The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article


I recently made my way to the site of the US Open Chess Championship in Oak Brook, Illinois to attend the annual meeting of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA), of which I am the webmaster and long-time member, as well as a number of other meetings, such as the USCF correspondence chess workshop, Publications, and MIS/Website. The USA correspondence chess scene is undergoing changes. The American Postal Chess Tournaments (APCT) organization is in a process of shutting down. Chess Life magazine seems to be reducing its coverage of correspondence chess with the cancellation of Alex Dunne's column. The official organizations aren't growing their membership, though the on-line email groups and free or low-cost chess servers seem to be doing well. There are other expected changes in American cc I can't go into here.

The USCF correspondence chess workshop was an excellent opportunity to meet some of the people involved in American cc and to find out a bit about future plans. Following is my unofficial report and personal comments, primarily as a result of the USCF cc workshop. There were also other meetings and other discussions which proved valuable. To see the whole meeting schedule during the US Open Click Here.

-- Franklin Campbell

The USCF Correspondence Chess Workshop
Wednesday August 9, 2006
by J. Franklin Campbell
(posted 16 August 2006, minor corrections 17 Aug.)

USCF CC Committee Chairman Harold Stenzel & Director of Communications Joan DuBois
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos by J. Franklin Campbell)

Conducting the USCF Correspondence Chess Workshop were Harold Stenzel (the Chairman of the USCC correspondence chess committee) and Joan DuBois (long time USCF cc contact and the person cc Director Alex Dunne reports to). Some other attendees were Jim & Helen Warren from APCT, Ruth Ann Fay (representing the ICCF-U.S. office), Mike Nolan (USCF programmer and database guru), Daniel Lucas (USCF publications director and editor of Chess Life), and a number of other interested parties, include me. Unfortunately, cc director Alex Dunne, who serves as TD for all USCF cc events, was not in attendance.

Jim Warren, Helen Warren and Ruth Ann Fay

USCF Programmer Mike Nolan reported on the plans to incorporate cc events into the USCF web site. He described a 4-phase program.

  1. All events in the past moved from old database into the new database used by the web site. This phase is completed.
  2. Add data for on-going events so current crosstables can be displayed. There are currently approximately 1830 events in progress.
  3. Hopefully this will be finished within a few weeks after this meeting.
  4. Enter recent results to the new crosstables to bring them right up to date.
  5. Rate all new results using this updated database. It is estimated that this final step will be completed within the next 2-3 months.

USCF CC Workshop, Director of Publications/CL Editor Daniel Lucas at left, USCF Programmer Mike Nolan standing

The plan is to make the same facilities currently available for OTB games also available for cc games. In a later meeting Mike Nolan said results from OTB tournaments are often rated by the time the player gets home from the tournament (depending on how rapidly the TD sends his report after the event finishes).

Joan DuBois passed along an estimate by Alex Dunne that approximately 2/3 of USCF games are still conducted by post, a number that surprised me a bit.

Chess Life has stopped carrying Alex Dunne's cc column "The Check is in the Mail" as part of the overall plan of reducing the number of columns. Chess Life editor Daniel Lucas, after working with a special consultant on publications, announced that Chess Life was "column heavy". The plan is to make the magazine more interesting with a greater number of feature articles, which requires a big reduction in the regular monthly columns. The biggest number of complaints were about the cancellation of GM Larry Evans' Q&A column, which resulted in about 200 email complaints. I believe Alex's column cancellation was the 2nd greatest cause of email complaints. I just received the third issue of Chess Life (August 2006) since the editorial change and didn't see any noticeable correspondence chess content in that particular issue. The second issue (July) contained a lengthy article by Alex Dunne titled "Women in Correspondence Chess".

[Note: it seems that Dunne's column may continue to be available on-line. The August 2006 column has now been posted, though there is no certainty that future columns will continue. You can find a list of columns available at: http://www.uschess.org/cc/alex_intro.php]

Chess Life editor Daniel Lucas responded to my questions about coverage of correspondence chess in the magazine. The Alex Dunne column "The Check is in the Mail" has been cancelled as part of his overall scheme to overhaul the structure of the magazine. It was considered "column heavy". The new design of Chess Life has far fewer regular columns, I believe considerably less than of the former count. The emphasis will be on feature articles, and this extends to correspondence chess. His plan is to have a major cc article on a quarterly basis, but there won't be much "for the record" stuff like crosstables and games results. This will be left to the web site, which is considered a better place to provide this sort of information. I suggested that without any announcements correspondence chess enthusiasts would come to the same conclusion I had made ... Chess Life was removing regular cc from its pages. I anticipate that he will make his plans clearer in future issues. For now I can pass along these plans for feature articles on cc we can expect to see in Chess Life:

  1. USCF Absolute Championship tournament update by Alex Dunne.
  2. US Championship full tournament report when the event concludes (possibly referring to the 15th USCCC Final with one critical game remaining).
  3. Susan Polgar article on openings, comparing those played in cc to those in OTB.

