The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article


It's very unusual of me to post an article by an anonymous author, but this unsubstantiated piece of journalism describes a frightening "brave new world" of correspondence chess that I simply couldn't ignore. There is no evidence that the author actually collected any "facts" from ICCF officials and no evidence exists that a drug testing commission or "Drug Czar" has ever been appointed by the ICCF. Therefore, you will have to form your own conclusions about the authenticity of this report and the seriousness of the possibility discussed. That possibility is that correspondence chess may soon be subject to the same scrutiny as OTB chess concerning the use of drugs. While reading this you may want to ask yourself the question, "who among us wants to risk the possibility that cc may become tainted by the shame and evil of the use of performance enhancing drugs?" It's a sobering thought.
-- J. Franklin Campbell

Drug Testing in Correspondence Chess
by Investigative Reporter "N"

We have all been reading about the introduction of drug testing into high level chess competition (Over the Board). But now it appears that drug testing will also become part of correspondence chess as well. Following are some of the details that have been "leaked" by top officials and other functionaries in the elite cc organization International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) as well as some quotes from scientists and medical experts. We are sure to hear more about this in the future, given that drug testing has proven to be so controversial in OTB chess.

If drugs can enhance the performance of competitors in OTB chess, then certainly they can do the same for cc players. Don't ask which drugs do what to the players the people will simply sit there with glassy eyes staring into space till it occurs to them to change the subject. However, if FIDE considers this a significant problem then it must truly be a major problem deserving attention. As the ICCF rules of play state in paragraph 1a., "Games shall be played in accordance with the FIDE Laws of Chess where applicable." This is a strong incentive to follow in FIDE's footsteps regarding drug testing.

One ICCF official has been quoted as saying, "Everyone recognizes that in correspondence chess we can do everything better than in OTB. The additional time we spend on each move, the research the players can do, the amount of analysis done on each move these all point towards more scientific and creative chess, the best chess possible. Why shouldn't we expect cc drug testing also to be superior and more scientific?" Well, this unnamed official certainly has a point. The tremendous respect received by cc from chess players and officials at every level would certainly extend to a cc drug testing program. Of course, cc does present certain challenges for drug testing given that the players are spread all over the world and the games may last years. You can be sure that cc is up to the challenge, though.

One of the first challenges is "When do we test?". In OTB, the games all occur over a relatively short period of time, normally only a few days. The players may be tested just after the games. A single move in cc is rather like a whole game of OTB. A player may work for hours on this single move and then transmit it to the opponent. When a response is received days or weeks later the process is repeated. Therefore, the drug test might be best performed following each move of the game 40 moves in the game, 40 drug tests. Otherwise, a clever "drug-enhanced cc player" could stay clean during the opening moves and only resort to the "secret weapon" when critical positions are reached. The only logical approach is to test after every move to ensure fair competition.

Of course, not every competitor in every event will be tested. Only the top events, such as the World Championship final, will have drug testing of every player on every move. Lower events will have random testing of the players, one move here, one move there. All players in tested events will have to be "prepared" in case they are called upon to be tested (more on this "preparation" below in the discussion about the "testing solution"). At least at the beginning only a few major events will be subjected to testing.

The question has probably occurred to you, "How can cc players be tested for drugs?" This was a challenging question for the ICCF Drug Testing Commission. As with the rules of play, experts from numerous fields considered the requirements very carefully, did a lot of research, and finally came up with a brilliant solution. Following is a step by step methodology for testing.

Since the players are located at remote locations, each competitor will have a local physician appointed to oversee some steps of the testing procedure. This physician will inject the special "testing solution" into the bloodstream of the competitor and instruct the player on how to provide the required urine samples. The competitor will be supplied with an adequate supply of bottles, labels and shipping boxes. If the player does not have a suitable video camera one will be supplied along with a tripod and instructions on how to photograph the test procedure.

The most complicated part of the procedure is the special "testing solution" introduced into the competitor's blood stream. It took quite a bit of time to fully develop this "testing solution" but everyone will surely recognize the significance of this development and the central role it plays in the drug testing regimen. To prevent any cheating it is vitally important to be able to determine that a given urine sample is from the claimed individual player and that it was collected at the specified time. Therefore, this special "testing solution" contains chemical markers. One marker identifies the specific player. This eliminates the possibility of a player having a drug-free friend supply the urine sample. I am reminded of the old story from the days of military conscription in the USA. One potential draftee had a girlfriend with a asthma, so he sneaked in a urine sample from her. After they tested "his" urine sample they told him, "It appears that you can't be drafted since you have asthma. Oh, by the way, you are also pregnant." Anyway, this special chemical trace element, unique to each individual, will insure that the urine sample comes from the specified individual.

