The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - January/February 2000

Correspondence Chess Computer Challenge

Following is a copy of the press release I recently released concerning this new event matching a strong player vs. two different chess engines, played under regular cc conditions. It has started with the following moves having been made. The matches can be followed "live" on the Internet. Note that Don Maddox, President of ChessBase USA and operator of the computer, is also an APCT member.

Ham vs. Fritz 6
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5. f3 0-0

Fritz 6 vs. Ham
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 ...

Ham vs. Nimzo 7.32
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0

Nimzo 7.32 vs. Ham
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 ...

Press Release of November 30, 1999

A correspondence chess challenge match will begin on December 1, 1999 matching USCF Senior Master Steve Ham (ICCF rated 2508) of Minneapolis, Minnesota against two top chess engines, Nimzo 7.32 and the just-released Fritz 6. This match will consist of two 2-game matches; each chess engine gets one white and one black vs. their human opponent. The ChessBase USA company will provide the chess engines and computer (Compaq Presario 5461 Pentium III 500 MHz. with 64MB RAM of which 48MB RAM is dedicated to the chess engine) for the match. Don Maddox (President of ChessBase USA) will personally supervise the operation of the computer. These games will be played as correspondence chess games, offering us an opportunity to see how well the best chess engines coupled with one of the fastest computers can perform under these conditions. The match was inspired by a discussion on The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB) at:


where discussion centered both upon the effects of computer chess engines in correspondence chess and how much help a computer can offer a player in cc events. Senior Master Ham will play without the assistance of a chess engine and the computer chess engines will play without human assistance.

These two 2-game matches can be followed "live" via the Internet. The moves of the two games between Steve Ham and Nimzo 7.32 will be posted on the main page of The Campbell Report web site at:


with frequent detailed notes added by SM Ham explaining the games as they progress. The two games vs. Fritz 6 can be followed at the ChessBase USA web site at:


with light notes by SM Ham. Join us by following this sensational match between a top correspondence chess competitor and two of the most respected chess engines. It should be a great sporting event and, with Steve Ham's notes, it should also be highly educational.

FIDE in Trouble

GM Jan Timman of The Netherlands has apparently been talking about quitting FIDE and possibly creating a new international organization for OTB chess. Timman is a highly respected GM and his lead would certainly be followed by many others. After years of perceived corruption and bad leadership we've recently seen the Las Vegas FIDE World Championship knockout tournament problems. After a poorly publicized event the top winners discovered their checks were no good. As of this writing a number of the top finishers still haven't received their money. The final straw for Timman was the start of drug testing for chess tournaments. As a recognized Olympic sport now the drug testing that is part of other Olympic sports has come to the OTB chess tournament (see below). The chess newsgroups on the Internet have been buzzing with this new development.

Compared to the OTB world, the correspondence chess community is a haven of logic and respect. The ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation), to which APCT is affiliated through the ICCF-U.S. office, may have it's minor problems, but it's several orders of magnitude better than the FIDE outfit. It would be great to see FIDE reorganized (or replaced) so that our OTB brethren were represented as well as we.

Spanish OTB Chess Players Tested for Drugs

The reports have been coming in of the first drug testing for OTB chess players at the Spanish Team Championship tournament on the Mediterranean island of Menorca on November 15, 1999. A sample of players were required to provide urine samples (under the supervision of a doctor) so they could be checked for banned substances. The Spanish Chess Federation claimed to be following instructions from a government organization which oversees sports in Spain.

Doctors were looking for the use of such drugs as tranquilizers, amphetamines, caffeine, beta blockers and other drugs that are banned from use in other sports competition. A lot of discussion among followers of OTB chess is centered on which drugs could be considered "performance enhancing." For years there has been speculation about drugs being used by Eastern Block countries in past years, but little seems to be known about any drugs that could be consider useful by competitors.

For years a segment of chess society has been clamoring for chess to be recognized as an Olympic sport. Finally, FIDE has achieved this recognition. It would be ironic if the brightest achievement of FIDE President Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov (also the president of Kalmykia) were to become the act that finally led to the collapse of FIDE.

More Chess on TV

My attention is always drawn to the TV screen when chess comes up (very occasionally). I had the TV sitting on the Science Fiction channel recently when an episode of "Sliders" started. The alternate world our heroes were in this time was some kind of digitally created place. One of the regular characters found himself challenged to a game of chess by the evil dictator and a fully correctly set up chess board appeared with the bad guy as Black. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. The good guy observed that the opening was a Petroff's Defense. What a nice surprise! Usually they make up some kind of Russian-sounding name. This time a real (and accurate) name was used. 3.Nxe5 Nxe4 ... wow, the bad super-intelligent master of this world plays like a patzer. 4.Qe2 ... now the "genius" acts surprised, saying that 4.d3 is the normal move.

