The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Franklin Campbell

The idea of providing "live" coverage of correspondence games has long been one of my favorite ideas. There are some clear positives in such a presentation, some mentioned in my article below. The idea of correspondence chess as a spectator sport is appealing. The promotional possibilities are obvious, though such promotion has not been effectively carried out so far, in my opinion.

There has been a lively debate in the cc community about various aspects of "live" coverage. Some exchanges have been heated. The subject tends to bring out the passion in people. But many significant ideas have been put forth. Putting the passion aside, the concept of "live" coverage is important and should be resolved. "Live" coverage can provide useful promotion and entertaining web page content. We should make some rules, agree to some Amici Sumus approaches and make "live" coverage work for us. Below are some of my observations and suggestions to achieve these aims.

- J. Franklin Campbell

Live Presentation of Correspondence Chess Games
by J. Franklin Campbell

(posted 27 January 2004)

Over the past few years there has been a lot said about presenting cc games "live" and, as a result of the lively discussion (primarily on TCCMB), my opinions have changed and been clarified. Here I would like to outline my view of the situation as I understand it. I would also like to make some recommendations on how to proceed.

My initial interest was in presenting my personal games at The Campbell Report. When a new move arrived I updated my "live" games page showing the new moves and position. You can see my first efforts at http://jfcampbell.us/CampbellReport/diaryxxx.htm and http://jfcampbell.us/CampbellReport/diary.htm.

Later I displayed some games for other players. In some of this coverage I provided a link to Java Replay, allowing readers to play through the games on screen. Examples of this can be seen at:


At the beginning some nicities didn't even occur to me. Asking opponents for permission ... informing opponents of the display ... providing any delay before posting the moves ... all these things have been brought up in discussions. The atmosphere of discussion has often been intense. However presented, though, many important elements of "live" coverage were mentioned and must, I believe, be considered in designing any display of "live" games.

Why "Live" Game Displays? What are the motivations for displaying cc games "live"? What are the important considerations?

  1. Personal games

    Whether at your personal web site, or on the website of a friend or organization, many people enjoy showing their current games. And why not? Most of us enjoy our games and are pleased to share them with others. We may also take pride in the quality of our play. Showing our games to others may just be a natural outgrowth of our love of the game and the competition. I think this is a healthy sign for our art/sport/science. When people love the game enough to expend the effort required to get their games posted, and when they are willing to risk exposing their potential mistakes/blunders to the whole world, then they have their hearts in the right place. I can add that displaying games "live" is a big commitment requiring a tremendous effort over a prolonged period of time. I say this from personal experience. Such actions are admirable!

  2. Promotional Value

    Many proponents of "live" coverage speak of the promotional value of "live" coverage. I know that the "live" coverage of cc games at my site has attracted a lot of "hits" from readers. It seems clear it can promote individual web sites. There is some anecdotal evidence that "live" coverage has attracted some OTB (over the board) to trying out cc. For me the evidence hasn't been convincing that new players are attracted to cc by these displays, but I suspect there has been at least some such value. Maybe we could have some more scientific approach to studying the promotional value, but there can be no doubt that "live" coverage of cc games is both fun and interesting.

  3. Competitive Impact

    How does having your moves posted affect your competitive situation? Some strong players have pointed out several disadvantages of having their moves made public. Here is the viewpoint of Stephen Ham from his January 9, 2004 TCCMB posting (reprinted here with his permission). Note that he has edited it slightly and added a paragraph for use in this article.

    Stephen Ham

    Well said! I have friends on both sides of this argument. Naturally I respect their conflicting views. Nonetheless, I'm opposed to any live broadcast or even delayed broadcast of my games.

    Although I'm not a GM, like the scenario that you mentioned, Alan, I still want privacy for my games. I work long and hard to find theoretical improvements for my CC games (OK, some of my ideas backfire). I spend a lot of money to buy books to help me, I put forth time and effort. So it seems terribly unjust that some viewer, who put forth zero-effort, can then have access to the results of my money and time and energy (not to mention blood, sweat, and tears).

    Now I don't want to sound special. Most of the world might quite rightfully laugh at the product of my labors. But I'm proud of what I've done and I don't want my efforts, regardless of their merit (or probable lack), merely given away to complete strangers who invested nothing. That just makes these people leeches, and I feel it makes me victimized.

    Maybe I'm fooling myself about this. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world. Maybe everybody will eventually find my games anyhow (assuming there's any merit to them at all). But if they do find them, then I think that they should put forth some effort to do so (e.g. buy Tim Harding's wonderful CC CD's, etc.).

    I'm in a Category VIII tournament right now. The TD sent us an update of all the completed games. However, rather than merely copying us 16-players, he seems to have copied everybody in the CC world, including commercial interests, such as Chess Mail! While I have personal biases in favor of Tim's Chess Mail (please subscribe to it!), I question who gave the TD the right to give away our games to anybody? They aren't his games to give away.

    Here's another experience. I was in a World Championship Semi-Final group. One high rated opponent was showing his games "live" on his web site, without permission. That's when I noticed that a game of his was identical to a game I had. It's likely that my low-rated opponent was watching that game "live" to see how he should respond against me. So I asked my opponent to cease showing our game on his web site. The result - the low rated opponent now had no reference material, and he quickly deviated from my game line.

    Do I benefit by seeing other people's games? Sure I do. Did those players whose games I now have access to, consent to give away their game's scores? What if they didn't? What if they're as opposed to the practice as I am? Then I think that those scores shouldn't be in the public domain immediately (I do think that high-quality games should be preserved for posterity, but suggest a delay period).

