On the Origins of Online Chess

May 31, 2009, 6:51 PM |

Before chess.com, before any turn-based sites in fact, even before Yahoo chess, and (originally) telnet sites such as ICC, FICS or even ICS, before graphical interfaces and time-stamps, people still played chess online. 

   Some time ago I wrote an article on Chess Bits and Pieces which touched on the beginnings of Chess on the 'net.

Recently I've been looking through some of my old files - and I probably have tens of thousands of them.  I found some old games, a few of which I put in the forums (Blitz . . . you gotta love it! and blunder turns gold) and I found many research files on history that I never followed through with.

This particular file has some information of the history of IECC from Chess Bits and Pieces (which I have permission to duplicate) that I didn't cover in so much detail in my original article.

First, to put things in persepective: 
"On October 24, 1995, the FNC unanimously passed a resolution defining the term Internet. This definition was developed in consultation with members of the internet and intellectual property rights communities.
RESOLUTION: The Federal Networking Council (FNC) agrees that the following language reflects our definition of the term "Internet". "Internet" refers to the global information system that -- (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications.and related infrastructure described herein."

But still . . . "by 1985, Internet had already been awell established as a technology supporting a broad community of researchers and developers, and was beginning to be used by other communities for daily computer communications. Electronic mail was being used broadly across several communities, often with different systems, but interconnection between different mail systems was demonstrating the utility of broad based electronic communications between people."


   "For Lisa Powell an introduction to cyberspace launched her into a romantic orbit beyond her wildest imaginings. In 1985, Powell was a recently retired manager of marketing communications living in Queen's N.Y.
   At her local bank, a promotion for computerized banking included an introductory offer to Compuserve, one of North America's largest on-line services. Browsing through a literary forum, she encountered Reid Powell of Guelph, Ont. From cyberchat, their messages developed into courtship, and they were married in 1986.
   After moving to Guelph to begin her new life, Powell began exploring bulletin board systems (BBS), and soon developed online proficiency. Chess had long been a favourite challenge, and the next short step was playing the game via modem.
   In 1994, with 12 players, she started a chess group on the Internet that has mushroomed to include over 900 players worldwide. She stepped down as president of the group at the end of 1994 and started another group, the Internet Chess Club, which currently has about 70 of a possible 100 members now playing regularly."


"IECC was born out of IECG following the collapse around early 1996, Lisa left the IECG and formed the IECC. The IECG collapsed largely due to the sheer numbers of people who wished to join, their systems were unable to cope with demand. This in turn let the ICCF down who had subbed their email events to IECG. Hence there is some justification for ICCF feeling annoyed but in reality, the staff at the time mostly left and the new people tried their best. Eventually IECG regained control of its systems, began to grow and despite the recent TCCMB post, are now the largest organization of email chess players." 
-Mickey Blake, IECG Newsletter editor.


   "The idea that led to the start of the International Email Chess Group at the beginning of 1994 was inspired by restlessness, and the idea that there had to be a better way to play chess via email than by the proverbial slow drag of days and days for email messages via bulletin board systems (BBS's), with a central hub - New York or Toronto - as home base for member BBS's in a national or international system.
   The better way was, of course, playing email chess via Internet. First, within the contexts of various BBS network chess conferences; then, at the beginning of 1994, as an Internet Chess Club. Then WHAM! That almost started World War III in the Usenet's rec.games.chess conferences with, fortunately, more pro messages than the strident con messages.  
   The nascent Internet Chess Club was renamed the International Email Chess Group (IECG); the flame war stopped; and IECG began to grow, from a dozen members to almost 900 by mid October, 1994. At that time, for various personal reasons, I relinquished the function of CEO/TD to Franz Hemmer, and suggested that I be "kicked upstairs" to Chairman Of The Board of IECG. In the business world that's not an empty title, as anyone who has occupied a rung on a corporate ladder well knows. But an Internet Chess organization is not at all like the corporate world. Hence, like many a displaced executive, I needed to get back into the swing of things.
   When my many chess friends urged me to come out of semi-retirement, I  started the International Email Chess Club, with a different program, using many of the features that had proved popular in my various chess conferences of four BBS networks.
   Bottom line: IECC will be kept smaller than IECG--very necessary so that it is possible to maintain closer, friendlier ties to all members than was possible in my former organization: IECG; and to be able to come up with new ideas to add to IECC's menu of activities for our members". 
-Lisa Powell, IECC Chess Bits and Pieces, Volume 1 Issue 1, March 1995.



   "1. Fact: I started IECG at the beginning of 1994 with a dozen players, none of whom are now on the staff of IECG. Some joined before I left; others joined later.

   2. Fact: When I relinquished the position of CEO/TD to Franz Hemmer in October 1994, the membership of IECG had passed the 800-member mark. When asked why I surrendered my position as CEO/TD of IECG, I pass. The reasons were personal, and still are.

   3. For a time I was permitted to stay of the staff of IECG as "Chairman Of The Board." In the business world, that means something; in the world of chess, it doesn't.

   4. Close friends of mine who had belonged to email chess organizations long before I started IECG asked me to get back in the game. Hence, IECC: the International Email Chess Club. The original idea was to keep it small, but when I was told that I could NOT have more than 100 members in IECC, I naturally ignored the prohibition, for all the obvious reasons." 
-Lisa Powell

Lisa Powell

Original Line-up:

International Email Chess Club [IECC] 8.8.1995
CEO/TD: Lisa Powell

Founder of International Email Chess Group [IECG]
Barry Wright, Senior VP
Chuck Schulien, VP Master Events
Jack Duncan, VP IECC Guidelines
Bill Wall, VP Chess Analysis
Ray Vermey, VP Negotiator
John Galvin, VP Programs
Asst. VP, Negotiator
Ken Boys, VP Archivist
Bill Martin, Asst. VP Archivist
David Cornell, Asst. VP archives [Chess Assistant]
Mike Power, VP Communications
Robert Buice, VP Network Communications
Mike Lease, VP Methods
Suradet Jitprapaikulsarn, VP Methods
Roger Weiss, VP Thematics
Toshi Takeuchi, Sr. VP IECC Chess Academy
Franky Delgado, VP Chess Academy
Nicholas Threloff, Asst. VP Chess Academy
Chuck Smith, VP IECC Pyramid
Philip Cavanagh, VP Publications
Mauro DiBenedetto, VP Newby Program
John Fernandez, Asst. TD
Ken Kuniyuki, Asst. TD


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