This article is a subjective description of the chain of events as seen by a maybe less important, yet very interested participant. At the same time the maximum effort has been made to keep it free from factual errors.
Naturally, I am far from being a dispassionate narrator here, as I directed the fairy section for the Slovak team, composed in other sections too, was on the selection committee for the Slovak entry in three sections (h#, s# and fairies), even managed to get one selfmate into the award, and finally, was a member of the Slovak judging panel for the fairy section. Moreover, thanks to the passionate work of our captain, Peter Gvozdják, who is one of my closest chess friends and thus discussed many issues with me many times, I was deeply involved in all the stages of the WCCT.
It started a long time ago with a remark of the then world champion for h#s, Valery Gurov. Once, at a congress, he was arguing that Russia would always win and nobody could stop them. Peter returned from that congress determined to show that we could be better. Although he had never composed for the WCCT before and had shown no interest, he started work. The first phase was the selection of themes. We tried to suggest themes for almost all sections, not necessarily themes in the Slovak style, but themes allowing an imaginative mind to explore new fields. Although no theme of ours was selected, the outcome was very satisfactory for us as Peter participated actively in the WCCT subcommission's discussions, and in general we liked the themes.
Next came the most important phase, composing. Peter was unanimously selected our captain as we knew his methodological approach from 'Cyclone' times. He tirelessly contacted virtually all good Slovak composers, motivated an exchange of ideas, and even managed to organise a few weekend meetings for the best composers, where the themes were discussed and work on the compositions progressed very quickly.
Finally, shortly before the deadline, we had more than 200 problems for selection. We had never before had so many good problems. Only 21 of them could be entered and thus for each section a selection committee (always consisting of 3 respected experts plus the captain) had to decide. The fact that Peter's name appeared over the majority of the Slovak diagrams is due partially to the fact that Peter had thrown many ideas into the common pool, and partially to the fact that he worked overtime to optimise the construction of the compositions. After all, the award shows that we really did have a pool of good quality problems. Of the 21 sent, one study was found incorrect, but the remaining 20 problems of ours all appear in the award. Quite a feat, isn't it?
Before that, however, there were phases of protests, answers to protests and judging. Some of our works were cited in the protests circular, and we answered most of the points, including the refutation of a wrong claim of incorrectness in one of our studies.
Slovakia was judging in 2 sections, the #2s and the fairies. Again, a committee of 4 judges first worked at home and then convened; our final marks and comments were the results of serious and diligent work.
Then we had to wait for the judgement. Nothing unusual in the case of chess composition tourneys, but given all the energy invested in the previous phases, the tension was quite high.
When the preliminary award finally appeared, we felt as though we had missed the chance of a lifetime. Yes, our showing was strong, but still 2.5 points short of the Russian result. The question arose: are they perhaps really invincible?
Then, however, our attention was drawn to the award in the study section. It was pointed out by a foreign study expert, and also by our own study expert, that there were some studies which received zero points from Belarus although other judges judged them to be quite good. After analysing this issue from various standpoints we came to the conclusion that:
- only four zeros were included in the whole award, all in the studies section, all given by Belarus, and all to studies which were claimed to be incorrect in the protest phase and proved to be correct in the answers-to-claims phase. Those proofs were accepted by other judges, who gave them quite good marks overall;
- awarding zero points to problems was against written rules stating that only problems which are incorrect, anticipated or clearly unpublishable (due to extremely low quality) should be awarded 0 points.
Consequently, it seems that Belarus, in judging the studies section, completely overlooked the answers to claims and simply gave zeros to all the studies which had been claimed to be incorrect.
To prevent such a situation and to bring all the scores more closely into line wherever possible, the director of the competition reportedly asked all judging countries with marks diverging widely from other judges' scores to consider their revision or to provide a more elaborate explanation of their reasons. He wrote also that in the case where something remained unexplained, he might, after discussion with the PCCC president, eliminate extreme scores from the award. However he seemingly did not do so in the case of zeros!