The second essential ingredient in the "testing solution" is a special isotope that decays at a precise rate. By measuring the relative amounts of the different forms of the isotope it is possible to calculate the precise date the sample was taken. Developing this special isotope and measuring technique was the most difficult part of the research program. I questioned one of the research scientists involved in the development of this ingredient and, subject to my agreement to keep his identity confidential, he provided these interesting comments.

"Of course, developing this radioactive isotope for precise measurement of the age of the sample was particularly challenging. The need for being able to measure the age of the sample to within one day was a difficult assignment. However, I'm proud to say we achieved this wonderful breakthrough and advanced the science of drug testing to a previously unknown height! Of course, we had to consider the health risks involved in injecting a radioactive substance into the body of the cc competitor. We tested the solutions on lab rats and I can proudly say that hardly any of them developed brain tumors!

"Surely chess competitors can only take pride in the thoroughness of this scientific research and the thoughtfulness towards our top cc players. We certainly wouldn't want too many of them to die or suffer ill health due to this important drug testing program. The devotion of our top competitors to our beloved art/sport/science will certainly insure that they will happily embrace this necessary testing regime and willingly accept the minor health risks involved to insure our championship events are not soiled by the evil of performance enhancing drugs."

Here is what is believed to be the complete testing sequence, after the required visit to the physician for injection of the vital "testing solution" and the instructions.

  1. Prepare the move for email transmission to the opponent with copy to the Drug Czar.
  2. Set up the video camera to record collecting the urine sample.
  3. Take the sample and photograph the act of collection. It is recommended that the player have the front page of a newspaper showing in the photo to provide extra evidence of when the photo was taken.
  4. Seal and label the sample bottle with the provided labels.
  5. Package the labeled bottle in the provided shipping container for shipping to the Drug Czar.
  6. Transfer the photo of collecting the sample into the computer.
  7. Attach the photo to the email with the move.
  8. Send the email and ship the urine sample.

The above procedure should be followed for each move. After some experience this should only add a few minutes to each move, hardly significant considering the possible hours and days spent on determining the move. Of course, the occasional headaches caused by the radioactive isotopes in the testing solution could increase the time required so the commission has recommended increasing the time limits for these events to 70/10 or 80/10 with special leave allowed for any hospitalization required.

I asked about the cost of such a testing program. After all, I had heard that typical drug tests may cost hundreds of dollars. Different people gave me different numbers, but the range was from $1,600 US up to $3,700 US for each move. I think the range was based on how they chose to pro-rate the costs of research and development. I was assured that money was no problem ... that there were many individuals interested in the advancement of correspondence chess who would be glad to cover the costs of implementation. The commission apparently spent little time on this subject feeling that the costs related to the project could be easily dealt with at a later time. The conversation was quickly shifted to another topic.

It's good to know that cc is forging to the front in its efforts to maintain its position at the cutting edge of chess competition. There are bound to be alarmists who see problems around every corner. Complete confidentiality is guaranteed, but even so some female competitors have objected to the requirement of attaching a digital photograph of the collection of the urine samples. One even expressed fear that her photo would one day show up on the Internet on a page like Kinky Girls. Officials dismissed this unwarranted fear saying, "This couldn't possibly occur. Besides, nobody ever visits those pages. By the way, what was that URL?" Just as in the OTB world we are sure to have our share of nay-sayers and fear mongers saying things like "Just what drugs are supposed to enhance performance?" and "Should we really consider violating the privacy of our players in this fashion?" Every group, even the ones consisting of the most intelligent and logical people on the face of the earth (correspondence chess players), will have its small collection of weirdos and kooks. Most, when they examine this well thought out testing program and consider the dangers of leaving our sport unregulated when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs, will agree with Mr. Spock's sentiment when he said those stirring words, "Logical flawlessly logical."

I hope you enjoyed my humor article presented above. At least in this instance
(unlike in the OTB situation) the joke is intentional. --- J. Franklin Campbell
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