I was disappointed when the story now "interfered" with the chess and the game was continued no further. It was pleasant seeing the game presented in a realistic fashion, though, and certainly provided a lot of interest for me. "From Russia With Love" was just on TV, also, and I always enjoy the big chess scene introducing the evil chess master playing for the championship of Moscow (?). Though the tournament conditions were a little fishy, it was still fun seeing chess taking center stage. The chess expert was the perfect character to be responsible for creating the devious plot to defeat 007.

New Chess Movie from Independent Film Maker

Laura Sherman (of Wild Heart Films) has created a new chess film titled "In the Open" which tells the story of a group of life-long friends who come together over a long weekend to attend a local chess tournament. It would appear that this movie doesn't glamorize chess but shows what a real tournament is really like. I am basing this report on a review (published at my personal web site) written by Eric C. Johnson, editor and publisher of Chess Pride magazine.

The film shows realistic tournament conditions and uses real USCF equipment, such as vinyl boards and BHB clocks. Of course, this movie isn't actually about chess but about the stories of the characters. However, providing a realistic chess atmosphere for the story is something we can appreciate. I like one of the quotes provided by Eric Johnson demonstrating the absence of glamorization. A young girl says, " Oh great, just because Mom is out of town, I have to come to the chess-geek convention.”

Chess Life had the first shot at publishing Eric Johnson's review of the movie but passed, allowing me to publish it at my web site. Eric's comments on this situation are quite revealing: "Please note ... that USCF opted not to carry the video in its catalog..or the review..despite the fact that USCF props are used repeatedly in the film (banner obtained from USCF, boards, clocks). In a weird way..the USCF-avoidance of this product should help to boost Laura's sales."

For more information on obtaining this film and the full Eric Johnson review, please go to my website. Eric Johnson's prediction: "It will undoubtedly become an underground classic on the chess circuit."

Consultation with Dead GM's

The Correspondence Chess Message Board recently had a message posted with this eye-catching heading. It certainly conjures up some interesting thoughts about the possibilities. Steve Ryan asked for advice as follows:

I have recently encountered a CC opponent who claims the ability to contact the dead. Should he get in touch with a dead GM and ask advice on our current game, would that violate any rules on consulting with other players? Waddya think, folks?

There were various replies, mostly somewhat humorous. You must admit, though, that this is a thought-provoking question!

Fifty Years of Correspondence Chess

During my correspondence with a 14th USCCC preliminary round opponent he mentioned that he had played cc for 50 years. In response to my request he sent this description of some of his experiences. Hardon H. McFarland is a fellow APCT member, which explains some of his comments below, and his APCT rating is currently a very respectable 2124. Thanks to Hardon H. McFarland of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania USA for sharing these reminiscences with us.

Note that you don't have to be a professional writer or a Grandmaster to have interesting things to say. Perhaps readers will be inspired to send comments of their own concerning a long career in cc and their interesting experiences. Perhaps you also played in the Bell System postal tournaments? Please send your comments to me (see the top of the column for address and email address).

During my fifty years of playing correspondence chess I have had many outstanding opponents. One, I recall, in the 50's never lost. He didn't submit his games for publication; so after he died a magazine requested former opponents to send in their games with him.

I wish I could tell you about some of the great ones I have played, but my memory is not too good. Since I sold my house two years ago, I have difficulty locating games in my magazines and books. It's a bit frustrating when I have a referral note in one of my MCO's (I have issues #8 thru 13) which point me to a move in a book or magazine that I can't readily lay my hands on.

I began playing in the Bell System postal tournaments in 1949. They had an interesting set-up for determining the Bell System Champion. One of them was Joe DeMauro, who is now, I believe, a postal international master. Another was our own James Warren. (By the way, there is a reference in Larry Evans' MCO 10 on page 227 to Jim's draw with Benko in the 1962 New York State Championship.)

You asked if I played in Chess Review. I did subscribe to it but don't remember playing. I still have all copies of Chess Review, CCLA's The Chess Correspondent and Chess Life back to the early 50's somewhere in storage. I also have all copies of APCT News Bulletin since I started.

I never cease to be impressed about how deep you and other players go into all aspects of chess and analysis of games. When I see the analysis of one of my games by a master, I'm surprised about what I missed. For example, years ago I played the Wikles-Barre variation of the Two Knights Defense and lost. So I casually asked an expert (Ken Williams) his thoughts about my game. Attached is a copy of his reply.

p.s. The top APCT players, as you know, are the best in the country!

