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ICCF Presidents

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Overview of History

<—— Contents          1973-2001 —–>

1.Overview of the history of correspondence chess, beginnings-1972

by Iván Bottlik (HUN)


“Who will write the history of correspondence chess for us?”

Dr. Eduard Dyckhoff, Fernschach, January 1930


This question was raised by one of the top personalities of correspondence chess of the first half of the 20th Century. At that time, he was expecting Johann Nepomuk Berger (1845-1933), chess master, writer and winner of a CC tournament organised by Le Monde Illustré, to write such a compendium but, unfortunately, this did not happen. Since then a few books have been written on the subject and we hope this publication will be an important step to achieve this sublime goal.

Everything considered historically important by each national federation can be found in their individual chapters. Furthermore the reader can find IFSB, ICCA and ICCF official tournament results in this book. Therefore the scope of this chapter is to present general information, rules, habits and interesting facts about correspondence chess in the past centuries.

The first known CC game was played in the Netherlands in 1804, however there are some legends about games played before this date (see e.g. chapters of Netherlands and Croatia).

One of our goals is to present some more of these legends to the reader, for example Henry I King of England and Louis I King of France played each other with the help of couriers in 1119; Voltaire played CC games in the 18th Century against Frederick, the Great Prussian King and against Catherine, the Great Russian Czarina. The list would be long, but let’s leave it here, for the purposes of this book.

The first two matches, of which circumstances and games are officially known to us, are the famous London-Edinburgh match and the Amsterdam-Rotterdam match (the latter was won by Amsterdam 2:0 in 1824).

With regard to the British match, chess literature mentions the cities of London and Edinburgh in this order, however it would be more fair to name this match Edinburgh-London if we take into consideration the end result…

The first move was sent by the city of London on April 23, 1824. Edinburgh replied five days later (April 28), sending its first move of the second game as well. The first game was drawn on December 24 of the same year and on the same day, they started the third game. The fourth started in February, 1825 and the fifth in February, 1826. They never played more than two games at once. The final result was Edinburgh winning the match in 1828 ( +2 –1 =2 ).

The Scotch Game (which gained its name because of this important event) was used on three occasions, twice by Edinburgh and once by London. In reality, two of these “Scotch” games were Scotch Gambits (1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.d4 exd4 4.¥c4) and one was a variation, nowadays seldom used (1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.d4 ¤xd4).

This first match contained all the necessary ingredients of this kind of event: discovering wrong lines a few hours after the move had been sent, the proposal of incorrect conditional moves, “stretching the cord” unnecessarily (after missing a win, not accepting the draw and losing the game), etc. Considering that the games were played 175 years ago, their technical level is high and they are theoretically valuable.

These two major events started matches between the cities and chess clubs of the world. For example, the city of Paris beat the London Westminster Club by 2:0 in a match played from 1834 to 1836. The defence used by the Parisians (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) was named the French Defence after this match.

The Hungarian Defence (1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.¥c4 ¥e7) also gained its name from a match played between Paris and the city of Pest (back in those days Buda and Pest were two different cities on the Danube and were not yet unified) from 1842 to 1845, won by the Hungarians 2:0.

All of these openings above were known and mentioned in books before these matches, but had not been universally named until then. For example, the Scotch Gambit can be found in Lolli’s book from 1673, the French Defence is in Greco’s book from 1620 and the Hungarian Defence can be found in Cozio’s book from 1766. The fact that they were named after these events proves that these international CC matches created a sensation at that time.

The increasing public interest during the 1824-1842 period (during which the three CC events above were taking place) also saw the beginning of the first chess journals and valuable chess columns – where these openings were first “named”. Hitherto, although a relatively great number of chess games had been played, only very few of them had been printed.

The first great OTB tournament (which was a series of small matches in a knockout system, such as the present-day K.O. world championships) was organised only in 1851. Previously, OTB games had been played either in matches, or were casual ones (played in coffee-houses or chess clubs).

Selecting from the earliest CC games of the 19th century, Bledow had published a volume as far back as 1843, with 50 CC games, as well as two annotated games of the Berlin-Posen match. In 1872, an enlarged, 2nd edition of the book was published by M. Lange. In 1896, G.B. Fraser, in Dundee, Scotland, published a book of 200 CC games.

At first, CC games were played between cities or chess clubs. However, soon, games between two individuals also took place, because from time to time the two outstandingly strongest players of two chess clubs would match their strength against each other, with the assistance of the others. We are aware however, that there were some rare “totally individual” matches, for example, Jänisch-Kieseritzky (1838-1839).

Among the consulting chess players of the cities, one could also, from time to time, find top players of the world, such as Lewis (London), Saint-Amant (Paris), Steinitz (London), Chigorin (Saint Petersburg), Kolisch (Vienna), Szén (Pest), and others.

The publicity of these matches and games was enormous. During the time of the London-Edinburgh match, several newspapers published the moves as soon as they had been made or received. A booklet containing the first two games of this match had already been issued in London in 1825 and, after its finish, both sides published all five games in 1828 and 1829. The same thing happened in Germany (Essen) in 1829, and in the USA (New York) in 1830. So although no kind of chess paper yet existed, the games became widely known.

Independent publications of matches like these, also continued to appear later e.g. Berlin-Breslau (1829-1831), Madras-Hyderabad (1828-1829), Paris-London’s Westminster Club (1834-1836), Philadelphia’s Atheneum Chess Club-New York Chess Club (1856-1857), etc.

When there were chess journals (the first chess magazine of the world was Le Palamède, published in 1836 in Paris) and high level chess columns (the first unambitious chess column started in 1813 but many years passed by until the development of substantial chess columns in the 1840s/50s), games were continuously published in the countries concerned. Even in other countries, every now and then, the progress of a game, or at least the whole game was published after its conclusion.

For example, the two games of the Paris-Pest match were continuously published by every issue of Le Palamède, and an occasional stage of them, by the weekly chess column of Illustrierte Zeitung of Leipzig (Germany).

On many matches, stake money was set, the sums of which were very different with the highest ones amounting to considerable sums. In raising these, rich sponsors were sometimes involved as also were financially strong clubs, having money of their own. We know of a case where shares had been issued to collect the stake money. In buying shares, priority was given to the members of the consulting team, which was deciding the moves, whilst the rest could be purchased by chess friends.

The shareholders, depending on the result of the match, either received double the sum they had paid in, or lost it – and, in case the match resulted in a draw, they got back their money. The two parties deposited their stakes before the beginning of the match in a reliable place, e.g. in a jointly chosen bank.

In case of two-game matches, the winner also received the stake money if the result was 2:0 or 1.5:0.5. Naturally, from time to time, this had an influence on the outcome of one of the games. At the Paris-Pest match, for example, Paris could have achieved a draw by continuing the commenced repetition of moves, but it did not avail itself of it because in its other game it had a lost position – however, with things standing as they did, she finally lost this game as well!

Another kind of situation happened in the London-Saint Petersburg match (1886-87). In one of the games, London had a lost position and, what’s more, the Russians also claimed an exceeding of the time limit. The English gave up their losing game, but with the condition that the other game be agreed drawn. In order to avoid debate, the Russians accepted this, since thus, not only did they win the match, but received the stake money as well. However, they also made a proposal that the game already agreed drawn be continued, outside the competition, but with the same stake money. Should it end in a draw, London would regain the stake money, but if Saint Petersburg won, it would receive twice the sum. London did not accept this “additional match”!

Those who are interested in the position, can find it in Smyslov & Levenfish’s book written on rook endings. With exact play, the game would have ended in a draw, but finding the correct continuations, would not have been an easy task.

In some cases an object prize was offered. In the London-Edinburgh match the winner won a silver cup. In a later match between clubs, the prize was a valuable chessboard. The club winning it was lucky – in the following match it could also win precious chess-pieces to use with it!

The time fixed for the consideration of moves was not uniform. From the several kinds of variations we now present but a few of those which were used.

There was one which allowed 6 days per move, but this had to include the day of arrival and posting as well; and there was the one which allowed 4 clear days for the consideration of each move. The longest time allowed for a move was 2 weeks, and there were 30 days for 10 moves, which is common even today. Now and then, it was possible to use up saved time later, and there was also a precedent for it not being possible to accumulate savings.

