APCT players retain right to play in ICCF events
ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli has announced that, even after APCT shuts down, all APCT players will retain the right to play in ICCF events. From the very beginning, APCT has been one of the member USA organizations that authorize the ICCF-U.S. office to represent USA to ICCF. Currently, CCLA and USCF also authorize the ICCF-U.S. office. Only players from those three organizations may normally participate in ICCF events.
ICCF participation in FIDE Olympiad cancelled!
Last time I reported that FIDE had invited ICCF to send a team of cc players to compete in the FIDE Olympiad in Torino, Italy (Turin), site of the recent Winter Olympics. There was a possibility I would go to report on the team and help publicize ICCF. The thought of living in the Olympic Village and meeting so many famous chess players was exciting. ICCF selected a strong team and the members of the ICCF delegation had started preparing for the trip when the cold reality of the situation became known FIDE would not allow ICCF to participate after all! This was quite a blow. What happened?
FIDE membership consists mostly of national federations, such as USCF. There are also a few other chess organizations affiliated with FIDE, such as the ICCF. I guess they couldn't be considered "members", though, since they apparently have no voting rights at least ICCF doesn't have a vote. FIDE has been carefully aligning itself with the Olympic movement, where teams must represent countries. So FIDE does not allow non-country teams to compete in the Olympiad, starting this year. Non-country teams have certainly been unusual in the past. However, in the last Olympiad in 2004 there were two such teams in the competition.
At the Chess Olympiad - Calvia 2004 in the men's division two non-national teams (out of a total of 129 teams) participated, International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) which finished in 96th place and International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPCA) which finished in 57th place. I thought this represented a precedent for a team like ICCF to compete, but things seem to have changed in the last two years.
The form of ICCF's invitation is still not clear. I have heard that, as an affiliated organization, FIDE sends major announcements to ICCF. The Italian chess federation sent such information to ICCF, which was interpreted as a full invitation to compete. I haven't seen this "invitation", so I don't know how it was worded. FIDE had not decisively decided on ICCF participation during its meetings, where ICCF President Mohamed (Med) Samraoui (ALG, currently living in Germany) attended and lobbied for ICCF participation. Perhaps this "invitation" was interpreted as the final decision to allow for ICCF participation.
The first hint of trouble followed a Chess Today article about ICCF participation. A day or two later a FIDE representative sent a letter to Chess Today stating that ICCF participation was against FIDE policy and was not allowed. Soon the word spread, ICCF officials were notified of the possible problem, and efforts were made to clarify the situation. Here it would appear that FIDE failed to respond in a timely fashion, leaving ICCF to speculate about the situation. Unfortunately, the selected members of the ICCF team were not notified of the potential problem, except those who found out through the rumor mill or were contacted by friends. At least one team member GM Tunc Hamarat (AUT) revealed that he had cancelled some important competitions, bought a laptop computer for the trip, arranged his vacation and bought a plane ticket in preparation for the trip.
On 26 March 2006 the ICCF web site carried this announcement from the President:
After a lengthy process of selection, the team to represent ICCF had been announced on 28 February 2006. Following is the announcement from the ICCF web site. It is my personal belief that being selected for the team was a distinct honor, and the sad lack of opportunity to go and compete does not lessen the honor of being selected. There is little doubt they would have represented ICCF well, and this participation would have opened the door to a unique opportunity to publicize ICCF to the world chess community. Note that three of the selected players are cc world champions.
ICCF "Direct Entry" Facility on-line
ICCF has been without a Direct Entry (DE) facility for some time, a couple years. Direct Entry allows players to enter events on-line and pay by PayPal/Credit Card. There are two forms: Standard and Enhanced. Standard DE is only for players new to ICCF ... they can enter up to two events on-line. After that, entry and payment must be made through the National Federation (the NF). ICCF charges 50% more than their normal fee, returns all but a small transaction fee of the extra charge to the National Federation, and passes contact information along to the National Federation of the player's country to allow the NF to contact the player to offer membership, send sample magazines, etc. This is considered a recruiting tool for the NF. The Enhanced version (or Full version) is about the same thing, but it is not limited to the first two ICCF events for a player. It is optional for a NF to participate in this Enhanced (EDE) program. If the NF is not participating, players from that country must send their entries directly to their NF and pay the fee charged by the NF. ICCF has a fee for each event, rather like a "wholesale" price. The NF then adds a surcharge to cover their expenses and charges this "retail" price to their players. The Enhanced DE program charges a flat 50% fee over the "wholesale" price, of which about 90% goes to the NF.
