Tuesday, June 19, 2007

USA Headed for Correspondence Chess Disaster?

Franklin Campbell of The Campbell Report posted the following to the USCF Forums (the discussion may be followed here):

Post:54930 Posted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:57 pm Post subject: Coming potential disaster for correspondence chess players

We are facing a potential (probably) disaster for International correspondence chess players in the USA. For some years Max Zavanelli and Ruth Ann Fay have carried USA International cc interests more or less separate from the domestic organizations. Now that APCT is gone the national organizations that on paper represent the USA players are limited to USCF and CCLA. Neither of these organizations have taken an active role in many years, leaving it all to the two individuals already mentioned, who did all the work, paid all the fees, traveled to the annual ICCF Congress to represent the USA players, selected teams for International team events and nominated players to the prestigious Invitational events. As with FIDE, ICCF members are national federations, not individual players, so to be represented we must have a national organization.

Max Zavanelli has resigned and Ruth Ann Fay is retiring following this year's ICCF Congress in Spain (October 2007). Ruth Ann has tried hard to find replacement individuals or a team of individuals to take over the responsibilities. She has even announced her willingness to train the new person/people. However, it is very difficult to get individuals willing to make the sort of commitment they made over the years.

In my opinion, individuals representing us to ICCF is not a good idea. There is no guarantee of continuity, as there would be with a committed organization. The current situation is that USCF no longer even has much of a cc presence in the magazine (Dunne's regular column was cancelled). CCLA seems to have no interest is assuming a leadership role. So the cc players who wish to play Internationally are soon to be left out in the cold.

I suggest that the USCF Correspondence Chess Committee should get involved to find a solution to this problem. The expenses of an International program would not be great. We need representation at the annual ICCF Congress. But look at what will soon be left undone without finding a solution:

1. No International cc teams. Our 17th Olympiad team is about to win a place in the finals, but without a national federation we cannot have a final team. See: [url]http://jfcampbell.us/oly17/[/url]

2. No one to represent and apply for players earning International titles.

3. No one to submit nominations to nations organizing prestigious International events. This provides many players with a chance to play the top players and earn top titles.

4. No input to the annual Congress where rules are set.

5. Loss of the main method for USA players to enter ICCF events.

Are we going to see USA players join the Canadian national federation or other countries in order to enter events? USA individuals have performed many important duties within ICCF. Not that long ago we held four of the nine positions on the ICCF Executive Board. We have many strong players and important administrators. But we don't have an organization.

Is the USCF cc committee still active, and if so how do I contact the chairman? I use to be on this committee but I don't even know if I'm still considered a member, having totally lost touch with the group.

Should USCF take the leading role in representing USA cc players in the International arena? We can't count on individual "angels" to save us ... we need an organization (I assume USCF or CCLA) to recognize their responsibility to the players.

J. Franklin Campbell
ICCF International Arbiter
Champions League Webmaster
J. Franklin Campbell
Mason, Michigan
Webmaster Chess Journalists of America
Personal home page:

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When I did not see any indication from USCF governance about this note, I emailed the Executive Board, Executive Director, USCF Correspondence Committee Chair, and the candidates in the current election for the Executive Board the following along with the text of Mr. Campbell's post:

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 06:13:56 -0500
From: Steve Owens in TN
Subject: Correspondence Chess, Serious Problem?
Gentlemen and Ladies,

Mr. Frank Campbell wrote an alarming post in the Forums regarding USA
players' representation in ICCF. This deserves immediate attention from
USCF governance. Please advise us regarding any actions the USCF is
taking to make sure USA correspondence players are not abandoned.

Please also BINFO this.

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Shortly after, I received this email from President Bill Goichberg:

From: Chessoffice@xxx
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 08:13:54 EDT
Subject: Re: Correspondence Chess, Serious Problem?

Thanks, Steve. I have copied this mail to binfo and correspondence committee
chair Harold Stenzel, and the subject will be considered by the board.

Is there any reason why USCF should not represent correspondence players as
it does OTB players? We have always been able to find volunteers to represent
us in FIDE and should be able to do the same for ICCF. The only negative I
can see is the cost of having these volunteers attend ICCF meetings; we need to
better understand this cost in order to consider whether USCF can be
responsible for all or part of it.

The fact that Chess Life no longer has a regular correspondence column does
not represent a lack of interest by the EB or Delegates in correspondence
chess, but rather an unwillingness to micromanage the editor, who has replaced the
regular column with correspondence feature articles. My personal opinion is
that having a regular correspondence column in order to promote membership
represents basic general policy, is not micromanagement, and would be desirable in
addition to the occasional correspondence feature articles. If such a column
included a game, that part of the column would be of interest to many readers
who do not play correspondence chess.

After many years of decline, entries in USCF correspondence events have shown
a strong increase during the past two years or so, and the assumption that
this old traditional form of chess will die out with the rise of the internet is
not justified as most correspondence play now uses the internet. We should
give serious consideration to better appealing to correspondence players as a
method of promoting USCF membership.