Up until the 1880s, the majority of games were consultation ones, with the time required for deciding moves being greater, as it took time for the analysing group to gather, when the moves arrived. In addition, usually two games were going on, so both of them had to be dealt with at the same time.

Although it had happened earlier in the 20th century, I mention it here that, in Germany, between the two World Wars, there were tournaments in which the time limit for the consideration of a move was the “fourth day counted from the posting of the received move” (so it was not the arrival of the postcard that they used for basis!) – and this was so, even if a frontier ran between the opponents! The time for consideration was increased to 6 days from the posting date, only if there were at least two frontiers between the players. This, of course, required an excellently working postal network!

It was also in German tournaments, that the so-called correspondence “Rapid Game” occurred, with one day to consider each move.

Returning to the 19th century: there were also various ways to regulate holiday leaves (cessations). In some matches the programme mentioned no holidays. Players could create a bit of leisure time however, either by means of their saved time, or the consultation group was worked with a reduced staff, whenever one or more members of it was away on leave.

There was a precedent for a one-week’s holiday, and it also happened that play was suspended during the two summer months.

The manner of forwarding moves took shape under the influence of the development of communication methods. The moves of the London-Edinburgh match had been forwarded by a mail coach, during the Paris-London’s Westminster Club match, the letter had, of course, travelled partly by ship, whilst, according to contemporary sources of information, the moves of the Madras-Hyderabad correspondence match had been carried by elephants, along with other mail!

Continuously taking shape was the combination of mail coach plus train, to be followed by sole transportation by rail between countries and cities on the same mainland.

The establishment of the telegraphic system made it possible for moves to be sent greater distances and, moreover, there was even a precedent for sending moves by telephone. With unchanged rules of correspondence chess, the employment of the telegraph and telephone had, in part, served the purpose that the moves could reach destinations more quickly. However, as far back as the 19th century, there were also such matches, where a game or an encounter between two teams with remote opponents, was played with the aid of a telegraph or telephone. There were several such matches, e.g. on the East Coast of the USA and, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Great Britain-USA OTB team match. This was usually organised every year, with the moves being sent via a cable sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. Amongst those playing in these matches were such notabilities as Pillsbury and Blackburne.

Returning to the development of new events, individual matches were taking place occasionally, between two CC players. In Hungary, for example, between 1861 and 1863, the editor of the first Hungarian chess column played against a provincial reader. We know a game from 1875 to 1876, in which a Hungarian chess player played with the famous correspondence player from Graz, J. Berger and, between 1884 and 1889, the 2nd individual tournament of La Stratégie had a Hungarian participant. From 1893 to 1897 there was already an organised tournament, solely for Hungarian participants.

However, it was from the 1870s, that the first Individual Correspondence Chess Tournaments (taken in the present-day sense), started to be organised, in which everybody played with everybody else (round robin) and Canadian, French, Russian, German, Swedish, American, Czech, and other nations’ tournaments commenced. Amongst tournaments organized by Canadians, there were also ones which had players from the USA. French tournaments were soon developed into international events, in which players from several countries of Europe participated. In fact, even Algerians, who were French but living in a colony on another continent, were also participating!

In the course of the tournaments between cities and clubs, members of the teams had, of course, analysed together. But in case of individual tournaments, they wanted to preclude this possibility. In the announcements of the earliest correspondence tournaments, one can often read that the contestant had to state that they would not analyse their games with somebody else, and that they would be playing alone. However, they soon realized that with this, they had put fair-players in a disadvantageous position, since they (i.e. the fair-players) had conformed to the “rule”, but their opponents had not – so this regulation was soon cancelled.

Prize-money in individual tournaments had been revived in a form different from matches between cities. For example, in some 6-person tournaments (where the participants played 2 games with everyone), the winner received “treble” of his entry fee, the runner-up “double” and the player placed third the equivalent of his entry fee. In the tournaments of La Stratégie, whether there were 6 or 8 or 12 entrants in the last two decades of the 19th century, entry fees were distributed as prizes, between the winner and the runner-up in the ratio of 2:1.

Sometimes the prize base grew: in some tournaments, at the time of entry it was also required to pay an “earnest fee” as a guarantee for the completion of all his games. If the participant played to the end of the tournament, he had this money returned to him but, if he left before completion, his “earnest fee” was added to the prize base.

In the years prior to the First World War, there was rumour abroad about one “resourceful” competitor who, during a tournament, sent a mourning-card to the director and the participants. The director of the tournament sent back the “earnest money” and, together with fellow-competitors, offered his condolences to the relatives. Then, later on, for another correspondence tournament, the “deceased” showed up again! The heart of the matter was that it cost less to post some mourning-cards, than the sum the earnest fee amounted to…!

In some tournaments object prizes were also given. For example, the winner of a tournament in France obtained a vase of Sèvres, presented by the President of the Republic.

Playing was not cheap, at least for those who could not win a prize. Entry fee, expenses of postage – and for tournaments organised by chess periodicals, you had to be a subscriber of the paper. In addition, you also had to pay down the earnest money. So in the last quarter of the 19th century, individual tournaments were already being organised, although the number of the competitors was not notable.

As already mentioned, matches between cities often attracted remarkable attention, particularly in the chess press. However, the correspondence chess clash arousing the keenest interest in the 19th century was the Steinitz-Chigorin telegraphic match (1889-90). As is well-known, World Champion Steinitz defended his title in two OTB matches against the challenger Chigorin, and they were fellow-combatants in other tournaments (where Steinitz was also more successful) but this time Chigorin won the CC telegraph match by 2:0.

This keen interest was, of course, expedited by the worldwide extension of the telegraphic connection which, by this time, had made great progress, so the journals could follow the progress (actual positions) of the games, all over the world. The games were published many times, but the circumstances and conditions were written about much more rarely. Yet there were several extraordinary ones among them. One of the most important of these was when Steinitz gave Chigorin the advantage of being entitled to select the openings to be used both by White and Black, and a starting position in each of them (which Steinitz had deemed good in his book, or other of his publications of that time).

The regulations about assistance and employment of an analysing partner, was also unusual – both sides were entitled to one assistant. Furthermore, the fixed time for the consideration of a move was 48 hours. However, one special condition was that the play was broken off from December 1889 to January 1890, when Steinitz defended his world title in a match against Gunsberg!

Returning again to games, which were conducted by consultation groups of cities. Where several people were analysing, there could be disputes and some of these had actually become known, because one or more chess player had left a consulting group.

It is a well-known case, that during the Paris-Pest match, Deschapelles quit the group of Parisians because they did not accept his proposal 2…f5 after 1.e4 e5. 2. ¤f3. In a dispute arising in a Paris-Vienna match (1884-85), three of the 4-person staff of the French team left. The player remaining all by himself, then found new assistants!

Exceeding the time limit could entail the loss of the game as well, but there were matches where this resulted in a fine.

The nineteenth century had been almost exclusively the period of correspondence chess played by men but, by way of exception, it also saw a successful woman chess player – Mrs. Ellen Gilbert of the USA. In the 1879 USA-Great Britain cable match she beat her strong male opponent by 2:0.

One of the peculiar experiments was the organisation of an anonymous tournament. The names of the participants were not known to each other; the moves had to be sent to the tournament secretary who was to pass them on to the players. It was only at the end of the tournament that players found out the names of their opponents. Perhaps this was even more correct, than when we know our opponents’ names – we would find out only after the finish of a game, who we had actually been playing against..!

In the 20th century, up until 1914, correspondence chess gained further popularity. What gave these years a special touch of colour, were highly paid theme tournaments which were organised both in the USA and in France. The latter was an international tournament, with the compulsory use of the Rice Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.¤f3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.¤e5 ¤f6 6.¥c4 d5 7.exd5 ¥d6 8.0–0 ¥xe5 9.¦e1). This was financed by the rich chess enthusiast, Isaac Rice.

