The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

The following article was inspired by my research on the USA First National Team Championship event held from 1991 through 1994 and won by the APCT (American Postal Chess Tournaments) cc organization. After spending hours pouring over games and records of the tournament I was impressed by how much some teams were hurt by forfeits and withdrawals. This article was written to accompany the introduction of the NTC-1 tournament report posted on this site. The footnotes to some of the crosstables will illustrate just how significant the following problems were in this competition. -- J. Franklin Campbell

Obligations of a Team Player
by J. Franklin Campbell

There is more to correspondence chess competition than playing good moves. You must also follow the rules of competition. For instance, you must play in a timely fashion to avoid overstepping the time limit and report the result in a proper fashion following the game. In team competition conscientious competitors are under additional obligations to do what is best for the team.

The first rule of correspondence chess team play is to play your games. Team competition is often marred by withdrawals and forfeits, which hurt the teams badly. Even an out-of-form competitor or one who is facing much higher rated opponents can be expected to pick up a point or two. By withdrawing, the team member puts his team down immediately, leaving the other team members in the position of battling from behind. Often a team competition is decided by a slim margin. Throwing away uncontested points could cost the team dearly. Take a look at the crosstables of the First National Team Championship (NTC-1) and you'll see the effects of withdrawals. There is even one interesting case of a team member quitting before the competition began. Tournament rules allowed the team captain to replace him since competition hadn't actually begun. What happened with this replacement player? He withdrew! Agreeing to play at the last moment to avoid a quick loss of all points on that board was hardly a favor to the team when the result was only delayed a month or two. The team captain would naturally stop searching for a replacement as soon as the first player agreed to play. If you don't expect to finish your playing schedule, don't play in the event .

Of course, it almost goes without saying that a good team member will put forth his best efforts in team play. These "best efforts" need to go far beyond playing strong chess, though. In serious correspondence chess there are usually some very particular rules about how to convey moves and the information required on each piece of correspondence, such as datas received/sent and time used. Another necessary feature of cc, if you want to score the points officially, are to report the results in a proper fashion. You can win the game and enjoy the satisfaction of a well-played game, but if you don't score the points you won't help your team. Some organizations are more particular than others concerning reporting. The NTC-1 team competition has several examples of games being won but not reported properly. For instance, sending games scores to the tournament secretary was required. There were cases of this not being done. This resulted in both players (and their teams) getting zeroes for these games. The winners didn't follow through and lost valuable points for their teams.

I believe the extent to which team members take care of the little details required to officially score the points dictates the possibilities for success of the team. You can gauge the seriousness of the team effort by how careful the team members are to follow through on these details. Using the NTC-1 team championship event as an example once again I'd like to point out a significant fact. The winning APCT team did not have a single loss by withdrawal or forfeit. Every game was played to completion and reported properly, gaining every point possible for the team. The second place CCLA team was also very diligent in this area scoring no more than a single forfeit loss. The results of teams with lower finishes were littered with such losses.

If you are considering team play please consider your commitment to the event. Other team members, and possibly a represented organization, are depending on your best efforts. If you aren't fully committed to finishing your games, playing with your best skill level and following through with all the recording and reporting requirements, don't play ... leave the spot open to a competitor who will do these things. That is in the best interest of the team and could be your most valuable contribution. Team play isn't for everyone. Many play cc for reasons that don't include racking up points. There's nothing wrong with that in individual play. Team play is different. Putting the team first is a big element contributing to the success of the team.

Copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell, all rights reserved

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