Interview of IM Michael
ICCF Financial Director &
Direct Entry Coordinator
Following the 2005 ICCF Congress in Villa La
Angostura Neuquen, Argentina
the question was, "Who is Michael Millstone?"
When there was no candidate
to fill the vacant Financial Director position
on the Executive Board he stepped forward and
offered his services. As the ICCF-U.S. archivist
I've worked with him in his position as a
tournament director in the USA championships.
But, along with others, I didn't really know
him. I took this opportunity to invite him to do
an interview to introduce him to the ICCF
community and was delighted when he instantly
agreed. Following is the result of this email
-- J. Franklin Campbell
What is your background with ICCF? What volunteer work have
for ICCF in the past? What are your goals as a player? I
you will be playing in an upcoming Olympiad on the USA team.
Even as a child I was always interested in chess, but
never really considered
it more than a passing hobby until I graduated from high
school. I joined the
United States Chess Federation (USCF), and played a few
but quickly discovered that I don't have the patience to
sit across a table for
hours on end. Correspondence chess seemed a natural fit
for me. I tried a
section or two through USCF but soon desired the
international experience a
nd flavor that ICCF provides. I'm not exactly sure when
I joined ICCF,
but the 8+ shoeboxes of postal cards attest to my
consistent play over the years.
When I started playing correspondence chess some 25
years ago, my goals were to achieve an IM title. I
received that in 2003. At this year's Congress, when I
was introduced to George Pyrich, it was explained to me
that he was instrumental in the creation of the SIM
Title. I jokingly cursed him for that. Let me explain -
having achieved my lifetime goal of IM, I figured I
could sit back, relax, and truly enjoy my chess games
without worrying about achieving norms and titles. There
is no chance I would ever get close to a GM title, so I
was in a comfort zone. Now the SIM title was created and
there may be a possibility …. ever so small, but now it
is back to the grindstone. I do have one SIM norm and am
struggling to get the last point I need in Chessfriends
Rochade 5171 - 15th Year Anniversary
Unfortunately, my last two opponents are incredibly
strong. One of them,
Angel Acevedo was awarded the Grandmaster Title at this
and has a slightly superior position. I was pleased to
be on hand for his
award and congratulate him warmly. I considered the DMD,
appears very fit and I feel I would fall first.
Perhaps it is just me, but I am still humbled to be in
the company of
Grandmasters - their accomplishments are quite
inspiring. Maybe it
takes another 25 years to get a SIM Title, maybe with
all my new duties,
I'll never achieve it - but the journey is worthwhile.
was honored to play in my first Olympiad (OLYMPIAD XV -
Preliminaries - Section 2) for the U.S. and
am looking forward to joining with fellow teammates
in this year's 17th. I love the notion of team
competition and welcome
the opportunity to joust with fellow chess players.
What is your personal situation, i.e. what is your job, age,
where do you live, anything special you can tell us to give
us a better understanding
of just who Michael Millstone is and what kind of a guy is
was born and raised in Miami, Florida. My parents loved
to travel and
frequently took me and my two brothers on many trips
around the world.
I believe that contributed to my global perspective.
I ever wanted to do was fly airplanes. All the money I
earned from odd
jobs while growing up went towards flying lessons. On my
I took the examinations for Commercial Pilot with
instrument, and instructor endorsements. My intentions
were to fly for
the airlines. Unfortunately, a small medical setback
prevented me from being
granted the top medical certificate needed and I was
forced to redirect my career.
Still wanting to be around airplanes, I enlisted in the
United States Air Force,
where for my entire career (until retirement), I was
involved in Space and
Satellite Systems (think of satellites as airplanes
flying really high and fast).
Air Force was wonderful, taking me all over the world on
pleasure. I have had the opportunity to live and work on
6 of the world's
seven continents and if Dinand starts to do some real
work, perhaps I'll get
my 7th. Personal note: I met Dinand Knol at this year's
congress and am
grateful for all his patience and education he provided
me. In turn, he got to
call home (al la ET) and chat with his family using my
Anyhow, after I retied from the Air Force I continued
with various positions
also in the Space and Satellite career field with one
brief stint outside the
norm - I like to call it a "Career Sabbatical."
After the dot com crash in the late 1990s, my wife and I
moved to Las Vegas
where I took up several positions in the casino industry
- finally ending
up as a casino supervisor. I was always fascinated with
the industry and
wanted to learn it firsthand - from the inside. A truly
experience, but also with its downfalls, so after three
years I returned
to my original career field and a position in Virginia.
While at Congress, I found out my wife had just
purchased a house
for us in Leesburg, Virginia (about 50 km northwest of
So, for as long as we are here, if you are traveling
through the Washington D.C.
area, please look us up. I am a BBQ fanatic and have an
oversized BBQ that
is usually on at least 6 days a week, rain, snow, or
wife Debbie and I have been married for 15 wonderful
years next June.
