by admin on November 20, 2010

Yesterday I got a surprise package in the mail from the US Chess Federation.

As I wrote in this entry, the USCF recently changed its rules for awarding the title of Life Master, and also Life Everything Else (Candidate Master, First Category, Second Category, etc.) Under the new rules, I qualify for the title of Life Master.

Last weekend I was looking at Michael Aigner’s web page and noticed that he has posted a copy of his USCF Life Master certificate. That aroused my curiosity, and I sent an e-mail to the USCF website inquiring whether they planned to send out certificates to people, like me, who had qualified for the Life Master title retroactively under the new rules.

I received an e-mail the next day saying that they would look into it. One person said that he didn’t think so, and another said, “You are the first to ask.” I didn’t pursue the matter any more, and figured that the subject was closed. Then, on Friday, the package arrived with this inside:

Hooray! Now I’m not only “certifiable,” I’m certified!

A few random comments … The border of the certificate is actually silver, but because it is so reflective it comes out looking black in the above scan. Sorry.

Even though the certificate was obviously mailed on Monday (November 15, 2010) the certificate is backdated to October 25, 2009. That is when I achieved my fifth Life Master norm, at last year’s Western States Open in Reno.

Finally, the wording on the certificate is worthy of some comment. It says, “Dana N. Mackenzie has earned the official title of Life Master under the USCF norm system.” That is different from Michael Aigner’s certificate, which says simply, “Michael Aigner has achieved the official title of Life Master.”

One wonders why they found it necessary to insert the extra line of explanation. Because the norm system is still so new and unfamiliar? Perhaps they don’t think the new titles are quite as legitimate, or they are afraid that the chess community will not consider them legitimate?  Maybe they want to be able to disavow the new titles in case they receive criticism?

I feel a little bit like Roger Maris, the baseball player whose single-season home run record was supposedly marked with an asterisk because it was accomplished over a longer season than the previous one (although this article points out that the asterisk never really existed). Ironically, Maris’s record really turned out to be a major accomplishment — it lasted longer than Babe Ruth’s mark, and some people would argue that it still has not been legitimately broken.

So, all in all, there is no disgrace in being Maris’d. And in spite of anything I’ve said, I really do appreciate the recognition from the USCF, whether it’s “Life Master” or “Life Master under the USCF norm system”.

P.S. Speaking of Michael Aigner, the latest update I have gotten on his health was that he was scheduled for his operation on Thursday, two days ago. I have not heard how the operation went.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Xavier November 24, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Congrats on the title. I found your blog recently but I just want to say that some of your back posts were very interesting, especially those involving your games. Your annotations seem a bit more livelier and digestible to amateurs than the usual ones from titled masters.


Mike Splane November 24, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Congratulations Dana,

Does that mean they will permanently boost your rating to a 2200 minimum? That would be sweet!

FYI – my Life Master certificate has the same wording as Michael Aigner’s.


LaughingVulcan November 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I would suggest that it may be that if you look up Michael Aigner and Mike Splane on USCF, they had earned their Life Master titles under the “Original Life Master” criterion – 300 games above the Master level.

I have a feeling that the wordings have been most carefully selected this way, so that those who have OLM certification have something special to lean on (to mitigate feeling like the title was cheapened by the coming of the Norms system.) When US Amateur Radio, for example, stopped Morse Code testing for higher levels of certification many of us would append “with Code” to our email signatures, etc. (KB7VPI, General Class w/Code.) This was done because some of us felt that passing our code exams showed we were “old school” hams.

I have seen some people sign themselves “Original Life Master” to show the distinction. (Why they should have chosen to retain the same title for different qualification systems deponent sayeth not.)

But congratulations on the title! Nice to know that I’m reading a Master’s blog. 😉 😀


LaughingVulcan November 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Oh, and addition: The norms-based LM title does not carry an automatic floor, as the OLM title does.


admin November 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Laughing is right. The new LM title doesn’t give you a rating floor. I think that the reaction of many players to the new system, if and when they find out about it, will be a shrug of the shoulders. What good is a prize that has no monetary value and doesn’t give you a rating benefit?

The answer lies in something my wife said: “Life Master sounds a lot better.” National Master sounds good but needs a little bit of explanation to non-chessplayers. But LIfe Master doesn’t need any explanation. (Except, ironically, to chessplayers!)


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