Monday, January 24, 2011

Unwelcome Requests

  When people treated me poorly, I used to want to make them pay and if I cut off my nose to spite my face, so what? As I’ve gotten older, I wanted to extract vengeance but at no cost to me. Now that I’m much older, I just want nothing to do with people that treat me poorly. Someday I’ll be able to bless my enemies and forgive and forget. It's a long journey, but at least I’m still on the right path.

  Last August, I wrote about how I had been given the cold shoulder from my old employer when I asked for them to load some software on my new laptop after having given them free advice for over 2 years. Since then, I did a side job for them in September that I had agreed to do months before and gotten 2 emails from my old colleagues asking me how I was doing, glad they could keep in touch, and BY THE WAY, could I answer a few questions for them about how the programs I’d worked on for many years functions? I answered both letters by saying I was doing fine, hoped they were doing fine also, we should get together for lunch someday, and I’d be happy to help them as long as I was paid a fee because I was saving up for some software for my laptop. No fees were paid, no advice was given, and no Christmas cards were exchanged. 2 weeks ago, I received another email requesting a quote to do some custom programming work. I sent in the quote and the approval came back so fast I should have quoted more. I’m a bit upset with myself for having anything to do with a group that I feel treated me shabbily, but you could say I have thousands of reasons to go along with the request.

  Last week, I was asked by a chess associate of mine on behalf of IASCA President Steve Young if I would be willing to see if the Salvation Army in Marshalltown would host the Iowa Class and Closed Championships in April. The tournament was planned to be in Pella like last year, but there seems to be some sort of problem with getting the playing site. I was asked because I have a good relationship with the Salvation Army and they let me use building, and my son Matt will be one of the contestants in the Closed Championship.

  Steve ran many of the tournaments I brought my sons to when they were just starting out in chess. He was the tournament director and speech maker and Donn Ronnfeldt would handle the money and computer. Steve asked me for help in setting up an adult tournament in Marshalltown in 2003. I could have gotten the Salvation Army building, but he didn’t know if he wanted a 1 or 2 day tournament and the Salvation Army has worship services on Sunday, so I rented a different place for the tournament and then Steve decided he only wanted a 1 day tournament after the deposit was paid. I let him sleep at my house the night before the tournament and the tournament itself seemed to go over well enough. I missed playing in it so I could see Matt play in a little league tournament, but I was able to set up the tournament room and put the tables back when it was over.

  When I was asked to take over the IASCA scholastics in 2005, Steve had already had some of the tournaments set up and I worked with him with the High School and Junior High School Team Championships. They were each pretty depressing affairs with poor attendance (4 5-man teams and a side section of 20 players without teams). Steve showed up late to both tournaments because he doesn’t have a car and needed to get a ride with a player, and that left me to set up the tournament hall. That would have been OK except Steve kept the chess sets with him, so both tournaments started late. The High School tournament went OK, but Steve was very erratic at the Junior High School tournament. In the side section, there were 20 players. One of them was Dan Brashaw, the future 3-time Iowa High School champion who was rated higher than any 2 of the other players put together. Dan has played in my Youth Trophy tournaments and I liked having him there. He never belittled the other players, gave them an opportunity to test themselves against the best, and has always been a gracious winner and a good (and infrequent) loser. Of course, I have over 20 trophies at my youth tournaments and since Steve had 4 trophies at this one, Dan’s presence meant that 25% of the trophies had suddenly been taken out of reach of the rest of the players. When Dan won the tournament and it was time to present his award, Steve made a big point of putting Dan down by saying he didn’t belong at this tournament and shouldn’t be there taking a trophy away from a deserving player. Steve also decided to make a little speech about my upcoming tournament in Grinnell. It was a tournament for players rated less than 1200, which is mostly younger players but can include some adults also. I was offering prizes for the top scoring ladies amongst the 19 trophies and Steve said “I see Mr. Anzis is giving prizes to girls in his tournament in Grinnell. Will you be giving out prizes for boys, Mr. Anzis?” There was a parent listening to this who had signed up 3 of his daughters to play in Grinnell and I could see the steam coming out of his ears. He didn’t bring his family to that tournament and I didn’t see them at a tournament for over a year. There is a lot of debate for the merits of prizes for the top scoring girls. I think if I want more girls (it is about 4 boys to 1 girl for the very young players going up to 20 to 1 for adult tournaments) to participate in chess tournaments, I should offer these prizes. Other people don’t see it the same way, but the time for debate is not during announcements. When it was time to give out the team prizes, Steve only had a few of the trophies he had advertised and said he would take care of it at a later time. I got emails from some of the participants a month later that they still hadn’t received their trophies. Steve wasn’t responding to emails, so I ordered them myself and mailed them out. A month after I'd done that, Steve sent an email apologizing for the delay and offering to get the trophies. It was the tournament from hell. I try to be ultra-organized in what I do and I felt like people were looking at me and Steve as ‘birds of a feather’, and I decided that I was not working with Steve anymore.

  The next year, I took a big risk by having the High School and Junior High School team championships on one day and upgrading the side tournament to a full blown youth trophy tournament with 21 prizes (including 2 for the top scoring ladies). Steve sent emails to different people sniping at me for combining the tournaments because he had some young players in Iowa City he was coaching who could play for the Junior High School and the High School team, but now they couldn't because I'd decided to have them on the same date. I offered to let him make a proposal to run the High School tournament at a date and time of his choosing as long as I wasn’t involved. He never took me up on that, but instead decided to offer a tournament the same day as the state girl’s championship. Instead of advertising the tournament on the state web site, Steve decided to send private invitations to players via email, including many of the top girl players. I found out about it by accident when he sent an invitation to the son of the organizer of the girls championship (she had a different last name as her son).

  As it turned out, combining the 2 team championships was a pretty good idea. We ended up with 6 high school teams, 7 middle school teams, and 55 players in the trophy tournament. There were over 100 attending and it was a very exciting tournament to be part of. Steve was there to root on his hometown Iowa City Junior High School team. A coach of a team playing in the tournament for the first time got upset with Steve when he was loudly telling an Iowa City parent that the team they were playing (the coach’s team) was the worst bunch of players he had ever seen. Then Steve had a meltdown when the top player on the Iowa City Junior High team got in big time pressure and messed up a drawn ending in the first place matchup with Ames Middle School that ended up costing his team the match and the championship. Steve stomped around, muttered curses about the kid’s stupid endgame play, and made himself quite the center of attention. I was really happy he had nothing to do with the tournament since it would have been a shame if I had gotten associated with that kind of boorish behavior.

  I’ve later been told that Steve has had the same effect on lots of people other than me, so it is nothing I’m taking personally. There are many people actively involved in the IASCA that I have a lot of respect for and some who I consider myself in debt to. But when it comes to Steve Young, not only do I NOT have thousands of reasons to help him out, I don’t even have one.