I asked about USCF events using chess servers, and there certainly is some interest. I understand that ICC (the Internet Chess Club) is a potential provider for server play. It appears that little is known about the ICCF server, but perhaps Alex Dunne would have provided better information on that. At a later time I did ask "ZEK" of ICC about their cc support, and he admitted it wasn't very strong at the moment but may be improved in the future. ICC does have a cc component but it needs to be improved.

I came away from this meeting with a more positive view of USCF cc than I had before. The work Mike Nolan is doing bringing cc events into parity with OTB events on the USCF computer was very impressive and speaks well to USCF support for correspondence chess.

USCF Web Site Workshop and Publications Workshop. I'll combine the information from both meetings here. Work continues on the new USCF web site. The old web site is still fully available with pages being reformatted for the new site. There are currently about 25,000 old web pages, but only about 6,000 need to be incorporated into the new site. It is said that in many cases old pages reflect a single chess position in a game so one game uses many pages. At any rate, many of the old web pages are now obsolete.

USCF programmer Mike Nolan, CJA webmaster/APCT columnist Franklin Campbell
& USCF web site editor Jennifer Shahade (left to right)
(photo by unknown)

The new web site editor is Jennifer Shahade, well known for her success as a chess player. I came away with a very positive impression of Jennifer. She was posting daily reports on the US Open with photos and games in replay format. The look of the new web site is great and the content is excellent. Go to the web site http://www.uschess.org and click on the "Chess Life Online" link at the left to see her reports. On this CL Online page you can also click on links to see her personal BLOG or read GM Joel Benjamin's new on-line column "Ask GM Joel", which effectively replaces the old Larry Evans Q&A column previously in the magazine. Evans' column will not be brought back to the magazine, despite a couple hundred emails from readers, but another Evans' column on The Best Move will return.

CJA meeting (part 2) to hash out new bylaws. Left to right, CJA President Jerry Hanken,
CJA Secretary/Treasurer Randy Hough, CJA Webmaster J. Franklin Campbell,
CJA Bylaws Chairman Dr. Ira Lee Riddle, CJA member Arlen Walker
(photo by Daniel Lucas)

Chess Journalists (CJA) Annual Meeting. My main reason for going was to attend this meeting. I am webmaster of the CJA site and, if the new bylaws are accepted by the membership, I'll be an officer of this organization. CJA also announces the winners of the annual CJA Awards for the best journalism at this meeting. Everything went well, I got to meet a lot of people for the first time (including CJA President Jerry Hanken, Secretary/Treasurer Randy Hough and Bylaws committee chairman Dr. Ira Lee Riddle), the bylaws changes were discussed and a final version was accepted for voting by the membership, and the awards were announced. Here are a couple key winners:

  1. Chess Journalist of the Year Peter Tamburro
  2. CC Magazine CCLA's Chess Correspondent
  3. CC Web Site The Campbell Report

President's Reception, USCF President Bill Goichberg and wife Brenda Goichberg

President's Reception. On Friday evening the USCF President Bill Goichberg provided a reception, which gave me an opportunity to put on my tie and meet some of the movers and shakers in USCF. I got a nice photo of Bill and his wife Brenda, met Harold Winston, a former President and a founding member of CJA in Atlantic city in 1972 (it was called Association of U. S. Chess Journalists at that time), and met new USCF Board Member Sam Sloan, who seemed quite a nice fellow to me at that time. I asked if he has some specific things he hoped to achieve in his one-year term and he said he did. It was certainly a pleasant evening and the various chess people I met were friendly and passionate about chess. Overall I was quite impressed and believe USCF supporters have every reason to be optimistic about the future of chess in the USA. One interesting incident: someone was showing home movies of the US Open in Chicago in 1963. One of the players shown was Victor Palciauskas, the 10th CC World Champion.

USCF President Bill Goichberg (left) and CJA Webmaster/APCT Columnist J. Franklin Campbell
(photo by Jerry Hanken)

Main playing hall, 2006 US Open Chess Championship, Oak Brook, Illinois

© 2006 J. Franklin Campbell. All rights reserved.

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