The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

The USCF Correspondence Chess Committee conducts an annual meeting during the U. S. Open Championship tournament. Last year's meeting was reported on by me at 2006 USCF CC Workshop. This year, with the upcoming closure of the ICCF-U.S. office quickly approaching, this was viewed as a critical meeting and was attended by Bob Rizzo, who wrote the following report. Note, the attachments mentioned in the report are on the lower part of this web page except for the Excel table, which is a separate file.
-- J. Franklin Campbell, webmaster

8 Aug 2007 Update: Follow-up to USCF CC Committee Workshop Following the meeting, Bob Rizzo met with Bill Hall, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong.


Report of the USCF Correspondence Chess Committee
by Robert Rizzo

(posted 6 August 2007)

Bob Rizzo passing out reports at the
Correspondence Chess Workshop
(photo by Daren Dillinger)

Meeting at 2007 US Open in Cherry Hill, NJ
August 3, 2007 2:00 - 3:00 PM

Harold Stenzel, Chairman
Robert Rizzo, committee member
Daren Dillinger (representing J Franklin Campbell)
Francis Ogle (CCLA proxy for Rich Vandenburg)
Jerry Pitter
Dan Lucas, Editor, Chess Life
Brennan T. Price, new committee member
Mike Nolan, USCF, Computer Consultant
Mark Simpson

As the Finance Committee meeting was running an extended session and the CC Committee Chairman, Harold Stenzel was in attendance, Bob Rizzo started the meeting at 2:07 PM. Five items were discussed at the meeting.

  1. Report on the status of the updated USCF correspondence rating system by Mike Nolan
  2. Proposal to set up a Webserver fund for selected USCF CC tournaments
  3. Status of Absolute Project
  4. Progress report on the USA team participating in the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) Olympiad XVII Preliminary Section 3
  5. Status of the ICCF-US Federation
  1. Report on the USCF CC Rating System - Mike Nolan is the lead programmer for the revamped USCF CC rating system. He also serves on two FIDE committees (FIDE Titles & Ratings and Technical Commission). The new USCF CC rating system is now up and running. The historical, COBOL based rating system has been retired. Mike reported on some of the findings/shortcomings of the old system that he identified during this project. The old system was incomplete. For instance, there was no rating floor; one player had a rating of negative 300. He also claimed that the old system could not handle provisional vs. provisional players. The new system allows ratings to be updated overnight after Alex enters a result into the database. It should be pointed out that the USCF rating system stays basically unchanged in the way ratings are formulated. When a game is finished, players are re-rated per their current rating. This differs from the ICCF system where the difference in ratings at the start of the tournament is used. In some cases those ratings can be several years old. Mike asked that all USCF CC players report any quirks or inconsistencies in the rating system. He would like to continue to eliminate any shortfalls that might remain. Bob Rizzo pointed out that he had posted on the TCCMB (The Correspondence Chess Message Board) several years ago regarding some of the possible ways that the rating system, as it existed then, could be gamed by unethical players. Bob was asked to forward a copy to Mike. There was some discussion of the ICCF webserver. Currently the CCLA runs a few tournaments on this server and the USCF is running the Muir tournament on the ICCF server. Mike Nolan reported that he is not thrilled with the ICCF interface (which was changed recently for the worse per the majority opinion of those who use it). Mike will bring a proposal to the USCF board to develop their own Webserver. He claims that it only requires a PC and that it would take about 3 months to develop.
  2. Proposal to Establish a USCF Webserver Fund - Bob Rizzo handed out a proposal, which would establish a fund that would be managed by Alex Dunne (see Attachment 1). It is for the sole purpose of enabling the USCF to run certain cc tournaments on the ICCF webserver. The primary application would be the Absolute tournament. Thus far, Bob, Keith Rodriguez and Corky Schakel have pledged $100 each to initially seed the fund. The fund would no longer be necessary should the USCF develop its own server per item 1 above. (Note: immediately after the meeting, Alex Dunne send out the announcement of the starting field of the 2007 Absolute Tournament and it is indeed to be run on the server as a result of this fund being established. It was originally planned as an Email event.)
  3. Status of the Absolute Project - Bob Rizzo handed out a report on the status of the Absolute Project (see Attachment 2). Several years ago the Absolute Project was launched by the USCF CC Committee. The fruits of that effort can currently be viewed on the USCF website. While Alex Dunne continues to forward completed games to Bob Rizzo for the purpose of organizing and compiling the games in a consistent ChessBase format, no games from prior tournaments have been recovered in quite a while. All new games are already in Chessbase format. The original project objective was to recover as many old games as possible and it appears that this end has been met. There is one batch of games that will be delivered to the USCF office in the next few weeks. At that point all games can be forwarded directly from Alex to the USCF CC office. Mike Nolan pointed out that Laura Martz is no longer contracted by the USCF to perform the posting of games on the website. Mike volunteered that he would find out how to get the recent games posted and in what format. A request was made by Francis Ogle to supply a copy of the games in pgn or Chessbase format. The viewer on the website does not allow for the downloading of the games. Bob Rizzo agreed to supply a pgn or Chessbase copy of all the games to anyone who requests them.
  4. Report on the USA Team in the ICCF Olympiad XVII Preliminary - Bob Rizzo handed out a report on the USA team (ICCF-US) which is on the verge of clinching a spot in the finals (see Attachment 3a & Attachment 3b, Attachment 3b is a crosstable in MS Excel format). Team Captain, J. Franklin Campbell, is webmaster of the team website which can be found at: http://jfcampbell.us/oly17. Alex Dunne has been alerted to this imminent accomplishment and will be provided with a full report upon the clinching. Hopefully this will be carried in Chess Life magazine. The ICCF-US team is comprised of 6 Boards. From top to bottom they are SIM Jason Bokar, SIM-elect Ken Reinhart, IM Keith Rodriguez, IM Robert Rizzo, SIM Michael Millstone and IM Corky Schakel.
  5. Status of the ICCF-US Federation Office - Bob Rizzo handed out a notice on the status of the ICCF-US office (see Attachment 4). In a nutshell, the current correspondence arm of FIDE, the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) could be about to de-certify the USA as a member nation. This is because no one has stepped up to take over the position as ICCF-US Secretary. The office has been run for many years by Max Zavanelli and Ruth Ann Fay. Max stepped down at last year's Congress after his term as ICCF Deputy President & Development Director ended and Ruth Ann is retiring after the Benalmadena (Malaga), Spain Congress this year to be held October 20th-26th. The loss of the office would be a tragedy for US correspondence chess. Our route to the World championship cycle would be lost, the ability to gain international titles for our players would be gone, our influence as a major nation in the ICCF would disappear and the ability to host USA CC events on the ICCF server would be in question. The ramifications have been outlined by J Franklin Campbell on the TCCMB and Steve Owens on his blog. The duties and responsibilities of the ICCF-US office were outlined by Ruth Ann in Alex Dunne's September 2006 Check is in the Mail column. Contact Alex for a copy of this file or you can download it from the USCF site. In the meantime a concerned group of correspondence players is looking into the possibility to form a new office by committee, that is, the duties would be divided among several persons. It is hoped that the USCF and the CCLA, which are the two cc groups under the ICCF-US umbrella, will step forward with some level of support. The unanimous consensus was that the ICCF-US office should be maintained but no new ideas were proposed. Bob volunteered to contact Bill Hall, the USCF Executive Director, and Susan Polgar who had left an inquiry to J. Franklin Campbell recently about the crisis.

