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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2008-03-27

Why Checkers in Beijing?



For this column, I will present some excellent commentary from Hugh Devlin on an inquiry
about checkers in the Beijing games, and why this event was selected to serve as the annual qualifier tournament, although a complex decision.

************
...As you will recall there was just one bid to host the
Qualification Tournament in both 2006 (Scotland) and 2007 (USA). The
lack of bids has been of concern to the WCDF as these events are the
primary pathway to establishing challengers to the current World
Championship holders. It was envisaged that there may come a year
when there would be no bid received from an affiliated member
organisation, and if this were to occur, another mechanism must be
put in place to ensure a fair and transparent method of selecting a
challenger.

At our last General Assembly Meeting held in Buncrana, Ireland
(2007), this issue was discussed and a mechanism was agreed that if
there was no bid received, then the WCDF Executive Board would have
the power to nominate an existent event from the following year's
calendar, where the winner or runner-up (in the event of the winner
being the current world champion) would be the recognised challenger.
For this reason a number of things must be bourn in mind. That event
should be a recognised "major" event which is open to participants
world-wide and likely to attract many of the world's top players.
Likely candidates might be events such as the USA Open, British Open,
Irish Open, etc, or one of the many other events. The idea is that
such a nomination would be announced well in advance so that players
who are interested in challenging for a Would Title would know that
this event was the recognised event. That would not mean that the
WCDF byelaws pertaining to Qualification Tournament would
automatically apply to the nominated event i.e. a limited entry of
two players per affiliated organisation, etc. These events would be
run as they normally do, but just that the highest placed available
challenger in that event would be endorsed by the WCDF.

This year we have been presented with a major event, the scale of
which exceeds all others. The 1st World Mind Sports being held in
Beijing, China, is the accumulation of three years hard work to
ensure that "Mind Sports" can take their rightful place in world
sports. It will be the world's biggest ever promotion of mind-sports
and will open the door to official Olympic recognition for draughts
that many have been dreaming of for many years. This is now on the
verge of becoming a reality.

At present there are a number of "Olympic Games" that we are familiar
with. We talk of the "Summer Olympics", and the "Winter Olympics".
The schedules of these games are so full that the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) will not accept any new sport unless an
existent sports withdraws. That leaves no conventional door open to
mind sports. However, there is special recognition to new events that
come under the banner of "Olympics", and to which the IOC will
endorse as both sporting and global in nature. Some of these you will
be familiar with, e.g. the "Special Olympics", the "Para Olympics",
etc.

With this in mind the organisers and promoters of five major minds
sports (Bridge, Chess, Chinese Chess, Draughts, and Go) have got
together in a joint effort to get official recognition for a "Mind
Sports Olympics". In 2005 they formed the International Mind Sports
Association (IMSA) under the patronage of the General Association of
International Sports Federations (GAISF). They have worked closely
with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the design and
organisation of the event. For example there will be a major opening
ceremony for the games, a closing ceremony, a hoisting of
international flags and a playing of Anthems, a Mind Sports team from
each country (wearing official team outfits!), the awarding of Gold,
Silver, and Bronze medals, a master score board displaying every
country's medal take, world wide media coverage via TV and internet,
etc. Accommodation and meals would be provided to all participants
and officials. This event is a showcase to the IOC that the IMSA have
both the quantity (global participation) and quality (of
organisation) for such an event. That will ensure that the name
"Olympic" can be added next time around.

What does this mean for us?
First, can I say that when the organisers have arranged all this and
we (draughts) don't turn up what do you think the outcome will be? I
can assure you we'll never be asked back and the game of draughts
will lose out.

Secondly, entry to this is via the IOC regulations and entry will
only be accepted through recognised channels i.e. Britain sends an
Olympic team, not individual countries like England, Scotland, Wales,
and N. Ireland. - Can I say here that Northern Ireland is somewhat
different because of dual citizenship and the choice to play for
either Britain or Ireland. (In the Olympics the team is Ireland and
not the Republic of Ireland recognising this).

Thirdly, how can the WCDF maximise the use of this event to ensure
that it is presented in the best and strongest way to the world
media?

The purpose of the WCDF is greater that arranging world title matches
as its aims incorporates promoting the game throughout the globe and
building international cohesiveness.

When the Executive Board of the WCDF had to make a decision regarding
what event should be nominated as the QT event for 2008 it had to
make hard choices. The important criterion that must be considered is
what event is likely to attract the greatest international
representation, attract the games' best players, and maximum
publicity? If the WCDF Ex Board was to nominate the USA or a
European event as the QT then we need to consider would they achieve
these objectives to the optimum level? We must also consider that the
last two QT's were held in Britain and the USA and it might be
advantageous to have it played on another Continent to expand the
global aspect to the game. Likewise if it was held in the USA or
Europe would that affect the attendance at these Beijing Games which
is vital to our game's development and promotion?

After considerable discussion it was felt that in the best interests
of the game itself, (i.e. the games' promotion, and its future) it
was important that the 1st World Mind Sports Games in Beijing be
supported in every way possible, and that it was a natural choice to
nominate these games as the QT for 2008 as this event was most likely
to attract the greatest international representation, the best
players, and the maximum publicity.

To date I believe that decision is already vindicated by the interest
expressed, and I predict that not only will this be the greatest
showcase the game has ever received, but that it will be the
strongest QT ever held. Unfortunately, it does require some
sacrifices from the WCDF regarding entries... We might also consider
that if another event was nominated, would these same players who
have already signed up be attending?

I hope that this clarifies some things for you, what these games are,
how we deal with the "no bid" situation, and some of the things that
influenced this decision.

Sincerely: Hugh Devlin, President WCDF.
*****

Read more articles from your ACF Players Representative in the Rep's Corner Archive.

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