I was made aware that there was a big discussion going on at this site with much speculation about the HB Global. While I try to stay away from some folks who live to criticize, I think it makes sense to say a couple of words about what really happened.

First of all, the HB Global was a fund-raising initiative, meant to raise money to help more kids learn chess and to give scholarship money to deserving chess-playing youngsters. It was not simply a way to promote adult chess or even professional chess, as many people would wish. What this meant is that the promoters wanted to see a return that would allow them to continue to build on their good work. At the same time, they had no desire to crush any existing tournament (hence the time of year it was done so as not to conflict with anyone else’s events).

Now, there are some obvious things to consider. One is that given a choice, I would have seen to it that the tournament was held on the East Coast (for obvious reasons) instead of holding it in remote Minnesota where the foundation is located. Second, I would have done it in the summer when kids were off and folks were more apt to take time off from work. I guess its easy to suppose that we sort of randomly decided when and where to do this after the fact. Third, it would have been safer not to risk such a large sum of money in the hope that chess players would show up in support of it. This I can agree with, but I wonder just how much worse a turn-out we would have gotten in that case since folks would have seen no compelling reason to make the trek up to Minnesota.

Now, some have speculated (in completely bizarre fashion) that the foundation might have “blown” all of its endowment of 2 million dollars! The fact is they lost a tenth of that spending it on the event. Because the idea did not work the way they wanted to (and it would only have worked if with the full support of chessplayers), they decided that the rest of the money wsa best spent elsewhere. Some have more reasonably suggested that it would have been better to spend the money on teachers, books, equipment and the like. That’s what they were doing before they decided to hold the event! It’s real simple folks: they wanted to find a way for the foundation to fund itself, they thought that this was it, and it didn’t work fast enough. I believe it still would have if they had waited it out and tweaked some things (location, time of year, prize fund). However, it was not my money to spend and the fact that chessplayers did not show in the right numbers (those who did, I am eternally grateful) was very discouraging (as are some of the comments I am reading here now.) It is well within the sponsor’s rights to decide what to do with their money; that money can be spent in many more ways than just chess. I am very saddened that that decision was made, but again, it’s not my money to spend.

Now, the fact that Bill Goichberg has raised his prizes across the board is interesting. The World Open prize fund looks strangely familiar. I wonder how many people will say to Bill that he is being dumb doing this (offering $500K in prizes with $300K guaranteed). Bill is a very astute businessman and I imagine he has made the best evaluation of this than anyone on this site (including me) could make. If he is ready to throw his hat in the ring (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars), I can guarantee that it was only after a very careful analysis of the final numbers. I’m sure the truth will only be known in time; my intuition is that the HB Global will get its due in time for raising the general level of prizes in the States (although some people will always try to find fault).

One fact that always bothers me is that there are a group of skeptics who believe that sponsors should always lose money, that chess is never going to be big so why even try. It’s impossible to disprove these folks and recent history (which includes Kasparov’s failed attempts here in the States) suggests that they are right. For these folks, it’s better that we sit right where we are, playing chess on-line and going to random Swisses forever. They may in the end be proven right, but I doubt that will stop people like myself from trying to truly promote this game we love.

As for me, the whole process was very tiring and took two years off my chess career. I will continue to promote chess in the best way I can, and hope that there are many others who will try to elevate our grand game, especially to the benefit of our young people. It’s a goal that I think is well worth it.

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone.
Maurice Ashley

Posted by: Maurice Ashley at December 10, 2005 22:51

This was my post:

Thank you Maurice for taking time to let us know some of the facts. Maurice is a great guy and he gave his best shot to make things happen. He has done many wonderful things for chess. Maurice is also my friend and the chess community needs more active people like him. There is no competition between us. We do different things and we will join force if our paths cross sometimes in the future.

Mig is correct in saying that there are some trolls out there spamming the same nonsense over and over again on various newsgroups. When someone say anything negative about people such as Kasparov, Kramnik, Fischer, Kosteniuk or me, there are usually fanatics viciously trying to defend their idols. It is embarrassing for me as well. I do not want anyone to defend me in that fashion. I would prefer people to more civil, tolerant and professional with their conducts. To be honest, I do not know how to stop it. I am sure Mig had to delete many of these posts and I had to do the same on my blog.

There are also others who like to criticize just about everything and everyone. I saw some of the nasty comments made about Hikaru on various forums just because he lost in the first round of the World Cup. I have news for those folks. Chess is not an easy game and we can all have bad days or bad tournaments. Give the kid a break. His game is flawed but he does play exciting chess and we should all appreciate his unique style. He will improve with age.

Maurice made many good points. The bottom line is he tried hard and this is a big loss for the entire chess community. This further proves that we all have to work together to help chess. Thanks Mig for bringing up many great topics. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Now go feed that cat of yours 🙂

Best wishes and Happy Holidays to all!
Susan Polgar
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