600 young boys and girls chasing their impossible dreams

Even the President of the company was on location the entire weekend to greet and meet the players and their families. 600 young players (half of them girls, plus probably 1,000 parents), coming from all over Venezuela, had to qualify to earn a spot at the event today.

600 qualified young boys and girls chasing their impossible chess dreams, thanks to the generosity of MRW. July 1, 2012 (Caracas, Venezuela). Lots of photos here: https://chessdailynews.com/huge-scholastic-event-in-caracas-venezuela/

I was absolutely stunned when I visited a major national scholastic event in Caracas, Venezuela. It is sponsored by MRW (similar to FedEx in the US). The organizer put on quite a show with so much enthusiasm, excitement, and passion. So many employees of MRW volunteered to make everyone feel welcome. Even the President of the company was on location the entire weekend to greet and meet the players and their families. 600 young players (half of them girls, plus probably 1,000 parents), coming from all over Venezuela, had to qualify to earn a spot at the event today.

I have been in countless scholastic events in the US. It is quite a contrast. It is mostly a money making business. At this tournament in Caracas, all players were provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, all boards, sets, and clocks are provided. Each participant also received a T-shirt as well as other goodies. There is no entry fee and the organizer is not trying to make money from these children’s parents. Winners even get cash scholarships (about $2,000 to each winner) to support their chess endeavors. This event (organized by a private company + volunteers and not the government) is truly for the benefit of the players. I am very happy and proud to be associated with such an event with some of the most incredible individuals.

In the US, it is quite the opposite. In fact, it is quite the opposite from the rest of the world of chess. In many countries around the globe, chess players, especially grandmasters and world champions, are respected. In the US, it is not. In the US, even professional players are expected to bring their own sets, boards, and clocks to events (I find this very insulting). There are rarely acceptable conditions. Most players (GMs excluded) have to pay serious entry fees and other expenses to compete. These events are organized to benefit private organizer(s) and it has very little to do help the chess world. Unfortunately, most professional players (top GMs are the exception as they make good money) make too little money to have the courage to speak out against it.

Scholastic events in the US is truly a cash cow for the US Chess Federation. Parents usually have to pay big money (over $1,000 to attend a national scholastic event to cover the entry fee, hotel, meals, rental car or ground transportation, etc.) to support their children going to various national scholastic events, sometimes several thousands if more than one child is involved. And what do they get if they win? A trophy and bragging rights.

There are usually 1,500 – 2,200 players + parents in each national scholastic event in the US and a number of them are organized each year. The SuperNational can draw 5,300 + parents and siblings. You can do your own math.

I have tried very hard to change the chess culture in America. This is why I try to organize all my events at the highest standard possible (reasonable entry fees and hotel costs, in addition to providing typically over $100,000 in chess scholarships and prizes for scholastic events). Unfortunately, it is a very hard thing to change so far in the United States when some organizers care more about making money than helping chess grow.

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