Harold Stenzel joined the discussion as item 5 was being discussed. Brennen T. Price offered to join the USCF Correspondence Chess committee and Harold accepted his offer. The meeting was adjourned at 3:15 PM.

Several photos of committee members and a movie file of a portion of Mike Nolan's Ratings Report are also included for the record.

- Robert Rizzo

Photos below by Bob Rizzo at the CC Workshop, 2007

Chairman Harold Stenzel

Francis Ogle & Jerry Pitter

Daren Dillinger

Mark Simpson
Photo below by Daren Dillinger at the CC Workshop, 2007

Bob Rizzo passing out reports. Left to right are Rizzo,
USCF Programmer Mike Nolan, Francis Ogle, Brennan T. Price (obscured),
Jerry Pitter and CL editor Daniel Lucas.

Attachment 1

Proposal to set up a Webserver Fund for USCF CC Tournaments

Whereas the USCF holds correspondence chess tournaments and whereas the USCF does not have a Webserver to host correspondence chess tournaments and whereas the ICCF and other organizations do have servers that could host USCF correspondence chess tournaments for a fee, a fund shall be established which would allow certain USCF correspondence chess tournaments to be hosted on one of these available servers with the following stipulations:

  1. The fund would be made up of voluntary donations & pledges.
  2. Alex Dunne would manage this fund and have sole discretion as to which correspondence tournaments would be held via Webserver with the annual Absolute championship given preference.
  3. This fund shall not be used to subsidize the development of a USCF Webserver should the USCF decide to develop its own correspondence chess Webserver nor shall it be used for any other purpose than defined above.

Robert Rizzo
August 3, 2007

Attachment 2

Status of Absolute Project

It has been quite some time since we have recovered any games from past Absolute tournaments. The project was created to capture as many games as possible from past tournaments. Alex Dunne continues to forward completed games to me in ChessBase format from the on-going Absolute tournaments. As these can be readily added to the website in that format, any additional processing is longer necessary.

