ICCF Press Officer
J. Franklin Campbell


ICCF Congress
Pre-Congress Report #2

Mason, Michigan, September 10, 2000.
REF: Pre-Congress Report #2000-2

The following is my second (unofficial) report on the Year 2000 ICCF Congress, to be held in Daytona Beach, Florida (USA) from September 16 through September 22, 2000. Reports will be issued daily and posted at the ICCF web site at and at The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB) at This is the last pre-Congress report planned. It covers my expectations and plans for the Congress.

J. Franklin Campbell
ICCF Press Officer

The opening day for the annual ICCF Congress is rapidly approaching. Many of the participants are already on the road, heading to Florida a little early for some sight seeing before the work begins. I'm taking the minimum time off from my programming job and leaving Saturday morning 16.09.00 to arrive in time for the welcoming gathering Saturday night and the official opening of the Congress on Sunday morning. Actually, I'm traveling "in sync" with my roommate for the Congress Ralph Marconi, who is the North American/Pacific Zone Director and must arrive in time for the first meeting of the Congress at 3pm on Saturday, when the Presidium will settle the final agenda for the Congress. We expect to have a pleasant drive together from the Orlando airport, where veteran ICCF Tournament Director Allen Wright will be picking us up. This will be my first opportunity to meet some of my ICCF comrades in person, face to face. This will be a good start for the week.

Yesterday I attended my first college football game in over 30 years, since I was a student at the Yale Observatory in the late 1960's. It is my favorite sport, and I follow it avidly on TV. Michigan State University was opening their season at home and my son-in-law invited me to join his family at the game. We walked a mile after leaving the car and I could finally see the large stadium looming up. As we walked up the concrete ramps on the outside of the stadium (our seats were at the top level) I could sense the excitement growing. The sounds of the crowd were becoming more evident and I could feel the vibration in the floor. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation. We finally emerged and I got my first glimpse of the huge crowd on the opposite side of the stadium, and the marching bands and cheer leaders and all the other manifestations of a major sporting event were on the field below.

Well, we may not have cheer leaders and marching bands in Daytona Beach, but I can still feel the excitement growing as the moment of emerging into a room full of ICCF people grows near. We'll have our star players in attendance, such as Dr. Hans Berliner, the first world champion from the USA and my first cc hero. His book on the event he won (the 5th championship) Correspondence Chess World Championship was my bible for years and is still one of my favorite chess books. Then there is our second world champion from the USA Dr. Victor V. Palciauskas, the 10th world champion, who currently writes the "Game of the Month" feature at the ICCF web site and shares the CC.COM web domain with me. He may be the only cc world champion with his own web site. See "The World of Correspondence Chess" (webmaster John Knudsen - who is also the ICCF Executive Officer) at

There will be other world champions as well, with Dr. Fritz Baumbach of Germany and Grigory K. Sanekoev of Russia. Four world champions together … man, I hope I can get a good group photo of these guys! For a simple fan and admirer, this will be a wonderful experience for me. I must remember to take my books by Berliner and Sanekoev to obtain autographs.

Sanekoev has written one of the all-time great correspondence chess books, World Champion at the Third Attempt. This book sounded so attractive to me that I purchased the German version Der 3. Versuch ... "Mein Weg zum Fernschach-Weltmeister" (even though I'm not good in German) before I knew that it would be translated into English. Have you ever had tears in your eyes following reading a passage in a chess book? Check out my description of this book in my APCT News Bulletin column for July 1999 (available at my web site at As I sit here typing, after re-reading the passage quoted in my column, tears are once again dampening my eyes. When I heard that my friend Ralph Marconi was going to meet Grigory Sanekoev during his visit to Canada I was moved to say that this is one man whose hand I would dearly love to shake. Now I should get my chance. I think the whole trip may be worth the effort for this one opportunity but, of course, much more is in store for me.

I remember corresponding with Chess Mail editor and publisher Tim Harding about his idea for publishing a new cc magazine in English. I even contributed articles for his introductory issue (August 1996) and then the first regular issue (January 1997). Tim's contributions to our cc community is huge, with his magazine, articles and books along with his work on rules and other cc topics. It will be a great pleasure to meet this dynamic cc personality.

When I was gathering information on the topic of the use of computers in chess I corresponded with ICCF Deputy President (Rules) Ragnar Wikman (Finland), who provided me with both delightful correspondence and concrete information on the ICCF reasoning about the rules approach to this difficult subject. I also look forward to photographing a gentleman with such a magnificent beard! If he's shaved it off I'll be very disappointed since I favor the hirsute look myself. I've also had some excellent exchanges of correspondence with ICCF President Alan Borwell (Scotland), ICCF General Secretary Alan Rawlings (England), Marketing Director Pedro Federico Hegoburu (Argentina) and ICCF Webmaster Søren Peschardt (Denmark). There are also many USA cc personalities attending the Congress, none of which I've met. For instance, APCT and USA Champion (and fellow APCT News Bulletin columnist) Jon Edwards, ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli and his wife Ruth Ann Fay, TD Maurice Carter and others I'll omit here. I deal with many of these people frequently by email. I'll soon see what they look like, hear their voices, and get to know them better. What fun!