Why would a NF not participate in the EDE and allow their players to enter all events on-line? I counted 13 federations that have selected not to participate (against 52 that are participating). One potential problem is the fixed markup of fees over the "wholesale" ICCF fee. These markups vary considerably based on methods of financing the organizations. Some NFs charge membership fees, magazine subscription fees, or have other sources of income. The USA is in a bad position ... no fees of any kind except for the markups on ICCF tournament fees. Therefore, their markups are higher than many federations, and indeed the ICCF-U.S. in general charges much more than the 45% or so they get back from DE entries and they lose money every time the DE is used.
Of course, this is a simplistic analysis and strictly unofficial. Therefore, since two of the major NF members of ICCF elected not to participate in the EDE I asked Uwe Bekemann, webmaster of the BdF (German) site, and Ruth Ann Fay, who runs the USA office ICCF-U.S., to comment on their reasons for not using this useful system allowing on-line entry into tournaments. I'm sure many players would appreciate the convenience of signing up for events and paying fees on-line. The USA does not offer on-line payment of fees paid directly to them.. Germany apparently doesn't, either, though I have been told this service will become available soon.
Uwe Bekemann sent me a few interesting comments, but his main point was that Germany's decision was tentitive and would be reconsidered after the upcoming ICCF Congress in Dresden later this year. He stressed that this wasn't the best time to describe the German position since it was still evolving. Ruth Ann Fay sent me a comprehensive discussion of the subject, much too long to print here (see my web site for her full statement).
[Note: Ruth Ann Fay's statement will be added here later.]
A review of the book "Chess for Zebras" in the weekly on-line chess newsletter Chessville contained this interesting quote:
While I was listening to the Chess.FM broadcast of the Linares tournament I heard an interesting statement which I thought was worthy of recording.
2006 USA Chess Championship (OTB)
The USA championship (OTB) was played March 2-12 in San Diego, California. The official web site at http://www.uschesschampionship.com reported, "Alexander Onischuk defeated Yury Shulman in the final match, drawing the first game and winning the second. Prior to that, Anna Zatonskih beat defending women's champion Rusudan Goletiani by the same score to take the title." I still consider it bizarre that the players played with standard OTB time limits up to the final match, and then they switched to speed chess to determine the final winners. The prizes awarded to the top places:
Title norms achieved: GM - Josh Friedel; IM - Alan Stein, Rusudan Goletiani; WGM - Batchimeg Tuvshintugs
The players were divided into two 32-player Swiss system tournaments A and B, with the winners of the two sections playing a final 2-game match to determine the overall winner. The top woman scorer from each group advanced to the women's championship match. Group "B" had a 3-way tie for first place (GM Gata Kamsky, GM Larry Christiansen, GM Yury Shulman) with Shulman advancing with better tie-breaks. Previously inactive GM Max Dlugy finished in the middle of the pack in Group "A" with 4.5 points, 2.5 points behind the winner.
Here is the description provided by the organizers of the time limit used for the Swiss part of the tournament:
The reason for the rapid finals seems clear to me. The organizers were able to neatly finish up the championship in one afternoon with the women's match played first, then the men's match, and there was no confusion or competition between games for the viewers' attention. The championship matches were center stage with a neat finish. Good theater, but good chess? I haven't heard many complaints, so perhaps the good theater wins out.
There were some interesting side prizes:
Hikaru Nakamura received the $5,000 Larsen Prize for uncompromising play.
Batchimeg Tuvshintugs received the $1,000 Joyce Jillson Prize for her brilliant play, including defeating three GMs.
Blogger prizes: Ben Finegold took the $300 prize with Gregory Serper taking the $100 second place, with additional prizes to Elizabeth Vicary and Ildar Ibragimov. The prizes were small, but it's nice to see such original prizes handed out. The blogging by players at the official web site added an interesting perspective into the competition and were a brilliant innovation for this championship. For those unfamiliar with Internet blogs, they are rather like personal diaries by individuals. Reading the thoughts of the players during the competition made this a rather special competition. The blogs are still on-line at the official site, so you might want to take a look if you're on-line. Go to the official site and find the link to "The Return of ChampBlog!", or go directly to:
FIDE Presidential Campaign
The presidential campaign has heated up with current president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (elected president of FIDE in 1996) starting a campaign web site in competition to the well-organized campaign web site of his opponent Bessel Kok. Here are the URL's of the two campaign sites:
The names people choose are usually interesting. Some of the recent USA military campaigns have seemingly been named by some big advertising company to make them sound palatable. The current FIDE president has named his "Chess FIDE Fidelity" while Kok's campaign is called "The Right Move". Reacting to "The Right Move" site displaying a list of 30 national federation supporters, "Chess FIDE Fidelity" has retorted with a list of 50 national federations supporting their campaign. There is one clear difference, though. Bessel Kok's support is documented with personal messages from the supporters. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's support is documented only with a simple list of federation names. One embarrassing item is the first country listed on this latter site: Afghanistan. Apparently the leadership of the Afghanistan federation has written to point out they don't support Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. In fact, Bessel Kok's web site published a statement from the Afghanistan representative Ismail Jamshedy stating their support. So far the Ilyumzhinov web site has ignored this and Afghanistan remains listed as an official supporter. Clearly, the list presented by Ilyumzhinov is highly questionable.
