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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"On the Square" Article
 


Campbell
(USA)

Recent personal health issues and thoughts of my own mortality has caused me to take the issue of preservation of cc information more seriously. I have personally dealt with needing tournament information (results, games) where it was difficult to obtain them due to health and other issues affecting the previous tournament directors. I have also heard stories of games from tournaments of the highest levels being lost due to the death of the tournament director. In the USA we are seeking to build an archive of games and crosstables from important national ICCF-sanctioned events, but it's not easy to find the games and crosstables since there has been no organized program in place to preserve this information. I don't think our experience is unique. Following are some of my ideas about how to improve the situation. --- J. Franklin Campbell


Preserving the Heritage of Correspondence Chess
by J. Franklin Campbell
(posted 15 July 2003)


Those of us who have been trying to recover lost information about our cc past are very aware of the difficulties. Game scores have been lost, important information about major events, such as crosstables, names of players and officials, and dates covered by the competition, can be difficult or impossible to retrieve. A number of individuals are working to improve things. I have some specific suggestions for improvements in the way we support these efforts. Perhaps some of these things have already been implemented at the international level or by some national federations. If so, I would like to see these efforts publicized. Note that I am discussing these issues in an ICCF perspecitive.

Define Tournament Director Duties

Tournament Directors are in a unique position to capture and preserve information. ICCF rules already require players to report results with complete game scores to the TD to obtain credit. As far as I know, tournament directors are then not given any direction on what to do with these game scores. I am making an educated guess about what happens next.

  1. The game scores are discarded.
  2. They are piled in a corner ... eventually some or all get lost.
  3. The game scores are treated like personal property to be used for a book or to barter to someone else who may write a book.
  4. They are collected but then, through bad health or other personal problems, they become unavailable. In some cases they (and other records) are discarded by the family.
  5. The games are collected and forwarded to an archivist for permanent recording.

I think few people would disagree that the last possibility is the best. Undoubtedly, it is more common now than it was some years ago, but we must make this the normal approach and provide the guidance to insure that it happens.

To keep people informed and to insure that proper records are published, the TD's should also be directed to supply results and standings in a regular and standard fashion. Right now I believe it is a hit or miss proposition, with each tournament director placed in a position of "recreating the wheel" and inventing her own approach. Here are some of the things that I've heard that other TD's do plus some of the things I do.

  1. Confirm that the game scores are correct and consistent with the reported result. I got burned once when the result was reported incorrectly. A look at the final position would have caused me to question it and get an immediate correction. Now I check each game score as it arrives to confirm the result I'm recording.
  2. Provide results to the ICCF Ratings Commissioner for calculating ratings.
  3. Report title norms achieved by participants to the ICCF Qualifications Commissioner.
  4. Report pertinent news via magazines and web pages.
  5. Provide results on a regular basis to the appropriate magazines that publish a results service (such as Chess Mail).
  6. Acknowledge results received from players.
  7. Distribute reports to participants on a regular basis with results, crosstables and any other pertinent information and announcements.
  8. Maintain a web page with tournament news, such as repeats sent, vacations, results received, etl's awarded, etc.
  9. Distribute files of finished games, or provide a method to download them from the Internet.

I'm sure there must be other functions that some TD's have found useful to perform. Of course, TD's must also deal with complaints and solve various problems not connected with the subject of this article. I would suggest that an ICCF Commission could look into the subject of TD duties and activities and come up with a unified set of recommendations and/or requirements for tournament directors (and duties of other office-holders, as well). In business this is often referred to as a "Job Description." It sets forth in clear terms what should be accomplished by a person in a particular job. Not only does it provide a method of evaluating the performance of the job holders, but it provides a useful guide so the person with a job knows what is expected.

Backup of Important Information

Even if a tournament director or other official is doing her best to collect and store important data, in extreme cases this information can be lost without proper attention to backing up the information. Here are some possible scenarios.

  1. The tournament director's house burns down, destroying all the tournament records.
  2. A computer hard drive crash occurs, destroying information.
  3. The TD dies, or becomes very ill, making communication impossible. Contacting family and friends trying to gain access to tournament records is not an attractive idea and may be impossible.
  4. The TD moves or loses interest. Records may easily be lost.

Here I have some specific recommendations, some based on my personal experience.

  1. Results should be published on web pages immediately, making them available to the chess community, whatever should happen to the TD. In my case, I keep a complete copy of all web pages on my personal computer, so failure of the hosting company would not cause loss of records.
  2. Crosstables should also be made available on the Internet, providing players with current standings and providing an opportunity for players to detect and correct mistakes. I could add that in these days of instant communication, the players have come to expect this kind of service. Also, records that are well kept but inaccurate are to be avoided, so the ability to have information checked by many people and corrected quickly is a big plus.
  3. Games should be entered into a computer database immediately, preserving them even if the paper copies (or emails), should be lost. Note that this also allows the TD to immediately confirm that the game score is accurate and that the reported result is consistent with the game score provided.
  4. Databases of games should not be trusted to hard disk storage only. I make occasional backups to CD's and also upload critical databases of ICCF-U.S. games to the ICCF-U.S. server. Note that this also largely solves the problem of me dying or becoming unbalanced ... in this case, the database could be retrieved from the server and there would be no need to search my personal computer or my home office for backup CD's.

In summary, I believe it is important to establish norms for TD duties and responsibilities. A commission could explore the various possibilities and create an appropriate "Job Description." Also, methods of insuring that important information and game scores are not lost could be established. This should include recommendations for backing up material and insuring the loss of a single individual wouldn't jepardize access to that material. In some cases this may require providing access to servers and a documented method of backing up material on this server.

© 2003 J. Franklin Campbell, All Rights Reserved.

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