Correspondence tournaments had been arranged equally by chess organisations, chess journals and chess columns. The tournament forms, begun in the 19th century, continued to exist with team matches between countries, with two-game consultation matches (in these the chess players of Riga were very successful) between two cities or two chess clubs – and, of course, with individual tournaments. Almost all of the chess journals had organised correspondence tournaments. In addition to tournaments within their countries, there were also a great number of international ones.

It is probable that, had it not been for the outbreak of the Great War, the institution of an international organisation would have been put on the agenda, even as far back as the 1910s.

This was a period about which one may rightly use the term ‘the golden age’ of the correspondence tournaments organised by chess columns. There were many chess columns in daily and weekly papers. Some of these amounted to half or even an entire newspaper page! One or two such chess columns had already ensured the columnist enough to live on (or given a decisive aid to it), so he could spend a lot of time with his column or activities connected with it. Columnists, therefore, announced and directed correspondence tournaments and, sometimes, they also played. Thus it could occur, that a player claimed an exceeding of the time limit against his opponent, the columnist (and the tournament director at the same time), then verified both his own exceeding of the time limit and his loss, and then published this in his column – and continued to play the other games…!

At the outbreak of World War I, some tournaments in progress were interrupted (“We shall resume after the finish of the war,” they wrote optimistically), but others were continued to a conclusion. Once it became clear that the war was not going to be finished in a few months, further tournaments were announced but, naturally, the number of interrupted games increased. In some tournaments, soldiers fighting at the front also took part – in fact, there was one correspondence tournament in which only soldiers fighting at the front, participated!

Dr. D. Elekes, a future member of the Hungarian team winning the CC Olympiad between 1949 and 1952, wrote in his book that, while at the front in World War I, he had been playing as many as 50 or 60 games simultaneously and taking part, amongst others, in tournaments of the German chess weekly Deutsches Wochenschach. (I have seen his handwritten notebooks with game annotations but, sad to say, these had more than once ended with the opponent’s death…). Then, after the war, there were persons who had been playing twice as many games simultaneously e.g. the Estonian P. Keres.

In the countries waging war, censorship was, of course, in operation. As is shown with numerous tournaments, they had acknowledged that correspondence chess was using unusual signs. At any rate, one of the chess papers gave the advice that, instead of the suspicious “4244”, players should write that “the pawn in front of the queen advances two squares”. Whether this worked or not, we do not know. Nevertheless, two questions are raised. Firstly, is it possible to transmit spy information with four numbers, which describe a chess move? And second, if it is, then would it be even more possible to do so, when completed with a fifth digit as well ( pawn, queen, etc.). Would the censor have been no longer suspicious, if the players had followed the advice of the chess paper !?

A few years after the war in most countries, CC life had become very active again.

In Great Britain, for example, the British Chess Magazine had regularly reported about the events of the lively chess life and the news of the British Correspondence Chess Association, whereas members of the BCCA had also regularly received the Association Magazine. In addition to the various kinds of individual tournaments (in Britain, “handicap” OTB tournaments had been regularly organised in the 19th century; after the Great War, we also find them in CC tournaments, with results of stronger and weaker competitors being modified with correctional factors). Team matches were resumed, both within a country and between countries, with cable matches organised: for both CC and OTB teams, mostly with partners from the USA.

Prior to the tournaments of IFSB (before 1928), and then simultaneously with them, international tournaments of considerable strength were organised, e.g. by the Wiener Schachzeitung and Deutsche Schachzeitung – and tournaments for competitors of less playing strength, were also continuously in progress. Even as far back as the 1930s, journals similar to other European chess reviews (e.g. the Schweizerische Schachzeitung), would celebrate their hundredth tournament and then, by the end of World War II, even double this number was sometimes exceeded.

During the 1930s, the first ‘official’ CC Team Olympiad of IFSB (1935-1939) took place and there were friendly matches between countries as well. These matches were partly encounters of 6-10 top players, and partly huge matches with 50-100 participants. In 1929, for example, the British C.F.-Irish C.A. match began – in the British team there were 8 “Rev”s and 2 “Miss”es..!

World War II was even more frightful than World War I, and what’s more, air-bombings also afflicted the hinterland, too. However, the strengthened CC playing continued, even in the majority of the countries at war. It was then that, in his correspondence games, the British V. Dilworth introduced his variation in the Open Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.¥b5 a6 4.¥a4 ¤f6 5.0–0 ¤xe4 6.d4 b5 7.¥b3 d5 8.dxe5 ¥e6 9.c3 ¥c5 10.¤bd2 0–0 11.¥c2 ¤xf2).

The German K. Junge, also a soldier, played his variation, which had proved effective in OTB games, also with success in CC games (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.¤f3 ¤f6 4.¤c3 e6 5.¥g5 dxc4 6.e4 b5). Several countries organised CC championship(s)!

But the losses were great, and the recovery from them was extremely difficult.

The creation and activity of the IFSB

In August 1928, the ICSB, Internationales Correspondensschachbund, was created under the leadership of Erich Otto Freienhagen (Berlin), which had existed in a loose form since November 1927. Other members of the management were I. W. Keemink, H.-W. von Massow, K. Laue, C. Olsen and H. Schild. This was the first successful attempt to create an international correspondence chess federation. Unfortunately, it survived for only a short period, but its successor proved to be a viable and successful.

On 2nd December 1928, a new federation was formed in Berlin. To distinguish it from its predecessor, it was named the IFSB, Internationales Fernschachbund. Its meaning, however, was the same as the ICSB’s: international correspondence chess federation.

As Hans-Werner von Massow (an outstanding figure in correspondence chess for the following six decades) said one could hear the opinion that the federation had been founded by “four madmen and a child”- von Massow was just 16 years old at the time!

The founders were: Dr. R. Dührssen, 1st President (Berlin); I. W. Keemink (Hilversum), 2nd President; H.-W. von Massow (Dresden), 1st Minutes Secretary; K. Laue (Halle a. Saale), 1st Treasurer, and L. Probst (Meilschnitz), Managing Editor. Keemink was Dutch and the others were German. Freienhagen and others (from ICSB) had already left the group and shortly afterwards, Freienhagen died.

After this, CC players started joining IFSB. At that time, there was only individual membership and only later did it become possible for countries to be members.

The organisation did valuable work in several areas:

  • It launched the magazine Fernschach to organise and provide information about international correspondence chess.
  • It created work and tournament links between organisers and the top European CC players.
  • It organised official individual and team tournaments.
  • It developed unified rules and practice.

Half a year after it was established, the leaders of the IFSB met again, in Duisburg on 21st July 1929. There were now over one hundred individual members.

Another meeting was held in Hamburg on 26th July 1930. Here K. Allmendinger and Dr. E. Dyckhoff, both German, joined the governing body, and F. Kunert (Austria), M. Seibold (Germany), Dr. K. Schjörring (Denmark), V. Geier (Poland) and H. L. van Borgman (Holland) came into the broader management. They decided to start the 6-board national matches between Germany and Spain, and Germany and Austria in March 1931 under the IFSB. This was the first step towards the future CC Olympiads, which from 1935 to the present day have been played on 6 boards! After these two, similar matches followed.

On 30th August 1931 there was a meeting in Dresden where it was stated that 43% of the competitors in the tournaments were not German, thus demonstrating its truly international nature. The majority of countries in Europe, from Portugal to Poland, from Italy to Scandinavia, took part in the tournaments. Compared to their size and significance in terms of chess, there were very few players from the Soviet Union and Great Britain.

The structure of IFSB Bundesmeisterschafts (BM), the most significant individual tournaments, were established and they started at the beginning of each year and which they tried to complete by the end of the next year.

These tournaments were first designated by the starting year and this is how they worked between 1929 and 1935. However the BM, which started in 1936, only came to an end at the beginning of 1938 and in the crosstable of the tournament, Fernschach marked this 1936/37. After that, instead of the starting year, the year of completion denoted the tournaments. In this volume we have changed this. In the crosstables both starting and ending years are given, which is a correct procedure with all tournaments. This needs to be stated here, as it is a necessary change, contrary to the accepted practice of those times.

The next meeting of the governing body was held in Munich on 15th May 1932. Here the “Game Committee” under the German name “Spielausschuss” was formed. Its members performed three tasks: 1. Selecting the participants of the BMs for each year from applicants. 2. Adjudicating unfinished games. 3. Dealing with complaints against Tournament Director decisions.