We both enjoy reading, and traveling, listening to
music, and many sports.
In the past, we were both addicted to Volksmarching and
while living in
Germany we really took advantage of the many events and
Most weekends, I would usually walk one or two marathons
was really getting into shape. Sadly, there are not as
many events in the U.S.
and I have a list of excuses that prevent me from
enjoying this sport more.
What is your background and experience that qualifies you
for the work of a
Financial Director? Do you have educational and/or work
experience in this area?
Well, educational wise - I believe I'm qualified. I have
a Master's Degree in
Business with majors in both Finance and Accounting, and
am currently pursuing (about 68% complete) a PhD in
Business with a specialty in organizational management.
I have also taught business and investment courses at
the college level.
Experience wise - perhaps less since my chosen career
field isn't necessarily
aligned with accounting and finance. However, as a
manager for more than 15 years,
I have supervised many sections and work groups
including financial planning and budget
responsibilities. In two different companies, I have had
sole responsibility and authority for annual working
budgets of over $1 million (USD).
You have taken the additional position as Direct Entry
John Knudsen has described this as a full-time job. Do you
able to perform both jobs, or will you be recruiting
additional people to help you?
I believe John is already acting as a consultant, based on
his work as the former
DE director, but perhaps you have other people also lined up
Notwithstanding all politics and opinions
Direct Entry (DE) program, I note two things: 1) it was
approved by Congress,
and 2) I think it is critical to recruit new chess
players to ICCF.
view the DE program as one of the major responsibilities
Finance Director (FD) and how it is ultimately setup and
will certainly be my responsibility. John has done an
of work and has provided me excellent opinions and
John and I have spoken several times and it will be his
and to what extent (if any) he wants to continue in the
future. John is an
example of one of the many tireless volunteers who has
given more than
expected to make ICCF function as great as it does.
have already had some excellent qualified people
volunteer to help
and shortly I'll be forming a DE working group to
DE program. My thinking is that some (many) of the
things that John
was having to do manually could be integrated into the
web pages and
performed automatically. Along with that, I've been
actively searching for
reasonable payment systems and am meeting with several
bank managers to look into merchant accounts and explore
payment methods in multiple currencies.
Another idea I'm toying with (and will be running this
by the Marketing
and Public Relations Commissioner) is possibly tying
some elements of
the DE program into both offices. Since we are targeting
perhaps we can do more than facilitate their entry into
a couple of tournaments.
We want them involved in more tournaments and to get
affiliated with their
National Federations. Perhaps a periodic automatically
from the President or National federation thanking them
and offering suggestions and directions for joining or
Just some random thoughts on the long flight home.
How did you get involved with Ruth Ann and
the financial work you did for ICCF before Congress?
About three years ago, I was inclined to start giving
back to this
wonderful organization. I had contacted Ruth Ann and
with her about different ways I could help either my
ICCF. She suggested a start in directing tournaments and
to several organizers. Since then, I have been directing
Tournaments for Leonardo Madonia (who runs the excellent
Tournaments office) and Master Norm tournaments for
as the Title Tournaments Commissioner. I added some Team
duties as well and was looking for a bit more.
When John announced his resignation from the DE
position, I thought
this might be an excellent opportunity to step up even
more. I expressed
my desire at first as a Direct Entry Assistant with the
caveat that if anyone
else was interested in the position, I would gladly
assist him or her.
Ruth Ann accepted my offer and told me she would relay
that to the EB.
In the meantime, she began sending me some general and
information so I could be more prepared for the duties.
Apparently you were not nominated for office, but given the
candidates you stepped forward and volunteered during
Congress. Can you give
us the real story of what happened? Why did you decide to
commit yourself to
such an important and time-consuming job? I've heard
conflicting reports about
whether or not you had already volunteered for the job
before Congress started.
Continuing from the previous question,
although early in 2005 I was
ready to start working on some DE issues, I invariably
ran into situations
where the FD needed to make a decision. Of course, you
all know what
happened there. So, until Congress, I continued to read,
formulate some initial plans of how to successfully
revitalize the DE program.
late summer, I guess Ruth Ann realized that the finances
going to get finalized for Congress so she started to
delve into the
matters of collecting, preparing, and transitioning all
the books to the
new FD. By the time nominations were due and nobody had
panic started to slowly set in. That was when Ruth Ann
I should consider attending Congress.
I started to do the research and as many of you
realized, this was no
easy trip to plan. Although I must say that the
organizers did a great
job of attending to many of the transportation and
logistics details -
making the journey much smoother.
initial intentions were to attend, meet and interface
with as many
people as possible. By attending, this would allow me to
DE position better and understand the expectations of
Federations. Never did I think for one moment that no
one would step up
to assume the responsibility of such an important
position of Finance Director.
