Going, going, gone!

y Valer
Eugen Demian


Going, going, gone!
by ICCF-IM Valer Eugen Demian

The end of the qualifying season in ICCF-CL came in with a few surprises despite our efforts to run things smoothly. It had to be a combination of preparing the registration for the new season, together with adjudicating unfinished games necessary to determine unclear qualifications. Let's examine briefly both issues, since they were clearly interconnected.

Preparing the registration for the new season: one thing I came up with was the idea to ask teams to confirm their intent of participation in the new upcoming season. It was obvious some teams would not participate anymore and others will come on-board for the first time, so we needed to do a projection of how the league would really look like compared with the original plans prepared in 2002. Originally this proved to be a very successful idea. Lots of teams confirmed their participation with a simple "Yes" or "No". There was no need for additional information such as team line-ups, changes, etc. However I got a fair share of those as well; funny how people have trouble following simple requests because of being over-zealous. Simply put, I had no use for that information at the time!

Now since confirmations were running smoothly, it was time to prepare the adjudication process. This is one of the most frustrating tasks in chess since everyone has an opinion on how adjudications have to be performed; rest assure you will hear it as soon as the adjudication will not be favorable... Luckily the revised FAQ provided some protection with no less than 7 rules (16 to 22) explaining the process. Everything was ready to take the bull by the horns except we needed "some" adjudicators of at least SIM title and a fixed rating of 2500. We pledged for help and luckily we got two great players committed. Honestly this was way beyond my wildest dreams; now I was only crossing my fingers those 25 decisive games won't scare them off!

We had some private discussions between ourselves (the ICCF-CL Support team) about how much time we should allow players to prepare their analysis. In the end the majority voted for a full month as written in the ICCF Playing Rules. The point was the time frame: with those decisive games called for adjudication Jun 1st, 2004, one full month of preparation meant we got those analysis no later than July 1st, we added the time required by adjudicators to give their verdicts (approximately second half of August) in all games, plus any possible appeals. An optimist would say there was no problem with this time frame; however things looking nice on paper have a tendency of blowing in your face when you expect it the least...

Players were very cooperative to begin with: 15 out of the 25 games called for adjudication ended in a draw by mutual agreement. This was a huge relief to me in particular; things did not look so bad afterall and we even followed to Playing Rules! Now if only they would continue being cooperative and send in their analysis in a decent time frame... Unfortunately here the problems started: players chose to wait until the last official minute of the last day to send in their analysis and claims in all but 1 game. The adjudicators did nothing for a month and then all of a sudden had to solve those games. Now remember that we are talking about active top players, playing meantime in very high level competitions. In parallel think about all teams already qualified, comfirmed and very much ready to play. There was a lot of pressure and excitement in the air and not everyone was on the "excited" side...

There were some minor email connection glitches between me and both adjudicators. Definitely email has become lately a nerve wrecking medium for correspondence chess. All in all I was very impressed with the work done by both adjudicators. They did not need any "special" instructions on how to adjudicate; we had only a couple of email exchanges explaining how things would be done and then they simply did their job. That was some job! These adjudications would always have a place in a reference database on how to perform them. Only one game was appealed and personally I was a bit upset. I knew who the adjudicator was and how long it took him (around 3 weeks) to come up with his final decision. On the other hand that game meant division C or D for one team, so their appeal was kind of normal. It is not easy to top the original requirements for adjudicators since it was obvious I needed a GM or even World Champion to perform the appeal. Now if you can find one with time in hand to accomodate you right on the spot, please give me a call in two years when the first season will be over!  I would need your help again...
Anyhow, a top GM helped me out and confirmed the original decision.

Registrations could be an easy process if you have lots of experience and people cooperate with you. Unfortunately for me I had little experience organizing a correpondence chess event of this magnitude, plus players and officials were not cooperative at all. I will summarise some of the problems I had to deal with during registration. This way we will always have it written down to remind ourselves, or educate any new guys coming on-board about what to be aware of:

a) The registration form was incomplete.
The ICCF current rating field was missing and I wasted lots of time to identify the right players. Now try this as an exercise: write down 4 random names of German players forcing you to browse Eloquery for their rating from letter A to W; calculate how much time you need to perform this task, then multiply it by 54 (the number of German teams entered)

b) Players and officials knew almost nothing about the ICCF-ID they were supposed to put in. I got a big number of registration forms without any IDs, with wrong IDs, or simply with national or FIDE-IDs I did not need. Personally I would consider it a must for every player to know his ICCF-ID, the same he/she knows his current rating. Providing the proper information is the minimum one can do to ease the work for an organizer and have the event start on time. Eloquery is such a great database and it is a shame not to be familiarised with it. I strongly doubt it takes more than 30 minutes to become an expert in finding all sort of needed data in it. If a team captain has to do it for 4 players, the organizer has to look for 884 players!...

c) We offered the registration form in text format because it is the simplest to prepare by anyone. However I got quite some selection of different formats and fonts giving me lots of trouble to copy and paste the information.
Have you ever had the task to write down Polish, or Czech names?

d) Team captains and officials showed very little knowledge of what they were supposed to do. Now Franklin Campbell - the ICCF-CL webmaster -
has done a tremendous job in putting lots of useful information together.
However you can have the best information available; if they don't read it, it creates a lot of frustration and delays

e) Lots of teams misunderstood the original request for confirmation as a registration.
We posted clarifications at least 3 times to basically say "confirmation" DOES NOT mean "registration". Some still did not register (even after we extended the registration deadline) and remained out of the competition; quite a few got in because
I was flexible for as much as I could and accepted their excuse

f) The decision taken by the ICCF Executive Board to offer some server groups was very good! Too bad there was just partial cooperation on behalf of the teams involved
to help us out setup full server groups.
The majority of teams specifically requested "No server play" and left us with very little room to maneuver. It was frustrating for a while, but in the end they are the ones regretting this choice

g) Thanks to Frank Goebert we managed to have an advanced webtables system in place for the beginning of this season, transforming the job of posting results into a simple exercise of 1 and 0. If you might think this is not important, then do not forget the other webmaster for the qualifying season had to be replaced!...

Now the league has started. It happened after a needed 1 month delay, but this does not matter anymore. Players will enjoy their games, officials will take a breather and life will go on to a better future on the server! Next time I will share with you the joys and pains of the first weeks in the league. Do not forget meantime to express your pleasure by helping out your fellow TDs, organizers or officials. How can you do that? It is very simple: read our webpages weekly, respond to inquiries in a decent time frame, help us correct mistakes, do your best to solve disputes in the spirit of "Amici Sumus" and try our server!

Dec 15, 2004
Vancouver, BC, Canada

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