A retrospective and prospective view by Dr Klaus Wenda (Austria, Hon.
At the 1954 annual congress of the world chess federation (FIDÉ), a
decision was taken which was to bring about decisive changes in the small, enclosed
world of chess problems. It was the establishment of a permanent FIDÉ
subcommission dealing with all matters connected with the composition of problems
and endgame studies. The aim of the commission was to promote this artistic
form of chess and to encourage its further dissemination. The following were
designated to form the founding committee:
- President: G.Neukomm (Hungary).
- Vice-Presidents: A.Kazantsev (USSR), C.Kipping (UK), N.Petrovic (Yugoslavia).
- Members: H.Dünhaupt (German Federal Republic), V.Eaton (USA),
A.Ellerman (Argentina), P.Feenstra Kuiper (Netherlands), G.Léon-Martin
(France) & V.Pachman (Czechoslovakia).
- Secretary: A.Nagler (Switzerland).
The first annual constituent assembly of the subcommission (henceforth referred
to by the now usual abbreviation PCCC) took place in Budapest from May 15th
to 17th, 1956. For this meeting there were changes in personnel as follows:
- C.S.Kipping, the President of the International Problem Board (the only
body which had hitherto sought to bring together the views of problemists
of different nationalities), did not attend. The official bulletin (in French)
stated that he had written as follows: He had no objection to the creation
of the commission and was in agreement with the organisation of problem competitions
by the FIDÉ. However he wished the I.P.B. to continue to exercise the
same functions as previously. He was personally unable to accept the invitation
for health and other reasons. This statement was interpreted as declining
his proposed appointment as a Vice-President. The President expressed his
regret at this and his hope that the difficulties could be surmounted.
- G.W.Jensch took over as commission member for the German Federal Republic.
- Several members who were for practical reasons unable to attend had expressed
their views in letters to, or personal contacts with, other commission members.
- Messrs A.Gulyaev (Grin), L.Lindner & G.Páros attended as observers.
The numerous activities of this Budapest meeting are recorded in the 32-page
‘Bulletin d’Information‘ mentioned above, a document of which probably
very few original examples are still extant. Notable points were:
- the drawing up of the commission’s statutes;
- the nomination of more than 70 problem and study composers as international
- the announcement of the first individual world championship in chess composition,
in six sections: studies, #2, #3, #n, h#, & other genres (fairies);
- the creation of procedural norms for future FIDÉ composition tourneys
- the acknowledgement of the commission’s duty to draw up a code of rules
for composition (later called the "Codex").
The second annual meeting was held in Vienna, from August 14th to16th, 1957.
Those present were President Neukomm, Vice-Presidents Kazantsev & Petrovic
and Members P.ten Cate (Netherlands), J.Halumbirek (Austria) & G.Jensch
(German FR). L.Lindner acted as Secretary. This meeting, among other things,
saw the unanimous adoption, in principle, of a resolution which was significantly
to shape the future working of the commission: Beginning with the period 1956-8
the commission would publish, every three years, a collection of the best compositions
of the period – the so-called FIDÉ-Albums. The selection would be made
by international judges according to criteria to be established. The primary
aim of these albums was to pursue the documentation of the top problems of a
given period, but in addition authors who were represented in these collections
by a specified number of compositions would be awarded the title of International
Master by the FIDÉ, on the recommendation of the PCCC.
One year later, from September 6th to13th, 1958, the third congress was held,
in Piran (then in Yugoslavia, now in Slovenia). This memorable meeting, which
brought together more than 50 problemists and study experts from a wide variety
of countries, has gone down in history as the first "World Congress"
of Chess Composition. (See the report by W.Speckmann in Die Schwalbe
1/1959.) Because of the premature death of Gyula Neukomm, the Commission was
now composed as follows:
- President: N.Petrovic (Yugoslavia)
- Vice-Presidents: C.Mansfield (UK), A.Kazantsev (USSR), J.Halumbirek
- Members: G.Authier (France), P.ten Cate (Netherlands), N.Guttman
(USA), G.Jensch (German FR), A.Nagler (Switzerland), V.Pachman (Czechoslovakia),
H.Ternblad (Sweden) as well as C.Kemp (UK), who was granted the status of
commission member (in addition to Mansfield) as an expert on Fairy Chess.
H.Albrecht (German FR) was adviser on directmate twomovers. The special position
of the endgame study was acknowledged by the establishment of its own subcommission
consisting of V.Halberstadt, Kazantsev and H.Lommer.
- Secretaries: L.Drcic & M.Dumic (Yugoslavia)
A special subcommission was given the task of turning the basic FIDÉ-Album
decision from Vienna into a detailed plan of action. The present generation
of problemists will surely be interested in a reminder of the rules established
49 years ago for the first (1956-8) album. They may be summed up as follows:
The editing and printing of the album was entrusted to a publishing house in
Zagreb under the overall supervision of the President Nenad Petrovic. This volume
was to contain 600 problems and to be published in an edition of 2000 copies.
