The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - March/April 2000

IM Walter Muir Dead at 94

The correspondence chess world was shocked at the news that the highly respected American CC International Master Walter Muir has died. Sometimes referred to as the Dean of American Correspondence Chess, this giant of the cc world died on December 29, 1999 at the age of 94. The title of his book, published a couple years ago, says a lot: My 75 Years in Chess. He qualified for his ICCF IM title 30 years ago and has been a top USA cc competitor for decades.

Ralph Marconi new ICCF NAPZ Director

Congratulations to ICCF International Arbiter Ralph Marconi on being named the Director for the ICCF North American/Pacific Zone (NAPZ Director)! Ralph Marconi is already well known for his outstanding contributions to chess organization and the promotion of our beloved correspondence chess. Ralph contributes to many different cc organizations. He is the webmaster for the CCLA E-mail site, the CCCA site (Canadian Correspondence Chess Association) plus his personal web site Ralph Marconis Chess Page, where he maintains a number of crosstables and promotes our game in many ways. He has served as a tournament director for ICCF events for many years, is an International Arbiter for ICCF events, is on the board of both CCLA and CCCA, writes several columns (CCCA games editor and writes the Portrait series for the Chess Correspondent). His other activities that Ive failed to mention would probably be enough work for most of us.

With the retirement of ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli from this job, which he has performed very well for a number of years, Ralph has taken on these duties and is now a member of the ICCF Presidium, charged with directing the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF). I know that Ralph has a number of valuable ideas for the improvement of international cc (APCT is a member Federation of the ICCF via the ICCF-U.S. office). Best wishes to our fellow APCT member as he takes on his new duties and leadership responsibilities!

Correspondence Chess Computer Challenge

Heres an update on the four games between Senior Master Steve Ham and a Pentium computer running the latest versions of Fritz 6 and Nimzo 7.32. Note that both software programs had extensive opening books and the games have moved rapidly during the opening phase. Fritz got out of its opening book a few moves ago and Nimzo just left its book. Now well get to see how well these computer programs can do playing correspondence chess on their own. Note that one game (Fritz6 vs. Ham) just varied from the recent Kasparov vs. Rest of World game with Steve taking the ROWs side. I cant wait to see how that game finishes. To see the latest positions in these games just go to my personal web site.

Ham,S - Fritz6 [E86]
Computer CC Challenge, 1999

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Be3 e5 7.Nge2 c6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 a6 10.h4 b5 8:43 11.h5 Nxh5 12.g4 Nhf6 13.Bh6 b4 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Qh6+

Fritz6 - Ham,S [B52]
Computer CC Challenge, 1999
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nc6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nf6 9.0-0 Bg7 10.Nde2 Qe6 11.Nd5 Qxe4 12.Nc7+ Kd7 13.Nxa8 Qxc4 14.Nb6+ axb6 15.Nc3 b5 16.Bg5 Ne4

Ham,S - Nimzo 7.32 [E32]
Computer CC Challenge, 1999

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7 8.f3 h6 9.Bh4 d5 10.e3 Nbd7 11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.Bxd8 Nxc3 13.Bh4 Nd5 14.Bf2 f5 15.Bc4 c5 16.Ne2 Rac8 17.Bb5 Bc6 18.Ba6 Rcd8

Nimzo 7.32 - Ham,S [B78]
Computer CC Challenge, 1999
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0-0-0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Bh6 Nxe4 17.Qe3 Rxc3 18.bxc3 Nf6 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Rh2 Rg8 21.Ne2 Kh8 22.g5 Nh5

Displaying CC Games Live on the Internet

Recently this subject has caused some controversy. Heres some background. A number of web sites are now carrying live coverage of correspondence chess games. By this I mean that the moves are posted as they are being played. I consider this an exciting and entertaining application of the Internet for the coverage of chess events. The Internet is an excellent medium for chess, practically made for the coverage of chess. Being able to follow cc games as they are being played turns correspondence chess into a true spectator sport. Though some consider the effect of computers on cc as detrimental (as it may be in some respects & thats another topic), its possible that the tremendous improvement in the coverage of the game and the available playing conditions (such as email delivery of moves and other, more dramatic methods of delivering moves to players) will more than compensate for any detrimental effects from the use of chess engines.

