The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

J. F. Campbell

What is the role of the tournament director in an ICCF event? Are the duties and responsibilities of a tournament director specified anywhere? Apparently not. I believe it would prove useful to both tournament directors and to players to have the "job description" of the tournament director carefully described in an official document easily available from the ICCF web site. Such a document could clarify what the players should expect from their tournament directors and provide a useful "checklist" of functions for the tournament directors. This should prove particularly useful to new ICCF players and new tournament directors. In addition, ideas could be presented to encourage the TD to be resourceful and creative in making tournaments better experiences for everyone. In the absense of an official ICCF document, I am presenting my best effort at producing one privately. My hope is that this will prove useful and encourage ICCF to produce an official document in the near future.
--- J. Franklin Campbell

Tournament Directing in ICCF A Proposal
by J. Franklin Campbell
(posted 8 May 2004)

There is a lack of documented guidance for tournament directors in the ICCF. Apparently, such guidance has been considered in at least one existing commission, but there doesn't appear to have been any actual document produced to outline the duties and responsibilities of tournament directors. I advocate producing such a document to give a "job description" for tournament directing, to list all the required functions, and to give further examples of activities properly undertaken by TD's. This would benefit both tournament directors and players. It would be especially beneficial to new tournament directors who would have guidance a checklist of both required functions and ideas to make their directing more effective.

Following is my best effort to outline the duties and responsibilities, followed by additional suggestions for making the tournament a better experience for the participants. It is my belief that problems can best be solved by avoiding them from the beginning. I also believe the vast majority of correspondence chess players are fair and honest individuals who are more than willing to conduct themselves according to the ICCF motto Amici Sumus "We are Friends". The tournament director can provide the friendly atmosphere which promotes this.

A proposed list of tournament director duties

  1. Read and understand the applicable rules of play

    The TD should be completely familiar with the current rules of play for the event. Sometimes players and TD's confuse old rules (or rules from another organization) with the ICCF rules for this specific event. A careful reading of the current rules for this specific type of competition as presented on the ICCF web site should help avoid most problems.

  2. Send out tournament start materials

    The TD should send each player a complete packet of starting papers with full information on opponents, start/end dates, time limits, etc. everything the player needs to know to conduct play in the event. The TD should inspect the materials carefully before sending, checking for accuracy and completeness.

  3. Confirm participation by all players

    Each player must be required to respond to confirm receipt of the start material and confirm participation. If confirmations are not received, the TD must follow up and determine whether or not the player will participate.

  4. Maintain complete records of the tournament

    To conduct a tournament successfully the TD must have complete and accurate records. It is the responsibility of each tournament director to be sufficiently organized to insure proper record keeping. Following is a list of important items that should be carefully recorded for each player.

    1. Game results
    2. Leaves vacations
    3. ETL's (exceeded time limit)
    4. Current address and/or email address
    5. If appropriate, mode of game transmission (postal or email)

  5. Report results to the Ratings Commission

    Currently, the Ratings Commissioner requires an update each six months of all new results during that six-month period. The TD should maintain records with this in mind so such a report can be prepared in a timely and accurate way. If a result changes or was reported incorrectly, the next report should provide the correction.

  6. Submit any required TD reports

    Examples of TD reports can be seen at the ICCF web site at: http://tables.iccf.com/TDreports/ Also, many tournaments are covered by a results service in Chess Mail magazine, so results should be sent there on a regular basis. If an on-line crosstable is being maintained for the event, results should be provided to the appropriate webmaster in a timely fashion.

  7. Confirm title norms to the Qualifications Commissioner

    Many events have the possibility of earning title norms. When a player achieves a title norm the TD should confirm this with a message to the Qualifications Commissioner listing the details. This is one of the nice moments for a TD, in my opinion.

  8. Maintain games database for archive

    The TD cannot accept a result without the accompanying game score. All the game scores should be carefully filed for future use in archiving the tournament games. Note that current ICCF rules require both players to provide a complete score to the game. Personally, I think that should be changed so that the loser need not send a report. In practice, losers frequently do not send in game scores. The only advantage I can see to insisting on receiving both game scores is in case there is an error ... comparing the game scores would usually clear them up. This seems pretty minor, though, so why have a rule on the books that is not needed and is frequently ignored by both the players and the TD? This could lead to lower respect for the rules or, if enforced by the TD, to extra work for the TD and irritation to the players. I suggest dumping this rule and allowing the winner (or White in the case of a draw) to report the result.

  9. Send periodic reports to the players

    The players should be kept informed on the progress of the tournament. At the minimum, a crosstable should be provided to each player each six months. Players with email can be sent email reports. Those without email addresses should be mailed printed reports.

  10. Resolve complaints, answer questions

    If players have any complaints or questions, they will send them to the TD. It is the TD's responsibility to resolve problems and answer questions in a timely fashion. If an issue cannot be dealt with immediately, the TD should send an acknowledgement to the player with notification that the issue is being pursued. I would suggest an acknowledgement or answer to the complaint/question should be made within two or three days. Players should not be left in the dark, wondering if the TD has received their message.

    If the TD cannot answer the question or resolve the problem on their own, a more experienced TD should be consulted. If guidelines are published, they should be consulted for answers first. An effort should be made to resolve issues in a way that is compatible with previous practice.