These tasks required high standards, both as chess players and ethically. The first three members of the Committee were Dr. J. Balogh, F. Batík and Prof. E. Busch. Due to later changes Duchamp, Seibold, Herzog, Johansson and Dr. Rey also fulfilled this worthy task.

On 10th May 1933, there was a meeting in Hamburg. The organisation started its fifth year. It could report on the federation’s strengthening, and announced new team tournaments between countries.

On 22nd April 1934, the Federation’s governing body met for the 6th time and there was the first meeting of IFSB members in Berlin. The most important issue was the CC Olympiad for European countries. This started in January 1935; the preliminaries and final took 5 years altogether and were repeated every 5 years. The tournament’s chief promoters were Kunert and von Massow, and they also devised the plan for the tournament.

A significant change occurred in the management of the IFSB (in 1935): 1st President: Dr. K. Schjörring (Denmark), 2nd President: I. Abonyi (Hungary), 1st Secretary: H.-W. von Massow (Germany), 1st Treasurer: E. Weiss (Germany), 1st Tournament Director: F. Kunert (Austria), head of Federation Magazine (Fernschach): Dr. R. Dührssen (Germany).

The office holders belonging to the broader management, were also listed: Dr. W. Bickel (Switzerland) and M. Duchamp (France) as adjudicators. The positions of the 2nd Minutes Secretary, 2nd Treasurer, 2nd Tournament Director and one adjudicator remained unfilled for the time being.

In 1935, there were more changes in personnel: Dr. Schjörring and Kunert retired. On 15th January the CC Olympiad of European countries began with 17 teams from 14 countries. The results can be found in a separate chapter.

The July 1935 issue of Fernschach, reported on the reorganisation and new office holders of the Federation: President: I. Abonyi, Secretary and Deputy President: von Massow, Treasurer and Deputy Secretary: E. Weiss (but only until the end of 1935: after a few months’ break from 1st April 1936 Dr. J. Máté (Hungary) succeeded him as treasurer). N. Rutberg became chief editor of Fernschach and the new adjudicators were F. Chalupetzky (Hungary), A. Hinds (Denmark) and J. Louma (Czechoslovakia).

Between 4th and 6th August 1935, the governing body held a meeting in Dresden. Here they decided to create and award the title of CC Master. The list of those on whom the title was bestowed, can be found in the chapter introducing Fernschach.

It was also resolved that countries, as well as individuals, could become IFSB members. In January 1936 Fernschach announced the names of the first six countries to join: Hungary, Holland, Spain, Norway, Latvia and Czechoslovakia. A financial committee was also formed.

Unfortunately, there is no information about the development of the number of individual members, but Fernschach writes that, at the same time as the above-mentioned countries, Dr. Euwe, the OTB world champion was also a member of the IFSB! According to another announcement, Alekhine was also a member!

The IFSB’s next meeting was held in Munich on 31st August 1936, as the OTB Olympiad was being played there. This opportunity was exploited and meetings were arranged between competitors and organisers. Prior to that meeting, on 21st August, there was a preliminary discussion between representatives of 14 countries and on the 31st, guests were present at the meeting.

A working party was formed on 31st August, to devise the system for the individual CC world championship, whose members were Dr. Adam, Chalupetzky, Alekhine (!), Duchamp, Dr. M. Henneberger, J. Nielsen and G. Stalda. The individual CC world championship unfortunately did not take place due to the outbreak of World War II. This was only organised years later by the ICCA.

The following meeting was in Stockholm on 10th August 1937. FIDE also held its meeting then and the chess Olympiad was held at the same time. Dr. A. Rueb, FIDE President and former CC player (the IFSB’s first and only honorary member), the world champion Dr. M. Euwe, L. Collijn, president of the Swedish Chess Federation as well as other distinguished figures participating at the chess Olympiad visited the IFSB meeting. This was clear proof of the prestige of the IFSB.

The proposed plan for the CC world championship was accepted here. By the end of 1937, the IFSB had 18 member countries. This was a great success, as there were still no regular airmail services throughout the world, thus only European competitors could take part in the IFSBs tournaments. This was the reason why only European countries became members. The same was true of individual tournaments in the United States and it was impossible to involve either European or Asian competitors.

Unfortunately, in 1938 and 1939 there were already tensions. The difficulties were obvious in the work of the IFSB. It was a perceivable relief that, at least the most important tournaments, could be successfully concluded.

The last pre-war issue of Fernschach, gave the 1938-39 BM crosstable, as well as the results of the CC Olympiad of European countries. The leadership of IFSB, in the last pre-war issue of Fernschach, looked back at the past and expressed hope for a better future, in the following quotation:

“In these fateful hard times, we are sending our voice to all of our friends: to each chess-organizer of national chess federations, to chess masters, to all of our members and sponsors, to the subscribers of our monthly journal and to all who are somehow connected with the IFSB and its work. We are giving thanks for your co-operation and help and we beg you to keep fidelity with us, during these hard times.

The basis of our work was always universal international co-operation. The war, which has broken out in Europe, has robbed us of this basis. Therefore it remains for us to bow before the hard reality of this fact. The presidency of IFSB decided therefore to cease all the work of IFSB and publication of this monthly journal during the war.

This means no dissolution! The IFSB exists as before: it is ready to continue at once the work, which it has done in the service of international correspondence chess since a decade already, when the circumstances will allow. And we expect all of our friends to stay beside us, with their advices and deeds, as hitherto!

Correspondence chess – this means the possible greatest bridging over of time and space, this includes the desire to go through the borders of one’s own country and to unravel international co-operation, naturally. The international co-operation in one federation in the field of correspondence chess, is not a self-conceited construction in a hermetic, far from reality space, but on the contrary, it is something natural, something, which is inseparable from the essence of correspondence chess and therefore it shall remain always vigorous even in this case, if it must cease for shorter or longer while by the force of outer events. This is our conviction and this conviction permits us to make the decision, not too harshly, that the work of the IFSB must cease temporarily.

We had the luck to conclude the great “Europäische Länder-Fernschacholympiade” and we see in this, a favourable omen for our work in the future, as the peaceful common work of the peoples, and that it shall take the place of the arms of war. A future, in which instead of deadly projectiles, again the chess post-cards shall wander through the boundaries of nations as heralds of international understanding in the world. We hope, this future shall be in not too long a time, before it is a happy present!

The Presidency of the IFSB: Dr. Abonyi, von Massow, Dr. Máté”

It is difficult to read these words without emotion and one can only give the greatest appreciation to them. In the middle of disturbed Europe they are the pure and courageous voice of veritable humanity.

The top officials during the history of the IFSB were:

  • 1928 – 1932 Dr. R. Dührssen (First President) J. W. Keemink (Second President)
  • 1932 – 1934 Dr. R. Dührssen (First President) J. W. Keemink (Second President)
  • 1934 – 1935 Dr. K. Schjörring (First President) I. Abonyi (Second President)
  • 1935 – 1939 I. Abonyi (President) H-W. von Massow (General Secretary)


Fernschach (1929-1939)

As the IFSB had a predecessor, the ICSB, there was also a forerunner to Fernschach: the Fern-Schach Courier which began in 1928, published by Erich Freienhagen, the 1st President of the ICSB. In September 1928 it adopted the name Brief-Schach, calling itself the central publication of the ICSB; Freienhagen was still the publisher.

When the IFSB was formed in December 1928, it started its own new monthly periodical and in January 1929, Fernschach was launched. Its managing editor was L. Probst and von Massow edited the games.

From February 1930 onwards, Dr. R. Dührssen was managing editor and von Massow continued to edit the games. From July, Dührssen edited the magazine on his own. From September 1930 Dr. E. Dyckhoff was managing editor by himself. They were all German.

From May 1934, the nationalities of the editors succeeding each other showed that Fernschach was the publication of an international federation. In the next five and a half years the following were involved as editors: H.-W. von Massow, Dr. R. Dührssen and E. Barth (Germany); F. Kunert (Austria); Dr. K. Schjörring (Denmark); N. Rutberg and E. Larsson (Sweden); Dr. J. Vetsch-Hübscher and Dr. W. Bickel (Switzerland), and E. J. v. d. Berg (Holland).