Little did I know that if nobody volunteers, the EB can
I had toyed with the idea and briefly discussed the
several delegates including Ruth Ann and Max, I never
remaining sequence of events possible. Thomas Edison was
once quoted, "Opportunity is missed by most people
because it is dressed in overalls
and looks like work." And here it was staring me in the
submitted my nomination, I was asked to provide a verbal
CV which I did, then the delegates voted and I was
From my perspective, the entire process was over in
about 3 nanoseconds.
And while there was some consternation later from some
people, my view is twofold:
1) Ruth Ann has (and still is) performing a tremendous
service of retrieving and recreating the books to have
financial reports in
time for Congress. No one asked her to do this and her
of the problem and selfless devotion to ICCF to fix the
situation is even
more admirable. Add to this that her duties as NAPZ
Zonal Director and it
becomes almost overwhelming.
2) I didn't notice anybody stepping up to the plate (an
baseball saying) to assist Ruth Ann and I didn't see any
for FD. Since I couldn't do the DE job effectively
without direction and
input from the FD, and no one wanted the position … and
here we are today.
I was excited to see that you actually attended Congress
This indicates a high level of interest and commitment to
the future of
ICCF, given the time and money you spent to be there. Why
did you go all the
way to Argentina to attend this Congress? Was this your
This was my first Congress in person. I felt it was
demonstrate a commitment to the Member Federation that I
was serious about accepting responsibility. Plus, I was
selfish. Here was an opportunity to visit a fabulous
my country, and meet two world champions and the
president. Well, I got two out of the three and I'm sure
I'll meet up with
Alan at some opportunity. I was saddened at Med not
being able to attend,
but we have communicated already and we may even get
some time before next congress. Even better was to meet
some of the
sharpest minds and tireless people who do so much for
behind the scenes. I don't want to name names for fear
of excluding anyone,
but just being around these people would give anybody
to do more for this organization.
Though I'm sure there is still much work to do, what are
preliminary conclusions about the financial status of ICCF?
I'm going to hold off on offering an
opinion of the financial status
other than what was offered at Congress. Ruth Ann is
going to continue
to work the books and try to get an accurate end of 2004
Then we will be working the 2005 end-of-year invoices
achieve a smooth transition towards the end of this year
or early in 2006.
This might be a good
place to provide my business sense and
rough plans of conducting business. I am going to run
very much like a business, mindful of costs and
efficiencies with two
basic premises: 1) I am very process oriented - meaning
that I don't like a
lot of ad hoc process and procedures. I (and the various
groups I form)
will define and implement processes for most (if not
all) things we do.
This allows for consistency in execution, accurate
and visibility into activities. As I'm a big proponent
improvement, having sound processes in place allows
to happen. Plus, it also allows for a smoother or
when officials change. 2) Customer focused - from my
position I recognize three customers - a) first is my
boss, Med. Med needs to have the vision
and provide the direction. My responsibility is to
follow his lead,
provide him with all the necessary information for him
to do his job
successfully, and basically, make him look good, b) The
The EB provides focus and oversight. From my
I do should be invisible to the EB, and c) The Member
(through their appointed delegates) - my real customers.
me, communications is one of the most vital elements of
in this type of organization. To that effect, I'm
working on a comprehensive communication plan that will
address the following four parts:
What information should be disclosed?
Who receives this information?
Via what method?
was reminded that some financial information needs to
somewhat confidential; however, I think this will need
to be defined
and published in the overall communications plan.
I'm not clear on the purpose of auditing the annual
Could you clarify what this process is and how it affects
Proper oversight is essential to me. I don't want to
work in a vacuum
and my customers should expect (they should demand) that
auditing and safeguards are documented and in place.
feel secure about our financial state at any time. My
goal in 2006 is
to put such measures in place to successfully quash any
crisis rumors (unless they really exist).
will be reviewing the current audit procedures and will
provide any recommendations for improvement to the EB.
I'm also considering the establishment of a financial
committee under the FD office to separately evaluate,
and measure investment performance of ICCF funds.
Do you have any final words for the readers
who are anxious to learn something about you?
Although I have an overall perspective of the role and
I'm faced with, I will continue to learn and educate
myself on the
nuances of the job. I'm thankful for all those who have
confidence in me and will work hard to meet your
expectations of the FD.
last thing - in regards to the
Although I think it is a
wonderful forum for the exchange of thoughts, opinions,
I will probably excuse myself from getting embroiled in
through that format. I will periodically read
interesting threads as it
will probably present itself many excellent ideas and
improvements. Please don't be offended if I don't
respond to the board.
If you want to offer any suggestions, ideas, or
related to the FD office (preferably of the constructive
please e-mail me directly. Many of you have my personal
and I should get an ICCF one shortly.
you have gotten this far, my many thanks for all the
have received and I look forward to serving all of you
in terms of excellent service.
Warmest Regards and Amici Sumus,
ICCF Finance Director
Direct Entry Administrator
International Correspondence Chess Master
Overall Good Guy (or so says my wife)
© 2005 J. Franklin
Campbell, All Rights Reserved.