    This whole business gets very complex, though, because it takes two to create a game. And neither player holds a copyright to it. So is the game theirs individually, or do they only share 50%/50% rights to the game? Does the winner have the right, by virtue of his/her victory to display it anywhere? Since it's an ICCF game, does it belong to ICCF too? Can they do what they want with it without permission from the players? I don't have answers - I'm just thinking out loud and hoping to generate some thought. I know this has been discussed before without resolution.

    -- Stephen Ham

  4. Freedom of Speech Issue

    If one individual wishes to posted her/his moves, why should anyone prevent it? Must we first ask for permission to publish a game "live"? Perhaps at a future time posting games "live" will be considered in the same category as submitting the game with annotations for publication. I don't think it is common to ask your opponent's permission before doing that. With the advent of chess servers, showing games "live" is sure to become easier. But do we have the right to do so?

  5. The "Amici Sumus" Issue

    Competitors/organizers in ICCF have a motto ... Amici Sumus ... which should direct our actions and words. It means "We are Friends". Sometimes we forget this in the heat of the moment. However, I believe this motto should be the guiding principle in all our cc actions. The issue of "live" coverage has caused a lot of contention. Some believe that there is no need to consult our opponent before going "live". I believe there is some validity to the arguments, but I won't discuss them here. The important issue of Amici Sumus should override any such discussion, in my opinion.

  6. Some practical suggestions

    Keeping to the principle of Amici Sumus leaves plenty of room for the practice of posting "live" coverage of cc games and events. Some useful guidelines are already in use. The following doesn't contain anything really original, but perhaps it will be useful to list them together.

    1. Specific public events should be planned to provide instant "live" coverage, such as GM vs. the world. These events can be very good for promoting correspondence chess. There are a lot of possibilities here, and I believe innovative people will find many excellent ways to use this tool in their efforts to promote our game.

    2. In the name of Amici Sumus no game should be displayed "live" without the knowledge/permission of both players. I suggest this can be accomplished as follows.

      1. In the case of future tournaments, this possibility should be considered from the beginning by the organizers. Specific events should be planned as "live" events. When a participant enters the event, it should be stated clearly that the event will be covered "live". Thus the players will know before the games that the games will be displayed "live" and there can be no reason for complaint.

      2. In the case of individuals wanting to post their personal games "live", it seems reasonable to me to request the permission of opponents and only post the games where permission is granted. Of course, this may not be necessary in the future if posting games "live" becomes commonplace and people come to expect this as a possibility. For now, though, the expectation that games will not be published "live" is understandable and should be observed by all parties. I believe many people would grant permission, but we should respect the wishes of those who choose not to grant permission.

      3. If "live" coverage becomes automated for games played on a server, then the tournament administrator should be able to set options for (1) the tournament to be viewed "live", (2) the tournament to be viewed "live" for all players giving permission, or (3) the tournament will not be displayed "live". For tournaments not advertised ahead of time as being shown "live" the individual players should have options (1) my games in this event may be shown "live" or (2) no "live" display for this event.

  7. Final Comments and Observations
  8. I believe "live" coverage is sensational! It's fun to share our games with others, it's interesting to follow the games of our friends, teammates and top players/top events. There are some great opportunities to promote and popularize our game with "live" coverage. The coming ICCF server may make it easy to publish games "live" in the future, if not at the beginning then later through some upgrades. In the future people will become more accustomed to seeing "live" coverage. The capability of viewing the other games going on in our events will add interest to these events. At the moment, when so many players have the expectation that their games will not be shown "live", we should be guided by Amici Sumus and have permission before posting any "live" coverage.

    Events like the "ICCF 50 years World Champions Jubilee Tournament" (http://tables.iccf.com/jubilee/50wcjtindex.html) show how compelling and entertaining "live" coverage can be. If properly publicized this sort of event should bring a lot of attention to correspondence chess and help recruit new players. Of course, we don't need hundreds of these events going at once, but a selection of such events could be very attractive to viewers. Perhaps each National Federation of ICCF could highlight one major event by providing "live" coverage.

    I would like to see ICCF establish and publish guidelines for "live" coverage. Just as ICCF rules of play have established standards in our community, "live" game coverage guidelines could establish rules for "live" coverage for National Federations and other publishers of "live" games. ICCF has a leadership position in our cc community, so taking a lead in this area seems natural to me. There are already some clear ideas, such as the 3-move delay.

    While the promotional value of "live" coverage seems obvious, it's not enough to simply publish the games. A few of us try to provide links to the coverage (see http://jfcampbell.us/CampbellReport/clinks.htm#cclive), but without a serious attempt to attract viewers from the people we want to promote cc to, then the promotional value will be minimal. For example, the "ICCF 50 years World Champions Jubilee Tournament" mentioned above was a real gift to the ICCF community, but as a promotional event I think it had very limited success. Was it mentioned on TWIC? Did any of the top chess web sites publicize it? Perhaps I just missed it, but I don't recall any such publicity. This doesn't mean it was a failure ... many of us followed the games with great interest. The coverage was excellent. Perhaps a spectacular promotional opportunity was missed, though.

    "Live" coverage of events is just one possibility for promoting correspondence chess. We can certainly use this tool as part of an overall plan to attract new chess players to correspondence chess. Right now it is a shotgun approach, with a few individuals posting "live" games and a few major events being shown "live". We need a more comprehensive program of promoting correspondence chess if our sport is to survive and prosper. There is no reason it shouldn't do so ... cc is a fabulous activity. Many of the people I know in the cc world have been playing for years ... it is an activity for a lifetime. "Live" chess is a fascinating and compelling way to showcase cc, and if it is presented well it could bring in a lot of new players. "Live" coverage adds to our enjoyment of the game. It has a lot going for it.

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