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Header presents collection of flowers, fruits and trees pictured on 29.04.2012 during my visit in the Botanical Garden in Powsin Warsaw (Poland). Mariusz Wojnar

ICCF Presidents

World Champions

Lady World Champions

ICCF Titleholders

History of ICCF titles was introduced in Gold Book articles “Overview of the history of correspondence chess, beginnings-1972” by Iván Bottlik (HUN) and “The ICCF Rating system” by Nol van ’t Riet (NED), which of excerpts are presented below.


“Overview of the history of correspondence chess, beginnings-1972”

by Iván Bottlik (HUN)

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.

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.

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 ICCF Rating system”

by Nol van ’t Riet (NED)

Since 1950 FIDE and since 1959 ICCF have awarded players with titles like Grandmaster and International Master. A rating system is an objective basis to award titles to players for equal achievements.

The German word for Grandmaster (Großmeister) appears for the first time in the preface of the 1907 Ostend tournament book, written by the German winner of the tournament Siegfried Tarrasch. The word was used for the six strongest players who competed against each other four times in a separate section, called the Grandmaster tournament: Tarrasch, Schlechter, Marshall, Janowski, Burn and Chigorin. Until 1950 the chess world used the words International Master and Grandmaster for the players who were regularly invited to international events, respectively for the best players in the world. According to this tradition the former World champion Max Euwe was always addressed by his Dutch pupils (like Jan Hein Donner) with the French version of the word Grandmaster: ‘Grand-maître’.

In 1950 the World chess federation FIDE started to bestow the International Master and Grandmaster titles. Both titles bear some analogy to the academic degree doctor: they are awarded for a once demonstrated skill and after their bestowal they are valid for life. In 1959 the first ICCF titles were bestowed. The first Grandmasters were Olaf Barda (NOR), Lucius Endzelins (AUS), H. Malmgren (SVE), Mario Napolitano (ITA), Cecil J.S. Purdy (AUS) and Lothar Schmid (GER; at that time FRG). The title of International Master was awarded to: František Batík (CSR), Valt Borsony (CSR), Sten Isaksson (SVE), Jaroslav Ježek (CSR), Sv. Kjellander (SVE), George R. Mitchell (ENG) and Leopold Watzl (AUS). There were no rules, the players received titles for their performances in World Championship finals and other strong tournaments.

Eight years later, at the 1967 ICCF Congress at Krems, the first rules for the awarding of the titles were adopted. To make rules it was necessary to be able to compare the achievement of one player in a certain tournament with those of other players in other tournaments. So one had to replace the then subjective standards by more objective norms. The biggest problem one has to solve therefore is that the score of a player in a certain tournament is an insufficient indicator. This strength can only be assessed if there is a norm with which the strength of that special tournament can be measured.

It is clear, therefore, that one has to look at the individual playing strength of all single participants of the tournament. The 1967 ICCF Title rules therefore made use of the number of title holders who participated in the tournament. In order to express the difference in playing strength between the players, according to these rules, they were divided into three groups: the Grandmasters, the International Masters and the others. Within such a group all players were supposed to be of equal strength. The strength of a tournament and the title norms belonging to it were appointed on account of the number of participants in each of these three groups. In this manner one, for instance, had to score (on the average) for a Grandmaster title norm 50% against the Grandmasters, 70% against the International Masters and 80% against the others. In 1980 these percentages were raised respectively to 55%, 75% and 85% to make the gain of a title more difficult.


List of ICCF Titleholders

International Correspondence Chess Titles are awarded by the ICCF and recognised by FIDE. Information concerning title requirements and how they may be achieved can be found in Tournament Rules.

Title lists are updated following ratification by ICCF Congress. The following lists, published at ICCF website, are ordered by title, country and year of award:

  • International Grandmaster (updated November 2011)
  • Senior International Master (updated November 2011)
  • International Master (updated November 2011)
  • Lady Grandmaster (updated November 2011)
  • Lady International Master (updated November 2011)
  • International Arbiter (updated November 2011)

Any mistakes or omissions should be reported to the Qualifications Commissioner.