ICCF 2002 Congress
Portugal, November, 2002.
Another very busy day lay ahead, especially because it was the last day with sessions and as usual there are too many important matters to discuss before the end of the day. I still remember naïvely the "old" days (for example, in Riga 1998) when we finished all issues on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday was completely free! In Thun 1999 we had to extend Congress sessions until Wednesday morning inclusive, and we had the afternoon free. Since then, Wednesday has also been added as a Congress day and I would not be terribly surprised if in future the Thursday morning was added, or if Congress was opened on Saturday afternoon and we then had Sunday morning as a full Congress session instead of having the opening speeches which are nice but take time. Nowadays all reports are distributed well ahead so that Delegates have time to read them at home and directly discuss them during the sessions, so no reading is done during meetings, but still we are struggling to go through the entire agenda... :-/
Josef Mrkvicka, our Title Tournaments Commissioner, had a pretty busy year trying to organise the calendar for all title events. With duplicated cycles (we have both postal and e-mail events running) it is hard to keep a tidy schedule which does not conflict in dates. Some events take longer to be decided than it was expected, so some stages are delayed beyond the scheduled starting dates. Additionally, some countries find it hard to line up teams for so many events! Players can now choose to play individual events such as the World Championship cycle, plus invitational events and other ICCF events such as the Opens or World Cups, and there is also an array of Team events (OLYs, and the Champions' League) which can overload anyone if they are careless in organising their agenda. Therefore it is vital that a schedule is kept as organised as possible, so that players can plan well ahead what they want to play.
One of the biggest changes regarding Title events was the "crazy" proposal made by Josef to reorganise the World Championship Cycle. Up till now, the cycle began with Semifinals every two years, and the next stage (3/4 Finals) were also arranged to begin every two years, almost coincidentally with Semifinals. And the Final was also scheduled to begin every some years. But from now on the Cycle will be a continuous event, with sections starting every time a good number of players sign up. If yesterday you had to wait two years before a new stage began, nowadays you can begin a Semifinal with very little delay. For example, if you have just won a Master Class event, you can immediately sign up for a Semifinal which can start as soon as enough players are gathered. I can imagine a player might have a 2-3 month delay between the date in which he submits his entry and the date in which he is paired in a new section, a small delay (compared to the old one it's a big difference!) which is owed to the fact that sections will probably be organised from a certain number of players and not as soon as there are 13 people willing to play. This is so that sections have a certain nationality spread and an average ELO similar to prior ones.
The same new system will be used to begin Candidates sections, and Finals will also start as soon as a good number of players express their wish to participate (I guess that 15-17 players will be needed for this). Rights to play in Semifinals and Candidate sections will not cease in time (in the past you had 10 years to play in one of these events if you had obtained a qualification) but qualifications for a World Championship Final can only be deferred three times before the right is lost.
This "crazy" idea (as Josef labelled it!) will mean more work for ICCF and the Delegates (now they have to constantly receive and submit entries, whilst in the past they did it one every two years) but it will be a much better schedule for players willing to take advantage of a good playing streak!
By the way, now the sections will most probably be 13-player events so that anyone can comply with the "2 norms over 24 games" quota for titles.
Additionally, the ¾ Finals have been renamed "Candidates". Well, "renamed" is not exactly correct, as the ¾ Finals were also called Candidates in the ICCF booklet! The Semifinals will still be called Semifinals because it was agreed that too many changes would confuse most people. For example, if ¾ Finals had been renamed "Semifinals", then anyone would ask "Did you qualify for the "old" Semifinals or the "new" ones?"
It was then turn for Chris Lüers to report to Congress on the E-Mail Tournament Office. There was a huge positive response to the Champions' League, with 242 teams competing in 22 sections. A grand total of 968 players in one big Team event! The E-Mail Jubilee Open is also a mammoth event with more than 2,200 players. Now there are tournaments for all playing strengths, from Master Class and GM Class to Open categories.
Chris is now approaching a bottleneck in his Medicine studies and he was planning on retiring as Commissioner, but he was persuaded to continue in a supervisory position, with several heads handling the events.
I seem to have been deeply lost in other thoughts when Congress discussed the invitational events, as I have no recollection of it, and I am sure there were several events submitted for approval! In my opinion, the time has come to reach a balance between "offer" and "demand" of invitational events. Too many new events are undesirable because the best players are scattered and they have to balance their individual events with team events or unique chances to play some tournaments such as World Championship Finals or Olympiad Finals; too few events will keep players hungry for more!
The key is reciprocity: when I organise an event, I invite players from many federations, and when they organise their events, they invite a couple of my players. But relying on one's capacity to organise events is wrong, because you might fall into the trap of having to fill too many open spots with your (overloaded) players, and risk an additional overload on the rest of the federations! Given that there is a minimum foreign players needed, no-one can only rely on their players and have to request participants from friendly federations who also have commitments to their teams and events!
The next reports came from the Zonal Directors. Activity within the Zones is good, now the challenge is to work on creating more National CC Federations within those FIDE-member countries who only have OTB bodies. This is going to be a major task that will require many people's efforts, hopefully the Zonal Directors and the General Secretary will come up with a good strategy. Marketing will be there to support you!
A break was taken to have lunch and, after that, Congress resumed with a thorny issue in Internal Matters: what has been commonly known as "the endless Argentina problem".
Attempts since the 1997 Congress in Buenos Aires to reach a comprehensive and "amici sumus" unification have been fruitless. LADAC, the founder member of ICCF, was confirmed as the sole representative for Argentine CC. It is expected that it will have an open policy toward all CC players of Argentina, for their participation in international events and activities, without any form of discrimination.
Sadly, Congress also had to deal with some unpleasant problems concerning CAPA (the former additional affiliated federation for Argentina, prior to the 2000 Congress decision to revert to a strict "one member per country" clause in the ICCF Statutes, which became effective from 1/1/2001). It had been hoped that a comprehensive "unification" agreement would be reached between LADAC and CAPA during the two year period since the ICCF Congress in Florida in September 2000, but this had not materialised.
CAPA had adopted a discriminatory practice of not paying prizemoney to selected international participants, dating back several years, and it had failed to pay long overdue fees due to ICCF, including those relating to several approved international invitation tournaments. Most seriously, a very threatening communication had been received from President of CAPA against ICCF and its officials - which was quite unacceptable.
Therefore, after discussion, it was decided to sanction the CAPA President, by suspending him from in all ICCF activities. A vote, with some abstentions and negatives, was carried substantially, but it was hoped CAPA would soon honour its commitments and pay monies due and discontinue animosity towards ICCF and its officials. A question was posed as to whether the sanctions could be withdrawn by the Presidium, if CAPA and its President paid the debts and withdrew threats, but Congress considered that the sanction should continue until such time as any developments could be reviewed again fully, by a future Congress.
The last topic was more enjoyable, as it focused on upcoming ICCF venues. In early October 2003 we will meet in the Czech Republic, either in Karvina or in Ostrava. And in November 2004 we will first visit Asia with a Congress in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), avoiding the rainy season and with hopes to play some cricket! (For the record, I was quite a good wicket-keeper in my younger years...).
And thus another ICCF Congress came to an end. On Thursday we took two buses to visit some locations in Lisbon (especially the Jacobite abbey in which the famous explorer Vasco da Gama is buried) and on Friday we had the traditional Blitz tournament, which ended in an impressive win by the Maestro Dmitry Lybin over Kosta Sanakoev - I wonder how strong CC he would play given his genes?
They were a bit lucky Carlos "The Viceroy" Cranbourne did not play, as he was taken ill to hospital during lunch, and staying in hospital for three more days. But now he's recovered and back in business!
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