The election will have taken place before I write my next column, so I'll give a summary next time. Some people are still predicting that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov will retain his position. GM Anatoly Karpov is quoted on the Ilyumzhinov site as saying he thought this would happen. The Russian Federation has announced their support for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Most of the announced support for Bessel Kok has come from the Western European countries. The African/Asian federations seem to be waiting. I only hope this doesn't presage a split in FIDE according to nationality.
One amusing element of this competition for FIDE president is this. The Chess Fidelity web site has recently posted an interview with their candidate Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Who conducted this 2004 interview? ... why his competition Bessel Kok along with Kok's running mate Ali Nihat Yazici, of course!
Super World Championship?
In his 1 April 2006 issue of Chess Today GM Alex Baburin reported the story "Super World Championship". He said,
The article went on to say, "Speaking to a leading Icelandic newspaper, Fischer said that he won't be the underdog in London. His only disappointment was the size of the prize fund - his 1992 match against Spassky fetched $5m, he pointed out."
Of course, I should have smelled a rat. The date of the article should have been a warning April Fool's Day. Any report of Fischer playing chess should also be discounted. They got me. I must admit, I'm not too fond of the classic "April Fools" jokes, especially in respected news sources. It was rather embarrassing to have been fooled, but I guess "Let the buyer beware" must hold true of everything, including chess publications. I promise not to report fake news here, though unless, of course, I am fooled again.
By the way, would this fake story have fooled you?
ICCF Server and other things
The ICCF server is coming along nicely. With APCT closing down soon many readers will be looking for other places to compete. If you have Internet access I urge you to try server chess. I prefer the ICCF server since it provides "official" cc play where every opponent has a name, address and a known rating. Your results are rated by ICCF and you can work towards titles. There are some flashier servers out there, some very good ones according to friends. I've never tried them, so I can't comment from personal experience. Still, I recommend the ICCF site since this is where you can play in ICCF events. It is rumored that both CCLA and USCF are investigating possibilities of playing some of their events on the ICCF server. ICCF-U.S. is already conducting some of the USA championship (USCCC) games on the server.
For me a big element of the server is the movement of administrative functions to the server. For years I have been maintaining crosstables manually on web pages and sending written reports to the ICCF ratings commissioner twice a year for the tournaments I have directed. This has now ended. Now all events will be administered on the server, even email and postal events. When an email game ends, the result is registered on the server. This allows for automated display of crosstables and calculation of ratings. Excellent!
This provides a good example of my theory of involvement in chess in many ways. We all enjoy playing the game, doing our opening research, corresponding with our opponents, etc. But other things are fun, too. Writing articles, drawing chess cartoons, directing tournaments, helping revise the rules of play, etc. There are many ways we can get involved and do things within our fabulous hobby of chess. I have chosen to be involved with the ICCF server. I was recently appointed as ICCF Server Tables Coordinator. My first task is to write an on-line document to help tournament directors and tournament organizers to do their required work on the server, entering data needed by the server to track events and display crosstables, and entering results when postal/email games end. It consists mostly of a tutorial with screen shots walking them through their various activities.
Speaking of tutorial, that was another project of mine, though it was an independent project, not part of a job for ICCF. I saw a need for a tutorial, based on the questions I was receiving from new server players in the USA. This represents one of my most satisfying projects in chess, since so many people have found it useful. The tutorial is on my personal chess web site (now there's another project for you to consider many people now have web sites, you could create one of your own to cover some of your chess interests such as annotating your games or writing about your favorite chess personalities). The tutorial hit counter indicates over 5,000 visits, plus it has been translated into five other languages (French, German, Dutch, Czech and Spanish). I just got a note from an official of the Lithuanian chess federation about translating it into Lithuanian. Now this is cool! In the past I wrote an article on cc etiquette that had been translated into Portuguese and published in "Distant Pawn" magazine. It thought that was cool this is even better!
I had hoped to expand my chess experience by going to the FIDE Chess Olympiad in Torino to photograph the players, organizers and locale, publish on-line reports of the exploits of the ICCF cc players, interview various chess personalities, and do some real promotional activities for ICCF and correspondence chess in general. Too bad that didn't work out.
copyright © 2006 by J. Franklin Campbell
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