    No complaint should be resolved without hearing from both parties. A rushed decision without adequate investigations could turn out to be incorrect. It is better to be slow with a decision than to have to reverse a decision after more information is brought forward. If a mistake is made, however, the TD should be ready to change a decision. This isn't a question of ego it is a question of getting it right. Any decision announced to the players should contain information about how to appeal the decision. If a decision is reversed or changed by the Appeals Commission, the TD should simply accept this new decision and apply it appropriately, even if the TD disagrees with the decision of the AC.

  11. The TD should keep careful track of correspondence with players

    The rules require that players reply to the TD. E.g., in the individual email rules it says, "If a player does not answer enquiries from the Tournament Director, that player may be deemed to have withdrawn from the tournament." So the TD must be aware of the lack of response from a player and act in a timely fashion. Of course, it is possible illness or another unavoidable problem may delay a player's response, but the TD should keep on top of these things. Also, in the case of repeats the TD should be copied. Also, players are allowed some lattitude in making agreements (to switch to email, to change time control). The TD must be notified of such agreements and approve any such changes. E.g., changing the time limit may be deemed inappropriate for the competition. It is advisable to anticipate possible problems, too. If a game is swithed from postal to email, with the TD's approval, then it is wise to require the players to specify the time limit being used and if the first ETL ends the game. Without a clear statement, the postal time limits and ETL rule would be in effect, which may not have been the intention of one or both of the players.

  12. The TD should make every effort to insure the smooth running of the tournament and the active enjoyment of the event by the participants

    At all times, the ICCF motto Amici Sumus should be in evidence.

Some additional suggestions for Tournament Directors

In addition to the required duties, the TD may be able to make the event run more smoothly and be a more pleasant experience for everyone. Of course, not every TD will have the necessary facilities, expertise and temperament to follow these suggestion.

  1. Provide a friendly atmosphere and encourage Amici Sumus through communications

    For instance, when a regular progress report is sent to the players, it is possible to take on the role of cheerleader by encouraging cooperation and friendly relationships. I regularly point out to my players how smoothly the event is running due to the cooperation and friendly attitude by the players. Many of the problems between players are due to simple misunderstandings or misinterpretations of intentions. Very seldom will one player intentionally try to cheat her/his opponent or intend to insult the opponent. It is easy to read insults into quite innocent statements. It is easy to believe your opponent is trying to get away with something. It is not always so easy to see things from the opponent's viewpoint.

    Maintaining a friendly atmosphere though the TD's correspondence with the players can set the tone for the whole event. Ideally, players will resolve minor differences between themselves without the need to consult the TD. If they feel inclined to cooperate in this fashion, due to the friendly atmosphere created by the TD, then everyone benefits. When disputes become battles of the rule book and accusations are flying back and forth, not only is this a problem for the TD, but is seriously affects the enjoyment of the event for many players. The TD's should consider themselves ambassadors of good will, and they should make ICCF events as much fun for everyone as possible. A little humor and good will can go a long ways towards making this happen.

  2. Provide as much information as possible to the players

    There are various ways the players can keep informed. If you have access to a web site, you could keep a tournament news page on-line so players can easily see who is on leave, what results have come in recently, which players have had to send repeats to which players (could indicate a pattern), any major news (such as a player achieving a norm or clinching a place), upcoming milestones (tournament closing out, call for results before making a rating report), when a player has withdrawn, etc. I would suggest that this is private information for the participants only, so a link to such a page should not be published and the proper META tags should be use to prevent search engines from finding the page. Frequent email or postal reports could serve the same purpose.

  3. Maintain a computer database of the game scores

    If the TD adds the games to a tournament database as results are reported, this has several benefits.

    1. Accuracy of the game score is confirmed, allowing any errors to be corrected immediately. It's remarkable how many game scores will be received with errors. It may not even be possible to get corrections at a later time. Many game scores are discarded or lost after a few months/years.
    2. Confirm the result reported is consistent with the actual game position. If you get a report of 1-0 but Black has the better position, then you can question the report immediately. This can prevent recording results improperly and avoid the need to later make corrections.
    3. Inputting one game at a time in proper PGN format is much easier than someone inputting a large number of games at one time.
    4. This makes it easy to send a complete PGN file to the games archivist at the end of the event, making life a little easier for the poor archivist.
    5. You can distribute a complete database of the tournament to the players after the event ends.
    6. You can make backups of the games receive by sending an occasional copy of the database to another person. In the case of NAPZ and ICCF-U.S. games, I have a backup area available on the ICCF-U.S. server for maintaining backup copies, so in case of personal problems (health issues, computer crash, death, etc.) the games won't be lost. Something similar could be done for tournaments in other zones.
    7. It may provide increased interest and pleasure for the TD, who gets to see a large number of interesting games played by the participants.

A clever and resourceful tournament director can certainly find additional approaches to the job. There is nothing wrong with supplying personal initiative and creativity to directing tournaments. Posting pictures of the players on a tournament page on-line, involving the players in other ways in the event, showing games from the event "live" (within the guidelines in the ICCF Code of Conduct), arranging special prizes for Best Game, publishing a book after the event there are a lot of possibilities.

If you have corrections or additions to make to the above ideas, please send them to me and I'll consider making changes reflecting your good ideas. Hopefully, in the near future the ICCF web site will have a document similar to this one. A good reference list of decisions made in the past, opinions by experts, a discussion forum for tournament directors and discussions of interpretation of the rules by the Rules Commissioner would all be very useful.


© 2004 J. Franklin Campbell. All rights reserved.

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