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The 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Permanent Commission of the FIDÉ for Chess Composition (PCCC)

A retrospective and prospective view by Dr Klaus Wenda (Austria, Hon. President)

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:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. G.W.Jensch took over as commission member for the German Federal Republic.
  3. Several members who were for practical reasons unable to attend had expressed their views in letters to, or personal contacts with, other commission members.
  4. 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 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:

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 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 appropriately.

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
Klaus Wenda

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Updated 12th November 2007