Much of my Congress excitement is in the anticipation of meeting old chess friends face to face for the first time. However, there is certainly more to it than that. This is my first Congress and therefore is full of mysteries for me. For instance, last report I mentioned the GM simul … wrong! There is a special chess event as part of the ICCF Congress tradition. This year that event will be a USA vs. Rest of World match (played OTB) and I'll be playing! My OTB skills are very rusty … who will I be matched up against? Potential embarrassment is a possibilitiy to be sure, but it sounds like a tremendously entertaining and enjoyable event. There will also be a rapid chess event where I may get a chance to match my skills against some world champions. Wow! You don't get these opportunities every day.

As I look at the announced agenda for the meetings I must admit I'm a little confused. "Internal matters", "external matters", "ICCF archives", "auditor's proposals", and any number of other entries are unknown territory for me. Some things I will just have to wait for, such as what kind of subjects will be discussed at various meetings. Do I attend all the meetings or just certain meetings which cover my areas of interest? How do Congresses work? When the "Playing Rules" part of the meeting occurs, are all 60-70 participants in the Congress free to add their opinions, or is some other approach followed? Is it true that as much is accomplished during informal discussions at the bar as at the official meetings, or is this just an "old wife's tail" told to impress me? Pretty soon I'll know, and a short time later so will you!

As with many people, I will arrive at the Congress with my own set of burning issues. I'm anxious to discuss these issues and to learn certain details about the internal workings of ICCF and the plans of the leadership. For instance, ICCF is a fee-based organization where competitors pay an entry fee to play. Where does the money go? This is a simple question and probably has a simple answer. Every organization has expenses. A "free" organization must depend on contributions from the organizers, or possibly from commercial or private sponsors.

I would personally fear for the future of an organization dependent on a continual stream of contributions from those who do the organizational work. A regular and organized stream of income would indicate a more stable future to me. However, I can only guess how the money is spent. Certainly there are some expenses such as postage, stationery and other supplies, advertising of events, travel for official meetings of officials, prizes for top events, medals for special awards, and some other things that come to mind occasionally. I am still anxious to hear more precisely how ICCF spends its money.

A subject I've dealt with a great deal recently is "live" coverage of cc events on the Internet. There are some strong feelings both ways on this subject. Some feel it is alien to the spirit of correspondence chess. I feel it is highly entertaining to make cc a "spectator sport" and that it adds to the enjoyment of the sport. I can understand some of the objections, though, and am eager to discuss this new concept in coverage of our game. With appropriate adjustments to the method of display I believe most objections can be met and we'll be seeing more "live" coverage of cc events on the Internet. The ICCF web site already covers two major events "live" with a slight delay between moves being made and being posted. I think this should be a good test of how well cc people can deal with a controversial subject, and it should provide a real learning experience for me.

How about computer use in cc? There has been much discussion in all forums on the ethics of using chess engines and the practical strength of engines at cc speeds. The correspondence chess match taking place at my web site between Steve Ham (ICCF 2508) of Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) and the Fritz and Nimzo chess engines has demonstrated to me just how competitive these engines have become. Will ICCF have to re-think their position that rules against using chess engines don't make sense (since they can't be enforced)? Can anything be done? I don't personally see much hope for a practical solution, but perhaps some particularly clever person will suggest some break-through in our thinking.

Then, of course, there's the incremental improvements in playing rules, tournament structures, organizational matters, planned publications, ideas for press releases and correspondence chess promotion, cooperation with other cc organizations and many other topics I haven't even thought about. I'm looking forward to hearing the creative and thoughtful ideas presented by the many talented and highly motivated people of ICCF. Small improvements here and there along with a few sensational ideas for major steps forward seem likely to me. I can't wait to see the way this Congress works and to experience for myself just how good things can be in organized correspondence chess. One thing I don't have to wait to see is just how dedicated these individuals are to improving the world for cc enthusiasts. I am anxious to immerse myself in this swell of enthusiasm for the game and to enjoy the company of so many quality individuals working for the improvement of the international organization of our competitions, titles and ratings.

One additional thing I look forward to is the presentation of awards. I'm not sure I'm at liberty to "let the cat out of the bag" concerning specific awards, but as a first-time tournament director it has been my pleasure to certify two players as having met their IM requirement in a tournament. Both players now have three IM norms and will receive their SIM titles. I will take personal pleasure in my small role in recognizing their achievements.

I've got my new (used) laptop computer in hand and just need to load on some documents and web pages. I still need to obtain a small tape recorder for taking notes. My plane tickets have long ago been purchased (and I know where they are!), and almost all that remains is insuring that I have enough clean clothes for the trip. My plane leaves the local airport at 6:30 am so it will be a very early start for me Saturday morning (I'm normally a late riser on Saturday). And I still haven't put together my planned notebook with pictures of ICCF people (to help me identify and remember people at the Congress).

I've still got one chess postcard on my desk to be answered. And I have a few outstanding bids on eBay to deal with. Otherwise, it looks like I'm ready to go. After so many months of planning and thinking about it, it's hard to believe it's almost here. I'm still planning daily reports, with the help of Pedro and Søren. I've tried to ignore the rumors about the initiation of first-timers (surely they aren't true, especially the one about the fish!). I'm hoping to make my first real Congress report on Saturday night. Not much will have happened, but I will have met some people and the Presidium may make some small news with adjustments to the agenda.

Maybe I'll pick up some rumors or gossip that will prove interesting. Or maybe I'll just want to mention someone's tie or hair style. Keep tuned for the 16th. Note that the reports may be late in the evening, so you may not see them till the next morning. Will I be able to report every day? Time will tell, but I'll certainly be trying. Hopefully my borrowed digital camera will provide some pictures of the scene and you can judge those ties and hairdos for yourself.

J. Franklin Campbell
ICCF Press Officer