USCF TO PUSH "BRAIN PILL?"
In news releases issued by USCF on June 6 and and Natrol Inc. on June 8, the
two companies have announced a cooperative agreement under which USCF will
promote Natrol's product brainSpeed (TM), described by its maker as "The new
cognitive health supplement designed to help improve mental agility, promote
attention and maintain memory," statements that Natrol admits have not been
evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The company also states
that its product "has been developed to take chess players to the next level by
targeting the cholinergic system- the key to mental processing speed- by helping
to accelerate reaction time, improve decision making velocity and promote mental
The Natrol release, entitled "Can a Brain Pill Make You a Better Chess
Player?" quotes USCF President Beatriz Marinello: "Clearly chess is
a game of the mind and working at the top of your mental processing powers is
critical to tournament play. We are delighted to be embarking on this
alliance with Natrol and we see a direct connection between brainSpeed and our
membership. We look forward to many unique events together in the future."
Natrol ran the "brainSpeed Human Chess Challenge" at the recently completed National Open,
where Executive Board member Elizabeth Shaughnessy vigorously defended the new
marketing deal from criticism. However, the idea of USCF
endorsing these "Brain Pills" has encountered strong objections from the
membership. See examples below.
The members unhappy with the USCF-Natrol alliance would be even more upset if
they looked up Natrol on search engines, where they would find
http://www.sonoma-county.org/Da/press_releases/press_091404.htm, a news
release of September 14, 2004 from the District Attorney's Office of Sonoma
CALIFORNIA DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
REACH $250,000 SETTLEMENT OF MISLEADING ADVERTISING AND
PROPOSITION 65 CASE WITH DIETARY SUPPLEMENT MANUFACTURER
Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua,
Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, and
Solano County District Attorney David W. Paulson,
announced a $250,000 settlement against Natrol, Inc., of
Chatsworth, California, and its president Elliott
Balbert. The defendants were charged in civil lawsuits
filed by the district attorneys with making false and
misleading advertising claims for their chitosan-based
weight loss products, and with selling weight loss
products that contained too much lead, in excess of that
allowed by Proposition 65.
How could USCF agree to make an alliance with such a company? Ordinarily,
any Executive Director or Chief Operating Officer considering such a thing would
discuss this with the Executive Board. One person can make a mistake, but
it is unlikely that an entire Board would fail to consult affiliates and members
for their reaction. It is also likely that at least one Board member would
point out that we should do a little research on the company- such as typing
their name into a search engine- before signing an agreement to market their
products. In the case of Beatriz Marinello, though, who was COO from 1/05
through 5/05, the President and COO were the same person, and that President
often made decisions without checking with her Board, a situation her supporters
on the Board permitted. Too much power concentrated in the hands of one
individual is not a desirable way to run the Federation.
Apparently, Marinello and her "success team" now realize that the Natrol
alliance was a gross blunder. The Natrol deal was prominently featured on
the USCF website until June 13, when mention of it was suddenly removed without
explanation, and EB member Randy Bauer now says that the USCF-Natrol alliance
will be terminated.
Here is the Natrol settlement story that appeared in the
Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Click here to see the original Natrol
Mike Zadarozny of ACTACHESS writes, " When did the USCF Policy Board decide
that the USCF will endorse performance enhancing supplements? Are we going
to see the day when Chess Life magazine will be filled with ads from other
like products making claims to boosting performance?"
The question is:
Should the USCF be promoting, condoning, advocating, or in
any way endorsing the use of performance enhancers,
especially for young people?
The answer is:
President, CT State Chess Association
The next four posts are from the USCF forums. Edgy, whose post is
quoted, was the only one to support the brainSpeed deal.
Joined: 10 Mar 2005
Sat Jun 11, 2005 2:54 pm Post
I was (to say the very least)
disappointed to receive 4 or 5 emails regarding this "brain
I don't think USCF needs to be in the drug or supplement
This was a major blunder--and I think members deserve an
W.T. Hales, TD
Asheboro Chess Club (Asheboro, North Carolina)
Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:03 pm Post
Before this thread started, I did not
care who was on the ballot for the USCF executive board. After
www.uschess.org , the use of brainspeed as a drug for
players to use during the tournament. The elected members of the
Executive Board should have understood this product before it
was place onto the website. If the Executive Board did not
understand this product, then they should not be on the board.
Having the federation promoting the use of any drug, just to
play better at any tournament: is asking all our members to use
this drug. If you are a adult, do not care if you want to use
this drug. As there is very little science showing any drug can
make any player smarter, or better behind the chess board.
Since we have scholastic members, what are we telling the
parents and school officials about drugs? How can I go to a
local school and tell the parents and school officials about the
federation, without the fact the USCF is now wanting players to
use brainspeed? The goal of scholastic chess, is to keep
children away from crime and drugs. It is not goal of finding
the next Fischer, it is to give a postive goal in life. How can
I look into the parents or school officials to say its ok to
take drugs before and during the tournament. The reason why
scholastic chess has done so well with school officials, as
there never been any question of drugs.
Since the advertisment of brainspeed is now and was on the USCF
website. It is now a overt act to say drugs are fine to take. If
the public feel that tournament players are or could take drugs,
it will place a mark on each and everyone that plays chess. Look
what has happened with pro-baseball or any sport you want to
point out. The members in the sport, have to prove they are the
best without any drugs. Having everyone feel your in the sport
without drugs, will always have people question all the time.
