Thursday, August 17, 2006
Susan Polgar's unsuccessful opposition (originated in July) to convicted felon Sam Sloan's election to the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation has likely had the perverse effect of making many chessplayers curious about him. After all, most of us have known his name since the beginnings of chess on the internet. But how many have actually spent much time learning more than the name? Well, there is a lot you can learn online, though separating fact from fiction may be hard to do. To go by what is written about him at Wikipedia or ChessBase, he is like a character out of Damon Runyon. As a wind-bag and ubiquitous poster of web pages and forums, however, Sloan has done much to craft his own image, so it is hard to know for sure how much is true. Most articles I've seen appear to have Sloan himself as their source: from the profile of him as a New York City cab driver (the occupation of many a fictional character) to his Wikipedia profile (which could easily have been self-posted, as likely are his games, mostly wins, at Chessgames.com). He appears to be, upon close scrutiny, practically the embodiment of the American "confidence man" for the internet age. The great irony is that he was only elected because his own self-promotion has made his name more familiar to USCF voters than any other on the ballot, yet few had ever had the curiosity to learn more about the man behind the name. I hope GM Polgar's opposition has made USCF members just curious enough to take one hard look at Sam Sloan so that they will all be better prepared to reject him in the future.