When I was starting out in retail and mail order there were a number of important things about business I didn’t know.

For example, “How much do I mark up my sales items for me to make a profit?”

A related item might be, on my own items, desired by let’s say, another reseller, how much of a discount do I offer?”

That was a tricky one because there was no RULE saying everyone had to use the same system! And they didn’t!


When I was fairly new at this, about the year 1974, I asked B.H. Wood why resellers in the US would offer at least a 40% discount and CHESS out of Sutton Coldfield in the UK, only 35%.

This might’ve been my first exposure to gobbledygook. Wood gave me an explanation but it made no sense, not even today, many, many years later. The “truthful” answer was that at only 35% off, he made more money. There is nothing wrong with that answer but Wood had to be afraid that if he gave the real reason, people would stop buying from him.

That was nothing but pure speculation. CHESS is still going long after Wood disappeared from the planet.

At that time his magazine (CHESS) may have had a “corner” on the chess market but his stories about how badly off they were would make the times of Les Miserables look like they were having  party.

Make no mistake about it, Wood was shrewd, to a degree.

He did one thing that makes me scratch my head–sometimes he didn’t put the copyright date on the books he published. Doing that never DATED his books! They could always APPEAR new if the book looked new. Nothing “illegal” in this just the notion of “I am smarter than you” which has a tendency to annoy customers. Some customers might KNOW you are but don’t want their noses rubbed in it.

It Made It Harder for Copycats

New businesses still constantly pop up and to get on the fast track the vast majority just copy what someone did before them. That gets them going quickly but how does that differentiate them from an established and trusted business? It doesn’t and so LYING becomes part of the “new” business techniques.

In 1998 I started my Chess Festivals system which, to be frank, was very different from the few who had run a chess festival in Italy or on a Cruise ship. Invariably there was some kind of tournament. In tournaments there are winners and losers (unless everyone DRAWS!) That is some fun but  some not so fun things. Often there is drinking and when it gets to the “stupor” state the drinkers don’t remember whether they had fun or not, but assume they did.

In the ones we have had there were different kinds of simuls. Amazingly interesting lectures (I have been told, I was usually busy working on the event itself), and lots of laughter. If I saw people NOT laughing I knew something was wrong because this was about fun. I didn’t invite people like that back! They put a drag on the convivial atmosphere.

Yet, as time went on the word would get around and people would come to me with a question like, “How much does it cost to have a chess celebrity come to your events?” It’s like if I would ask if their wife wore lacey underwear while asking at the same time, “What color is it?” Is that gauche or what? That was a trade secret. It cost me thousands of dollars over time (usually under a deadline) to finagle that kind of information. There was usually the risk of loss or embarrassment.


What do I mean by “loss” or “embarrassment?” Citizens have little idea in what things cost in the business world. Their viewpoint is usually based on their own perceptions.

The local club champion might be a master. He has won some tournaments and perhaps picked up a couple hundred bucks here and there. That’s one perspective. And usually based on 2 day events. The problem? You see this guy all the time. His VALUE has been denigrated. If he doesn’t always finish first the lustre dims. But you know, instinctively, that a GM should command MORE. The problem? How much more?

I have been asked this question many times and I won’t give a definite answer. It’s like a dog and pony show. If I give you an answer that’s accurate, I have learned it from my business of being in the trenches 24/7.

You don’t want to look like a fool and get turned down do you? On the other hand, maybe you can’t afford him! What about a place to stay for the IM or GM? Do you pay for their food, drink, transportation. Ow-eee. All of a sudden it’s not a simple question anymore.

My Guests of Honor

You have to vet these people (your celebrities) in advance. What “mooches” usually do is take my word that So and So will do a great job because I have hired him in the past. But my word is based on experience and putting my face forward at the same time as my wallet. I have NO other job, this is it! If the required number of people don’t show, it’s Bob Long who gets hurt because the SHOW will go on. I do have a small piggy bank. I’ve had the help of others who buy a lot of onsite merchandise. If Joe Blow runs an event and guesses wrong, or incorrectly, it comes out of his paychecks if he intends to pay his bills (clue: some don’t). If you don’t pay, your name will forever be mud. Isn’t life tough enough without problems like that?

My last Chess Festival was held in 2004, so it’s been 11 years. People are signing up and others are working on their reason(s) for not signing up. I know this is going to happen. Bob’s Chess Festivals are a One of a Kind thing. The reasons for not coming usually are not. Some might think they are unique, but similar to Jimmy Durante, “I’ve heard a million of ’em.”

It was never lost on me that my Dad missed many important events in my life because he would have to work and he had 8 other mouths to feed. A couple years before he died he related a number of regrets in his life over the kitchen table, late one evening. One of them was about his “life-choice” for a job. He wanted to be an aviator. He loved planes. He settled for less when the war was over because he needed $$$ right now.

So it is with chess, festivals, hobbies, books to read, etc. Life has WHAT for you? If you are typical, most of you are “working” for someone else’s reasons. You are doing the sacrificing.


The other day a pollster from the Nielsen Rating company rang my doorbell. He identified himself and told me what he was polling. I stopped him quickly because I said, “I don’t have a TV.” He looked shocked. Then, “I do have a TV, it’s right behind me in that doorway, but it’s been unplugged since 1997.” He had since recovered. He went on his merry way.

Soon I will publish a schedule of what I am working on and then will get back to making products again. Right now it is important to come up with ticket sales to pull off this event (the Morphy Chess Festival) and show everyone a great time.)

Tomorrow I will regale you with laughter and dealing with IM Andrew Martin at events like this. He’s funny, smart, and comes up with crackerjack ideas that really amuse people. What REALLY great idea he has is the chance to give everyone an opportunity to offer their two cents worth whether they volunteer or not! What comes out of their mouths is usually the alarm of a potential riot! Be with us in October. As Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers would sing, “You will have the TIME of your life.”


Bob, 563-271-6657

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