Therefore we decided, two weeks before Jurmala, to hand in a protest against the zeros in the studies section, which were clearly against the written rules. We requested that these zeros be removed and that the PCCC should not confirm the preliminary WCCT results. Nothing more.
(As far as I know there were two further protests, from other countries, one official and written and another by word of mouth, both from countries affected by the zeros in the studies section. Not surprisingly, they are not mentioned in any sources yet, given that their authors did not pursue their fate as vigorously as Peter did ours.)
The problem was that everybody knew that if the protest was accepted and the result changed in any way, either by eliminating zeros completely (when only 4 marks would remain for each composition) or by giving these studies non-zero marks (even 0.5 points) as the Belarus score, our study would jump up a few places in the award and we should gain enough points to overtake Russia in the overall result.
Moreover, our delegate Peter and our observers had the feeling at PCCC official meetings that from the beginning very few delegates were really interested in the matter. Therefore it was necessary to explain, explain, explain, that the WCCT rules had been broken. However, ranged on the other side were first Russia, understandably lobbying for the rejection of the protest, then the WCCT director (it was revealed in the meantime that in fact he had not asked Belarus to change or explain the zeros in the studies, as the Ukrainians brought to Jurmala the e-mails sent by him; most probably he made this mistake by omission, as otherwise his way of directing the competition was excellent, however it was unfortunate that at the PCCC sessions he denied any wrongdoing and did not give any clear explanation) and others.
The protest was discussed in multiple sessions. In the course of discussion many issues were considered, e.g. the explanation "why the zeros were given and retained in the award" was changed a few times. We had the feeling that more and more PCCC delegates understood the importance of the decision to be made. Once the rules for PCCC official competitions have been written, they should not be broken, as sanctioning such rule-breaking might open the gate for future recurrences.
In the short time available we (Peter and other Slovaks) did what we could to explain. At the last moment before the vote Peter reminded the PCCC that it was a vote about principles.
The final vote was (if I remember correctly) 16 for retaining the results and 10 against, with 1 abstention.
Feelings? From the moment Slovakia decided to hand in the protest, we knew that there was little chance of its being accepted. This feeling was confirmed early on by some veteran PCCC members, speaking off the record. But at least we tried.
Now what are the consequences of this decision?
First: The most important one, which should be understood by anyone interested in chess composition: Do not take the rules set by the PCCC too seriously. Even in a case where there is a blatant breach of the written rules, the PCCC may decide by voting that nothing wrong has happened. Most usually the rules are obeyed, but that is more thanks to the mostly gentlemanlike behaviour of all the parties involved than to any consistently strict adherence to the written rules on the part of the PCCC.
Secondly: Peter, as the PCCC delegate for Slovakia as well as the captain of the Slovak WCCT team, was empowered, if our protest was not accepted AND no reasonable explanation given (which unfortunately it was not; in fact I feel that with more time more people might have understood the major error they were making by voting for retention of the results), to refuse to accept the prize for the team's second place. It was his personal decision then also to reject the prize for the best individual result. The reason for this rejection of prizes was obvious ? to arouse the interest of other people, who had not been involved in the PCCC discussions. It was partially successful, as we have received some questions.
Thirdly: Shortly after the Jurmala congress, the WCCT director decided to step down from his PCCC positions, as he accepted responsibility for the issues addressed in our protest. Unfortunately it was too late! If he had done the same thing during the Jurmala congress, the fate of the protest might have been different. While blaming him for this, at the same time I also feel very sorry for him, as he worked hard and very well during his WCCT directorship, almost until the very end.
Fourthly: Personally, I accepted Slovakia's second place after the congress, as life is not always just. I am not going to make any change in my approach to the PCCC (with the exception of the first consequence above). I will try to do my best in the position of FIDE Album section director (although there will be a slight complication caused by the third consequence: the WCCT director was also an Album judge in the fairy section and I regret that he has stepped down from that position) and maybe I will even try to be more involved in the PCCC's work. Of course, I suppose that this article of mine will not make me exactly popular in the PCCC, but that's life too!
Any questions or comments are welcome.
Comments to Juraj Lörinc.
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