17 May 2017

Elo and Edmondson

My previous post on Folke Rogard, FIDE's Consummate Diplomat, ended,
As for Cramer, the most comprehensive biography I could find is now in Archive.org: The Chessmill -> Fred Cramer by Roman Levit.

For convenience, here's the link again: Fred Cramer by Roman Levit. I found a couple of paragraphs particularly noteworthy.

Fred worked closely with [Arpad] Elo. He edited Elo's book, The Rating of Chessplayers Past and Present. He was a delegate to FIDE, and kept after FIDE to adopt Elo's rating system. Then, after its adoption, Fred continued to fight, this time battles with his own federation, who wanted to tinker with Elo's system as a promotional tool to make more money for the USCF. That led to some legendary battles between Cramer and Elo on the one side and USCF Director Ed Edmondson and Bill Goichburg [Goichberg] on the other.

The hostility grew between Edmondson and Cramer to the point where Edmondson had Fred replaced as FIDE delegate with Pearle Mann. (Fred always blamed Edmondson for the difficulties in negotiating the 1975 Fischer - Karpov match, claiming that just when things would be settling down Edmondson would stir up the Russians with insults or other violations of protocol. Fred always believed Edmondson resented being fired by Fischer during the Reykjavik negotiations, and so after that he tried to sabotage Fischer at every turn.)

Another page (undated) on the same site (now defunct), The Chessmill -> Interview With Arpad Elo, expands on both topics. The introduction to the interview starts,

We continue with our plundering of Wisconsin chess history by reaching back into the longest-published of all the local chess periodicals, Badger Chess, for this interview with Arpad Elo, conducted by Dave Brimble. Arpad Elo has influenced the history of the chess world with his scientific approach to the rating of chess players. In name recognition among chess aficionados, he ranks up there with the world champions.

The observation about name recognition is not exaggerated, although some chess players think 'ELO' is an acronym for something. The tie-in with the Cramer topics is later in the interview.

I was continually attacked by Goichburg [Goichberg] for example, for imagined and supposed usurpation of authority about the rating system. He eventually even got Edmundson [Edmondson] on his side and they tried to get me out of FIDE. They made quite an effort to get rid of me but I finally prevailed, I think because the people in FIDE that I worked with realized the integrity of the system and what I was trying to hold up was the integrity of the system. Whereas Edmundson and Goichburg [ditto] looked on it as a means to finagle and promote, inflating the egos of American chess players, that they are better than they really are. They wanted to use the rating system for political purposes, trying to influence the way the rating system worked. Then they would examine under the microscope all the numerical mistakes I would make and make an issue out of them. That was in the late 70's.

Fred Cramer had a run in with Edmundson in 1972 during the Fischer era. His gripe was about how Edmundson tried to manipulate Fischer. I still believe that Edmundson's shenanigans were a contributing factor to the failure of the Fischer - Karpov match in 1975. I think he deliberately insulted the Russians. Averbakh, the Russian master who was part of the negotiating team, who was also a member of the qualifications committee with me and who I became good friends with said that every time it seemed as if they were making progress about the conditions, Edmundson would throw about insults and such, and violate protocol. The Russians are very serious people and want to stick to the rules and when they get insulted repeatedly it really turns them off.

BC [Badger Chess]: So why would Edmundson try to sabotage the match?

Elo: Because he was fired by Fischer as his second back in '72. Edmundson was then the executive director of USCF and used his influence adversely. Fischer made certain conditions of course and the conditions were a matter of debate. Fischer insisted on the condition that in the event of an equal score at a certain point that the title would be retained by the champion and draws would not count and things like that. Eventually those conditions were slightly modified and adopted when Karpov became champion. So Karpov got everything Fischer asked for with minor changes. Of course I don't know if Fischer would have played in any case. I have a feeling that he would have found some other impossible condition. I agree with those who say that Fischer probably could psychologically not afford to risk losing the championship over the board.

Since the Elo interview might well be the source of the Cramer paragraphs, I would like to see these accusations against Edmondson confirmed elsewhere. Whatever I find, I'll report here. Fischer's default of the 1975 match signalled the end of the Fischer boom in American chess.

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