  1. If any old Absolute games/scoresheets are found or submitted in the future I will be happy to enter them into the appropriate format.
  2. Alex Dunne no longer needs to submit new games to me but rather should forward them to the USCF Webmaster for posting to the Absolute collection of games.
  3. I am in the last phases of finalizing the games that I have been sent by Alex since the last update. When I submit that batch I will consider the initial phase of the Absolute Project as closed. I thank Joan Dubois and the USCF CC Committee for entrusting me with this endeavor. It has been rewarding knowing that I have somehow made a small contribution to archiving our correspondence chess history.

Robert Rizzo
August 3, 2007

Attachment 3a

Progress Report of the ICCF Olympiad XVII

As of Thursday, August 2, the USA team had a record of 16 wins, 3 losses and 30 draws with 5 games remaining in Section 3 of the ICCF Olympiad XVII preliminary. The USA will clinch second place and with it a spot in the finals for only the second time. The accompanying crosstable tells the tale. When we do officially qualify it will appear on J Franklin Campbell's website at:


He is the team Captain and his site contains bios and photos of the team members, a viewer of all of their complete games, and a blog of our progress along with a link to the ICCF crosstables. As soon as we are officially in, we will submit an article to Alex Dunne who can hopefully publish it in his 'Check is in the Mail' column in Chess Life magazine.

Robert Rizzo
August 3, 2007

Attachment 4

Status of the ICCF-US Federation

As has been reported at this forum last year, Ruth Ann Fay is retiring as ICCF-US Secretary after the October ICCF Congress in Spain. Although Max Zavanelli stepped down after his term as ICCF Deputy President & Development Director was completed and Ruth Ann announced her intention to retire, nobody has come forward to fill the position. Currently there are 2 active correspondence member organizations which fall under the ICCF-US umbrella, the USCF and CCLA. As a member Federation, the USA enjoys many privileges including, use of the ICCF Webserver to run tournaments, nominations to World championship cycles, Invitations to tournaments which allow our members to earn international titles, the ability to host our own tournaments, the ability to contribute to the formulation of policy, etc. It would be sad indeed if our membership were allowed to lapse.

A number of interested USA correspondence players and luminaries have gotten together with an idea to try to fashion an ICCF-US office to replace the present administration. The daunting amount of work that Ruth Ann did by herself (see Dunne's September 2006 Check is in the Mail column for a complete listing) would be divided up with each office member responsible for a part. Thus far we have had positive responses from Alex Dunne, J Franklin Campbell, Corky Schakel, Keith Rodriguez, Richard Vandenburg, Steve Owens, Joan DuBois and a number of others. I understand that Susan Polgar may be interested in helping and I hope to meet with her later today. From what I hear Bill Goichberg and Bill Hall may also be sympathetic to our cause.

I am here to get out the word that time is of the essence. We need a team with the requisite managerial, directing, computing, accounting, organizational and business skills to pull this off. And most importantly they must be passionate about US correspondence chess. With the support of both the CCLA and the USCF we think it can be done. I am open to suggestions and constructive criticism. I open the floor to any brainstorming ideas you may have.

Robert Rizzo
August 3, 2007

Follow-up to USCF CC Committee Workshop, August 3, 2007

After the conclusion of the Correspondence Chess Committee meeting, I sought out Bill Hall, Executive Director of the USCF to get his take on the ICCF-US matter. Joan DuBois had suggested that I should contact him up at the US Open. Bill seemed sympathetic to the cause of keeping the ICCF-US office viable. Bill had indicated that he had held some discussions with Bill Goichberg, President of the USCF Executive Board, and that they were of the same mind. The question that he posed, and one that I could not answer, was "what level of help was needed?" He made it clear that the USCF was not in a position to provide manpower. I assured him that our paradigm was to operate a "virtual" office with volunteers who would split up the duties presently handled individually by Ruth Ann Fay. I went away from our meeting with a promise to find out about the fiduciary aspects of running the ICCF-US office.

I then met with Susan Polgar and Paul Truong. Susan has been elected, as Chairman of the USCF Executive Board and Paul is now the USCF Executive Board Vice President - Marketing and Communications. I approached them because Susan had contacted J Franklin Campbell after learning of the ICCF-US office situation from one of Franklin's postings. They were very interested in keeping the ICCF-US office viable and asked what level of help we required. I explained our idea of having a virtual office and once again the question of financials was brought up. I told them, as I told Bill Hall, that I would try to get them an answer.

It has become quite clear that we need to determine from Ruth Ann Fay what level of resources are required to keep the ICCF-US running. She has already outlined the extensive technical duties that require a mix of skills, which I believe our group of volunteers can handle. The cost is the key issue.


© 2007 Robert Rizzo. All rights reserved.

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