOLOGY: WHY ARE WE SO SMART?
“Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.”
Popular Mechanics, March 1949
__________________________________WHAT IS THIS??This year’s annual meeting of the CFC !?
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS