Distinguished guests Mr Lehmann and Mr Schlya, dear members of the BdF board,
CC friends, it gives me much pleasure to respond to those kind words
of welcome by our hosts.
We are delighted to be meeting this year in the beautiful and historic city of Dresden, which is famous across the World for its sciences, art and culture, and to share in its 800th birthday celebrations.
Besides the developments in visual art, music and theatre, Dresden can rightly claim to have made important contributions to European literature.
Romantic literature had one of its centres here, well-known expressionist authors worked in Dresden and, from Karl May to Erich Kästner, writers who were rooted in the cultural landscape of Dresden who have enriched 20th century German literature.
Music enthusiasts from all over the world are familiar with Dresden. This is due not least to the guest performances by the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and Sächsische Staatskapelle working at the famous Semper Opera House, and also the renowned Dresdner Kreuzchor and Dresdner Kapellknaben choirs.
But this week, Dresden is also the international city of Correspondence Chess by hosting the 2006 ICCF Congress.
After Leipzig 1960, Berlin 1968, Munich 1978, Bad Blankenburg 1990 and Bad Neunahr 1996, we are following the ICCF tradition and begin today our first ICCF Congress in Germany in this new Century.
I remember we had one of our most successful Congresses 10 years ago, when I shared the same hotel with my friends Jorgen Nielsen and Ivan Bottlik and enjoying a memorable dinner in a beautiful restaurant with Alan Borwell, Nol Vant`Riet, Tim Harding and Eckhard Lueers.
Bad Neuenahr was an important Congress, which saw the transition to a new generation with Henk Mostert, Paul Diaconescu, Reg Gillman, Josef Vandorffy and others passing the ICCF torch to younger officials and this heritage will be perpetuated, to keep our wonderful hobby in good hands.
Now we are again in Germany, which was and is a remarkable place for Chess, it would take too long to speak about all the achievements and rich history of Chess in this country. However, I am proud to recall that the German Emmanuel Lasker was world champion for some 27 years and I have serious doubts if this record will ever be broken in the future.
Other great champions were Adolf Andersen with his magnificent chess games and Siegbert Tarrasch, with his contributions as a chess author. One of the most monumental books ever written was The Chess Game, which was the bible for thousands of players in all parts of the world.
German CC history is even more rich than its OTB history. Hans-Werner von Massow was ICCF President for 27 years, another record which will probably never be broken - and certainly not by me! He was elected in 1960 and continued to lead ICCF until 1987. I had the honour to meet him in Baden (Switzerland) in 1986, when I attended my first Congress. He was the creator of the very well known CC magazine "Fernschach".
Friday, we will visit his grave in Dresden.
Hans-Werner's charisma is no stranger of BdF success and the German CC Federation is the largest ICCF member with more than 4000 players.
Germany occupies an impressive position at the top of all ICCF statistics with two World Correspondence Chess Champions in Horst Rittner (WC6) and Dr Fritz Baumbach ( WCh 11) -both are with us this year in Dresden and we give them a very warm welcome! We should also remember the fifth World Champion in 1967 Hans Berliner, was also born in Germany.
More than 15 European Champions including our friend Gerhard Binder, 4 winners of ICCF World Cups with Karl Heinz Maeder (WCup 1), Horst Staudler (WCup 8), Edgar Prang (WCup 9) and Frank Schroder (WCup 10), and the German team has won 3 gold medals in ICCF Olympiads (XI, XII and XIV) and the ladies team has won 3 silver medals (I, V, VI)
If I start to enumerate all German successes I am sure that I would need a book with several tomes so I can only mention the most notable on this occasion. I should not miss this opportunity to congratulate the BdF on achieving its 60th Jubilee this year and I am particularly happy to mention a big success with the International World Open which will start later this year with circa 800 participants.
I would now like to refer to one of your most famous top players, former BdF President and distinguished ICCF Honorary member, Mr Hermann Heemsoth who died early this year at the grand old age of 96 The last Congress Hermann attended was Thun, Switzerland in 1999, and many of you remember him at the top of the Schilthorn Mountain where he used to climb and ski, as in his younger days. The group picture is in ICCF Gold!
Hermann was a lovely man and a fine chess player. He became the BdF President in 1956 and held this office until 1988! Hermann became a Grandmaster at the age of 78, the oldest player in the history of ICCF to receive a GM title, in Bloemendaal 1987. The last time I saw him was in Thun, but we have had good correspondence since and he published many miniatures I sent him in German chess magazines like Fernschach and Schach. I remember him with great affection, as do many of us here today and so will all of his thousands of chess friends around the world.
With much regret, I now also refer to other dear CC friends who have died since our last Congress.
Alfonsino Lannaioli from Italy passed away only 3 weeks ago after a long illness at the age of 55 years. Many of us remember meeting him during the ICCF Congress 2001 in Rimini. He was arranged for the distribution of ICCF Gold Books in Italy and he was an excellent Team Captain and tournament organiser for ASIGC.
Other CC friends who we lost this year were: GM (both FIDE and
ICCF) Enrico Paoli from Italy, Gaspar Darwin Soria from Argentina,
Mrs Raimondi from France , Gary Abram from USA, Shigeo Hayakawa
from Japan, IM Paul Darmogray (UKR) and GM Czsaba Meleghegyi from
In respect to their memories and those of all other CC friends who have passed away since our last meeting could I please ask you now to stand, bow your heads and observe a minute's silence in memory of
"all departed friends".
(one minute silence)
This year, we have many new friends attending an ICCF Congress for the first time and I would especially like to welcome you, and all other delegates, officials, wives, partners and families who are with us again for another Congress. Happy memories are built on opportunities like this to meet, discuss and enjoy true fellowship of our wonderful game.
Unfortunately, for health reasons, we will miss this year Ragnar Wikman (FIN), ICCF Honorary Member and Chairman of the Appeal Commission, Guillermo Toro de Solis (CHI), Zonal Director for Latin America, and Carlos Cranbourne (ARG). Deputy Zonal Director, who assumed the
Zonal Director role in Latin America on an interim basis in March 2006.
In this Congress, the main theme will focus on reforms we need to make to improve ICCF performance in giving an even better service to players.
Last year I was elected by you to the highest ICCF charge but it was not possible for me to reach Angostura due to last minute travel problems in Paris Airport. Therefore, I was unable to thank you in Argentina, but now I have the opportunity, from my new Country, to show my thanks through actions as well as words but, of course, without forgetting those who are helping me in the Executive Board, Management Committee and all the Commissions. Real achievements and friendships make my task easier.
Good progress has been made this year on some very important issues.
Thanks to Michael Millstone (and System Programmer Martin Bennedik), the Direct Entry system is now available and DE fees look encouraging, with significant increases in recent months
The ICCF server is fully operational and thanks to Honorary President Alan Borwell, chairman, Gerhard Binder and the other WDSC members, working with Martin Bennedik, the phase 3 development work is almost complete. More detail will be communicated to you during this Congress.
New projects and future proposals will be submitted for your information and feedback in the next few days.
The Finance situation is now under better control thanks to great efforts made by Ruth-Ann Fay and we will be preoccupied by the transparency.
Although you have the 2005 Accounting Schedules, which have recently been sent for auditing, final reports cannot be presented to this Congress for adoption because the Auditor received them too late to complete the audit. However, you have my promise that these missing reports will be forwarded to you and published on the ICCF website before 31.12.2006.
An excellent tutorial and webserver guidelines have been prepared by Franklin Campbell (USA) and the Help Desk Administration is now fully operational, thanks to tremendous work this year by Gino Figlio (PER).
Thanks to Valer Demian (CAN) , Pedro Hegoburu (ARG) and Guido Bresadola (ITA), the 2nd ICCF World Open Tournament started this year in June with 476 participants.
Although many things are now going better, I must report that these last two years have been difficult ones, since my predecessor resigned at the end of 2004. Firstly we had to cover for or fill many vacant positions and some other positions needed support from Zonal Directors or Delegates.
Raymond Boger (NOR), Editor of webzine "ICCF AMICI " as well as Pierre Ruiz Vidal (FRA), who is editing "mail chess" content for Chess Base Magazine, are facing a big problem because they receive almost nothing from you.
It is a shame that an organisation like ICCF, is failing to provide a good service for the CC community. I do hope all delegates feel an obligation to support ICCF and will communicate more with the persons I have just mentioned by preparing at least one article during each year. It would be good publicity and marketing action to promote CC in general and ICCF, in particular.
As I have advocated, there are tremendous marketing opportunities for ICCF and I think urgent decisions must be taken to improve the current situation and ensure that marketing strategy is evolved, and activated.
It is the same with all operational aspects for the webserver, except as I have already referred. An active Webserver Commissioner is required.
You have surely observed that we have lost many good officers during this year, amongst them the Deputy President & Development Director, Max Zavanelli (USA),Title Tournaments Commissioner, Daniel Finkelstein (ARG),. I would like to thank them sincerely for their work.
Even our very good friend Henk Sarink, the ICCF Auditor for many years,
is indicating a wish to resign but I hope to convince him to stay to the end of next year, when 4 year elections are due to take effect from 1/1/2008
This year is not an election year, but to fill the two EB missing positions you should vote to avoid any interim appointments. The two positions are very sensitive and both require action orientated people to help us
to ensure that ICCF will continue to thrive and prosper, into the future.
Another sad item is related to ICCF participation to the FIDE Olympiad.
A complete report, with details, will be given for your full understanding - - we must ensure that we have a better ongoing relationship with FIDE.
Nevertheless I decided to move to improve our relationship with FIDE and start to rebuild it on a safer and solid basis. Therefore I invited ICCF Honorary President, Alan Borwell (SCO) to become ICCF Liaison Officer to FIDE, and we will work together to encourage a greater co-operation.
During this Congress, I intend to initiate processes for developing ideas like new regulations for the ICCF World Championship. As you will have surely noticed, we have had 4 World CC Champions since 2004 and we need to stop this inflation in order to have credible World CC Champions.
Last year, ICCF introduced a new stage which was a very good idea, but now we should develop and complete the concept by reviewing all of the qualification requirements eg to allow new World CC Champion to retain the title for 2 or 3 years. We must also discuss the transmission issues.
The President´s Council has also made some very important proposals regarding ICCF's future, including the updating of the ICCF Statutes and I hope that we will have constructive and fruitful debates this week and good resolutions will be taken in Dresden which will benefit ICCF and all of its Member Federations for the future.
Some years ago we decided that, as well as our wonderful motto "Amici Sumus" (we are friends), we should have an ICCF Anthem and our good friend Dmitry Lybin (BLR) composed a melody, to which we considered the addition of an appropriate libretto. However, this proved to be rather difficult, even in English (!), so we decided to abandon the idea and Dmitry has now produced a music only version which we will hear during Congress, and it will be played at the end of this speech. We will then decide during Congress whether to adopt it as the official ICCF Anthem, to be played on all appropriate occasions!
I would like to conclude now, by expressing the hope that this will be a successful and happy Congress, with a true "amici sumus" philosophy shining through all of our meetings and I hope that you will all enjoy the programme arranged by our hosts. It is going to be a very hectic week!
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I now
declare the "ICCF Congress 2006 - Dresden, Germany", duly open.