Between September 1937 and December 1939 the editorship remained unchanged: von Massow was the chief editor and Larsson his deputy.

One of the reasons for the frequent changes of staff was that the editors responsible for the individual tournaments and team championships were always the Tournament Directors (when there were two editors). If however there was one editor only, he edited both the news and the received results.

If the Tournament Directors changed, there was also a change in the editorship.

Another group of editors were office holders of the IFSB and their editorial work was connected with IFSB.

Naturally, how much time their professions and work allowed them to devote to organising correspondence chess had a critical influence.

Undoubtedly, even before World War II Massow had undertaken and performed the greatest amount of work in editing Fernschach, and after the war he was entirely responsible for its editing.

Fernschach was printed in Germany up to the end of 1935, and from January 1936 in Kecskemét, Hungary. This was probably more advantageous financially, but the facts that the IFSB president at the time was I. Abonyi, a Hungarian, and that one of Europe’s best-known publishers of chess books operated in Kecskemét probably also played a role.

L. Tóth was the director of the print works, where, for example, the world’s first correspondence tournament book appeared in German: F. Chalupetzky: Das grosse Fernturnier des IFSB um die Bundesmeisterschaft 1932. It was published by L. Tóth, who also published Magyar Sakkvilág (the Hungarian Chess World magazine).

In its new location two significant steps were taken to make Fernschach truly international.

It switched over to the figurine notation (which is independent of language). Today this is world-known and used, but at the time it was unusual. L. Tóth had used this in his publications since 1925! At the time, however, hardly anyone else followed suit.

The magazine became multilingual and this was announced on page 74 of the March/April issue 1936 in French as well as in English:

  • “Contributions to our magazine Fernschach. We are anxious to secure contributions from all the countries that are members of the Federation, in the shape of articles and games in foreign languages. Each number of the Magazine will in future contain matter in languages other than German, in the first place English, French and Spanish, also Italian and the Scandinavian and Slav tongues. We shall therefore be pleased to receive such contributions, which must however be typed or written in a very legible hand. It is impossible otherwise to guarantee freedom from printer’s errors. We take the opportunity of thanking all past, present and future contributors, whose kind cooperation has allowed the present Magazine to fulfil its task of forming a link between all members of the IFSB.”

It should be noted that Fernschach, occasionally, had been printed in French and English texts.

The form of the magazine was the same as at present, but with much fewer pages: until 1931, 96 pages (!) annually; 130 in 1932; 128 in 1933; 104 in 1934; 128 in 1935; 168 in 1936; 156 in 1937; 160 in 1938, and 80 pages in 1939 – including the combined August/December issue when the world war broke out…

It is almost incredible that in spite of its small size one could find all important IFSB news and events, results of individual and team tournaments, articles on top players and obituaries, articles on history and opening theory, book reviews, detailed analyses of games, etc.

Fernschach reported the OTB tournament results and changes of details of well-known CC players. For example, it reported that the Swede H. Persson won the 1934-35 Bundesmeisterschaft (Federation Championship); and H. Brynhammar came 7-9th at the 1938-39 tournament; it also noted that his name had been changed and that it was the same person. It gave the names of the office holders and tournament referees as well as the names of those who performed the adjudication of unfinished games. The latter were always chosen from the strongest CC players. At least three people performed this task at any one time, and it usually lasted for a few years. The fact that in 1939 Dr. Euwe undertook the adjudication of the CC Olympiad’s only unfinished game shows the prestige of the IFSB!

Articles and analyses that appeared in Fernschach were written by the office holders of IFSB, famous chess writers, the best CC players as well as the OTB’s greatest chess players (Alekhine, Euwe, Maróczy, etc.) and players of world status both in the OTB and CC (Keres, Dr. Vidmar, Eliskases, Grünfeld, etc.). Naturally, apart from these, anyone with an interesting game could find a place in the magazine.

At the time, there were far fewer tournaments and players than today and so the tournament results fitted onto 1-3 pages, except when the results of the time’s most significant individual and team tournaments, Bundesmeisterschafts and CC Olympiads of European countries were published.

Apart from the two tournaments mentioned, Fernschach organised on behalf of the IFSB the master, I and II class, the so-called Propaganda Tournaments and opening theme tournaments. All the individual tournaments in 12 years, did not form more than two hundred, but the majority of the best players of the period were amongst them and in the lower classes, there were numerous players who performed excellently in subsequent years or decades.

It is interesting to note, that only the fifth theme tournament held, was completed before 1939 and that the number of participants was low in these tournaments. Nevertheless, it is extremely interesting that at the fifth theme tournament in 1936-37 (French Defence, Alekhine-Chatard variation) there were only 9 players in two groups, but 4 or 5 of them were among the 15-20 top players in the CC at the time. The magazine published a detailed theoretical summary about the tournament(s).

Current tournaments had one or two Tournament Directors at the same time. For example, from the beginning of April 1938 to the very end, there was only one Tournament Director (E. Larsson) to perform all the work alone (he was even the second treasurer for the Scandinavian countries as well), and in this period, beside the individual tournaments, the 1st and 2nd finals of the Olympiad were held.

The IFSB created the title of Fernschachmeister, which is International CC Master.

The 25 outstanding players, who first received this title, are listed on page 112 of the 1935 issue of Fernschach. Whereas the text states that only performances in the CC were taken into account, in all probability world famous achievements in the OTB tournaments helped Alekhine, Bogoljubov and Maróczy to obtain the title. However, it is also a fact that, mainly in their early years, they were truly successful CC players. Keres, Grünfeld, Eliskases and Dr. Vidmar were world class, in both forms of chess.

The full list of names reads: Dr. Alekhine, Dr. Balogh, E. D. Bogoljubov, Prof. E. Busch, F. Chalupetzky, Th. Demetriescu, M. Duchamp, Dr. Dührssen, Dr. Dyckhoff, E. Eliskases, H. Geist, F. Grünfeld, W. Henneberger, F. Herzog, N. Johansson, P. Keres, F. Kunert, H. Müller, G. Maróczy, H. Persson, Dr. Rey, O. Rüster, N. Rutberg, M. Seibold and E. Weiss.

The continuous tournaments from year to year expanded the group of CC masters. Thus – to mention only but a few – F. Ekström, Dr. M. Henneberger, Dr. G. Nagy, M. Napolitano, Dr. M. Vidmar, Dr. E. Adam and M. Szigeti received the title. The honorary title was also awarded by the IFSB to Hans-Werner von Massow for his outstanding work in the federation and in the editorship of Fernschach over 10 years.

Until December 1936, only the members of IFSB received copies of Fernschach (the subscription was part of their membership) but, from January 1937 onwards, anyone could be a subscriber for the magazine. The last pre-war issue of 1939, was a combined issue No. 8-12, which announced the temporary suspension of the magazine – and an 11 year break followed.

Overview of History of Correspondence Chess from 1945 to 1972

The task of restoring and reorganising international correspondence chess, which had been very limited during World War II, began soon after the end of war in 1945.

In his excellent article (published in Chess Mail 7/2000), Erik Larsson referred to the “Birth of Global CC”, after the end of World War II.

The first international Monthly Resume, edited by Erik Larsson, was published in January 1946, opening with historical words:- “Once again in this century, a terrible war has come to its end. Our hope is that we shall have an ever-lasting peace and a very fine future for international postal chess before us. We wish that all nations of the World will be represented in the ICCA”.

A provisional Committee of ICCA was formed in 1946, with as its President, B.H.Wood (GB), Secretary, J.Zaagman (NLD), Treasurer, R.E.Thomas (GB) and Tournament Director, E.J.Larsson (SVE).

Although travelling between countries was difficult, in the immediate post-war period, it was possible to correspond quite well by letters or postcards, using airmail, without much censorship. Erik remarks in his article, that he regretted the organisation was called an “association” at the outset, rather than a “federation”. He also hoped at that time, that Esperanto would be one of the ICCF languages and an Esperanto group was formed but, sadly, this group decided to split away from the ICCA.

