ICCF Marketing Director
Pedro Hegoburu


ICCF 2001 Congress
Pre-Congress Report

Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 11, 2001.
REF: Pre-Congress Report #2001-1

Today I am in Buenos Aires. One of the cities I call home. I am patiently waiting for the minutes to transform into hours, and the hours into days. Eight more days, to be exact. Then the waiting will be over and I will board a plane to Rome, the first stop on my way to another ICCF Congress. And in spite of the fact that this is the fifth time I will be there, it will still be a new, fresh experience: with much to learn, and much to do.

"Last night I dreamt..." (The Smiths)

Last night I dreamt that I set foot on Italy. And when I do, an elusive dream will have finally been conquered. The same, recurring dream I have had since my early childhood, when my Italian teachers taught me their geography, their language, and their anthem. Over the years I have learned to appreciate their food, their films, their culture. It took me 26 years to get to Italy, and sometime next week I will fulfil that wish and make room for a new one. Last night I also dreamt that I was shaking hands, again, with all those "crazy" friends who, year after year, travel to different places just for the sake of chess and friendship. Each and every ICCF Congress is a wonderful event, something we look forward to in our calendar. And I wonder: "How many more chessplayers and enthusiasts around the World would also like to be with us, sharing this unique experience?". My wild guess is that there would be some hundreds willing to attend our meetings and work to improve this extraordinary activity/hobby/science/art called Correspondence Chess. But this is impossible or, at least, improbable; thus my new task of publishing these reports!

"The secret messages are calling to me endlessly
They come to me across the air
The messages have crossed the atmosphere
They whisper in your ear" (E.L.O.)

Some readers will be interested in knowing why we meet once a year in order to discuss issues related to Correspondence Chess, especially nowadays when the advance of communications has brought everyone closer. Is there really a need to see each other face to face, in the same room, for almost one week? We like to believe there is still a necessity to gather, to exchange opinions and ideas verbally and not over some internet communication. The advent of e-mail and other means of communication are great, but there's always a need for something more. Nowadays many people work from their homes, many students receive lessons over the internet or TV, but the lack of immediate response, the impossibility to see the expressions of the person you're talking to, are good reasons to continue with this tradition of meeting once a year. Many technology purists and defenders will say that this can be solved by using some tools available to most internet users (chat clients, cameras, voice software and hardware), but have the many International Organisations (such as the United Nations, etc.) replaced their "old fashioned" meetings in order to ride the technological wave?

"'Cause the times / they are a' changin'" (Bob Dylan)

It is undeniable that times are rolling fast, and technology goes hand in hand. A couple of years ago CC players could only use the postal service, and games took several years from opening to resignation, and sometimes even this failed to happen! During that "golden" age players were used to managing a big number of simultaneous games: a friend of mine had about 150 at the same time, and my personal record was around 95 games. Of course this was possible due to the fact that the transmission time was big, and games were slow to progress (getting out of the opening theory took at least several months!), which also meant that tournaments were never-ending. But that was BI (Before Internet).

Now we are in the AI era: both for "After Internet" and for "Artificial Intelligence". Now there is no need to play more than 30 or 40 games at the same time, because the fast transmission of Internet messages allow us to concentrate on one tournament at the same time, finish those games in one-quarter of the time it took us to finish a postal event, and start participating in another e-mail event before the year is over. Today, a player can get out of the opening in a week or two. Overall, we will have played the same number of games, but with the advantage of concentrating on a bunch of 15 or 20 at the same time. Quality over quantity.

And what about that other issue, the so-called "artificial intelligence" which few wish to address and even fewer discuss? Are we living an apocalyptic nightmare, which we are doomed to lose? Is the use of chess software -in the form of game databases and playing programmes- killing our activity? Is this the appropriate time to introduce a new option for chessplayers, such as Fischerandom tournaments? And what about new team events? And server-based games? Or casual web games as those played daily on Yahoo! There are endless opportunities and projects. But times, times are a'changin' faster than we can tame the new technologies available.

"21st Century Schizoid Man" (King Crimson)

A new ICCF Congress is about to start, and for some of us, that will mean we have to be everywhere, all the time. Sessions begin at 9:30 AM and end at 12:30, with a short break in between. After a quick lunch we resume discussions until 18:00 PM. But that does not mean the day is over! Usually there are unscheduled meetings, either after Congress sessions or during breakfast, lunch or dinner. Time is very precious and we squeeze each day as if it were the last.

Two years ago, in Thun 1999, we started this new tradition of posting unofficial Congress reports on the web for all CC enthusiasts to follow this ICCF venue. Writing the reports means you have to be a kind of journalist, paying attention to everything being said, and making some time at night to put everything (or at least, most of) what you have heard and witnessed into words for you to read. I guess that this is the second most stressful activity during Congress: the first one must be preparing the Congress Minutes! But the main difference (besides length and precision) is that these reports are fun to write, you vent some of the pressure gained over the course of the day. And on top of that, many people congratulate you on a job well done. ;-)

"This is the end, beautiful friend" (The Doors)

As usual, expectations are high. I want Congress to start NOW, I want to see my good friends once more and share with them a meal, a drink (tequila, of course!), I want to discuss any issues that come up and help and be helped to find the best solutions to our problems and opportunities. I want to go to bed tired after a long days' work, feeling like all of Creation has stepped over me. And finally, when the dream is over, I want to come home, back to Argentina, and count the days that will turn into weeks that will turn into months before the next Congress arrives...

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