At my personal web site I am posting the moves and positions of my own games, as well as those of two Senior Masters, the 13th USCCC Finals games of Mark Morss and the Arne Henriksen Memorial invitational e-mail games of John Mousessian (who shredded me in the 14th USCCC Prelims). Of course, there are also the games of Senior Master Steve Ham mentioned above that are also being covered live both on my site and the ChessBase USA web site. In a sister computer match APCTer Ralph Marconi is covering the Volker Jeschonnek vs. Wchess match at his web site. A number of players are covering their personal games live on the Internet as well, such as Jens Otto Jensen, who is covering his games in the Norwegian Championship and the Norbalt Cup tournaments. The German ICCF Master Herbert Bellmann (ICCF 2460) covers his games from a variety of events. The strong French competitor Laurent Tinture (2430 in John Knudsen's Exclam! rating list) displays a number of his current games live using the Misty Beach PGN Viewer, allowing viewers to play through the games move by move on their screens. Bjørn Minge of Norway has coverage of his World Championship XXII Semifinal 5 games (the web site is in Norwegian). There is a Spanish site covering the games of David Llada live. If you know Spanish (or just understand Spanish Algebraic notation) this could be very entertaining. The Internet URLs of these sites are all available in the chess links at my personal web site. Of course, many will remember the pre-Internet days when chess journalist and strong cc competitor Stephen Gerzadowicz wrote several articles, which appeared in a couple different magazines, covering his USCCC games semi-live (as current as possible for printed magazine coverage).

Some arguments supporting live Internet coverage:

  • It is entertaining
  • It will help to popularize the game
  • It makes cc a spectator sport
  • It encourages players to play well (everyone will see the quality of their play)

Some arguments against live Internet coverage:

  • It is non-traditional
  • It allows opponents to spot innovations youve developed, preventing you from using them multiple times
  • Opponents may object or be offended
  • It may be viewed as a invitation for suggestions from readers (a violation of rules in APCT and many other organizations)

There was an interesting situation in a USCF Absolute tournament game that led to some controversy. As a result of public interest in that game, I am now carrying it live on my personal web site. In my correspondence with the USCF CC Directory she expressed concern that this live coverage was walking close to the line of violating the rules, since there was no way to prevent unwanted input from readers, who could send suggested moves and plans to the players. In the end she agreed to drop her objections if (1) both players agreed to the live coverage and (2) that it be stated very clearly that reader suggestions would not be acceptable. This tournament director also thought the issue of reader suggestions to the players was significant and troubling.

If one player decides to post his games live should he need to obtain permission from his opponents? Here there is also a difference of opinion. Mark Morss expressed the opinion that chess players cannot have an expectation of secrecy. Our OTB brethren have lived with the playing in public situation all along, as anyone can walk over to their table and view the position, watching the games as they are played. The publication of game scores is also considered OK, without any need for permission. CC players simply havent had to face this question until now. So, is it unethical, or even rude, to publish your cc games live without obtaining permission? My personal view is that there is no reason to seek permission. Here I agree with Mark Morss that there can be no expectation of secrecy. However, I can understand some resistance to this idea. Some period of adjustment may be required as players learn to live with the Internet and the new and faster forms of communication affecting all areas of life on the earth.

What do you think, dear readers? More changes are certainly in store for us in the future. I believe there are already some web sites where you can log in, see your current game positions on a chess board display on your computer screen, make your move using a mouse, and the web site records your move and the new position. Your opponent logs in later and views the board with your move made. Its very much an OTB-style game played at cc rate of speed. Viewers can also follow the game, just as if they had walked up to your table and peered over your shoulder. Here there can absolutely be no perception of secrecy. I believe this type of system is the future of correspondence chess, as technology makes the delivery of chess moves easier and faster. Some of the questions that now perplex us and cause so much concern will disappear, like the controversy about pricing groceries using a scanner, without the need for individual pricing labels on each product (this was a really big issue some years ago when I worked for Safeway stores). For cc enthusiasts, this is an exciting time to be active, full of promise.