Bill Goichberg

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Later this morning I received a Carbon Copy email from Correspondence Committee Chair Harold Stenzel:

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 10:13:14 -0500
From: captnhal
Subject: Re: Correspondence Chess, Serious Problem?

May I suggest that mention of this be made by Alex Dunne in Chess Life or some other Chess Life location. I would also suggest that a detailed list of responsibilities be included. We would certainly want to do a little screening to make sure the replacement will be reliable. I know that this is not a USCF position, and I think Max should also have some input into who replaces him and hopefully some time training his replacement. I don't have nearly enough time to take on this responsibility.

Harold Stenzel
Correspondence Chess Committee chair

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In response to Chairman Stenzel's email I offered the following information and opinion:

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 14:44:23 -0500
From: Steve Owens in TN
Subject: Re: Correspondence Chess, Serious Problem?

Gentlemen and Ladies,

For those who wonder if correspondence chess is alive and if serving
those who play CC is within the mission of the USCF, please look at all
the turn based chess servers on the web used by American players as well
as International players.

Turn based play is correspondence chess. The ICCF and ICC are two
organizations that have recognized the impact of turn based
correspondence play on the chess community and they have jumped on it in
a big way. The USCF is already involved to the extent that it holds the
Walter E. Muir E-Quads on the ICCF server (directed by FM Dunne).

I agree that Postal chess is on the way out, but only because it is so
easy to play correspondence chess by email or web server. These are
growing by leaps and bounds. For the USCF to ignore this growing area
at this time would be a crime morally in terms of serving the members of
the American chess community and in terms of opportunity lost for
growing the USCF financially and in membership.

Regarding the leadership and individual tasks that would be required
when the USCF takes up responsibility for their CC players, I would ask
the Board members and interested parties to look at the web page and the
description provided by Ruth Ann Fay:

"Content edited for clarity:
"The money issue is different in the US than in most other places. The 2
remaining domestic clubs out of the 5 original clubs, do not contribute
financial support to ICCF-US other than help with getting our messages
out to their members. ICCF-US only runs 1 domestic event, the USCCC.
That event is its only good "fund raiser." Other funds come from the
markup on ICCF events. This amount has been reduced by pressure from
ICCF, players who don't understand the financial structure, and using
Enhanced Direct Entry to save on my time.

"The only EB members who receive any financial support for travel are
those that are not NF delegates. The support is based on whether the
Congress is in your country or not, and on your continent or another

"I think it is necessary to go to Congress in order to understand and
explain to the NF's players, the rules changes, the upcoming
tournaments, and to form relationships with the other delegates and

"Anyone interested in applying for my position should read this post.


"The applicant, IMHO, should be an active CC player and a member of both
CCLA and USCF. The sooner I can start training someone and turning over
materials, the better. I would hope the person could accompany me to my
last Congress in Spain in October.

( from: http://tinyurl.com/2ufmzj )"

"26 August 2006: ICCF-US Secretary

"Max Zavanelli has been ICCF-US Secretary since 1987, and I have been
helping him for the last 9 of those 19 years. Due to business and
personal reasons, we are now ready to retire from these duties. Our hope
would be that we could provide a seamless transfer of duties to the next
ICCF-US Secretary. Any player interested in this position should send
their questions to Ruth Ann Fay and their resume to their domestic chess
club with a copy to Ruth Ann Fay at zprchess@aol.com.

"The position requires these minimum duties and skills:
Email skills - I have over 5000 emails sorted and "filed" in about 125
folders. OK, I admit, if I had time, a lot could be deleted. I receive
10-50 emails a day, depending on what is happening at the time.

"Processing entries: Players, some through the ICCF Webserver, send
emails regarding tournament entry. I reply with payment procedures. I
then receive PayPal payments or checks. Probably 90% of correspondence
is by email, but there are still some players who write and send checks.

"Answer other inquiries: I have set up generic responses to cut and
paste into the replies or to print out for postal inquiries. Post has
greatly diminished over the years, most of what I receive now is from

"Organize USCCC, historically a bi-annual event. We switched to
alternating post and server events.

"Form USA teams for the ICCF Olympiads and other zonal team events.
Jason Bokar as Deputy Zonal Director has been helping with this.

"Organize country matches. I haven't had the time for this job. It could
be moved to an assistant. It's great for the player looking for fun
rather than titles.

"Host Invitationals and team matches for NAPZ and PATT: The best way to
get our players into a tournament with title norms is to organize them.
I haven't had enough time to do this well.

"Find players for Invitational matches. One needs to know the top
players and to keep track to some extent of their game load. When we
receive an Invitation from another country, we sometimes have very
little time to provide a player. These are for players looking for title

"Keep Website updated, I haven't been good at this...

"Publish "Top 50" list twice a year.

"Ability to use DOS databases. Both the ICCF Eloquery database and the
USA Database are DOS programs. For the USA database, we use Alpha 4. It
is time to
move the USA players up to either a newer version or another program,
but this would be very time consuming.

