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  The HB Global Chess Challenge 

  Bonanza, bust,  ...  or just a rip-off?  

 hb_2005-art01.jpg, 71 KB

Brian Molohon 
Executive Director
HB Foundation 
3140 Neil Armstrong Blvd., Suite 311
Eagan, MN 55121     

December 24, 2004 

Dear Mr. Goldsby:  

Thank you very much for your email. We at the HB Global Chess Challenge are extremely grateful for this opportunity you have provided us to showcase the benefits of our event to the world of chess. 

(I have saved the full copy of this e-mail ... and will forward it to anyone who requests it from me. It makes for very interesting reading.) 

February 17th, 2005:  I  remember how excited I got when I first saw this tournament (in Minneapolis, MN) advertised in the October (2004) issue of 'Chess Life.' They show GM Maurice Ashley on the cover ... in front of a huge pile of cash, flanked by two security guards. But the more I look into this tournament, the more concerned I become. 
($500,000.00 prize fund - guaranteed!!!) 

(Like my Grand-daddy said, "If something is too good to be true ...")  

I called a local travel agent a few days ago. I wanted to inquire what it would cost to go this chess extravaganza. (I wanted to leave Pensacola on the 17th of May, and return the 23rd.) Let's see, the Entry Fee is a whopping $345.00 (dollars). Wow!! That is nearly three times what I paid to play in a New York Open over a decade ago! (Apparently you can reduce this rate, but ONLY if you get a friend to go with you. I DEFINITELY cannot count on this.)  

The hotel is going to cost $135.00 a night, at least according to the local travel agent. (I called the toll-free number on the back of the Feb. CL, 1-800-233-1234. They said that the rooms start at only $89.00 a night, but already show that they are sold out for the 17th of May.)  

So you need the Entry Fee, plus the minimum (hotel rate) per night ... and the estimated tax.  
(345 + 679 = $ 1,024.00) 

Plus - you are going to want to eat while you are there, I figure $300.00 to be a fairly reasonable figure. (Maybe low?) 
(345 + 679 + 300 = $1,324.00)

Next - you are going to have the get there. I refuse to spend three solid days in a car, (one way!); which means I have to fly there. The local travel agent quoted a rate of $425, but I found a cheaper rate for $253.00 (plus tax and other charges) on Priceline. (I fly Delta - plus I have to be willing to make 2-3 stops.)  
(345 + 679 + 300 + 278 = $ 1,602.00) 

And - as any experienced traveler will tell you - you will definitely want around two or three hundred dollars in reserve - just for emergencies and/or unexpected expenses. So basically, it is going to cost you at least  two grand  for this tournament ... and maybe a whole lot more! (A lot of money ... for anyone!)  

I contacted the sponsor of this tournament - a hitherto unknown agency - by the curious name of "The H.B. Foundation." I have never heard of this organization - prior to this tournament. 

A journalist - who asked not to be named - had already contacted me as concerns this event. He asked me questions like: "Can they put this tournament on?" "Do they have the money?" "Can they bring the necessary man-power that it would take to run an event of this caliber?" "Who is the chief director going to be?"  "Is the money guaranteed?

All good questions.   I e-mailed the director of the foundation. (See the copy of the letter at the top of this page.) He sent me a copy of a  letter  - as an Adobe document - from a "Merrill Lynch" company in Los Angeles. Supposedly, the money is already there. (You can click on the link, if it does not work, I will gladly send you a copy of this document.)  

However, I have wasted three stamps and written this organization three times. Not one response, not even a returned, unopened letter. I also called their office the other day, their strategy was to leave me on hold until I tired of this little charade. Needless to say, this is extremely suspicious!

And just because a GM is involved, don't be fooled either! You think if you win a prize that GM M. Ashley is going to pull a wad of cash out of his pocket and pay you? Forget about it!

(GM Ashley is a nice guy ... but who's to say that he has not been duped by a bunch of con men?)  

Personally, I am GRAVELY concerned!!!  I have no idea if this group has the wherewithal to stage such a gala event. I am worried that many chess friends ... some I have known for over 25 years ... are going to go this tournament and get ripped off. The signs and indicators are not good.

  My advice?  Save your money ... and go to the World Open!   (Bill Goichberg may not be a saint, but he always pays!) 

A lot of people - too many to recount here - have written me asking me why I am doing this. 
---> Basically for public information. 

I have been around chess my whole life, I am {now} 47 years old. I have seen a LOT of failures!!!!!  (Too many to count!)  

The USCF is a good group, but they have a VERY poor record in rule enforcement or punishing violators. 

Just a few years ago, some person decided that he was going to stage a gala event at a Biloxi casino. (It was advertised for 3-4 months in 'Chess Life.') It fell through at the last moment and he had to cancel this event. There was not much time, and the proper notification did NOT take place. A GM even flew into this event, only there was no tournament to play in! You would think that the individual responsible for this fiasco would have been drawn and quartered, but this was not the case. (As far as I know, the individual involved was NOT punished, and he is still organizing and directing chess tournaments today! I did my own little investigation - USCF completely failed to respond to my inquiries in this matter.)  

So you had better be careful! DON'T depend on USCF to watch out for your interests, for they are easily deceived!!! 

Saturday; March 12th, 2005:  As of today, at least thirty (30) people have read this page ... and informed me (via e-mail) that they will NOT be attending this tournament! It is my hope that more people will do this as well. I think this is wise.  

(Please be sure to tell all of your friends!!)  

Wednesday; May 25th, 2005:  It appears that the tournament was held, and that the prize fund was paid.  [more]  

At least 100 people told me that they were NOT going to play, as they shared my concerns. It appears that I was a overly worried. However, I feel that I owe no one an apology ... for one thing, the EF was intolerably high. [Its good to be a skeptic, too many events - similar to this one - (especially in the south); have been attempted, but never materialized.] And although a lot of people might have won prize money, I wonder what the overall percentage was of winners to the total attendance, and how this compares to other "big-money" tournaments ... like "The World Open." 

Now that this event has actually taken place, maybe we can look forward to next year? 
(It would be a pity if this event was just a one-time thing ... and would even justify what I said about the organizers - to a certain extent.) 

Monday; August 22nd, 2005: There is a big article, (beginning on page # 08); in the August 'Chess Life' on this tournament, everyone seems very happy that this event was held. I, for one, question the motives of the organizer. (The timing of the tournament, just before a USCF election.) And it seems there will be NO such event in 2006. 

I spoke to a local lawyer, he is also an investment advisor. I asked him why an organizer would hold only one event. He told me there were lots of different reasons, the chief officer of the HB Foundation might be an ego-maniac and simply enjoy the attention. (If he had a real commitment to chess, this would be an annual event!) In the end, my friend said this could be just a shrewd publicity stunt. In two or three years, the HB Foundation could recoup all of its expenditures, and even be better off than they were before. Meanwhile, you could not buy the kind of advertising that they got from sponsoring an event of this magnitude. I worry that the void created next year will only cause more problems, and cause annual events (like Bill Goichberg's World Open) to lose money over the next few years. (Several people who did attend the HB tournament e-mailed me that they were regulars at the WO, but did not have the resources to attend both events.) 

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