Colm Daly’s galling near-miss of an IM norm last month happened just as I was leaving for a trip to Shanghai–as I left the house I thought he had it in the bag. Disappointing! But that is the way with norms: it seems there are a dozen near-misses for every actual success.
With the topic of norms in mind I remembered Jonathan O’Connor telling me about his near-misses in correspondence chess ten years ago. He earned two SIM norms (Senior International Master, roughly halfway between IM and GM), but fell short of that title, and two SIM norms didn’t automatically translate into an IM title either.
There’s a provision in the ICCF rules for national federations to make an exceptional application, so with time to kill at my meeting I idly tried to see if there was some way of constructing a case for Jonathan, for the IM title at least. The rules are that two norms are needed, covering at least 24 games. Jonathan’s norms were 7 / 10 in the Champions League Qualification Group 7 Board 1 (Category 5: SIM = 7, IM = 6½) and 9 / 11 in the 15th ICCF Correspondence Olympiad preliminaries Section 1 Board 5 (Category 4: SIM = 8, IM = 7½). So two norms, but only 21 games.
With the national exceptional application in mind, and seeing that Jonathan had scored well over the required minimum in each case, for the IM title in particular, I wondered what would happen if extra players were added into each event, without lowering the category, and Jonathan had just lost the extra games, but still leaving him with valid norms in the hypothetical expanded event. I found that 7 / 11 is enough for an IM norm for category 5, and 9 / 13 for category 4. So 24 games. Well, well, well!
But there was another pleasant surprise: when I searched on the ICCF site for how to go about making the case, and how previous applications for national exceptional applications had been formatted, I found that the 2011 ICCF Congress had codified this exact procedure into the regulations, because so many others had had exactly the same idea and there had never been an objection.
I submitted the writeup to Tim Harding, Ireland’s ICCF representative, who forwarded to the ICCF, and today the answer arrived from the ICCF Qualifications Commissioner: title approved, and indeed already recorded on the ICCF website, medal and certificate to be awarded at the ICCF Congress in Poland in July.
Congratulations to Jonathan! A richly deserved honour: he had a very high success rate for norms (2 norms out of the only 3 events he played) and would surely have gained the title long ago if he had had the time to spend on more tournaments.
My only regret is that we didn’t arrange to have the notification delivered on April 1, just to make it interesting. It only occurred to me afterwards.