The USCF was not thinking of the social and political problems
with this overt act of this drug called brainspeed. This has to
change not next week or next year. This policy has to change
now. If the policy is to keep with brainspeed, then I cannot ask
a scholastic player to join. If the policy is to keep with
brainspeed, then I will not have rated or unrated scholastic
As I have an ethical problem telling parents and school
officials that drugs are ok to take. How can I support
scholastic players to take brainspeed, just to be better then
your opponent. If being the director of a scholastic event, if
one is on brainspeed, then I'm supporting the use of a drug. I
cannot support the use of brainspeed, the only way to make sure
the drug is not used in the tournament, is not be the director.
The goal for myself for scholastic tournaments, is to give the
children a positive goal. Have the children play chess, to give
a positive goal of self worth. How can I say you can become more
then the sum of your parts with a drug like brainspeed. Now I
cannot perform as a scholastic director, as the federation says
brainspeed is ok.
Douglas Mark Forsythe
President - Grand Rapids Area Chess Club A6020393
Local Tournament Director (1997 - 2009) 12313120
Joined: 11 Jun 2005
Sat Jun 11, 2005 6:21 pm Post
subject: It is an outrage!
What is Chess? What does it teach? What does it require for
success and satisfaction?
Strategy! Thinking ahead! Planning for the future.
The most enjoyable moments in chess are those where a few pieces
are moved on both sides "AS PLANNED" and a devastating pin or
check is discovered. The longer the anticipation, the stronger
Logically, one would deduce that the people entrusted with
leading a prominent chess organization would be leading CHESS
into the future. I see NULL evidence of even Zugzwang, let alone
the actual planning for Chess’ development to it’s complete
So WHY would these people promote a product to procure some
simple pennies in the present with complete disrespect for
Chess’ rich past and future prospects?
I made sure to feed my daughter salmon and eggs when she was an
infant and toddler and still do at age 6. I am clearly a
proponent of filling my daughter’s mind with the essential
nutrients and experiences to allow her brain to reach its
potentials. But I give her the WHOLE egg. The WHOLE salmon. Not
some shortcut. Not some pill promoted to garner shekels.
Just like I am introducing her to the whole game of chess.
Beyond strategy there are tactics. There are strong openings.
There are checkmates.
Our leaders should be teaching our children that there are NO
shortcuts in life. Just as there are no shortcuts in chess.
Especially in Chess.
They even warn at the merchandise’s manufacturer’s website that
no one under the age of 18 should take these pills. So who will
pay when children do manage to get some? When they take dozens
of them. Isn’t the current Steroids example a stark enough
example? Why begin a journey on a line the rest of the world is
beginning to file away.
Which chess players succeed? Those that only try to spring
“Fool’s Mate” and Scholar’s mate in every opening???? Or those
that build a solid foundation!!?
In this day and age where it is documented that people want too
many quick and speedy gratifications I can think of no greater
INCONGRUITY than pushing these pills. Chess should be marketed
as an activity, which provides contentment and rewards for time
and effort. The children of Chess are the future of CHESS. Every
move should be planned with them and that in mind.
They say all publicity is good. Not in this case. They are
publicizing a mindset, which advocates shortcuts instead of
productive time and effort.
We should be publicizing a completely contrary way of thinking
for a lasting growing future for Chess and its participants
Joined: 22 Apr 2005
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Sat Jun 11, 2005 7:19 pm Post
|Oh, bilge. First of all, it's not a
drug. If you think that supplements like Brianspeed
should be regulated like drugs, then once again, you
should write your congresscritter.
The sponsor seems as far as I can see to be a company
operating entirely within the law. I think USCF should
take their money. If Maker's Mark wants to sponsor a
tournament or a prize, USCF should take their money,
too. If Philip Morris wants to take over the Grand Prix
and call it the Marlboro Grnad Prix, USCF should take
that money. Not to do that is obviously stupid.
I can’t disagree more with “edgy’s” comments. I find them
extremely naive and careless.
I work in the non-profit industry and also have a background in
neurology. I don’t know anything about the “Brainspeed” pill,
but I was taken a back when I heard that it was a sponsor for
Sponsorships, grants, memberships are VERY difficult things to
procure as a non-profit. Money is a BIG DEAL. But you need to
have proper leadership that won’t compromise its vision to just
make money… it’s callous and careless.
The supplement industry has grown exponentially in the last
decade. Associating yourself with a supplement can be a PR
NIGHTMARE. If you know anything about the supplement business
you will know that it has had some very bad backlash.
Ephedra is a prime example of this. This was a simple over the
counter SUPPLEMENT that has caused people to die. There are
numerous other examples: Kava is a supplement promising
relaxation, reduced sleeplessness, and has been linked to liver
damage. There are tons of others.
And to head-off any arguments about “safe” supplements.
Supplements have been shown to do things from increasing
endurance (caffeine) to increasing concentration
(Gingko-biloba). But does anyone concern themselves with there
possible side effects??!?! Did you know that they have side
effects? I’ll take Gingko for example. It can act as a blood
thinner and may be contraindicated when an individual is using
anticoagulants drugs (e.g., Coumadin or aspirin) or dietary
supplements such as vitamin E or fish oil, which also have
anticoagulant properties. And very large doses may cause
restlessness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
Taking a supplemental pill every day (even vitamins) could be
dangerous to one’s health, and should be taken with care. Did
you know high levels of iron in the blood are becoming a more
common problem in the elderly who take vitamin and mineral
All I’m saying is that supplements, while considered “foods,”
can be dangerous. Picking up a sponsorship should not be taken
lightly, and should not be an easy decision that is based solely
on the money factor.
I would be interested in knowing how this decision came to pass.
Harrisburg West Shore Chess Club
Treasurer/Webmaster & Club TD