Another of Erik’s ideas was that a numerical notation (languageless) should be used for international play, and the diagram with numbered squares, appeared in the second Monthly Resume published in February 1946.

With the pre-war history of CC having been under the auspices of the IFSB, it was perhaps inevitable that some conflicts would eventually arise after the formation of the ICCA, and there were personality problems in 1949, involving CC organisers in Great Britain and elsewhere. There were some changes in responsibilities and, for a period of time, H.ter Braak (NLD) acted as the ICCA’s Tournament Controller.

However, a meeting was eventually convened in London in the Spring of 1951 and, after four days of discussions between the main CC organisers, a new group of office bearers was elected and a new name for the organisation was discussed and agreed:-

The International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF)

The first ICCF President was J.L.Ormond (SWZ), Vice Presidents, C.J.S.Purdy (AUS) and Dr. E.Adam (BRD), with A.F.Stammwitz (GB) as General Secretary and C.H.Meredith (GB) as Treasurer and with E.J. Larsson (SVE) as the Tournament Director. A new Constitution was agreed at the inaugural ICCF meeting in 1951.


The system of our present day tournaments has evolved as a result of a long course of development. To survey this in the fullest detail, is something we are unable to do, but we can present the beginnings and the most significant changes for the more important tournaments.

Individual Tournaments

The individual World CC Championships and the European CC Championships were, and still are, based on a logical promotion qualifying system. Until very recently, the ascending groups were as follows: Third Class, Second Class, First Class, Higher Class, and Master Class (III, II, I, H, M). In the 1950s, instead of Master Class there was a Champion Class, while in the place of the present-day Higher Class there was a Master Class. From a Master Class in world tournaments, it was and is possible to qualify for the Semifinal Group of the World CC Championships (the rules of which have undergone changes over the course of time), while in EU tournaments, the winning of a Group M (also in a variable way) took you directly to a final. For quite a long period of time, the EU Final was also a seeded Semifinal of the World CCC Final, from which the top two placed competitors, qualified for the World CCC Final.

These tournaments required somewhat more time for completion than, for example, Cup tournaments, but also offered more opportunity to advance to the highest level. After a group win achieved in lower classes, a competitor entering for the next class, generally received the group pairings quite soon, but in the event of winning a Master Class Group, could have to wait a greater length of time for the next stage to begin. However, even after failure to achieve the required result (e.g. top place in a group of 7 persons), it was possible to enter over and over again.

However, the three-step tournaments (preliminary, 3/4 final, final) of World Cups or the only European Cup, could be continued with a minimal loss of time – but it was a pity that already in the first two stages, even a 2nd place meant the end of participation in the tournament!

Individual World CC Championships

After the war, the old plan was that, with the reliable and quick transportation of letters by airmail developing throughout the world, the CC players of the whole globe could indeed take part in the tournaments.

Since we publish all WCCC tables, elsewhere in the book, we will not mention results here, but we outline the qualifying system of the first World CC Championship, as well as the formation of Finals. Today, a semifinal, 3/4 final, final structure, works routinely – but, at first, this was not the case.

In the 1st World CC Championship, between 1947 and 1949, 76 entrants took part in 11 preliminary groups. The group winners – and in the event of a tie: each of them – qualified for a final of 14 persons. One group winner did not enter the 1st. Final, but E. Adam, winner of the last IFSB Bundesmeisterschaft (1938-39), was invited to play.

At this point, it is justified to pause for a moment and recollect the undulations of the world politics. The hatred between the opponents at war had yet sometimes flared up – then it burned to ashes, more than once transforming it into friendship (and countries fighting together in the war had occasionally come into antagonism with each other, and later they also reconciled again…) The ICCA, and then the ICCF also, followed the traditions of IFSB, rising above confrontations and finding compromises.

Coming back to the 1st WCCC preliminaries. This was where the German Dr. E. Adam, had entered, but there was a country which threatened a boycott if the German player was allowed to participate. Then H. W. v. Massow wrote a letter to the ICCA, saying that no kind of objection should be raised against Dr. Adam, since he had been a prisoner in a concentration camp himself… After this, Dr. Adam was given a function even in the International Federation – yet he did not play in the Preliminary stage, but, as we have already mentioned, he received an invitation to the first Final (1950-53).

The preliminaries of the 2nd World CC Championship, with 70 entrants in them, were started only after completion of the 1st WCCC Final – they took place 1953-1955.

The players receiving an invitation to the 2nd WCC Final (1956-59), were the I-III place winners of the 1st WCCC Final, but only Napolitano availed himself of this. The other participants consisted of the winners of the 10 preliminary groups (including those finishing in a tie), and they also invited V.Ragozin, nominated by the Soviet Union, which was about to become new member country of ICCF. Later he became World CC Champion. (notably, he was one of the few Soviet CC players who had been playing previously in the tournaments of IFSB.)

To the 3rd WCCC (1959-62) they did not organize a preliminary stage, as they did not want to lose three years. They invited the three still living players from the I-IV place winners of the 1st WCCC Final, the I-VI place winners of the 2nd WCCC Final, and Dr. J. Balogh (the only competitor who had been a preliminary group winner in both the 1st and the 2nd WCCCs), as well as the representatives of the then existing 5 Zones of ICCF. From these latter five places, four of the nominees (O’Kelly, Dubinin, Salm and Secchi) were among the first 6 place winners! The fifth of them had retired during the tournament, finishing on last place with 0 points…

Roughly at the same time as the 3rd WCCC, had started, the preliminary groups of the 4th WCCC began. From this time onwards, it became the practice: with semi-finals for the next final taking place in parallel, with the Final. In this manner, successive WCCC Finals could be organised with only a small time-lag.

In the Semi-finals of the 4th WCCC (1962-65), there were 106 participants in 10 groups. Amongst those who received an invitation to the Final were 9 group winners, 1 runner-up, the winner of the 2nd WCCC (Ragozin), and the I-IV place winners of the 3rd WCCC. O’Kelly did not participate, and Ragozin died at the beginning of the tournament, so his name was cancelled.

The 5th WCCC Final (1965-68), was preceded by 11 semi-final groups of 150 participants (1962-65), 10 of the 11 winners entered the Final. Invited were the I-III place winners of the EuCh, the I-IV place winners of the 4th WCCC Final (Arlauskas did not avail himself of it) – and it was from this time, that winners and runner-ups of EuCh’s also became entitled to participate. W. Stern, winner of the 1st EuCh played.

The participants in the Final of the 6th WCCC (1968-71) consisted of the 7 winners and 1 player tying for I-II places out of the 103 participants of the 7 Semi-final groups, the players placed second, fourth and fifth of the 5th Final, 4 out of the winners and runner-ups of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd EuCh’s, as well as the winner and one of the players tied for II-III places (H. Rittner and Y. Estrin) of the Ragozin Memorial organized by the Soviet Union.

For the Final of the 7th WCCC (1972-75) 8 players participated from the 90 competitors in the 7 Semi-final groups (1968-71). The players joining them were those placed second, third and fourth in the previous WCCC, and 5 persons from EuCh’s.

The 8th WCCC Final (1975-80) was the last one which started after the conclusion of the previous one. Owing to the increase of the number of entitled persons, the 9th WCCC Final (1977-82) had to be started whilst the previous one was still going on and the situation was the same for the 10th WCCC Final (1980-85). However, the 11th WCCC Final was based on a new system where, after the Semi-finals which started in 1975, a 3/4 Final stage was inserted – a system which is still in use at the present time.

Ladies World CC Championships were started in the 1960s with the first Ladies World CC Champions, O.N.Rubtsova (SU) in 1972 and L.G.Yakovleva (SU) in 1977

Individual Europe Cup (EuC) and European Championships (EuCh)

The most momentous European individual series of competitions started in the form of “Europe Cup” in the first half of 1956, with 1428 players, in 5 classes, altogether in 204 groups (M=33, H=35, I=53, II=37, III=46). The 3/4 finals took place from 1959 to 62, and the five finals took place from 1962 to 65.

