Hans Berliner, left, and Victor Palciauskas are among the 100 or so representatives from 21 countries gathered this week in Daytona Beach Shores for the 49th Congress of the International Correspondence Chess Federation.


Spirit of the game

Spirit of the game

'Olympics' of chess attracts world of players

by Donna Callea

Staff Writer


DAYTONA BEACH SHORES - No one was doing flips on balance beams, attempting to set land or water speed records, or lifting anything heavier than a chess piece.   But it could be said that the 100 or so representatives from 21 countries across the globe who are gathered here this week for the 49th Congress of the International Correspondence Federation are no less serious about their game than the Olympians competing in Sidney are about theirs.  In a way, it's "like the Olympics", chuckled Alan Rawlings, thr organization's general secretary, during a break in the proceedings at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort.  After all, noted the official from Oxford, England, there's an unmistakable spirit of international competition and camaraderie - not to mention the fact that "the USA wants to beat the world" in a evening tournament that was scheduled just for fun after Monday's general business sessions, he quipped.    Chess is a "mind sport" that's enjoyed by people all over the world, said Rawlings. And for those who follow the correspondence version of the game - which, instead of face to face across a board, is played by people who may be oceans and continents apart via mail and e-mail - this week's international congress is clearly a big-time event.    It also marks the first time in history that the rule-refining and business-oriented congress is taking place on U.S. soil.   "We meet once a year," said Rawlings, and since 1961 the meetings have almost always been in Europe, with the exception of the 1997 congress in Buenos Aires.   "It was time for the U.S. to do it," said Ruth Ann Fay of Orange City, whose husband, Max Zavanelli, is the U.S. secretary for the organization, as well as international arbiter and North America/Pacific one director. This week's event has drawn delegates and their families from Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Scotland, Spain and Sweden, according to Fay - as well as a veritable whos's who of correspondence chess champions.  One of these actually didn't have far to come.   "Chess taught me how to think," said Hans Berliner, a former world champion who retired to Palm Beach after making a intelligence at Canergie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he was involved in the development of the chess-playing computer.   The appeal of correspondence chess, he said, is that it allows players to think of moves that are "as good as humanly possible".  Instead of three minutes, a player might have five days to contemplate a move. "The nature of correspondence chess is that it's a perfectionist's dream", said Berliner, who is now involved in writing chess books.   But "as with any game, you have to have basic rules, "pointed out Rawling, which is the reason for this week's congress.   And while discussing the ins and outs of correspondence chess may not exactly be the kind of thing that draws cheering crowds of spectators, the delegate do have a good time, he said.    Players, who range from teen-agers to those  in their 90s, also have the opportunity to build bridges of international friendship by playing a game that as a universal language and has been around probably  as far back as the 16th century, according to Rawlings .  It's been played using everything from runners and homing pigeons to the computer.  And although innovations such as the Internet and e-mail make it easier and quicker to communicate moves, the basic appeal has not changed.   The stated aim of the organization is "to establish friendships with peoplke throughout the world in peaceful competition.  There is only one language on the chess board".


Daytona Congress