Scandal at the US Shogi Championship

I have just re-posted the results of the US Shogi championship, because several of the shogi list members had complained that they had not received the results.

These results were posted promptly after the tournament was over, but at the bottom of a long message, as a result of which they were overlooked by many.

My reason for re-posting these results is to make clear the outrageous unfairness of what occurred.

Down near the bottom, you will find the name of Fassil Bekele. Nevertheless, Mr. Bekele was declared the prize winner of this event. As a result of his performance here, which was probably the worst performance of any dan-rated player in the entire event, Mr. Bekele will receive an all expenses paid round trip to Tokyo, including air tickets, hotel and meals, plus Mr. Bekele will be the official representative of the entire United State of America at the shogi Amateur Ryu-O in Tokyo.

You can plainly see that Mr. Bekele had a poor result in this tournament. Overall, he won two games and lost 5, plus he lost two out of his first three games which, under the rules, eliminated him from the competition.

It was explained to me after the event that the prize of an airplane ticket to Japan had been arraigned by My. Hayashi of the New York Shogi Club and this gave Mr. Hayashi influence in deciding who was awarded the prize. Mr. Hayashi naturally chose his friend, Mr. Bekele, who is an active member of the New York Shogi Club.

I am not the only participant who is upset. I have received private e-mail from almost all of the other contenders and everybody is outraged and upset by this.

Here is a quote from a private letter I received about this:

"The whole event was screwy. I put up with it because I knew all along that this is the way U.S. Shogi "works." It really SUCKS."

Here is another comment (which I am reluctant to post for obvious reasons):

"We are like Jews trying to win prizes at a chess tournament run by Booby Fischer."

If Mr. Bekele were a strong player, I would be willing to overlook the fact that he did not win the prize he was awarded. Certainly, I would not object if Mr. George Fernandez or Mr. Larry Kaufman, both of whom are strong players, were awarded the prize. However, Mr. Bekele is not a strong player. If Mr. Bekele were to play in a tournament against myself, Douglas Dysart and Ray Kaufman, it is unlikely Mr. Bekele would win and more likely that he would finish last.

I think everyone agrees that chess ratings are a strong indicator of potential among Western players of shogi. Here are the current USCF ratings of four of the contestants: These ratings are all available on the USCF ratings site at and at

Kaufman, Raymond 2118
Sloan, Sam 2104
Dysart, Douglas 2049
Bekele, Fassill 1729

It can be seen that Ray Kaufman, Douglas Dysart and myself all have about the same chess rating, whereas Mr. Bekele is rated more than 300 points below any of us.

It must be added that Ray Kaufman is only 16 years old and Douglas Dysart is 21, so they both have great potential, plus they are both working hard on shogi and improving rapidly. Both Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Dysart won two out of their first three games and qualified legitimately to the finals, unlike Mr. Bekele who did not. Mr. Bekele is 39 years old and is probably near his peak in shogi.

Douglas Dysart qualified to the finals by defeating M. Ono of California, a 4-dan and one of the strongest players in the tournament. Yet, Mr. Dysart was apparently not even considered for the top prize, as opposed to Mr. Bekele, who did not qualify to the finals.

I hope everybody understands that I have nothing against Mr. Bekele. He is a nice man and an enthusiastic promoter of shogi. However, I spent more than $400 to travel from New York to Chicago to play in this tournament. Douglas Dysart drove his van from Cincinnati, Ohio to Chicago to play and Ray Kaufman flew from Washington DC to Chicago to play. All of us obviously believed that rules would be followed and the winner would be the player who achieved the best result. Had we known that the top prize would simply be given to a friend of an organizer, I am sure that I would not have come and I doubt that the others would have come as well.

As to the suggestions that this conversation should be conducted in private and not in public, nearly two months have passed since the event in question and there are no indications of any progress towards rectifying this outrageous situation.

Sam Sloan

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