"Note that with every inquiry and entry, I check the player's contact
information. For entries, I verify the ICCF number and rating. I must
make certain that the players enter the correct level of event. The
players frequently click on "Open Class" through server entry system
when they belong in a Higher or Master Class section.

"Keep track qualifications: ICCF now has a Qualifications report, but it
is not updated often enough. I need to be able to tell players what
their result in a certain tournament qualifies them for.

"Fairly award the USA federation nominations to the ICCF World
Championship Cycle.

"Apply for ICCF Titles: The federation must make formal application for
titles once the players have earned the correct number of norms. I
maintain a log of players who only have 1 norm and try to get them into
tournaments in which they can earn the remaining norm(s).

"Forward announcements and updated Order Forms to the Webmaster for
Posting. For example, World Cups and Champions League start in
alternating years.

"Recruit, advise, and otherwise help Td's.

"Sale of postcards and scoresheets. I plan to stop this activity once
the remaining stock is sold. Most players have moved to the server
environment and do not require postcards and scoresheets.

"Pay ICCF annual dues - only after verifying that we are paying on the
correct number of players and entries. The financial object on the
above duties has been to mark up tournament entries enough to cover the
headcount portion of the ICCF dues. We do not charge separate, annual
player dues as all players should be paying USA club dues.

"NAPZ Director: The USA has about 75% of the players in the North
America/Pacific Zone. This has traditionally been the ICCF-US delegate.
This position is a seat on the ICCF Executive Board. This position can
only be done properly by attending ICCF Congresses and being active on
ICCF Committees. This is the only way to represent and protect USA
interests and to keep our players informed of ICCF changes and events.
We have been on Statutes, Appeals, and Rules Committees, for example.
This could be handled by a second person. This is obviously the
expensive portion of the job. The person has to be willing to make his
vacation into a working vacation. Most Congresses have been in Europe,
but we have also been to Argentina and India and hosted here in Daytona
Beach in 2000. The Congresses are usually in the fall.

"I cannot properly allocate the time I spend on these duties. I spend
3-4 hours most days, but to do everything, I could easily spend more.

Ruth Ann Fay
NAPZ Director
ICCF-US Assistant Secretary"

from http://www.iccfus.com/NAPZsecretary_search.htm "

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A couple Executive Board candidates have expressed opinions on the matter in the USCF Forum thread.

From Joe Lux:

Post:55188 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 11:40 am

I was emailed about this, this morning.

I played CC once in the eighties. It did give me the opportunity to play my most creative game, but it wasn't appropriate to my lifestyle at the time, and I dropped it.

I have regularly enjoyed Alex Dunne's column in CL, and miss it. Many of the top players I had known originally as OTB players.

CC was always fragmented organizationally. While I cannot say that CC is a growing part of modern chess, USCF has never had a controlling market of members, as it does with OTB chess.

Taking up the reigns of international cc for America can increase adult USCF membership. If the major expense to USCF is sending a representative once a year to Europe, and some minor expense during the year, at, let's say $4,000 to $5,000 per year, it has the potential, I would guesstamate, of a few thousand more adult members. That would be cost effective, if so.

The post would have to be filled by someone established in the cc community who understands its problems and is willing to be trained and advised by Ruth and hopefully Max.

Just one perspective.

Chessically yours, Joe Lux

From Stephen L. Jones:

Post:55243 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 1:54 pm

I suppose I should weigh in on this issue, being the only candidate who is an active correspondence player. As I have already stated in one of my candidate statements, I twice won the US Correspondence Championship (9th and 11th). I played on the US e-mail Olympic team which finished third in the Olympiad, and I am now playing on the US team in the finals of the current e-mail Olympiad. I am a SIM (senior international master) and am short only one norm of being a ICCF grandmaster.

It seems to me that there is no question but that the USCF must step up to the plate. Correspondence chess has always been a part of the USCF Fortunately, until now people like Max and Ruth have worked tirelessly – and probably thanklessly – to promote the US and its players in ICCF chess. And, I believe, when Max went to the ICCF meetings overseas, he did so on his own nickel. They have both assisted me personally and I want to thank both of them for that.

In my opinion the USCF must to go forward with international correspondence chess. I think the critical issue now is not what to do or who shall our next representative be, but rather who wants to work tirelessly and thanklessly for American correspondence chess? Alex, Franklin, and Howard are obvious choices, but do they want to take on the task?

I suggest we contact and solicit potentially interested persons for the position – Alex, Franklin, Howard, and anyone else with comparable interest and expertise.

With the selection of a representative, the ultimate details can be worked out. But our participation in the ICCF is an activity which, in my opinion, we cannot afford to drop.

As an aside, the ICCF has an excellent server for e-mail chess. The USCF should examine that possibility as well.

Stephen Jones

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I also should note that our friend Anthony (Irishspy) initiated the thread at the ICCF Forums back in the middle of May and is the same thread where Ruth Ann Fay's comments originated.

1 comment:

  1. Like I just wrote on the USCF message boards, I'd be happy to pay a bit more to help USCF defray some of the costs of maintaining and expanding their relationship with ICCF. I'd like to see web-server chess made available for all the tournament options.


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