[Game score omitted here. I believe Mr. McFarland need make no excuse for his level of play as he has maintained a very good 2100+ rating, still remaining quite active after 50 years of play.]

When to Resign? How About, It's a Draw!

APCT'er Walter J. Lewis of Soledad, CA sent a letter under the above title. Here is what he had to say concerning this on-going topic:

If anyone thinks it's irritating to have an opponent continue playing in a clearly lost position they should experience having to move a piece back and forth for eight months because your opponent refuses to accept a draw. I had to wait until the two year close out to finally get the draw.

At the start of this game my opponent was rated 2143, and his rating climbed as high as 2335. My rating was 2100+ throughout. We never exchanged any ill will. So, it is very difficult for me to understand why an opponent would do this?

Did my opponent think I might have a heart attack or something, and if he continued the game he might obtain the full point? Maybe a clerical error on my part would give up the full point? Maybe my opponent with an OTB rating of under 1500 was using a computer and didn't even know the game could not be won? You must admit that a 1500 OTB player playing postal at 2300+ is more than a little odd.

I am never rude or disrespectful to an opponent. If they are rude or disrespectful to me I simply will not engage them. I just send moves. However, this is the strangest form of disrespect I've ever encountered.

I believe that when a player can demonstrate the draw, a draw should be awarded by the T.D. upon submission. I offered a draw twice in this game to my opponent, he claimed that it was an interesting ending and he'd like to continue. I have included a diagram with some of the nonsense moves that were played. ...

N. N. vs. W. Lewis
White to Move

Here is an example of how this game went on for 8 months: 1.a3 Bc1 2.a4 Bd2 3.Bd3 Be3 4.Be4 Bd2 5.Bd3 Bc1 6.Bc4 Bd2

My question to you, Walter, is what was the state of your health? Is there a good chance you might have died? ... I've won two games that way in the past. That would appear to have been your opponent's only chance in this classic opposite colored Bishops ending. Your suggestion about an opponent who was so dependent on his computer that he didn't recognize the position as a dead draw is most compelling.

Not Resigning Lost Positions

APCT columnist Chip Chapin sent me the following by email:

This is in response to someone who apparently took it personally that I previously expressed disapproval over players who refuse to resign clearly lost positions.

First of all an "opponent" is just that, an opponent. If he becomes a friend in the process, that's great, but he's still the opponent. I always thought the term indicated some respect anyway.

Secondly, I was "whining", not because of being given the opportunity to "perfect my endgame technique", but because being forced to play on in positions where I'm ahead by say a queen, knight and pawn, is a waste of my time and money.

Finally, endgame technique is doing things like nursing a passed pawn to promotion, realizing the advantage of the exchange, or utilizing the bishop pair to bring about a won position, etc. It is not demonstrating a forced mate with a rook against a lone king.

On the other hand, with the increasingly high dropout rate in postal chess, there is probably something to be said for playing every game down to mate.

New APCT Web Site and other Internet Stuff

It is my pleasure to have created the new APCT web site and to serve as Webmaster for APCT (see the Nov-Dec 1999 APCT News Bulletin for the announcement). This web site is intended to accomplish several objectives.

  • Raise the visibility of APCT on the Internet
  • Increase membership in APCT
  • Provide additional service to APCT competitors

Now the Internet user can obtain full information on APCT. There are several sample columns from the magazine as well as the full Index to all issues since Jan-Feb 1999. This will allow a reader to judge the content and quality of the APCT News Bulletin, which consistently is named the Best Postal Magazine by the Chess Journalists of America.

Full information on joining APCT is provided. The reader can learn about our organization and learn to appreciate the quality organization that APCT is. For many years I have considered APCT to be the best USA cc organization, an opinion I still maintain.

Among the services provided to the APCT competitor is the on-line availability of ratings and game results. The current plan is to update both of these much more frequently than bi-monthly. Though new ratings will be calculated using the previously published rating list (in the magazine) this gives you a chance to see intermediate calculations based on results shown on the game results web page.

The Internet is the most exciting development in chess for years. The material and services provided are improving monthly. If you aren't on the Internet yet, my advice is to get on as quickly as possible. You can play rated APCT games by email and keep up on other chess happenings. If you have an interest in OTB chess then you can follow the current tournaments "live" and get news "as it happens." If you want to research openings you can often find valuable game scores for free downloading to your personal computer.

Your input to the web site is invited. If you have suggestions for additions or improvements, please send them to APCT or directly to me. This is an evolving project and will change over time. Hopefully, you will find this new APCT service of value.

copyright © 2000 by J. Franklin Campbell

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