Article provided by: Reinhard Schiendorfer
Small is beautiful
Switzerland is a small country in the heart of Europe. Most of the 8 million residents live in the lower parts, while two thirds of the country are covered by the famous Swiss mountains. Blessed with lots of lakes and rivers Switzerland is well known for chocolate, cheese, watches and banks. We are not yet known for OTB or CC chess, but we are working on it.
•1901, the editors of the ‘Swiss Chess Review’ start to organize postal chess tournaments between the members of the Swiss OTB Chess federation as well as friendly matches with other national federations.
•1937, the team of Otto Zimmermann, Erwin Voellmy, Paul Johner, Karl Flatt, Moriz and Walter Henneberger seizes the bronze medal in the first European Championship.
•1941, Karl Flatt, a composer of chess problems wins the first Swiss CC championship.
•1951, Jean-Louis Ormond becomes first president of ICCF.
•1968 and 1971 ICCF congresses take place in Lugano.
The Swiss CC Association
Die Schweizerische Fernschach Vereinigung (SFSV) has been founded in October 1985 by Georg Walker and Martin Christoffel. We are sad mentioning that Martin Christoffel has deceased in the meantime. But Georg Walker is “still going strong” and now is honorary president of SFSV. Small federations always depend on the dedication of their members. Among others our honorary members Horst Baer, Walter A. Stilling, Martin Christoffel and Gottardo Gottardi have promoted Swiss CC , each of them in his individual way. Georg Walker considers the ICCF congress in 1999 to be the point of culmination his CC life when 100 ICCF delegates have spent an unforgettable day on the Schilthorn. During that congress Georg Walker has received the SIM title and diploma as the very first CC player.
In the golden book of ICCF the two founders have written: “We are proud of having three Grandmasters and 17 International Masters among our members, a considerable number given the size of our country.” Ten years later we are counting a total of 10 GM, 12 SIM and 17 IM. 23 of them are still active players, that’s why Swiss national team can compete now with much bigger chess federations. When I am writing these lines, Switzerland is very close to win the bronze medal at the 17th ICCF Olympiad. If this dream becomes true, this would be a historical success of our small CC federation. We also keep our fingers crossed for GM Rolf Scherer, who has qualified for the recently started final of the 27th World Championship.
From time to time SFSV organizes big invitation tournaments: Blass Memorial in 1987 or the 100 year Jubilee Tournament of Swiss Chess Federation SSB. GM Rolf Knobel has written a very remarkable book about the Christoffel Memorial, which has been started in 2002.
In 2010 we have had our 25th year Jubilee. Celebrating this event SFSV has invited CC players from all over the world to participate in three Jubilee tournaments: one tournament has category 13, while two have category 8. No decisions have been made so far. What we can say is that the ratio of draws is incredibly high. We have seen a few short draws, but most of draws were agreed only after a hard fight. The problem of ‘draw-ratio’ has also been discussed during the ICCF congress in Kemer. No resolutions have been taken. It seems that the intense usage of computer equalizes the chances of the CC players and makes a draw most likely. To win a CC game a lot of creativity and risk is required going beyond what a computer can calculate. The ‘draw-ratio’-problem is also known to the FIDE. We remember e.g. the Aljechin – Cabablanca Championship in 1927, when ‚draw-ratio‘ has been 73.5% or Karpov – Kasparov in 1984/1985 (83.3%). We have seen the problem coming and disappearing.
Times they are a-changing
The list of SFSV presidents is short. Georg Walker has acted as president from the very beginning until his retirement in 2009. During more than 20 years Georg Walker has been the ‘heart and the power’ of Swiss CC. It goes without saying that the elected president Ulrich Baumgartner has to take over a big legacy. On the one hand the track record of Georg Walker and “his” Swiss CC is very impressive on the other hand CC as a hobby or sports is changing more and more to a computer based science.
Some months ago GM Anton Thaler has finished ranked 8th the 20th World Championship, which has been the last postal championship. The deciding game of the championship has ended six and a half year after the event had started. Nowadays CC games are executed on the ICCF server which is very convenient. The moves cross the oceans within seconds, but the players find hardly time to add regards to their moves. It’s true in Switzerland the number of masters has increased, but the number of active members has not! Quite a few players are homesick for the times when CC players did not have a computer, but have been collectors of postal stamps and had time to tell stories about themselves and about their country. Georg Walker has foreseen this problem writing in the golden ICCF book: ”We are looking optimistically to the future and hope that our successors will be able to further develop CC in our country with all present and future challenges, including E-Mail (nobody has been talking about ICCF server at that time) CC disturbances!” We notice that some postal tournaments have been organized, some of them even with the gentlemen’s agreement not to use any computer engine. If this trend keeps on going we will end up having two CC universes in parallel: the classical one and the computer based one.
Aiming for the highest level
Swiss OTB players have created a nickname for CC players: “computer operators”. The new generation of CC players might reply to that: “In a car race it is very important to have a good car, but it is still the driver who makes the difference between victory and defeat.” And they have famous supporters in that. When Vishy Anand visited Switzerland he honored CC saying: “Game collections are starting to come online and we are finding that correspondence chess has an incredible depth. Many of the openings that we are starting to play at a high level , we now notice that they (CC players) figured them out long back.” In 1998 Garry Kasparow has organized a match againt Vessely Tolalow. Both players have been using computers during the OTB game: “We took the best of both worlds (human and computer) in order to bring chess to the highest level.” So let’s be proud again to be part of the CC community and take the “disturbances” as a chance to create something new.
Honorary president Georg Walker (left) and SFSV president Ulrich Baumgartner (right)