After lengthy discussions about the proportions to be allocated to the different
genres within the album, the following solution was agreed: Twomovers 20%, Threemovers
20%, Moremovers 20%, Studies 11%, and "heterodox" compositions (i.e.
helpmates, selfmates, retros and fairies combined) 24%. So as to allow the widest
possible representation of composers, each one was allowed to enter a maximum
of 10 compositions in any one section and 20 overall. A decision about the number
of points to be required for the award of the ‘International Master’ title was
left to be taken by a later congress and was in fact not reached until Leipzig
1960. In my view these circumstances indicate that the documentary purpose was
uppermost in the minds of those responsible for the introduction of the albums.
On the other hand they did not (and could not) neglect the argument that the
artistic achievements of composers would become better known as a result of
the award of master titles, thus raising their profile among a wider chess public.
This publicity would be very much in line with the commission’s duty to promote
artistic chess and further its dissemination.
The selection of album problems was made according to a complicated system
which there is not space to explain in detail here, each section having a team
consisting of a director and preliminary and special judges. An important feature
was the principle that these bodies, once established by the commission, would
enjoy complete independence.
Thereafter meetings of the PCCC were held regularly every year except 1963
and 1970, when there were organisational difficulties. Consequently the problem
and study enthusiasts present at the October 2007 meeting in Rhodes (Greece)
will be participating in the 50th anniversary congress. In the past 51 years
the commission has grown and blossomed out from the mere 10 member countries
represented at the inaugural 1956 meeting to the current total of nearly 40,
and has done full justice to the task set for it by its visionary founders:
the promotion and dissemination of chess composition. WCCT, WCCI and WCSC are
abbreviations for competitions regularly organised by the commission; they have
become concepts which are familiar to everyone concerned with problems and studies.
For almost 30 years the commission meetings have shared a date and a venue with
the annual solving world championship (WCSC), a combination which extends their
appeal to a wider range of people and has led to mutually beneficial encounters
between composers, solvers and players. In this way congresses such as the one
in Moscow 2003 have become impressive chess events with more than 200 participants
and significant media attention.
However the meetings have not only served for the exchange of chessical ideas,
they have also offered the opportunity to get to know each host country, its
people and its culture. Personal contact with people whom one previously knew
only as abstract names over chess diagrams has led in many cases to friendships
lasting decades, based on a shared enthusiasm for chess which transcends national
and linguistic boundaries. Individual friendly contacts of that kind are among
my own best experiences during the period when I took an active part in 25 PCCC-congresses,
from 1967 to 2001.
In the list of host countries from 1956 to 2007, 19 different names appear:
- The Netherlands five times;
- Germany, Israel, Russia/USSR & Yugoslavia four times each;
- Austria, Finland, France, Greece & the UK three times each;
- Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy & Spain twice each, and
- Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland once each.
The first FIDÉ album was a relatively thin volume with 603 diagrams
and only brief solutions. (An Annex contained an additional 58 problems selected
by N.Petrovic but they did not count towards the Master title.) Since then,
including the 1998-2000 album, 19 volumes have appeared, with the 15 three-yearly
issues since 1956 being supplemented by four retrospective issues, three covering
the period from 1914 to 44 and another dealing with 1945-55. The last five are
sumptuously produced and comprehensive chess reference works, each with more
than 1000 diagrams, detailed solutions with elucidations, and valuable theme
indexes in French, German and English, thus both satisfying the bibliophile
and fulfilling the documentary purpose of the albums.
Naturally very few of the generation of the commission’s ‘founding fathers’
are still alive, and none of them is any longer actively involved in the work
of the commission. They have been succeeded by a new generation of idealistic
‘representatives’. In using that general term I mean to include not only the
members of the presidium, the secretaries and the individual delegates but also
the numerous helpers and advisers on the subcommissions who, without directly
belonging to the PCCC itself, nevertheless bring to it their knowledge and experience
in many specialised fields. Without the indispensable assistance of all these
people the PCCC would not be in a position to fulfil its increasingly wide and
diverse range of obligations. Everyone concerned is now called upon to come
up with new ideas and projects to meet the challenge of the recent lightning
developments in information technology, yet without losing sight of what it
is important to preserve.
‘Panta rhei’, all things are in a state of flux, as the Greek philosopher
Herakleitos was among the first to recognise. There is no doubt that the status
of the contemplative occupation of chess problems among the young is lower nowadays;
that is confirmed by an alarming lack of young problemists in virtually all
the member countries. It only makes the task of the commission more important,
though: creating new incentives and new ways to arouse interest in chess composition.
I know that there is no easy answer, but the important thing, in accordance
with Herakleitos’s dictum, is to recognise new trends quickly and react to them
With that in mind, I wish the PCCC another five decades of effective activity
on behalf of chess composition, in the spirit of solidarity which binds together
our international chess community – gens una sumus!
Vienna, September 2007