The Final of the Master Class, equivalent to the EuCh, resulted:

  • 1st: A. Ericson (SVE), 2nd: J. Nielsen (DEN), 3rd: K. Husák (CSR) – 13 participants.

In Class “H”: 1st-2nd were Karker and Schröder, Class “I” 1st was F. Brglez (JUG). The latter final was regarded as a tournament of EuM value, therefore Brglez could take part in the 4th EuCh. There he took first place, so he could play in the 7th WCh, where he shared 7-8th place. This successful series of events lasted for 13 years!

On average, the EuCh’s started yearly and 12 finals began from 1963 to 1974. From each of them, the winners of the first two places qualified for the world championship final. From 1975, they qualified already for the 3/4 final, this having been inserted between the semi-final and the final. In the last quarter of the century the number of EuCh finals has grown more and more: in 25 years, 50 tournaments began.

The medal-holders of the first 12 finals are (there were always 15 participants):-

  • I. 1963-66: 1st: W. Stern (DDR), 2nd-3rd: R. Kauranen (FIN), and H. Ernst (BRD).
  • II. 1964-67: 1st: J. Zapletal (CSR), 2nd: R. Ševeček (CSR), 3rd: J. Neistadt (SU).
  • III. 1965-68: 1st: E. Thiele (DDR), 2nd: S. Nyman (SVE), 3rd: J. Svenneby (NOR)
  • IV. 1966-70: 1st: F. Brglez (YUG), 2nd: P. Dubinin (SU), 3rd: A. Gurvich (SU).
  • V. 1967-72: 1st: F. Ekström (SVE), 2nd: J. Boey (BEL), 3rd: A. Anton (ROM).
  • VI. 1968-72: 1st: M. Y. Govbinder (SU), 2nd: L. Abramov (SU), 3rd: M. Kletsel (SU).
  • VII. 1970-74: 1st: Dr. W. Stern (BRD), 2nd-5th: I. G. Kamenetzky (SU), J. Boey (BEL), Dr. W. Seeliger (BRD), A. P. Korelov (SU).
  • VIII. 1971-75: 1st: J. Sloth (DEN), 2nd: W. T. Koshenkov (SU), 3rd: E. Bang (DEN).
  • IX. 1971-75: 1st-2nd: A. Anton (ROM) and A. N. Vaishman (SU), 3rd-4th: A. M. Sichev (SU) and Dr. K. Tarnai (HUN).
  • X. 1972-78: 1st:A. Ekebjaerg (DEN), 2nd: M. Kletsel (SU), 3rd: O. P. Milyutin (SU).
  • XI. 1973-78: 1st: B. Tóth (ITA), 2nd-3rd: R. Kauranen (FIN) and A. Silberberg (SU).
  • XII. 1974-79: 1st: Dr. Kl. Engel (BRD), 2nd: J. Svenningsson (SVE), 3rd-4th: Y. B. Estrin (SU) and S. T. Arzumanian (SU).


Correspondence Chess Olympiads

The tables of the CC Olympiads we shall show separately. Here we will only write about the beginning of the series of competitions.

The preliminary of the 1st CC Olympiad took place from 1946 to 1949, with two-year groups starting at different times. 42 teams of 24 countries were playing – at this time a country could take part with several teams. The final took place from 1949-52.

In the publications of Mail Chess this tournament was first referred to as a “6-board team tourney”. So, at the beginning, it was not called an “Olympiad”, but soon this title was adopted, for the now premier team tournament for member countries of ICCF.

Later, the preliminaries of the following finals were taking place approximately at the same time as the finals. The system of teams, with 6 players has continued to exist.

Ladies CC Olympiads started in the late 1960s, with Preliminary and Final stages.

European Team Championships

This form of competition, which was first organized as the “Eberhardt-Wilhelm Cup”, began in 1963-66 (preliminary), 1966-71 (final). Teams of 12 players took part and each country could enter several teams. 45 teams from 16 countries played in 9 groups. In finals “A” and “B” 9 teams competed in each section. The result of Final “A” was: 1st: Lithuania, 2nd: Moscow, 3rd: Estonia, 4th: West Germany, 5th: East Germany, 6th: Hungary. The first three teams were those of member states of the then existing Soviet Union, or the capital respectively, while the 4th-6th place winners were teams representing the countries in question.

World Cup (WC)

Although World and European Individual/Team Championships did not preclude the participation of female players, very few of them entered, especially in the higher standard tournaments or reaching the final stages of these events. However, when World Cup events were conceived in the 1960s, gradually female players became more visible and history was to be made in the 6th WC, with the outstanding success of a female player, Olita Rause (LAT), who was the impressive overall winner.

The 1st WC started in 1968, with 1921 contestants from 42 countries.

The final took place from 1973 to 77, with 15 players. The final result was: 1st: K.-H. Maeder (BRD), 2nd: W. Rupp (OST), 3rd: M. F. Molchanov (SU).

The semi-finals of the 2nd WC started in 1971, with 2103 contestants of 45 countries. The final, also with 15 players, took place from 1977 to 83, resulting: 1st: G. S. Nesis (SU), 2nd-4th: V-M. Anton (DDR), K-H. Maeder (BRD) and M. Lecroq (FRA).

International Invitation Tournaments

There have been many international invitation tournaments organised by ICCF member federations as memorials to leading international or national CC players and organisers and on the anniversaries of national CC federations, or their publications.

Here are details of some of the earlier international invitational tournaments:

  • Dr. Dyckhoff Memorial 1954-1957: 1. L. Schmid (BRD) 2. A O’Kelly (BEL) 3-4. J. Nielsen (DEN) and B. Koch (BRD)
  • Ragozin Memorial 1963-1966: 1. H. Rittner (DDR) 2-3. A. O’Kelly (BEL) and J. Estrin (SU) 4. V. Simagin (SU)
  • I. Swiss Jubilee Tournament 1965-1969: 1. Z. Nilsson (SVE) 2-3. V. Bergraser (FRA) and I. Bondarevsky (SU) 4. Dr, M. Napolitano (ITA)
  • Tournament of N.B.C. Netherlands, 1969-1971: 1. A. den Ouden (NLD) 2-3. C. Groeneveld (NLD) and S. Brilla-Bánfalvi (HUN) 4. C. Bohatirchuk (CAN)
  • II. Swiss Jubilee Tournament 1969-1973:1-6. V. Zagorovsky (SU), S. Nyman (SVE) Dr. M. Napolitano (ITA), J. Steiner (SWZ), Dr. C. Hunter (GB), J. Giselbrecht (OST)
  • Lenin Memorial, SU 1970-1973: 1. A. Khasin (SU) 2. Dr. F. Baumbach (BRD) 3. I. Morozov (SU) 4. P. Dubinin (SU)
  • Tournament “25 Jahre BdF” 1970-1975: 1-2. A. Arnlind (SVE) and Dr. H.-W. Dünhaupt (BRD) 3. H. Rittner (DDR) 4. J. Steiner (SWZ)
  • Tournament FINJUB-10 1971-1974: 1-2. J. Klovans (SU) and S. Brilla-Bánfalvi (HUN) 3. J. Kellner (AUS) 4. M. Weiner (CZE)

Details of many more can be found mainly under the member federation section.

The Leadership of ICCF (1951-1972)

After the Inaugural Meeting in 1951, the main changes in leadership during the first 20 years of ICCF, can be summarised, as follows:

In 1953 the President became A. Elgesem (NOR). In 1956, elected were ICCF President: A. Elgesem (NOR), Vice Presidents: H-W. v. Massow (BRD). S. K. Narasimhan (IND), C. J. S. Purdy (AUS), General Secretary: Dr. B. Lukás (CSR), Treasurer: N. Yates (GB), Auditor: J. Hobbs (GB), Tournament Director: E.J. Larsson (SVE), Tournament Secretary: H. ter Braak (NLD).

In December 1959, a new leadership was elected, taking office from February 1st, 1960 President: H-W. v. Massow (BRD), Vice Presidents: L. Abramov (SU), E.J. Larsson (SVE), A. G. Loeffler (ARG), S. K. Narasimhan, C. S. J. Purdy, H. Rittner (DDR), general secretary: dr. B. Lukás, tournament director: H. ter Braak, Treasurer: N. Yates, Auditor: P. Tonstad (Norway).