More Input on Playing On

This has proved to be a popular subject, probably due to the number of people who have encountered problems with opponents who played on and on in what appeared to be clear-cut positions. Why does this happen? A few reasons I can come up with are: hatred of losing, to delay loss of rating points till after some qualification date for another tournament, desire to punish the opponent, gamesmanship (hoping the opponent will grow impatient and resign or offer a draw), or perhaps ignorance (e.g., using a computer to generate moves, without any idea of the true nature of the position). I must admit, if an opponent were particular abrasive and insulting, I would be tempted to make him play out a win to the bitter end. Bad behavior can provoke an opponent to equally bad behavior.

There is also the question of two players evaluating the situation differently. What may seem clear to one player may seem very different to the other. In an OTB tournament I once heard an opponent bragging to his friends about how he was wiping me off the board. The game ended in a draw. Some weaker opponents also may recognize that they are lost yet want to play on for the experience, perhaps to see how the stronger player will play the position. Ive also been known to play on in a lost position when there were sufficient chances for complications, where mistakes could occur.

There are probably a number of reasons for delaying a loss or draw that, at the time, would seem to be quite reasonable, such as temporarily maintaining a higher rating for some specific reason. However, we need to keep in mind the feelings of our opponents. Its very possible that, independent of any legitimate reasons for delay, we could offend our opponents. APCT Master Rick Melton recently sent me the following e-mail to present his feelings on the subject.

Kudos to your APCT column and to your web site! I enjoy both immensely for their newsworthy information and interesting discussions not found elsewhere. May I also add you have my sincere respect for your work and as a gentleman as well. [Thank you very much, Rick! JFC]

That said - this is to comment on the subject of playing on & on in completely lost positions or dead draws. What is most distasteful to me is some experiences with SOLID Masters in the last several years no less than 5 times! In contrast, sometimes lesser lights seem to resign prematurely (albeit in losing positions). The most flagrant - a win and a draw were against the SAME veteran player in another league, who also intentionally delayed the game with the old, worn out multiple lost card 'technique' - never acknowledging multiple repeats and using one of the cutest 'ostrich' variations of this I've ever encountered. Waiting for a miracle? An impossible inspiration? This 'legend in his own mind', sans any ethics whatsoever, even began to hurl insults because I reported his insipid conduct to the TD. He even said I hurried him because I was moving too fast & offering 'if' moves (in a simple, inevitable, clear cut won position)! He played on like a patzer - right to checkmate! Who shows zero respect for others - has zero respect for himself. Both were League Championship games.

But, that said, if a Master doesn't see when, for instance, an opposite Bishop or a R+Ps Endgame can't be won - he doesn't deserve to be called Master... Nor does he if he doesn't know enough how to avoid the former when he has the advantage and the opportunity to do so. This conduct is laughable. But when he drags out a totally lost position for MANY extra months - he's no doubt waiting for acts of God by which he probably has managed to hang on to his 'Masterhood' - rather than via his talent...

I've also found 'lost' and seriously 'delayed' cards prevalent recently among the SAME few Master class players in major tournaments - year after year (!), while you can play multiple games for years with most others without even one! Sure - blame the USPS (which they must think is much worse than it is) - refuted by the simple fact we don't experience the problems with ANY other players! Hence, they insult our intelligence.

Some take on too many games as a steady diet apparently rationalizing this gives them the right to inconvenience and cause extra expense to their opponents via long delays, repeats, fudged dates, reports even adjudications when they fail to move at all (also causing extra expense & work for the TDs).

Strangely, none of them with the capability to do so, will play by Email -which would solve a REAL P.O. problem -if there actually was such a horrendous problem in their area!.

Common courtesy is not a priority for these inconsiderate people - rudeness certainly is. Perhaps intimidated by some of these 'legends' not enough players take them to task via TD reports or even verbal indications of the problem. But I've also found TDs are often reluctant to properly chastise/warn long term members when appropriate, particularly those of 'high' standing. Both of these apathies result in its continuation by these terminal practitioners of a childish 'me come first' mentality. Guess they never grew up to accept responsibility for their actions.

Rick also provided some information on his current projects. He wrote a very interesting book Secrets of a Chess Master (You to Play and Win!), published in 1996. Here youll find many games played in APCT competition and a lot of useful and entertaining advice and stories. His Secrets & 2 book will be ready to publish later this year, and he is also working on another book project with another player. I can recommend any book Rick Melton has a hand in. Thanks for your input, Rick, and good luck with the books! There are a lot of talented people in the APCT organization.

copyright © 2000 by J. Franklin Campbell

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