The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Following is a guest article. The opinions expressed are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect mine. I want to express my thanks to the author for sharing this article with us. My intent is to present material that is entertaining, original and of high quality. I believe the following article meets all these criteria.
--- J. Franklin Campbell

We inaugurate "On the Square" with a hard-hitting article by cc enthusiast, journalist and promoter John C. Knudsen, well known to most of us through his outstanding cc web site John C. Knudsen's Correspondence Chess (CC) Page. In his article below he takes aim at the organization of correspondence chess in the U.S.A. Whether or not you agree with all his views, you'll find some thought-provoking statements in this article. Thanks for getting us off to a good start, John! -- JFC

The Global Correspondence Chess Community
(Or, why I stopped worrying and learned to love electronic mail)
by John C. Knudsen

The dysfunctional nature of American correspondence chess may soon be a thing of the past. The poor American cc player faces a myriad of choices. Which organization should I choose - CCLA, APCT, USCF, ASPCC, NOST? The acronyms alone remind one of the various "title" belts possessed by professional wrestlers and boxers. How is the new player to cope with the number of clubs, their tournaments, and the different rules? Well, until now, the new player has stumbled from one to the other until he or she found an organization that meets most needs. I am an experienced cc player. And, through the years, it has amazed me that only the United States seems to have these problems. The ratings issue alone is enough to boggle the mind. My CCLA rating is 2100, my ASPCC rating is close to that by now, my USCF rating is in the 1900's, and my "estimated" ICCF-US rating is 2030. So, what is my rating, anyway? The USCF system, which allows for non-member's games to still be rated (as long as they previously had a cc rating), is particularly irksome. What other organization continues to rate non-member's games? Now, pay attention, because this gets confusing. Only your losses (or draws favorable to your opponent) will be rated, because YOU cannot report a result for rating unless you are a member! The foregoing pertains to USCCC games, which both the USCF and CCLA rate. This quirk in the system was pointed out by me several months ago in the newsgroups (and elicited no response whatsoever from anyone). So, you pay a penalty for having been once a member of the USCF!

The turf wars between the clubs have brought me much amusement in my idle hours. The in fighting reminds me of the Star Trek episode, which dealt with gangsters, A Piece of the Action. "Yeah, I'm gonna take a couple of my guys and come over and rub you out, Bella." Or, "My club is bigger than your club." Or, "We have more members, therefore we have more say in what goes on." All attempts at unification have failed. All attempts to have one rating system have failed. All attempts to make one logical set of rules have failed. The Europeans and almost everyone else sit back and laugh at us! Were it not for the extraordinary efforts of brave souls like Max Zavanelli and Maurice Carter, American cc would still be regarded as a joke by nearly everyone else in the world.

Enter electronic mail. The cc world is truly smaller because of it. The clubs are racing to get email programs going - some have made more progress in this area than others. It doesn't matter, in the end, what anyone does. There is no saving the present organization of cc in the United States. The simple fact is that email allows the player to begin playing opponents of his or her skill level all over the world, almost immediately. And, at no cost to him. How can our organizations compete with that?

Electronic mail is the correspondence chess of the future. It is faster, cheaper, and easier than sending a postcard. The tired old excuse of "I don't have a computer, and I am not going to buy one," no longer works either. Almost every public library has PCs hooked up to the Internet ready for anyone with a library card to use. There are plenty of free web-based email services out there. The only downside I can see to email chess is that one is tempted to shoot off moves faster than one normally would. You want to meet new people from different lands? Nothing is quicker than email chess for this purpose. You want to earn and maintain an ELO rating? No problem, there are numerous web-based groups of individuals who are running email tournaments. Eventually, the ICCF will have to allow direct entry into their email tournaments - this will be necessary to stay competitive. And, people will flock in droves, to attain and maintain the coveted ICCF Rating.

We have met the enemy and it is us. Technology will unite us, whether we like it or not. In later years it will be said that electronic mail was the beginning of a new era of American correspondence chess. The era of the United States finally joining the global correspondence chess community in a real way. Chess without borders.

Copyright © 1998 by John C. Knudsen

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