Six, later seven, and then eight Vice-Presidents were elected, because a Congress was held every second year and between them, in other years, were the Board (Presidium) Meetings, where the leadership and committees held discussions – it was necessary for as many countries as possible to appear at these meetings. The representatives of the member countries could be present at the meetings, but they could not vote. However, the most important questions were decided by the Congresses – to which all members were always invited.

From the beginning of 1964, as a consequence of resignation of officials, the Treasurer became A. G. Loeffler (GB and later ARG) and Auditor K. C. Messere (GB), followed in September 1964 by J. Mackie (GB) and, from January 1966 A. E. Axelson (SVE).

The Congress of ICCF in Krems, 1967, elected a new presidium for the period January 1st, 1968 till December 31st, 1971. President: H.-W. v. Massow (BRD), Vice Presidents: Prof. Dr. J. Eventov (SU), E.J. Larsson (SVE), A. G. Loeffler (ARG), H. J. Mostert (NLD), S. K. Marasinhan (IND), C. J. S. Purdy (AUS), H. Rittner (DDR), General Secretary: Dr. B. Lukás (CSR), Treasurer: A. G. Loeffler (ARG), Auditor: P. E. Ekblom (FIN), Tournament Director: E.J. Larsson (SVE).

The 1968 ICCF Board meeting in Lugano; created a new office and J-A. Cornu (SWZ) was nominated as Secretary to the Treasurer. Before the meeting, a World Tournament Office had been created with F. Zahálka (CSR) appointed to the function.

In 1969 A. G. Loeffler (ARG) resigned as Vice-president and also Treasurer and was replaced as Treasurer by E.J. Larsson (SVE).

In Lugano 1971 the Congress elected a new leadership, which begins its work in 1972. with as President: H.-W. v. Massow (BRD), Vice-Presidents: P. Diaconescu (ROM), Prof. Dr. J. Eventov (SU), E.J. Larsson (SVE), S. M. Mody (IND), H. J. Mostert (NLD), C. J. S. Purdy (AUS), H. Rittner (DDR), General Secretary: Dr. B. Lukás (CSR), Treasurer: E.J Larsson (SVE), Auditor: P. E. Ekblom (FIN), Liaison Officer to FIDE: A. Heintze (DDR), Tournament Director: E.J. Larsson (SVE). In the middle of 1972 the new director for World Tournament Office became J. Zima (CSR)

Tournament Secretaries and Directors of ICCF

The International CC competitions organised by ICCF would be unimaginable without the immense and expert work of the tournament administrators. There have been many tournament officials during the 50 years, for all the different tournaments, dealing with the administration and appropriate correspondence for thousands, even tens of thousands, of games and producing the necessary decisions, when required.

It is impossible (sorry !), to provide a complete list, but we will mention some from the beginning – from the far distant era only. One may find most of the names of the greatest accomplishing TDs and TSs, amongst those honoured with an Honorary Membership, with Bertl von Massow Medals, and with a title of International Arbiter of ICCF (which was first given in 1966 to 14 living TSs and 2 TSs posthumously).

Canada: J. F. Cleeve. Czechoslovakia: V. Borsony, Zd. Holovsky, St. Foglar. Denmark: A. Henriksen. Germany BRD. K. Wehling, Eb. Wilhelm, B. v. Massow (the last two, lead the “Tournament Office” for Europe Correspondence Tournaments and so made an immense work; Wilhelm died in 1960 and Mrs Bertl v. Massow took over the Office until her death in 1983). Germany BRD: W. Merten, J. Hoffmann. Great Britain: J. Mackie. Hungary: J. Vándorffy. Netherlands: H. J. Mostert, H. ter Braak, J. J. Jansma. Switzerland: W. Dintheer. Sweden: A. E. Axelson, E.J. Larsson, H. Norell, St. Jansson. Soviet Union: V. Chusov. USA: B. Koppin.

The development of ICCF title awards

In its early days, ICCF created two international titles and then later introduced further titles. It awarded the international grandmaster (GM) and international master (IM) titles from 1953, international arbiter (IA) titles from 1966, lady international master (ILM) titles from 1975, and senior international masters (SIM) from 1998.

The titles were very hard to obtain in the beginning. GMs were awarded in 1953 to 1st-4th of 1st WCh, in 1959, 1962, 1965 and 1968 to 1st-3rd of II, III and IV WChs.

In this period, 3 competitors who had best results on 1st board of the Olympiad finals and also the winner of the Ragozin Memorial, received the title of GM (among them was H. R. Rittner (DDR), who has since fulfilled the GM norm on 10 occasions – leading the world’s list for multiple achievement of the GM norm). Between 1953 and 1968 there were only 20 grandmasters in total.

The title of international master could be achieved during the early period in the WCh final and also Olympic finals, but the possibilities for IM were enlarged earlier, than the GM title; eg. the WCh semifinal and Olympiad preliminaries had possibilities to achieve an IM title.

In 1953, 3 competitors received the IM title, but in the 10 years from 1953-1962, there were only 17 IM awards. The number of IM awards grew twofold in the next 5 years, between 1963 and 1967 – but reached only a small total in the early years, when compared with more recent times. The title of international arbiter (IA) was introduced in 1966 and an international title for ladies (WIM now ILM) was awarded for the first time in 1975. Much later, in 1998, Senior International Master (SIM) was introduced.

A comprehensive list of ICCF Titleholders is included elsewhere in this book.

The periodicals of ICCA and ICCF

At the time of founding ICCA, it was natural to publish a periodical newsletter. Its name (from ICCA. “Monthly Resume” to “Mail Chess”) and its format changed – and the site of publication was also unstable. This periodical was published between 1946 and 1951, although ceasing transitionally but in 1951, Mail Chess became the official organ of ICCF. We mention as its editors E. Larsson, E. G. Goodwin and G. Macejin. When ICCF was inaugurated, an ICCF Bulletin was produced and edited by W. Ritson Morry (GB). In 1954, E.J. Larsson (SVE) began producing and issuing ICCF Results Sheets (which he continued until 1989 !).

In 1951, after 12 years cessation, “Fernschach” re-appeared. First it was only a publication for the West German Correspondence Chess Federation (BdF) but, from 1956, it became the “official organ” of ICCF – and has continued as this, until today. The publisher from 1951 was H.-W. v. Massow, until his death in 1988: his editorial-publishing work was of high standard throughout 49 years and it helped to extend CC immensely. Since his death, M. Gluth (GER) became its owner and publisher and now publishes two editions, one in German and an international edition, mainly in English.

Many federations/countries publish CC periodicals for their members. “Chess Mail”, published by T.D.Harding in the Republic of Ireland, was launched in 1996, writing on international CC, with information, results and games from ICCF events.

Annual Meetings of ICCF (1951-1972)

After the inaugural meeting in 1951, further ICCF Presidium meetings were held in London in each of the next 4 years, until 1955, when a Presidium meeting was held in Amsterdam, with the first Congress also being held there in 1956. In 1957 and 1958 there were Congresses held in Stockholm and then in Amsterdam in 1959. Thereafter, Presidium Meetings and Congresses alternated until 1990, since when, a Congress has been held annually. Locations during the next years were as follows:- 1960 Leipzig Presidium, 1961 Moscow Congress, 1962 Vienna Presidium (in this year were 32 countries as member), 1963 Dubrovnik Congress, 1964 Leningrad Presidium, 1965 Budapest Congress, 1966 Prague Presidium, 1967 Krems (Danube-Austria) Congress, 1968 Lugano Presidium, 1969 Brussells Congress, 1970 Rome Presidium (49 member countries already!), 1971 Lugano Congress, 1972 Arnhem (Netherlands) Presidium.

The locations of Congresses and Presidium meetings for 1973 and later years are included in the next Article which covers the meetings until 2001 in rather more detail.

In concluding my overview, I would like to express my very grateful thanks to Messrs. A. P. Borwell, E. J. Larsson and H. Chervet for helpful assistance with its preparation.

Ivan Bottlik (HUN), June 2002


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